2004 <--- March
- 'RULE VARIETY' TASTING AT MY PLACE -
be honest, we didn’t like last night’s
session too much. Tasting eight malts
from the same distillery in a row is painful,
except if you’ve got only some great
expressions of malts you like a lot. So,
this time, we decide to improvise, and
to choose some distilleries somewhat at
random. Our benchmark malt will be Springbank
10 yo OB. And because we didn’t
loose all hope to put our hands on a great
Allt-A-Bhaine sometime, we decide to kick
off with two expressions of this bottom
18 yo 1980/1999 (43%, Signatory, cask
#19000) No need to say
we fear the worst will happen… The
colour is white wine, and the nose is
quite fresh at first. Then it gets grassy
and spirity, with notes of fern and aniseed.
Grain, fresh pineapple, somewhat like
a Lowlander. I’d say it’s
not bad at all, a good surprise. Mouth:
quite powerful at first, but it gets quickly
quite weak. Bitter, dusty, and frankly,
quite disgusting – even undrinkable.
One for the spittoon! The good thing is
that it makes the Springbank 10 yo taste
like a 25 yo OB. We decide to taste the
Allt-A-Bhaine HtoH against a Dewars 12
yo we got at Whisky Live. The latter is
ten times better! Okay, ratings: OH
67, SV 65.
16 yo 1985/2001 (50%, DL OMC)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: very spirity
and powerful, like a good wodka. Some
wood (sawdust) and peardrops. Not much
aromas, as you can see. Mouth: very strong
and pungent, almost violent. Sharp, no
aromatic development whatsoever. Completely
uninteresting. Still better than the Signatory,
though. Or should I say less worse? Long
finish (too bad, this time). Olivier says
maybe it’ll be good when deeply
frozen, on caviar. I told you, it’s
almost wodka! Our ratings: OH
72, SV 70.
yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 258 bottles)
Yes, we need a
Brora now. The colour is straw. Very aromatic
at first nosing, it gets grassy in a good
way, not unlike the 30 yo OB second edition.
Hay, violets, then seaweed and sea air,
and finally some fine peat. Very nice
and elegant nose.Mouth: not much peat
right at the start, but then it comes,
growing stronger and stronger, like often
with Brora. How great! Lots of pepper
and white fruit (melon, peach) as well.
Very long finish. This Brora is very interesting,
because it’s well between the classical
peated Broras from 197O/1972 and the fruitier
ones from the 80’s. Very good! Ratings:
OH 90, SV 90.
10 yo 1992 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Another HtoH now, with an highly underestimated
distillery. This one’s colour is
white wine, and the nose is, guess what,
extremely lowlandish. Grain, marzipan,
fresh almonds, peach and apple. Just a
little bitter, but nicely perfumy as well.
Nice nose! Mouth: surprisingly bold and
rich. Violets sweets, thyme, pineapple
syrup. Hints of acacia honey. Very clean.
The finish is longer than expected, again
clean and fresh. A very good Auchentoshan,
that’s for sure. Bravo! OH
87, SV 86.
NAS (40%, bottled in the 80’s)
Let’s see whether an OB will match
the great IB. The colour is straw. Nose:
very grainy, light and fresh. It’s
very young, that’s for sure. Not
very interesting, just what we expected
from a young Auchentoshan OB. Mouth: light,
clean and fresh, a little perfumy. Again,
not very interesting, but not bad either.
Rather short finish. A classic summer
malt, to sip near the swimming pool. OH
77, SV 80.
12 yo 1990 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Another one from Duncan Taylor. Colour:
straw. Nose: sharp, and surprisingly acidic.
Did they pour some vinegar in it? This
must come from the wood, the cask must
have been quite dirty, and some bacteria
must have developed in it. Don’t
worry, the alcohol kills them all. Quite
woody as well, and some notes of white
rum. Mouth: quite sour. Again, a cask
problem. I guess the distillery shouldn’t
have used that cask, and maybe Duncan
Taylor shouldn’t have bottled it.
No big deal, you can’t always succeed.
Long, but dirty finish. Our ratings: OH
72, SV 72.
35 yo 1967 (45.1%, Peerlesss, cask #7678)
Another old bourbon Macallan, I guess
– or perhaps a refill sherry. The
colour is straw with a greenish tinge.
The nose is like grandma’s old cupboard.
Old books, lots of wood but not too much.
Yes a bourbon cask, no doubt. Hints of
herbs and freshly cut grass. Mouth: mild
but nicely coating. A little minty as
well. Fruit, wood, seems to be much younger.
It gets much sharper with time. Notes
of varnish, glue… Not very enjoyable.
Quite astonishingly very similar to the
Springbank 10 yo . This Macallan is more
a curiosity than an enjoyable malt. OH
79, SV 80.
Park 24 yo 1977/2001 (43%, Signatory,
cask #3788) We were looking
for an Highland Park to taste ‘against’
another Peerless bottling, and I though
we could try this Signatory. I said I
thought we could. Its colour is white
wine, which is incredible for a 24 yo
malt. The nose is restrained. Grassy,
it gets a little dirty and spirity. Just
uninteresting. The mouth is quite bold
at first, but everything falls apart after
a few seconds. Round and sweetish, it
really lacks vivacity. Notes of cheap
honey – the kind of honey they serve
for breakfast in most hotels. The malt
then gets dry and even a little dusty.
Highly disappointing, especially when
tasted against the Springbank 10 yo ,
which seems so much better. Our ratings:
OH 75, SV 72.
Park 35 yo 1966 (43.4%, Peerless, cask
#4627) This one must be
better than the Signatory. It’s
colour is dark straw. Some colour, finally!
