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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2006 - Part 2
       
 
August 2006 - part 1 <--- August 2006 - part 2 ---> September 2006 part 1
  

August 31, 2006


TASTING - THREE NORTH BRITISH + FIVE OTHER SINGLE GRAINS

North British 25 yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory, casks #10451 – 10454) Colour; straw. Nose: extremely typical, with lots of grain, vanilla, apples and nuts and quite some varnish at first nosing. Goes on with bananas and then some rather huge oaky notes (fresh sawdust). Something faintly milky in the background. Smooth and not unpleasant.

Mouth: the attack is a bit soapy and cardboardy as well as extremely sweet, almost sugarish. Lots of tea and vanilla with hints of Turkish delights and quince jelly. Some tannins but nothing unbearable. Long, sweet and woody finish with notes of caramel and nougat. A nice single grain, for sure. 80 points.
North British 1974/2000 (50%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: straw. Nose: rather similar but much more closed, getting then quite sourer (apple skins, cider) and probably even oakier than the Signatory. A whole carpenter’s workshop for oak freaks. Interesting whiffs of lemon balm arising after a minute or two. Mouth: almost the same as the Signatory’s, just stronger, with maybe also a little fructose and more biting tannins. Pineapple liqueur. Long finish, smooth but tannic, again on caramel and vanilla plus a little salt from the wood. Not bad at all but much less drinkable than the Signatory, I’d say. 76 points.
North British 19 yo (59.9%, Cadenhead, US) No vintage stated on this one - and why it's a 'world whisky escapes me. Colour: white wine. Nose: pretty much the same style as the Scott’s, maybe a little rounder, with more vanilla. Rather nice notes of gentian spirit and ginseng, getting more and more earthy and rooty. Quite some wood as well. Not overpowering despite the high strength. Nice, this one has something more to say. Mouth: again, we’re in the same league (of course) but with more oomph and this enjoyable earthiness. Also something of a mix of white and dark rum. Quite some fruits as well (apples, strawberries) and the expected vanilla plus wood. The finish is long, earthy, with notes of cornflakes and a little nutmeg. This one is really good: 81 points.
Invergordon 40 yo 1964/2005 (48,1%, Dewar Rattray, cask #57633, 105 bottles) Colour: gold amber. Nose: starts on lots of caramel, lots of vanilla and lots of oak, not unlike many bourbons. Amazingly young! It gets rapidly more complex, though, displaying a fine range of fruity notes such as coconuts, ripe bananas, cider apples and guavas and then quite some spices (mainly nutmeg and white pepper). Also quite some cellulose varnish… Keeps developing on old roses, a little incense and sandalwood… Rather complex and most pleasant. Mouth: oh, lots happening now! A firm but balanced and appealing attack on old rum and mulled wine spices (Chinese anise, cloves, cinnamon etc) with also lots of ‘natural’ vanilla. Develops on praline and caramel, liquorice, strong honey (chestnut) and something of an old white Bourgogne. Rather impressive considering it’s ‘only’ a grain, especially the sweet, vanilled and spicy finish that’s really Caribbean. A great surprise, especially on the palate. 89 points. (and thanks Michel)
Dumbarton 32 yo 1962/1994 (49.9%, Cadenhead) Colour: pale amber. Nose: ah, this is even more complex it seems. It starts right on bananas (truckloads) mixed with cereals and vanilla. Bold notes of nougat, light honey, pollen… And then we have almost the same incense/sandalwood notes as in the Invergordon. Really superb, developing on ‘rhum arrangé à la banane’ (rum soaked bananas in fact). Also hints of cologne but nothing offending. But I think the old grains’ strong point isn’t really their noses but their palates so let’s see how this one tastes… Mouth: oh, it’s just fantastic! Pure banana juice at first sip but then it does the peacock’s tail with lots of high-end rum, sugared avocado juice, fresh pineapple (pina colada, eh) and lots of spices such as white pepper and nutmeg. And what a fine oaky structure, with just a slight sourness that keeps it playful. Amazingly good, really. Long finish, quite peppery, with loads of bananas again and just a small pinch of salt (probably from the cask). A winning single grain! 91 points.
Port Dundas 32 yo 1973/2005 (59.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1258315) Colour: deep amber. Nose: ah, there’s quite some sherry in this one, it appears. Starts on some huge notes of hot praline, honey and milk chocolate. Just like when you open a chocolate bar… Goes on with notes of mocha, Guinness, old sweet white wine, roasted peanuts and finally cornflakes plus dried figs and dates. Quite some wood as well but it’s nicely integrated – and no need of water despite the high ABV. Mouth: an excellent, sherried and roasted attack. Lots of coffee beans, cappuccino, bitter chocolate, praline, dark nougat, reduced honey sauce… And then, again, we get bananas and rum, the same dried fruits as on the nose (dates, figs, maybe pears). Gets more and more coffeeish (high-end Kalhua if that exists), honeyed and chocolaty with time and the finish is long, slightly peppery but also very fruity (cooked strawberries and blackcurrants). And still very, very coffeeish. I like coffee: 88 points. (and thanks Herbert)
Strathclyde 31 yo 1973/2005 (64.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #74060) Amazing ABV for a 31 yo whisky. Colour: dark straw. Nose: we’re in simpler territories now, with something obviously very spirity. Quite some caramel, vanilla, grains and hints of manzana (apple liqueur). With a little water: gets much more pearish but no actual further development. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very fruity (green apples, lychees, pears) and quite drinkable at such high strength (must be me). Slightly cardboardy as well… But let’s not be intrepid and add a little water: too bad, it didn’t quite work, the whisky getting quite cardboardy (even after a good fifteen minutes) and bizarrely fruity (strawberry drops, Jell-o and such things). The finish is quite nice though, still fruity and caramelly, maybe a tad drying now. In short, this one isn’t too bad but the three grains we had before we’re in a completely different league. 76 points.
Grain Nikka 1992/2005 (62%, OB, Coffey Grain, cask #11020/116399) Colour: gold. Nose: rather spirity, almost aggressive at first nosing, with notes of ashes and stones and then notes of distillation, apple spirit. It does open up after a while, starting to give off hints of apple pie, rosewater, cigar box and newly cut grass. Still a bit hard I must say. With water: it gets frankly more vegetal but in a very nice way, with notes of Japanese green tea (no wonder), green apples this time and finally quite some incense and just hints of mothballs. It’s quite complex. Mouth (neat): extremely bourbonny, with heavy oak influence (lots of vanilla) and a little varnish. Very sweet and rounded despite the strong backbone, and very enjoyable I must say. Like sweets for big boys. With water: less improvements than on the nose, maybe just more pears but the whole is great, with a medium long, sweet and very fruity finish (apples and pears, strawberries). A very good surprise. 85 points (and thanks Fred).

