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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2004
       
                   

May 2004 <--- June 2004 ---> July 2004



June 30, 2004

MALTS - 3 AULTMORES

I never had a really good Aultmore before, and well, I think I'll have to wait a little longer...
Aultmore 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).
Aultmore 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)
Aultmore 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).



June 29, 2004

MALTS - 3 YOUNG LICENSED AND 3 OLD INDEPENDENT G&Ms

Dallas 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).

Glentauchers 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, Olivier 75).

Miltonduff 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)
Glenlossie 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).
Glencadam 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).

Coleburn 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, Olivier 72).

MALTS - Blow, trumpets! Yet another new Malt Maniac joins the gang: Alexander van der Veer, from Holland. The 'recruitement' is now over for this year, as we're now 15 certified Maniacs from all continents. I'm sure Johannes will publish all the new credentials shortly on maltmaniacs.com.



June 28, 2004

MALTS - A SHORT OBAN SESSION

Oban 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).
Oban 1984 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (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, Olivier 80).
Oban 1980 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (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).

MALTS - GLENGOYNE SESSION ON THE SS TAORA

Glengoyne, 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 to taste…
Glengoyne 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 points.
Glengoyne 17 yo (43%, OB) Previously tasted. 88 points this time
Glengoyne 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…
Glengoyne 12 yo Cask Strength (57.8%, OB) 88 points
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)

MALTS - TWO (POOR) GLENURIES

Glenury 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)
Glenury 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, Olivier 65).

MUSIC - After 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.



June 27, 2004

BACK 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..



June 25 to June 27, 2004

GONE TO ROME - NO UPDATES, SORRY



June 24, 2004

MUSIC - 'Happenstance', 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.)

ISLAY - A FEW LEDAIGS (off-festival)

Ledaig 1990/1999 (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).

Ledaig 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).
Ledaig 10 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).
Ledaig 10 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, Olivier 75).

ISLAY - THE HARBOUR INN, SAFE HARBOUR?

The 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.

Add 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 on Islay.
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 got better.

ISLAY - TWO LOCHSIDES (off festival)

Another distillery I like very much. I never had any bad ones!

Lochside 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).
Lochside 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, Olivier 89).



June 23, 2004

ISLAY - THE BRUICHLADDICH SESSIONS

Picture: 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....
Bruichladdich 13 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.
Bruichladddich 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, Olivier 73).
Bruichladddich 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 86).
Bruichladdich 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, Olivier 74).

Two new Murray McDavid Missions (off festival) – thanks to Ho-cheng.
Glenugie 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).
Old Rhosdhu 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).



June 22, 2004

MALTS - JEAN DONNAY'S PEATED COOLEY

Picture : 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 raining’.
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…
Cooley 12 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.

MALTS - THREE LOCH LOMONDS WORTH 375 EUROS...

Yeah 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 find out... 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.
Loch 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).
Old Rhosdhu 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, Olivier 65).
Croftengea 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).



June 21, 2004

MALT - FOUR PEAT MONSTERS ON ISLAY

Laphroaig 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.
Lagavulin 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).
Smoking 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 87).
Laphroaig 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).



June 20, 2004

MUSIC - JAZZ FUSION - Here's some true hidden gems! Cult band Stark Reality's supremely talented keyboardist Monty 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 on SoundClick. 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

FEIS ISLE - THE PORT ELLEN SESSIONS

Port 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).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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 92).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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).
Port Ellen 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, Olivier 91).



June 19, 2004

FEIS ISLE - THE ISLE OF JURA SESSIONS

At 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:
Isle of 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 91)
Isle of 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, Olivier 87).
Isle of 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 we go…

Isle 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)
Isle of 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).
Isle of 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).
Jura Whisky 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).

MUSIC - First, 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!



June 18, 2004

ISLAY - THE BUNNAHABHAIN SESSIONS

Tour 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:
Bunnahabhain 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).

Bunnhabhain ‘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):
Bunnahabhain 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)
Bunnahabhain 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, Olivier 84).
Bunnahabhain 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).
Bunnahabhain 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.



June 16, 2004

ISLAY - FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW BOWMORES at various places

Even 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…
Bowmore ‘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).
Bowmore 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).
Bowmore 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).
Bowmore 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 92).
Bowmore 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).

Pub 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:
Bowmore 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 94).



June 15, 2004

ISLAY - TASTING AT BOWMORE

The 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…
Bowmore 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).
Glen Garioch 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 82).
Yes, I know, that was hardly a ‘tasting session at Bowmore’. I’m sorry.



June 14, 2004

MALTS - The Malt Maniacs Malt Monitor now includes almost 5400 ratings and 2400 different malts.

HEALTH - 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...

ISLAY - FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW ARDBEGS at our Port Charlotte home

Ardbeg 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 92).
Ardbeg 10 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, Olivier 84).
Ardbeg 19 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).
Ardbeg 12 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).
Ardbeg 29 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).



June 13, 2004

ISLAY - TASTING AT ARDBEG - at 3:00 am...

Touring Ardbeg 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...
Ardbeg 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!

Oh, 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 Ardbeg consumption...
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...