Nose: a lot of varnish and beeswax (Johnson
and Johnson ;-). A lot of eucalyptus,
overripe apple, banana. Great vivacity
for such an old age. Notes of almonds,
diesel oil and melon. Gets a little bitter,
but no big deal. Mouth: quite bold and
strong for its age. Wow! A little bitter
and austere, though. Orange peel, violet
sweets, camomile. Quite long finish. In
short, a very good malt, very interesting
and enjoyable. Our ratings: OH
88, SV 88
1968/2001 (40%, G&M CC)
We’ll have three old Tomatins in
a row now.Should be interesting. This
G&M shows a nice amber colour. Its
nose is very fresh and clean, which is
great. It develops on fresh fruit (orange,
tangerine, granny smith apple, cider apple)
and dried fruit as well (banana). Notes
of Kalhua (coffee liqueur) and old style
perfume (Joy de Patou). Mouth: quite bold
for a Connoisseur’s Choice at first,
but then it gets a little weaker. Too
bad, it would have been a winner. Gets
slightly woody as well. Cooked fruit (apple,
pear). Lacks a little structure. Finish:
a little short. Let’s thing the
same old song again: too bad they didn’t
bottle this one at 43 or, better, 46%.
The nose is so much more spectacular than
the mouth! But it deserves some very good
ratings, still. OH 90, SV 89.
37 yo 1965/2003 (47.2%, Hart Bros)
Colour: straw, yes, just straw. Nose:
much more powerful than the G&M’s.
Sherry, and quite a lot of eucalyptus.
Nicely balanced. Apple, peach, guava,
and some nice wood. Very satisfying and
youthful for a 37 yo malt. Just a little
less complex than the G&M on the nose.
Mouth: again, quite bold and playful for
its age. Very expresssive, fruitful, with
some great sherry. Notes of white fruit,
and some fine pepper to underline the
whole. Lacks just a little complexity,
but the palate is much more satisfying
than the G&M’s. What’s
also incredible, is that it’s got
much more oomph than the much younger
Springbank 10 yo . Again, if only the
G&M had the same punch, it would have
been an absolute winner. Anyway, our ratings
for the Hart Bros are just the same: OH
90, SV 89.
37 yo 1965 (48%, Peerless, cask #1909)
It’s going to be hard to compete
with the two great Tomatins we just had,
especially because Tomatin remains…
eh, Tomatin! Anyway, its colour is amber.
The nose is very flowery: wild flowers,
bouton d’or, honey. A little too
smooth and tired, but not too much wood
influence. Mouth: a little weak, which
is strange when considering its ABV. Perhaps
it lost some power in the sample bottle,
which was just 1/3 full. Too bad, we should
try it again in the future. Anyway, it’s
got some notes of cold, light tea, with
lots of tannins appearing towards the
end. Not bad, but our ratings can’t
be very solid this time. OH 85,
SV 83 (to be tasted again).
33 yo 1969 (48.7%, Peerless, cask #2929)
Back to Islay for just one malt. The colour
is straw, and the nose shows some strong
williams pear notes. Very fresh and clean.
Too bad our sample is really too small
to alow us come up with some serious rating.
The mouth really makes us think of some
pear eau de vie. Quite strong, with some
pepper. Very elegant! Quite long finish.
Again, we haven’t got enough malt
to rate it properly, but we both think
it deserves between 89 and 92 points.
Let’s say an A.
35 yo 1967 (51.1%, Peerless, cask #1533)
Colour: light amber. Nose: curiously fresh
considering its age… and considering
the distillery. A lot of vivacity: fresh
fruit (green apple, passion fruit, strawberry).
Some toffee, cappuccino… Gets just
a little dusty. Mouth: quite bold, a tad
simpler than the nose. Hot milk, caramel,
egts a little woody, but it’s nice
wood. Long finish. In short, this old
Strathisla is very enjoyable, especially
when compared with the G&M old expressions,
which are usually much more sherried and
somewhat lighter at the same time. Ratings:
OH 87, SV 86.
32 yo 1970 (53.6%, Peerless, cask #810)
Here’s one of these hyper-sherried
old Glen Grants. Many are beautiful, if
not stellar, and we hope this one will
respect the tradition. The colour is deep
mahogany, and the nose exhales some heavy
sherry notes, as expected. Dark chocolate,
Banyuls wine, toffee. Very nice, really
a classic. It’s refined and elegant,
not just a sherry syrup.The mouth is very
powerful, bold and rich, but extremely
tannic. It sort of bites your tongue.
Incredibly powerful, perhaps too powerful.
Lacks some finesse, but anyway, it’s
impressive. Our ratings: OH 84,
17 yo 1965 (40%, G&M CC old brown
label) We wanted to end
the session with a malt we’d like
(always better), so, remembering the great
old Lochsides we had in Zurich, I chose
this old Connoisseur’s Choice. Its
colour is dark amber (caramel). The nose
is superb, with some ‘Atlantic freshness’
(don’t laugh!), some grassy notes,
gooseberry, dried herbs, and quite some
smoke. Very, very nice! Some toffee as
well… yes, a great nose. Mouth:
again, it’s brilliant, fresh and
lively. Twenty years in its bottle sure
didn’t harm it, and this Lochside
makes us think even more that malt can
actually improve in glass. A lot of fruit,
freshness, and some notes of burnt tire.
Quite peaty, in fact! Absolutely superb,
along the same line as some other great
Lochsides from the 60’s (Premier
Malt etc.) A great, great malt: OH
93, SV 92.
- BOWLILA AT OLIVIER'S PLACE
- We started the session with 6 blind
malts from Johannes.