 

MUSICHighly recommended listening - Some pretty excellent and clever electronic music, very minimalist but very swinging (it does mean a thing): it's Germany's Lomov and his Ripples.mp3 (nothing to do with Genesis). Please buy Lomov's music!

 

CRAZY WHISKY 'ADS'Do you know this parody? It makes me roar with laughter each time I watch it (it's on google video - hope it works).

  

August 30, 2006


 

THE MALT MANIACS MONITOR UPDATED!

Now almost 18,500 ratings compiled and 6,600 different whiskies scored! But beware the html version, it's grown awfully huge and browsing it may mean a nice PC/Mac and quite some time. Maybe you'd better dowload the PDF version, much easier and quicker to handle while containing exactly the same datas. Good luck!

 
TASTING - TWO LAGAVULINS AND A POSSIBLE LAGAVULIN (?)
Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, green label, Montenegro Italy, early 1980’s) Colour: amber. Nose: really expressive, starting on a rather meaty sherry and whiffs of eucalyptus and getting then rather maritime (oyster shells). Lots of liquorice, a very fine oakiness, hints of gentian spirit... Gets oakier and oakier with time, really full-bodied. Goes on with smoked tea, wax polish, a little coffee, funny notes of celeriac… Just superb although it’s probably not as complex as the earlier ‘white label’ version. Mouth: sweet and peaty with quite some cocoa, getting closer and closer to the current 16 yo (not the older ones – please see below). Lots of liquorice, wine sauce, dried ginger (speculoos), orange marmalade, lemon marmalade… Gets then slightly toffeeish and caramelly, with a rather long finish on peppered orange marmalade and smoked tea. Most enjoyable but probably not as stunning as the earlier 12yo, and as the new 16 yo to be launched later on. 89 points.
Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, sold 1988) So, here’s one of first batches of the 16yo. Colour: full amber. Nose: this one starts fruitier and even more expressive, with also added waxy notes (paraffin). It’s also got something superbly vegetal (fern, moss, wild mushrooms…) as well as hints of lamp oil, linseed oil, old pu-erh tea… And then we have that eucalyptus, white pepper, shells, kelp… We’re closer to the old 12 yo white label now, which means it’s just fabulous whisky. Mouth: a magnificent attack on all sorts of wax, smoked tea, refined peat, liquorice roots and hints of ginger. What a great compactness! Goes on with orange marmalade, black pepper, dried kumquats, hints of curry, horseradish… Superbly sharp and mouthfilling at the same time. The finish is long, spicy, peaty and on all sorts of dried fruits. A star. 93 points.
Wild Saxon 6 yo (40%, MacMalt, 60 bottles, 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: much simpler but nicely sharp, mineral, flinty at first nosing. Celeriac again, peat, fresh ginger, fern and moss, gentian… Most enjoyable. Mouth: maybe a tad weak at the attack, especially when compared to the two glories, but nicely earthy and leafy, with lots of gentian now, getting then bolder on ‘peaty roots’ and liquorice sticks. Maybe also a little too sweetish but otherwise it’s a very nice one, with a very compact, earthy and slightly spicy finish. I like it but I think it's probably Caol Ila instead of Lagavulin in fact, despite what I had been told. 85 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: I've been told not all Whiskyfun readers bought Maria Taylor's fantabulous CD '11:11' yet, which is (almost) a shame. Okay, here's my last attempt: Nature Song.mp3. Now you know what to do... Too sweet? C'mon!