June 12, 2004

MALTS - Great news: after 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' picture ;-).

MUSIC - In memoriam Mr Ray Charles...

How great he was! Let's listen to 'Georgia on My Mind', again and again...

ISLAY - FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW CAOL ILAS at our Port Charlotte home

Caol 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).
Caol Ila 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).
Caol 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 81)
Caol Ila 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, Olivier 79).



June 11, 2004

ISLAY - TASTING AT CAOL ILA DISTILLERY

Interesting 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:
New make Caol Ila, peated versus unpeated:
Peated: smoky, feinty, grassy and farmy.
Unpeated: spirity, fresh, clean and very fruity.
The unpeated version wins.
4 yo Caol Ila, peated versus unpeated:
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.
Caol Ila 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.
Caol Ila 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 10yo/Ardbeg Uigeadail.



June 10, 2004

ON ISLAY: Springbank tasting (off festival) - This was our very first session with fresh Taiwanese maniac Ho-cheng – I'm sure there will be many more!

Springbank 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).
Springbank 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).
Springbank 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).

Springbank 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 93).
Springbank 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).
Springbank 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).
Springbank 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 82).
Springbank 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).



June 9, 2004

ISLAY TASTING: a few rare whiskies (off festival) - Or why miniatures are great if you want to try some very expensive malts...

Glenlivet 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).
Glenlivet 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).
Glenlivet 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).
Ben Wyvis 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).
Glencraig 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).



June 8, 2004

BITS OF ISLAY - Distilleries' experiments

Above: 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 count?
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 for blending
Croftengea 10yo, bottled, peated Loch Lomond
Bunnahabhain 'Moine', young bottling for the Festival 2004, heavily peated
Bunnahabhain 6 yo SWMS, heavily peated
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...



June 6, 2004

BACK FROM ISLAY - What a blast!...

No 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...
Loch Scainam' 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... (yeah, yeah...)



May 29 to June 6, 2004

GONE TO ISLAY - SO NO UPDATES, I'M AFRAID. BUT...

... 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)...



Cutty Sark: improving variations on seamanship...

From left to right: 1956, 1969, 1972... staying focused...

From left to right: 1975, 1977, 1982 (Ted Turner)... some changes...

2002 campaign: focusing on the sailors, finally! Improvement or regression? You decide...



Cointreau and Ardbeg: playing with legs...

Left: Cointreau 1982 - right: Ardbeg 2003. To show or to suggest, that is the question...



White Horse and Glenfiddich: the art of wedging some animals...

White 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.



Various 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...

From left to right: Black Velvet 1972, 1979 (Christie Brinkley) and 1984. Black and blondes always works.

Imperial 1975 campaign. At the peak of the 'sexy wave'.

From 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 1830 (Tanqueray)'.



Various brands: ... and if you don't use girls, you can always use golf...

From 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...)

From 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'



Various brands: ... in Paris (please forgive my Frenchness)...

From 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.



100 Pipers and Bruichladdich: did they use the same agency?...

From left to right: 100 Pipers 1973, Bruichladdich 2003. Thirty years!



Various brands: some of my favourite ads...

Beautiful 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...

From 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.

From 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 window).

From 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.


MUSIC - ROCK - Here another (rather) new talent from Canada: Emm 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?

MUSIC - 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!

MUSIC - BAROQUE - Here's a very good young Norwegian ensemble, the Holbert 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 it?

MUSIC - 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!)



That's 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'

In the meantime, why not have a look at the archives? (see top of this page, on the right)



May 2004 <---
June 2004 ---> July 2004 ---> Current Month (home page)

 

 

 

 

   


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

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

Ardbeg 25 yo 'Lord of the Isles' (46%, OB, 2001)

Ardbeg 29 yo 1972/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, sherry finish, 432 bottles)

Ardbeg Uigeadail new bottling (OB, bottled 2004)

Bowmore 32 yo 1968/2000 (46%, Signatory, oak cask #1422, 236 bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo (43%, Dumpy Golden Label, 1970’s)

Bunnahabhain 1971 (around 45%, OB, bourbon, to be bottled later)

Bunnhabhain ‘Moine’ (59.6%, OB, bottled 20/5/2004 for the festival, cask #3180)

Glengoyne 31 yo 1972 (56%, OB, single cask #2970, 510 bottles)

Glengoyne 31 yo 1972 (57.9%, OB, single cask #2968, 540 bottles)

Isle of Jura 5 yo 1999 (59.9%, cask #21, not bottled yet, peated)

Jura Whisky 3 yo 1999/2002 (60.7%, OB for Japan, cask #92, 447 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2004 (55.2%, OB for Feis Isle 2004, 250 bottles)

Laphroaig 7 yo 1991/1999 (59.3%, SMWS 29.10)

Port Ellen 10 yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #6778)

Port Ellen 20 yo 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1978/2002 2nd Annual Release (54.3%, OB)

Springbank 15 yo (46%, Black Label, mid 80’s)

Springbank 21 yo (46%, OB, dumpy, parchment label)

Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, dumpy, parchment label)

Springbank 1966/1998 'Local barley' (54.4%, OB)