Colour: straw. First nosing: very sweet
and spirity. Then lots of peardrops and
banana, with hints of smoke. Gets grainy
and woody. Mouth: quite nicely balanced
at first, then a lot of bubblegum. Very
little peat if any. Quite grassy, with
some bitter notes arising. Gets too woody,
and it_s no nice wood. A little vulgar.
Finish: Medium, on both bubblegum and
bitter/peppery notes. Quite weird, if
you ask me. Our ratings: OH: 73
points, SV: 74 points.
My guesses: 1: Arran, 2: Tobermory, 3:
Clynelish (but not a good one).
Comments by Olivier: Agreed, it tastes
too sweet for me. And it isn’t a
nice natural sweet character from old
age. Looks like a very young whisky, made
to taste older. Arran is a good guess,
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #19: Clynelish
11 yo 1989/2000 (43%, McGibbons Summer/Autumn).
I completely agree it’s a crappy
Clynelish – I gave it 55 points.
Colour: straw. First nosing: nice freshness,
then strawberry and melon. Not very expressive,
and a little weak. Hay, cooked butter,
white fruit. Quite nice, still. Mouth:
Nicely balanced at first - fruity and
grainy, but not much character. Gets sharper,
with woody notes and plain sugar. Quite
long finish, but nothing really interesting,
though. Our ratings: OH,75, SV,
My guesses: just the same, 1: Arran, 2:
Tobermory, 3: Clynelish (or Bruichladdich?)
Comments by Olivier: I had strong
glue on the nose, some heather, very light
charcoal on the palate. Bunnahabhain,
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #20: Clynelish
11 yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, Cask
#3953). I didn’t like this
one either – just 61 points from
me. Maybe rating them blindly caused you
to be cautious? You really chose a nice
batch to start with ;-).
You picked up on the ‘house’
Colour: pale straw. Nose: pure peat. Very
smoky, not nothing else. Gets just a little
vegetal. Mouth: quite nice smoke, but
very few fruit and it's quite unbalanced
and mono-dimensional. In that case, there's
too much peat. Finish: long, on the smoke
and pepper. Not especially bad, but again,
I'm not sure that just peating a lot any
malt does work. When compared with the
evening's benchmark malt (Ardbeg 1975/2000
OB), it's even more obvious. Ratings:
OH, 80 points, SV, 79 points.
My guesses: 1. Caol Ila, 2: Ledaig, 3:
Comments by Olivier: Yep, brutal pungent
monolithic peat, more like wet grass burning.
Young and aggressive. Caol Ila, some young
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #21: Caol
Ila 12 yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon’s
Provenance Winter/Winter). Congrats!
Both of you got this the first time around.
My score was 73. For an Caol Ila I thought
it was sub-standard.
Colour: straw. Nose: quite light, smoke
and glue. Then gets quite oily, with a
nice balance peat / fresh fruit. Much
nice than #21. Some peppery notes, and
a nice freshness. Mouth: bold and powerful,
but remains quite simple when compared
to the Ardbeg 1975. Much younger, we guess,
but quite enjoyable, still. Finish: medium.
In short a nice malt, simple but enjoyable.
Ratings: OH: 85 points, SV: 82
My guesses: 1. Bowmore, 2. Caol Ila, 3.
Comments by Olivier: Sorry Serge,
I move my mark to 84 for this one. Agreed,
rich and oily, but lacks complexity to
move to the 85 range. Bowmore, Bunnahabhain.
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #22: Caol
Ila 15 yo (43%, Flora & Fauna)
– my score was just 79 points. Serge
got it right with his second guess.
Colour: pale straw. Nose: again not very
expressive, and quite austere. Young and
not very complex. Peat, a little pepper,
and wood's smoke. Mouth: nice attack,
strong and bold. Much better than the
nose. Rich, lots of peat and fruit (apple),
much nicer, really in the Ardbeg style.
Ratings: OH: 88 points, SV, 88
My guesses: 1. Ardbeg, 2. Caol Ila, 3.
Comments by Olivier: Really enjoyable…
palate is superior to the nose, good finish,
even though the alcohol doesn’t
seem that high. Ardbeg, Laphroaig
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #23: Caol
Ila 9 yo 1992/2002 (43%, Cooper’s
Choice). That’s right! Nice
little surprise, eh? I conservatively
scored it at 82 points on my first tasting
but that’s likely to go up. I knew
you’d like this.
Colour: light amber. Nose: very nice and
refined. Beautiful peat, very round and
fruity (cooked apple), beautiful balance.
Mouth: great roundness and balance, just
a little too 'smooth'. Perhaps this bottle
was open since a long time. Peat, pear,
cooked fruit (strawberry jam). Hints of
exotic fruit. Finish: medium to long -
gets sweeter with time. Really in the
Laphroaig style. Ratings: OH:88 points,
SV: 88 points.
My guesses: 1. Laphroaig, 2. Bowmore,
3. Caol Ila.
Comments by Olivier: I liked a lot
the palate of this whisky. Honest Laphroaig,
Answer by Johannes: The horrible
truth about Blind #24: Caol
Ila 10 yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers).
Well, this was my favourite of the bunch.
My score for the first dram was 84 points,
but I’ll have to investigate further.
Bottle was opened 3 months ago. So, fairly
interesting results, eh? I’ve tried
to do a fairly straight ‘build-up’
with this flight and I wanted to show
some different sides of Caol Ila. Since
you picked a different first guess each
time I think that part of my evil masterplan
has succeeded ;-) (Rest assured that most
of the other flights will be more varied.)
eight different Bowmores are now on the
table. Different? Well, in theory, yes,
14 yo 1989 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Let’s start with this brand new
bottling by Duncan Taylor. Most of the
‘Whisky Galore’ malts we already
had were quite good, and a Caol Ila even
got a Silver Medal during our 2003 Awards.