  

August 29, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE ROLLING STONES
Twickenham Stadium, London, August 20th 2006.
I had better be clear about a few things from the start. I’m not a Stones fan. Way back when I was in the Beatles camp (my Mum thought they were so much nicer) and by the time I knew better it was really a bit too late to try – not that I haven’t since, but apart from a few high points I generally fail to see what the fuss is all about. And I’m really not a stadium rock man – this is only the third that I can remember, along with the Stones at Hampden in 1990 (this was when Keith Richards played with a badly cut finger – his grimaces were remarkable - it was septic by the time he finished the gig) and REM at Murrayfield a few years later (no comment). Half built Hampden was ok, but modern Murrayfield a nightmare, and tonight we’re in modern and expanding Twickenham. We should have been at unbuilt Wembley, but as Mick Jagger tells us “Yeah, they’re going to finish it for the Arctic Monkeys’ farewell gig”. Actually we’re in great seats (thanks) and after a great lunch (thanks) and a breeze in the corporate hospitality zoo (no thanks) even I’m rather looking forward to the evening.
So for those of you that don’t know, Twickenham is a huge Rugby Football stadium, just outside Richmond in West London, where with some sense of poetic justice, the Rolling Stones started back in 1962 playing at the Crawdaddy Club above the less than glamorous Station Hotel – “Yeah, like it doesn’t matter how many times you go round the world you always end up coming home”. There’s been talk that the Stones aren’t selling like they once did, that the price of the tickets is too high, and that what with Keith falling out of a tree, Ronnie having to go back into the Priory, Charlie still recovering from illness, and Mick having laryngitis it’s a bit of a dodgy bet for even the most loyal fan. “Panic for Rolling Stones as tour tickets go unsold” said our wonderful Daily Mail, reporting that the ‘seniors’ lifestyle organisation Saga was even trying to sell tickets to its largely geriatric members. Well the capacity of the stadium is around 75,000 – and I’m not sure if that includes pitch seating, and I have to say it looked pretty full to me.
And of course I had to ask myself what we were all really doing here. I mean, let’s be honest, if it’s quality music you’re after then you probably need to look elsewhere. ‘Primitive’ was one description of the Stone’s music that came to mind, even with Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Daryl Jones on bass, a brass section that included the great Bobby Keys and a gaggle of backing singers (including one who was helping out on guitar). And I should add that a regular warned me, not without reason, that “the sound at Twickenham’s normally crap”. Compared to today’s school of rock guitar slingers Keith and Ronnie look like cowboys who should have hung their guns up many years ago. And even I know that they haven’t written a decent song in years, or recorded an album of any great merit since 1978’s Some Girls – so when the new Bigger Bang was described as “their best in years” (the good old Daily Mail again) it didn’t really mean a thing. Hence I can really only assume that it’s the idea of the Stones that we’re all here for (or dare I say it, the brand?) – and whilst I’m sure everyone’s got a slightly different idea in their head (or dare I say brand perceptions?) I have to put on record that as far as I’m concerned, no matter what the caveats, these marauding band of old rhythm and blues buccaneers certainly delivered it at 110%.
It seemed to me that Richards was taking it easy – or at least that the Ronster was doing a hell of a lot of deliciously messy guitar work – perhaps it’s therapy... But needless to say the entire audience melted when ‘Keef’ stood in front of the microphone, lit a cigarette (of course he did this a few nights later in Glasgow and now faces a fine from the smoking police – rock and roll!) grinned through wisps of smoke, and said “I’m pleased to be here – really, you don’t know how pleased I am to be here”. Stones veterans were putting in their earplugs as he began to sing ‘Slipping away’ and ‘Before they make me run’ – but I have to say it was really rather agreeable, and even I was on my feet, arms waving, when he sauntered to our side of the side, and close enough to touch, held his Gretsch in one hand and feinted a Jack Sparrowesque bow. I can still hear Charlie Watt’s precise de-snared snare drum beat – not one missed. And love him or hate him, Jagger delivered a remarkably energetic performance, not singing like a man who’d just had a bad throat, working the audience into a frenzy with his (frankly absurd) histrionic strutting and posturing. In fact Serge I have to report with regret that it was on only the second of his many trips to our side of the stage that the Photographer entirely deserted her post, wriggling free from her seat screaming and squealing “oooh Mick”. And she wasn’t the only one.
And then of course there was the spectacle – a three tiered stage set (with a small audience standing on the upper balconies) marvellously lit, long walkways extending to the left and right. And as they broke into ‘Miss you’ a mini-stage carried the six piece band into the heart of the auditorium (although they must have still seemed like midgets to the people in the furthest away seats). We were surprised, shocked and singed by the flaming jets of gas that shot into the sky at the start of a red-soaked ‘Sympathy for the devil’ – probably the best set piece of the evening. And of course pyrotechnics aplenty as they finished on ‘Brown sugar’ and encore ‘Satisfaction’.

Sympathy for the Devil
And for the musically inclined Richards certainly got his act together for that solo on ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Midnight rambler’ was just a very classy performance all round (unlike some). And I even wondered if the marvellously entertaining ‘Senior moment’ wasn’t part of the show too – “Yeah, alright, yeah, err…. London, yeah London, now here’s a song we don’t normally play, it’s from, errr, hang on, anyone know which album it’s from … (collective shrugs from Ronnie and Keith) yeah, well anyway it’s called Sway”.
And that was that. Whether it was worth all the fuss I can’t say, but thoroughly entertaining it was. The world’s biggest, best and loudest pub band. Only a shame we weren’t seeing them in a pub I suppose. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thanks Nick. Well, I guess the Stones are part of our lives anyway and just like a mother loves his son, a 45+ rock fan has to like the Stones. Except for that bloody (but marvellous) Sticky Fingers LP that was destroying all its neighbours’ covers on our shelves, for the hours we spent queuing in front of crappy cinemas just to watch Gimme Shelter, for the hundreds of French francs we had to pay out to get an inaudible (but recorded in Paris) Some More Girls bootleg LP and for the litres of turpentine we had to pour onto our small motorbikes to soak off all these faded Lips and Tongue stickers before reselling them to younger daredevils. Oh, by the way, did they dare to do this one? (pretty awful musicwise I think).
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

INVERLEVEN DISTILLERY PROFILE by Robert Karlsson

 

Operational: 1938-1991
Region: Western Lowlands
Neighbours : Loch Lomond, Littlemill, Auchentoshan
Address: 2 Glasgow Road, Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, G82 1ND
Owner: Allied Distillers Ltd. (now Pernod Ricard)

This distillery has a lot in common with some of the other closed distilleries of the Lowlands. It was relatively short-lived, existed within a huge grain distillery complex and another single malt was made on the same premises. This is almost identical with the history of for instance Glen Flagler and reminiscent of Ladyburn (made at Girvan) and Kinclaith (made at Strathclyde). It is though possible to try Inverleven at a reasonable price as is not the case with the others mentioned above.
Dumbarton was once the biggest grain distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1938 by Hiram Walker Ltd. the huge complex was built using red bricks in a victorian style. The location is on or veery near the border between the Highlands and Lowlands. The water source is the lake Loch Lomond. The complex buildings are very imposing indeed and is housing apart from the grain distillery also, from the start in 1938, the malt distillery called Inverleven. In 1956 another malt distillery was started within the complex, this distillery used Lomond-stills and was simply called Lomond. This still has now found a new home on the island of Islay, at Bruichladdich. One can only speculate what will be done with it – I’m sure they will think of something – they usually do!
Lomond was shut down in 1985 and Inverleven followed suit and turn off the heat in 1991 after being sold to Allied in 1988. The Dumbarton grain distillery itself survived until 2002 and was thereafter also closed. Both Inverleven and Lomond are dismantled but the fate of Dumbarton I haven’t been able to find any information about.
Both Inverleven and Lomond are somewhat special in the sense that they have never been bottled as single malts by their producers, hence no official bottling exists. Inverleven is though available from several independent bottlers, such as Gordon MacPhail, Signatory, Duncan Taylor and Douglas Laing. Lomond is probably one of the most difficult malts to get your hands on, however.
An interesting anecdote is that the warehouses of Dumbarton are famous for ”The Scotch Watch” which consists of no less than 100-150 geese, which have been there since 1959 (old geese indeed). Difficult animals to sneak up on evidently. These warehouses are supposed to contain in excess of 80 million liters of grain and malt whisky. A lot of responsibility lays on the shoulders of those geese.
I have myself not tasted many Inverlevens but have found it to be a light and refreshing malt with citrusy and fruity tones, and a lingering malty after taste – not at all far from the typical lowlander. The bottlings I’ve found haven’t been exceptional but worth their price every time. - Robert Karlsson