To be honest, several ‘independent’
young Bowmores are really ‘middle-of-the-roadish’,
but we expect quite a lot from this one.
Let’s check it out… Colour:
straw. At first nosing it’s quite
elegant and refined. Nice peat underlining
the whole: seawater, seaweed, lemon, pepper,
freshly cut apple. A wide array of fresh
and very nice aromas. Mouth: Very powerful
at first, growing even stronger and stronger.
Great balance and elegance. Nice fruity
notes, great peat, and quite a lot of
peppery notes. Hints of lavender ice cream.
Finish: long like a comet’s tail.
Very, very good independent Bowmore, certainly
a bang-for-you-bucks malt. Our ratings:
OH 88 points, SV 88 points.`
12 yo 1991/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, bottled
July 2003) I’m not
familiar with Hart Brothers, who seem
to be much more active on the US market
than in continental Europe. So, let’s
see whether they do well with this ‘exercice
de style’…Colour: white wine.
Nose: very vegetal at first, then acidulated
fruit, freshly cut grass, hints of pepper.
Very few peaty notes. Again, very vegetal.
The mouthfeel is quite sharp at first,
but becomes very simple (sugar, vegetable)
and almost no peat at all. Strong liquorice.
Long, but thin finish. In short, this
young Bowmore is quite weird, and these
very grassy notes are somewhat disturbing.
Far from being one of the young and independent
Bowmores on the market, that’s for
sure. Our ratings: OH 76 points,
SV 79 points.
34 yo 1968 (41.7%, Peerless, cask #1426)
We had some great Peerless at Duncan Taylor’s
stand during Whisky Live London. Ah, Invergordon!
So, we expect a lot from this one, also
because the Bowmores from the 60’s
are constantly good… Colour: surprisingly
light (straw). Nosing: pure pink grapefruit
and passion fruit. Wow! Very close to
the great Bowmore Celtic Heartland of
Murray McDavid fame. Smells also like
one of Olivier’s Rieslings Grand
Cru Brand 2000 or 2002. Frankly, it’s
the first time we taste a malt that’s
that close to wine. Great! Mouth: a superb
smoothness and some extremely refined
aromas. Huge purity and cleanliness, with
a lot of citrus and dried herbs. Fantastic,
absolutely delicious. Notes of very old
rum. Finish: medium, very smooth and delicate.
It must be from the same batch as the
Celtic Heartland. Again, wow! Our ratings:
OH 92, SV 93.
11 yo 1991/2003 (60.7%, Blackadder Raw
Cask, refill sherry cask #22535)
We have four of these young Blackaddder
Bowmores on the table. Let’s see
whether some are better than others…
Colour: straw. Nose: glue, varnish, peat
and alcohol. Then some nice grassy notes
mixed with the peat. Cold coffee, Kalhua,
wood and spices. A little too rough as
a whole, but interesting. Notes of green
tomato. Mouthfeeel: bold and rich, powerful.
Very powerful in fact, but drinkable with
no water. Dutch liquorice, grass, fruit,
and hints of peat – but less peat
than on the nose, in fact. Finish: quite
enjoyable. It’s quite simple, but
I’m sure it would have been a great
malt, provided they had waited twenty
more years before bottling it. It gets
really dull when watered down. Ratings:
OH 80, SV 78.
10 yo 1991/2002 (61.2%, Blackadder Raw
Cask, cask #15093) Colour:
pale straw. Nose: same as the previous
bottling, just a little woodier, and a
little less coffeeish. Mouth: the aromas
are more defined, and the malt’s
more ‘satisfying’. Otherwise,
the malt’s really ‘carried’
by alcohol. Ratings: OH 82, SV
12 yo 1989/2002 (63.3%, Blackadder Raw
Cask, cask #22533) Well,
how can a cask that’s been filled
two years later, and bottled one year
earlier carry almost the same number as
the previous one? That means the number
has nothing to do with the distillery,
i.e. Bowmore, but has been attributed
either by a broker, or Blackadder themselves,
I guess. Or does Baldrick work at Blackadder’s?
Anyway, let’s taste this third expression,
meelord ;-)... Colour: straw. Nose: almost
anaesthetised by the alcohol, but some
nice notes of citrus, then crystallised
fruit, zest. Very nice, too bad they bottled
it that early! Hints of pepper and peat.
With a little water, some notes of fresh
roots arise. Mouth: much more interesting
than the two previous ones. Wood, liquorice
(zan), citrus, and a whiff of peat. Very
prowerful. With water, some great notes
of tar and camphor. Long finish. By the
way, we really wonder how they manage
to sneak so many pieces of wood into the
bottles at Blackadder’s. Anybody
who already bottled some whisky, even
by hand with no filtering whatsoever,
noticed that it’s impossible to
add that much wood into all bottles –
not just into the last ones. Weird, if
you ask me. Another strange marketing
trick? Anyway, our ratings: OH
85, SV 83.
12 yo 1989/2002 (63.2%, Blackadder Raw
Cask, cask #22534) Another
one from the same batch – so we’ll
have had casks #22533, 22534 and 22535).
Yeah yeah, cherrypicking, sure…
Colour: pale straw. Nose: vegetal, much
in the style of its ‘brother’
casks. Not very enjoyable, nothing special.
Alcohol, wood… Mouth: very powerful
– too powerful, in fact. And almost
no peat. Some water doesn’t help:
it remains quite bland. Long finish, but
lacks balance. Our ratings: OH
82, SV 78. OK, cask #22533 wins!
16 yo 1984/2001 (60.7%, Cadenhead Auth.
Coll., bourbon hogshead, 338 bottles.)
Here’s one of these high-strength
Cadenheads. Its colour is pale straw,
and the nose is very grassy, with some
quite heavy soy sauce and parsley notes.
Then come some fine fruit (citrus and
pear). A few drops of water make it more
maritime and fresher. Palate: beautiful
balance, much more typical of the best
Bowmores. Fine peat and citrus. With some
water it manages to hold up the Ardbeg
1975, but it’s still more ‘difficult’
and less expressive. Long finish, but
mainly on the alcohol. Our ratings: OH
84, SV 83.
Alright, eight Bowmores down, with mixed
feelings. Time to switch to another famous
Islayer: Caol Ila. We already had four
blind ones from Johannes, and we found
out that Caol Ila can be very inconsistent.
It’s true that like a few other
distilleries that were seldom to be found
as official bottlings (like, say Mortlach
or Linkwood), Caol Ila was one of the
independents’ favourites. I guess
thousands and thousands of casks flooded
the market a few years ago, so no wonder
some were very good, but some others were
very modest, if not defective. We already
had some evidence of that, but let’s
go on and check how four other ‘Lilas
will behave now…
12 yo 1990/2002 (58.5%, Blackadder Raw
Cask, hogshead #4159)
Colour: pale straw, again and again. Nose:
heavy apple, peat, and a lot of alcohol.
Very spirity. Rough and simple. Palate:
very grassy and woody, not much peat –
or at least, the peat is masked by alcohol.
Dirty taste, and a lot of ‘wrong’
tastes. Undefined aromas, even with some
water. Not enjoyable at all… another
poor Blackadder bottling. Our ratings:
OH 75, SV 70.
11 yo 1991/2003 (56.5%, whiskyauction.com,
313 bottles) Colour: straw.
Nose: very smoky, getting a little winey,
quite curiously. Notes of old cask, a
Mouth: very bold and satisfying. Nice
peat, but lacks a little definition and
aromas. Again, we feel a few more years
in the cask wouldn’t have harmed
this Caol Ila. Long and powerful finish.
This one makes us think of an underardbeg,
which can’t be totally bad. In fact,
we like it. Ratings: OH 86, SV
14 yo 1980/1994 (62.6%, G&M Cask series)
Colour: straw. Nose: light peat and liquorice.
Notes of cooked fruit and hay. Nice nose,
even if not spectacular. A little vulgar,
I’d say. Mouth: a little too hot.
Notes of sugar, liquorice and smoke. Again
a little vulgar, and some ‘molesse’.
The finish is long but the malt is a little
boring in a whole. But it’s still
a good one. OH 84, SV 83.
20 yo 1974/1995 (55.7%, Signatory, cask
#12584) This is the last
malt we’ll have during our ‘Bowlila’
session. Eight Bowmores, Eight Caol Ila
(including four blinds from Johannes),
that’s enough to make us claim that
none of these two well-known distilleries
are very constant. What’s sure,
is that one should rather buy one quite
expensive bottle, rather than two or three
of these cheap young independent expressions.
Or, at least, taste a sample before you
buy a bottle! Many bottlings are quite
poor, that’s for sure… Anyway,
let’s taste the last one now. Colour:
straw. Nose: quite fresh, peaty. Notes
of fresh and cooked apple, that make us
think of Ardbeg. A little spicy as well.
Nice nose, indeed! Mouth: disappointing,
we feel it’s just another peated
malt. Not bad, for sure, but nothing thrilling.
The finish is quite long, but not too
interesting. In short, a rather good malt,
that’s all. Our ratings: OH
83, SV 82.
JACO - Weather Report's bass
Pastorius died in 1987. He's since
that very sad day been eriged to cult
status. Listen to his big, bold bass playing
in this live rendition of 'invitation'
with his own big band (7.8MB mp3 file).
Don't be afraid of the lengthy introduction,
it gets much better after two minutes.
I have been listening to Pastorius at
least once in a month since... 25 years.
- My God! Both are for
sale... Which one would you choose?
- Visiting London with
we HAD to find this place... It seems
that some shops in london do show their
Oh, and what about a little booze? Will
88% vol. do? Tell me about cask strength
malts! A joke, I tell you...
Oh yeah, and what about a little adverstising
while we're at it? Well, I guess it's
a little harder than Glenfiddich's stags
and deers... Yes, the glen of tanquility,
another way of affecting one's life...
It's all a matter of style, I guess. Beerliquors.com
write thats: "Black Death, a vodka
distilled from beets in Luxembourg was
banned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
and Firearms in 1992, which asserted that
the liquor's name and label-featuring
a sinister image of a grinning skull in
black top hat-created "the misleading
impression of bubonic plague and poison.
Cabo, the importing company, won its appeal
against the ban in a federal district
court the same year. Very sweet vodka
and cloying on the palate with strong
taste of burned sugars, but very smooth
with hardly a trace of needle."
I didn't taste it myself, because I'm
not into vodka at all...
- TASTING AT THE THISTLE WITH SOME BELGIAN
FRIENDS - Marc Segers,Paul
DeJong, Johannes van den Heuvel and yours
1990/2003 (approx 60%, G&M Special
reserve for Whisky World, Holland)
Paul Dejong and Marc Segers invited us
to taste a few high-end samples they brought
to London. The first one was this powerful
Imperial. Quite a lot of wood at first
nosing, and some marzipan. Nothing too
special in this malt, but it’s quite
satisfying. It need some water to develop.