 
TASTING - FOUR OLD OFFICIAL GLENTURRETS
Glenturret 5000 days old (40%, OB, 80’s) I suppose somebody once thought 5000 days old would sound much older than 13 years old, or that ‘13’ was too negative a figure. Colour: straw. Nose: rather expressive but very grainy and mashy at first nosing, with also notes of wet cardboard and ginger tonic. Gets then nicer, with hints of bitter oranges, newly cut hay and tea. Lots of paraffin as well and lots of roasted chestnuts, together with hints of lavender flowers and overripe apples. Rather unusual. Mouth: a little weak at first sip, even watery, with just hints of apple juice, tea and cereals. And it gets then quite cardboardy. Add to that just a little vanilla and maybe a little crystallized ginger and that’s it. Too bad, and the finish is even weaker, which means almost non-existent. What a pity, the nose was very interesting. 70 points.
Glenturret 15 yo (40%, OB, 80’s) Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one is very different, starting on overripe apples right away. Goes on with regular tea, green tea and bananas (something Irish here), getting grassier with time. Probably more balanced but also more ‘mainstreamish’ than the 5000 days. Gets then much more coffeeish, malty and caramelly, with even notes of chicory… Lots of toffee as well. Rather pleasant in fact, with a long development that goes back towards mashy, milky notes. Maybe more ‘commercial’ than the 5000 days but good. Mouth: much more body, much more oomph than with the 5000 days, which still means a little weak. We have the same malty, toffeeish notes as on the nose, with also hints of dried oranges, cornflakes and candy sugar. The finish is rather short but balanced, grainy and caramelly like with many blends. Certainly better than the ‘5000’ but not a winner either. 78 points.
Glenturret 1967/1988 ‘Limited Edition’ (50%, OB) Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one is a bit bizarre at first nosing, with an obvious sherry but also these notes of lavender we already had in the ‘5000’. Something like peat in the background (maybe more beech wood smoke), dried oranges, something distinctly perfumy (rosewater) and then lots of chocolaty and coffeeish notes. It reminds me of some rather recent sherried Glen Gariochs (not the ones from the 70’s or before). More and more ginger as well, old rancio, smoked meat, orange juice… Sangria? Yes, it’s almost like a high-strength sangria after a few minutes. Funny… Mouth: ouch, it’s really weird now, starting on lots of soap (scented soap, at that). Shampoo? Lots of Turkish delights as well, dried lychees, Smyrna raisins, something like a poorly made Muscat wine… Goes on with rotting oranges, cardboard, cologne… Yes and I don’t think I’m exaggerating. A very strange whisky – or something went wrong with the sherry. Pajarette? The finish is long and a little better I must say (or I’m getting used to it), gently caramelly and winey. Really an oddity, a little perverted I think, but maybe some do like it? 65 points.
Glenturret 10 yo ‘100° Proof’ (57.1%, OB, 80’s) Colour: straw. Nose: closed like a fortified castle at first nosing, getting then rather close to the ‘5000’. Lots of cardboard, paraffin, motor oil, lamp oil… Not uninteresting. Then we have flowers (lily and again a little lavender, even geranium) and finally the ‘mashy cavalry’ (porridge and the whole caboodle). Quite some ginger tonic as well. Not really sexy, to say the least, but not unpleasant. Mouth: nice and bold attack on apple juice but it gets then again quite soapy and cardboardy, although it’s much more bearable than with the 1967. Heavily sugared porridge with bananas, dried pineapple… Gets then quite spicy: quite some pepper, cinnamon… Vanilla… and a long finish on a little cardboard and quite some fruit eau-de-vie (pears and prunes). Not unpleasant at all but no wonder it’s the cat that was stealing the show at Glenturret at the time. Now, we had some much better ones before… 79 points.
 
  

August 28, 2006


 

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING - TWO FRUITY BEN NEVIS

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1973/1999 (52%, OB, cask #720) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is very ‘Ben Nevis’ right at first nosing, with tons of roasted nuts mixed with orange liqueur and hints of peonies. A tad spirity but there’s also a very nice vanilla, carpenter’s workshop, wax polish… Whiffs of smoke, coffee, apricot pie, pastries. Keeps developing on herbal tea (camomile), tea, ripe strawberries, spearmint… Most enjoyable despite the relative spiritiness. Mouth: quite punchy, extremely fruity (lots of strawberries, tangerines, ripe bananas), with also quite some praline, nougat, Turkish delights, earl grey tea… Lots happening here. Goes on with crystallized angelica, apricot jam, quince jelly, caramel. Almost extravagant, just a tad rough? The finish is very long, slightly bubblegummy, getting fruitier and fruitier. Almost like strawberry liqueur. I like it very much despite its exuberance. 90 points. (and thanks Antoine)
Ben Nevis 34 yo 1966/2001 (53.7%, OB, German Market, 209 bottles, cask #4276) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is quite different, starting on dried flowers, old cupboard, wax polish, old varnish, antiques shop… It really smells ‘old’ but not too old. Develops on something milky, with quite some vanilla crème, nutmeg and also bold notes of fresh truffles. Goes on with fresh mint leaves, lemon balm, verbena… Unusual and most enjoyable. Mouth: again, lots of fruits mixed with white pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Bananas, coconut from the wood, strawberries, peaches, melon… Amazingly lively at such old age. Gets maybe a little cardboardy and drying (the wood again) but nothing excessive. Develops on more and more ripe bananas, very old rum… A Caribbean malt whisky? The finish is quite long, fruity and vanilled with a nice oaky structure that keep the whole on the tracks. Very good, not tired in any way. 91 points.
And also Ben Nevis 34 yo 1971/2005 Sherry Finish (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 466 bottles) A very 'Irish' Ben Nevis again, with lots of banana, coconut and strawberry pie. Extremely sweet, fruity andaromatic. The palate is just as fruity, with also a little vanilla crème. Rather young, a little less mayure than the OB's but just as fruity. 86 points.