25 yo 1969/1995 (53.3%, Signatory)
This one is black like a Loch Dhu. Bold,
extremely sherried, a real monster. A
little monolithic. 89 points.
29 yo 1968/1997 (55.9%, OB, cask 629)
Again a great old Glen Geerie, this time
extremely sherried. I simply adored it.
yo 1967/1997 sherry (52%, Signatory, cask
578, 540 b.) The last
dram we had in London – but not
the least, that’s for sure. Beautiful
sherry, but not in a ‘monstrous’
way this time. Very complex, with some
very refined peat, which is melted into
the sherry. Great wood. 92 points.
above) - Famous top model Jamie McEwan
introduced the Bruichladdich Summer 2004
collection at Whisky Live London. An harmonious
blend of tradition (the kilt just above
the knee) and avant-garde (check the handbag).
- AT WHISKY LIVE, DAY 2
Grain 1966 (Cadenhead)
Lochisde made both some malt and some
grain, but Lochside single grain is very
scarce. Just had a quick sniff and a little
sip of it, and I felt it was worth around
86 points. (not solid)
28 yo 1975/2003 (54.1%, Signatory, cask
#5719, Bottled 19/6/2003)
A beautiful Glenlivet, very rich but less
bold than some other versions. I love
it for its complexity and for its ‘peacock’s
tail’. 89 points.
1876 Replica (40.6%, OB)
I felt it was quite weak, slightly vegetal
and minty. This may be called subtle,
but then it’s too subtle for my
taste. Only 79 points.
15 yo 'Cognac matured???' (46%, Whisky
Galore) Very interesting,
this one was fully matured in a Cognac
cask. Much better than the current 15
yo OB, that’s for sure. 86
12 yo 1991/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Smooth and round, fruity and quite salty
on the tongue. Interesting. 85
13 yo 1990/2003 sherry (46%, Whisky Galore)
The nose is very perfumy, smooth and rounded.
The mouth is sweet and, again very rounded.
Very satisfying, but Rosebank’s
usual markers aren’t there (citrus).
Could have been a Speysider. 82
Park 13 yo 1990/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore,
Bourbon cask) Very fresh,
clean, nervous, organic. How complex!
The mouth is quite peaty, with quite a
lot of tangerine and pineapple. Very good
cask! 87 points.
16 yo 1987/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore, Bourbon
cask) This one is punchy
and perfumy. Violet, lavender, and quite
a lot of peat. Very ‘maritime’.
In short, what one would expect from a
very good Bowmore. 88 points.
34 yo 1968/2002 (45.9%, Peerless, cask
#1579, refill sherry, 218 b.)
Very subtle and complex, but also quite
powerful for such a venerable malt. Seems
to be much younger than it actually is.
36 yo 1966/2003 (40.7%, Peerless, cask
#4874, white port) Another
version from this series – I tasted
another one in Bordeaux last year. Heavy
coconut milk, and a beautiful wood, perhaps
a tad too present. Whiffs of peat. 89
36 yo 1965/2002 (51.8%, Peerless, cask
#15539, firstfill bourbon, 252 b.)
A great surprise, and the best single
grain I ever had. Full vanilla pod. How
great! Thanks Kirsty. No less than 91
14 yo 1989 'Cairdean Family' (46%, OB,
sherry refill, online, 2000 b.)
This is one of the new 50cl bottles which
are only available from Bruichladdich’s
website. Beautiful sherry notes, chocolate,
coffee, dried fruit. Very bold and satisfying,
just a little too much wood and astringency,
but it deserves a very good rating, still:
1988 'Sinnsear Forefathers' (50%, OB,
100% bourbon, 1000 b.)
Very powerful and compact. Not a lot of
aromas but it’s still nicely assembled.
14 yo 1984/2003 (46%, MMcD)
No need to say that Murray McDavid must
have access to some very good casks, and
once again I’m convinced by this
new bottling. Very refined, fresh, floral.
Great elegance. 88 points.
13 yo 1990/2004 (46%, MMcD, MM0401)
Very flowery, hints of eucalyptus. Very
fresh, and quite aromatic. I like it a
lot. 87 points.
10 yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 338 bottles)
A brand new young Ardbeg from the Laings.
Powerful and youthful, pure and fresh,
and very, very bold. Very peaty, but it’s
not ‘crystal-clear’ peat.
Great balance peat/fruit. I like it better
than the 10 yo OB. 89 points.
16 yo 1987/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 312 bottles)
Another great bottling, very elegant,
a perfect mixture of peat, smoke and white
fruit. 89 points.
21 yo 1982/2003 (50%, DL OMC, 348 bottles)
A very good Port Ellen, nicely balanced
and quite rounded. Lacks a little oomph,
though. 85 points.
- AT THE VINTAGE HOUSE, LONDON
20 yo 1983 (51.4%, DL for The Vintage
House, 258 Bottles) The
guys at TVH were very friendly, and had
many nice bottles opened for tasting.
This Bowmore is very fresh and perfumy,
and quite spirity. Not much peat. Lacks
a little depth and complexity, I think,
but still a very good Bowmore. 82
27 yo 1976/2004 (48.5%, DL Platinum, 235
b., bourbon) One of these
un-sherried Macallans, which show you
how great the spirit is, even if with
no sherry added. Just a little too spirity
for my taste. 87 points.
27 yo 1973/2000 (50.4%, OB)
I’m really thankful to The Vintage
House for having let me taste this rarity.
It’s very perfumy, flowery and grainy.
The mouth is quite bold and fruity (apricot,
pear). A little mono-dimensional, though.
21 yo 1982/2003 (46%, McGibbons Provenance,
winter/summer) A very
nice Port Ellen, on the gentle side. Greatly
balanced, elegant peat, very satisfying.
Not extreme at all, and very few rubbery
notes, for once. I liked it very much.
- AT THE SALT WHISKY BAR, LONDON - 82
Seymore Street, London, W2 2JE - greatest
selection I've ever seen.
Vintage 1976 (43%, OB)
They usually charge £30 for a dram
of this one at Salt, but we got quite
a discount, because Olivier knows the
owner. Anyway it’s a beautiful malt,
quite refreshing. A splendid blending
of some typical Laphroaig peat with all
sorts of fruit, including exotic (passion
fruit, lemon). Highly drinkable! 93
27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory, 212
b.) Very good! 88
points (not solid)
13 yo 1990/2003 (63.5%, Aldelphi, cask
#52640, 189 b.) A single
grain which is extremely strong, don’t
even consider tasting it without water.
But it’s very good, even if very
spirity, and I got some bold chicory and
apricot. 86 points.
yo 1976/2000 Committee (55%, OB, sherry
cask #2392, 528 b.) Big,
bold and rich Ardbeg, but not the most
impressive I tasted. 89 points
the way the barman prepared the Ardbeg
Committee for us. Okay, joking, but he's
the actual Salt's barman... Skilled, eh?
- AT WHISKY LIVE, DAY 1
25 yo (40%, OB) Very disappointing.
Weak on the nose, short on the palate,
and a dry finish. Forget about it, I’d
say. 78 points.
15 yo (43%, OB) A lot
of caramel on the nose (toffee, fudge).
A whiff of smoke on the tongue, otherwise,
it’s quite ordinary. 78
12 yo (43%, ‘OB’)
This one is said to be Benrinnes, and
the guys didn’t want to confirm
when I talked to them. But they didn’t
insist it isn’t so I guess…
it is. Anyway, I enjoyed it. Very classic
but not boring in anyway. Perhaps not
worth buying, but worth tasting, that’s
for sure. 80 points.
'Cigar Malt' (43%, OB)
A malt that’s made beautifully…
But that’s the problem, it’s
‘made’. Bold and rich sherry,
but too ‘artificial’ for my
taste. I mean, you imagine the bottles
being processed like in Charlie Chaplin’s
‘Modern Times’ factory. Plus,
I’m not fonder of the concept of
a cigar malt than of the one of a whisky
cigar. 82 points.
30 yo 1973 'Gonzalez Byass finish’
(42%, OB) Sure, Gonzalez
Byass are famous for their great cuvées
(but also for their heavier sellers),
but well… Like very often it doesn’t
quite work here. It’s nice, harmonious,
quite aromatic, but in no way really interesting.
Is that why they ask for ‘only’
£80 for a bottle? 82 points.
Jura 16 yo (40%, OB) Very
nice nose, very original. I like it! The
mouth is very balanced, quite grassy in
a good way, with some nice fruity notes
and some icing sugar. I think Jura is
improving at lightning speed theses days.
Jura 19 yo 1984 'George Orwell' (42%,
OB) Another one which
quite similar to the 16 yo , but it simply
has a little more of everything. A very
good whisky. 85 points.
Jura 10 yo 'Legacy' (40%, OB, Duty Free
only) This one contains
more old casks than the regular 10 yo
. Great liquorice, nice freshness, vegetables,
and gain some great liquorice on the finish.
Very nice, try it next time you visit
a duty free shop. 83 points.
1989/2003 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #973/974)
Very perfumy and ‘milky’,
with eau de Cologne, plus some orange
peel. Lacks depth, a little thin. There
are some far better ones around.
1971/2003 (55%, Berry Bros, cask #6447)
Beautiful fruit, beautiful wood, beautiful
sherry, great complexity. Yes, just a
beautiful and complex Glenlivet, worth
no less than 92 points
on my scale.
1984/2002 (43%, OB) Here
come the usual honeyed notes. Again a
very good Glenrothes OB. All the Glenrothes
are very consistent, whatever the bottling:
never totally thrilling, but always very
enjoyable. I’ve been told the high-end
bottlings from the sixties are fantastic,
but for the price of one case, I’d
better buy the 1978 Ducati 900 SS I’ve
seen for sale not very far from my place
;-). Because a bottle of 1966 Glenrothes
goes for £800… My rating for
the 1984: 82 points.
10 yo (40%, OB, 2003 new labelling)
Very light and floral. A perfect summer
dram, I’m sure. 80 points
1990 (40%, MacPhail's Collection)
More perfumy, and even cleaner than the
10 yo OB. Most enjoyable, and not ‘complicated’
in any way – nor complex. 82
1974/2001 (40%, G&M CC)
A very good surprise. Clean and quite
fresh… And so much better than the
OB’s!. Il loved it. 85 points.
1982/2003 (40%, G&M CC)
The first mouthfeel is great, very nice
peat, very elegant and refined. Alas,
it just falls down after a few seconds
on the palate, and the finish is almost
inexistent. But what a nice attack! 82
Abunad'h batch #11 (59.8%, OB)
Again a new batch. These must sell in
big figures – and they deserve it.
This batch is great, has everything, and
is perhaps a little less extreme than
some previous versions. A little less
sherried. 89 points.
21 yo 'Archive' (43%, OB)
This is just what I’d call a very
good and classic Speysider. No more, but
no less. 84 points.