 

MUSICBLUES - Recommended listening - Somebody wrote that Al Lee was James Taylor but with more balls. Well, I'm not too sure about that but his rendition of Rainy changes.mp3 is quite good I think. Please buy Al Lee's (and James Taylor's) music.

  

August 27, 2006


TASTING - A TRAVEL THROUGH TIME OR SEVEN OLD BLENDS (for a change)
Bellows & Company ‘Choicest Liqueur Blended Scotch Whisky’ (86° US proof, OB, Portal Dungwall & Norris, US, bottled 1930’s) Colour amber. Nose: this one isn’t weak at all and starts on quite some caramel, roasted nuts and something delicately resinous. Quite some peat in there, it appears. Grows bolder by the minute, getting rather malty and liquoricy, with also a little chocolate. Not grainy at all, I guess there was lots of malt (maybe around 70-80%). Very nice, that’s for sure. Mouth: sweet and creamy attack with quite some oomph. A slight bitterness (cork?) but nothing excessive. Develops on caramel again, apricot jam, caramelized peanuts, pastries… And an unexpectedly long finish on cake and coffee plus a little mint and maybe strawberries. And pepper. An excellent surprise, we’ve had many recent blends (and malts) that were much blander. 86 points (and thanks Konstantin)
Haig & Haig ‘Pinch’ 12yo 1932 (86° US proof, OB, US, bottled 1944) Colour: amber. Nose: much less caramelly and nutty and more phenolic. Quite some mushrooms, moisture, old wine cellar, freshly crushed mint leaves… Completely different, I guess there was much more Northern Highlanders or island malts. Just superb, with also notes of camphor arising after a while. Mouth: now it’s a little weaker than the Bellows but again, much peatier, with notes of paraffin, dried herbs, eucalyptus, cough syrup… It grows bolder with time, though, and the finish is, again, longer than expected, slightly toffeeish, minty, peaty, tary and mushroomy. Another great surprise. 85 points (and thanks Sukhinder – great Valentino sweater, by the way ;-))
Chivas Regal 12 yo (86° US proof, OB, US, bottled early 1950’s) Colour: amber. Nose: rather more discreet at first nosing and probably grainier although there’s quite some oomph again. Notes of hay, dried flowers, tea and roasted nuts. Once again, it gets bolder with time, with a profile that’s between the Bellows and the Haig. Alas, there’s a little cork (but it was much more corked when I opened the bottle a few weeks again). Gets also smokier and meatier after a moment. Mouth: no cork left now, rather a mix of fruit jam (apricot and plums), smokiness and pastries. A great mouth feel! Goes on with quite some liquorice, smoked tea, cough sweets, light toffee… Keeps improving, with more mint, even more liquorice, getting rather tary like the Haig but also a little salty. The finish is longer and bolder than both the Bellows’ and the Haig’s but also maybe a tad rougher. Lots of malt in there, in any case. 84 points.
Ye Auld Toun (43%, OB, John Gillon, 1960's) John Gillon owned Glenury Royal and was distributed by Clynelish’s Ainslie & Heilbron. Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather close to the Chivas (both caramelly and smoky) but more phenolic altogether. Notes of rubber, lots of wax (Clynelish?), wet stones, ashes, coal oven… More austere but also with more personality than the three we had before. Hints of fresh strawberries and even kiwis. Gets even smokier with time: superb. Mouth: great attack with a lot of presence, quite peppery. Lots of dried herbs, crystallized lemons, smoke, ripe pineapple, roasted nuts… Really bold! Gets then quite meaty, on ham, even sausages… Very complex and very far from being MOTR for a blend. Very long, smoky and quite spicy finish, with again quite some rubber. Wow, this one had something to say! 87 points. (and thanks Marc)
Glen Urquhart 8 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Giaccone, Pinerolo Import, bottled 1973) Colour: amber. Nose: maybe a tad dustier at first nosing but it’s quite smoky again. Lots of ashes and stones, whiffs of lily of the valley and aniseed, smoked ham, getting more and more expressive. Hints of gooseberries and tea, charcoal. Very nice again, getting very, very expressive after a while. Lots of malt in there again, obviously. Mouth: very expressive again, sweeter than the Ye Auld Toun but really full bodied again. Caramel, pastries, Turkish delights, rose water, dried oranges… And always that great smokiness. Long finish, coating, smoky and malty wit something quite maritime (oyster juice, salt). Excellent – and this is a blend! 89 points. (and thanks Giuseppe)
King Henry VIII 5 yo (43%, OB, Highland Blending Co., 0.78 litres, 1970's) I don’t know this company but the bottle looks like Ainslie’s Very Old 12yo. Colour: gold. Nose: a much grainier start, more caramelly but again quite smoky with notes of dried oranges and roasted nuts. Something that reminds me of Johnnie Walker. Quite some vanilla spread and a few malty notes together with a little wax. Nice but closer to most current middle range blends (okay, not J&B). Mouth: okay, that’s nicer! Quite youthful, caramelly, fruity (cooked strawberries, jam) with again something smoky, grilled. Lots of roasted nuts, oriental pastries, orange liqueur, hints of liquorice allsorts… Really playful, with a rather long, smoky and fruity/caramelly finish. Too bad the nose was a little below par. 78 points.
King Alfred 10 yo (43%, OB, Michael Blending Co, 1970's) Colour: deep amber. Nose: now we’re back to something smokier, ashier, probably more austere. The whole isn’t too expressive, alas. Gets quite vegetal, with some disturbing hints of hot rubber but also interestingly meaty (ham). Maybe not a winner, this one… Mouth: extremely fruity and waxy, almost invading. Again, the palate is much nicer than the nose. Lots of spices (pepper, cloves) and huge notes of peat arriving together with bursts of salted liquorice and black nougat. Probably the most powerful of all on the palate, congrats Michael (who were you?) Long peppery, fruity and smoky finish. Superb palate, too bad the nose was a little so-so again. 83 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with the great mezzo Susana Poretsky singing Meyerbeer's Non, non, non, vous n'avez jamais.m3 (from Les Huguenots). Unusual... Please buy miss Poretsky's music and go to her concerts.