1983/2004 Portwood Finish (55%, Signatory,
WIP, future 'Straight from the Cask version')
Andrew Symington is going on with his
odd finishing experiments, but I’d
say I come more and more across some versions
that really work. This one is a good example.
yo 1981/2003 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered.,
cask #1635, 806 b.) This
one is rather more peaty than most 1981.
Nicely balanced, yet very powerful. It’s
very ‘satisfying’, and quite
fresh. One of the best Signatory Broras.
24 yo 1979/2004 Burgundy finish (58.8%,
Signatory Straight from The Cask)
Here’s an experiment I don’t
really like. I already had a version in
Paris. I don’t know whether it’s
because I can’t figure out why one
should ‘alter’ a Port Ellen,
but well, you know, tastes and colours…
I gave it 2 more points than last time,
which makes 79 points.
I know that Johannes liked it better,
11 yo 1991/2003 (60.2%, Signatory, cask
#16587, 596 b.) Another
great surprise from Andrew’s: a
peated and powerful Mannochmore. I liked
it a lot 87 points.
10 yo Burgundy Finish (58.8%, Signatory
Straight from The Cask)
I feel the Burgundy finish works much
better here than with the Port Ellen.
By the way the casks came from Saint-Romain,
which is south of Burgundy (Côte
de Beaune). 84 points.
11 yo Portwood Finish (60%, Signatory
Straight from The Cask)
Now, here the finishing works beautifully,
and so much better than with some earlier
versions of Lapraoig portwood (unchillfiltered
range) Thrilling! Loud applause:
30 yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, sherry butt
#97, 539 bottles) Simply
the best Edradour I ever had. Stunning…
And it’s worth the £220 they
ask for it. 90 points.
3 months Sauternes finish (Cask sample)
Sauternes is very sweet, and the Glenmorangie
21 yo Sauternes finish is good whisky,
but no more. Close to a liqueur…
This Edradour is a little lighter, and
the wine took a little less of its share
than in the Glenmorangie. It’s quite
good! 80 points.
Seen at La Maison du Whisky, this
15 months full Tokaj (61%, OB, cask sample)
Okay, Tokaj is sometimes even sweeter
than Sauternes, and maybe here are the
concept’s limits. This experiment
is very difficult to rate, because it’s
only 15 months old, but for the moment,
Edradour’s newmake’s rather
‘rustic’ characteristics (stable,
grass) are just on the opposite of the
Tokaj’s flavours. The result, again,
for the moment, is extremely weird and
odd. I saw that Signatory just did a ‘kriek’
finished Ardmore (see picture above -
Kriek is a Belgian beer, aromatized with
cherries) so I guess the mania will go
even further. It makes me think of a ‘fantasy’
project we had at maltmaniacs’:
doing some ‘supermodel’ finish.
I mean, we would have let Naomi Campbell
or Claudia Schiffer bathe in a cask of
malt for one hour or so… that’s
all. Tempted to try that, Andrew? ;-)
As for rating the ‘Tokaj’,
well, for the moment, I think 60
points will do. I remember Olivier’s
notes when tasting this one. I just wrote
18 yo 1984/2002 (46%, OB)
Here’s a Laddie I didn’t taste
before. Very good, if you ask. Worth 86
points on my own scale.
12 yo 1991/2004 (50%, DL OMC, cask #879,
860 b., 6 month sherry finish)
Again a finishing that worked… Just
a little too ‘wild’, not enough
‘rounded’ for my taste. Perhaps
a few more months in the sherry…
87 points, still.
Box Monster (54.9%, 'OB', vatting, US)
This one is a vatting of Ardmore and Caol
Ila, and it’s really big and bold,
but not very refined. A monster, indeed!
Very spectacular, kind of an ‘exercice
de style’. 86 points.
yo 'Very Young' (58.9%, OB, committee)
Okay, everybody’s raving about this
one, but frankly, I found it to be too
harsh and pungent, and not enjoyable at
all. Very close to a newmake, I feel.
It’s when tasting this kind of ‘trick’,
that you understand what maturation is
all about… But I guess Glenmorangie
was really eager to release a few casks
from their own distillation. Perhaps they
should have waited a little longer. Anyway,
they wrote ‘for discussion’
on the label, so I guess they’ll
accept my rating, which is 79
- AT BERRY BROS AND RUDD's, LONDON
with Doug McIvor
1975/2003 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #5539)
Beautifuly perfumy and clean. Not a big,
bols sherry at all, very refined. Great
freshness, quite classy. 87 points.
35 yo 1968/2003 (46%, Berry Bros)
This was is a vatting of three casks.
Very fresh, it doesn’t show its
age, and neither the sherry, nor the wood
‘blocks’ the spririt. Nice
vivacity, but a certain lack of depth
and complexity, especially when compared
to several great Springers from the sixties.
30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Dundeil, cask #14307)
This is a beautiful bottling Doug did
just before he joined Berry bros. It’s
devilishly good, as Doug wrote on the
label. Very classy, fresh and complex,
and some nice whiffs of smoke –
although it’s nowhere near a 1972
brora. Anyway, I really loved it –
and I bought some bottles. Need more evidence
? 91 points.
19 yo 1983/2002 (46%, Berry Bros)
A very good Caol Ila, quite classic. Peat,
smoke and seaweed etc. Recommended, despite
the fact that there are some quite better
bottles around. 86 points.
- Jazz - I just listened
to a great German live recording of Michel
'Looking Up'. How great he was! You can
listen to some real audio tracks of one
of his best CDs here.
Michel died five years ago and we all
miss him. I'll always remember Didier
Lockwood carrying him in his arms when
coming on stage for a gig...
edition #9 is on-line! Lots
of great e-pistles by the maniacs - check
it out a.s.a.p.
2004 <--- March
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