 

August 25, 2006


TASTING - FIVE OLD BRORAS
Brora 1972/1992 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail CC, old map label) I already had the 1993 version and I loved it. Colour: pure gold. Nose: right, it IS stunning, with that kind of complexity and mellowness that you can find almost only in old bottles (added glass maturing like in the best old cognacs). Ranks immediately amongst the old Ardbegs from the 60’s – or the famous 1972 Ledaigs. Superb ‘matured’ peat mingling with small bitter oranges and candlewax plus wet dog (not just any mongrel, that is). Goes on with pu-her tea, old cigar box, old books that hadn’t been opened for years, then hints of tropical fruits such as green mango, plantain… Then whiffs of ginger, a little soft curry, faint hints of turnips and celeriac… Amazing. Sure it’s probably a little ‘weak’ because of the low ABV but it’s rather a subtle weakness. Well, you see what I mean…. Mouth: sure it’s not extravagantly bold (the 40%) and maybe a tad cardboardy at first sip but Brora’s class and oomph manage to make this an aromatically powerful whisky. Quite some tea, resins, wax, orange marmalade… gets then rather salty (oyster juice, salicornia)… Notes of liquorice roots, ginseng, cough syrup… And of course a beautiful peatiness. Keeps developing but OK, we haven’t got all day so let’s quickly comment on the finish (amazingly long considering its strength – very waxy and smoky) before we come up with a rating: 92 points (it would have been higher at 43 or 45% - and thanks, Luc).
Brora 30 yo 1972/2003 (49.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 222 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: very coffeeish and very farmy for a start – it’s a sherry cask, obviously. Maybe not as immediately complex as the G&M but superbly bold and compact, you feel that the development will be long right at first nosing despite the heavy coffee (that will then keep in the background). And then it goes: bitter oranges, wet dog (same breed), wax and paraffin, tar, maple syrup, ‘good’ manure, camphor, bandages, whisky flavoured fudge (that’s obvious, I know), smoked venison, new tyre, very old rum, clean horse stable, chocolate… Well, it IS endless. And just fabulous. Mouth: just like at first nosing, it’s a little simple at very first sip but then it’s a true explosion, the peat and other ‘endemic’ flavours mingling extremely well with the sherry (probably refill). That does create kind of a 3rd dimension, with lots of salted butter caramel, liquorice, ginseng again, chestnut honey, cough sweets, fir tree honey, very old pu-her tea (I’m saying this because in case you don’t know, the Chinese use to let pu-ehr age in cellars just like wine)… Then dried tangerines, mastic flavoured sweets, a little chlorophyll… Funnily, it’s decreasingly sherried and more and more ‘Brora-ish’. (…) Finish: long, probably a tad drying now but superbly chocolaty and waxy. 94 points (looses 1 point because of the relative dryness).(and thanks, Johan)
Brora 29 yo 1971/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 210 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: superb but more closed and maybe less peaty/smoky than both 1972’s. More like an old Clynelish in fact, very waxy and probably more vegetal and less ‘super-Islay’ than the 1972’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love this profile just as much. A great austerity and ‘rectitude’, with notes of flints, apple skins, orange zests, fresh walnuts, almond milk… Gets also slightly yeasty after a moment. Mouth: a little sweeter then the 1972 but a fab compactness, starting on lemon marmalade and green pepper and developing on bitter oranges and grilled tea (hochicha), bread crust, ginger… gets richer with time and also more maritime, with notes of peppered clams and then lots of salmiak. Also a ‘nice’ dryness (grape skin)… (…) Finish: long, straight, peaty and waxy. Another excellent Brora that offers interesting variations when compared to the legendary 1972’s. 93 points.
Brora 30 yo (56.3%, OB, 3000 bottles, bottled 2005) I never published any notes on this Brora 30 ‘2005’ but it’s time to do it, before the ‘2006’ comes out. Colour: deep gold. Nose: keyword ‘austerity’ this time, at least at first nosing. Whiffs of chocolate and coffee that suggest they used one or more sherry casks in the vatting but I could be wrong of course. No roundness, no sweetness, no sluggishness whatsoever, rather kind of a relative sharpness and huge smoky notes (not only peat, also coal and wood). It’s not very expressive in fact, until it gets kind of a second life consisting in a huge farminess that goes from horse dung to wet hay through straw and grain barn. And then we have whiffs of eucalyptus leaves. Then overripe apples. Then tar and heating oil. Then peppermint. Then, then, then… Mouth: bang! Most amazingly, everything arrives at the same time now: the peat, the liquorice, the gentian, the dried oranges, the spices, the mint, the pepper, the aromatic herbs, the horseradish, the smoked tea, the wax, the ginger, the mint… And no sherry-alike flavours this time – I was probably wrong. Not much development because we already had ‘everything’ right at the attack, except that it gets a little earthier, rootier after a moment. And the finish is very long and just as compact and full as the attack. Just excellent – if not as totally stunning as the ‘2004’ in my opinion. A 94 points malt in my book (95 for the ‘2004’).
Brora 34 yo 1970/2004 (56.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 157 bottles) At 34 yo this one is probably the older Brora around but that may change in the future. Colour: pure gold. Nose: this one is probably more discrete at first nosing, more restrained than all the other ones. It’s also the first one that shows signs of age although it’s very far from being tired (almost 57% at 34 yo is quite a lot anyway). There’s also kind of a maritime freshness mixed with notes of almonds like in the very old Caol Ilas (from the 60’s) but we also have quite some fresh mint right at first nosing as well as notes of iodine, wax, marzipan, linseed oil, maybe hints of turpentine, old apples, wine cellar… Something that reminds me old amontillados (well, I had that only once in my life actually). Oh, and now there’s a little incense, cedar wood, burning herbs (thyme and such)… it gets more and more complex with time… Old books, wax polish, peanut butter… And then we’re back to almonds and walnuts… And mint! Again, just superb. Mouth: ho-ho, lots of oomph now, with an attack on fresh walnuts, almonds and grape skin plus something camphory and minty again. Goes on with candied lemon, green tea, mastic, argan oil, not too sugared nougat, marzipan… And the kind of superb ‘evolved’ peatiness that you can get in the very old Ardbegs, Caol Ilas or Lagavulins distilled in the 60’s or before, I think. Okay, agreed, enough maltoporn – this one lacked just a little backbone when compared with all the other ones but hey, it’ll still defeat many old Islayers in fact. Head and shoulders. 92 points.
 

 

MUSICJAZZ - Highly recommended listening - She's not very well known within the general public but most jazz musicians revere Consuela Lee and her superb piano playing. Let's listen to her piece Jefferson Street Joe.mp3 and find out why... And please buy Consuela Lee's music! (via the great Mappleshade records)

  

August 24, 2006


TASTING - TWO LAPHROAIGS
Laphroaig 16 yo 1988/2004 (46%, Signatory Unchilfiltered, refill butt #3613, 819 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather fresh and slightly immature at first nosing, on lots of porridge, grain, mashed potatoes and, of course, quite some smoke. Rather close to newmake, with very little wood influence. Gets also a little milky, yoghurtish, with some nice notes of wet chalk and flint stone and hints of ‘natural’ lavender. Quite enjoyable in fact, especially if you like young Islayers.
Mouth: rather rounded, sweet, fruity (apples) and, again, relatively close to a newmake, with quite some backbone and a nice peatiness. Not much development except a little pepper and hints of liquorice but the whole is rather flawless, with a rather long, compact finish. Not really interesting but, again, flawless. A rather MOTR but good Laphroaig. 83 points.
Laphroaig 14 yo (46%, Kingsbury, Valdespino’s Coliseo Amontillado) Colour: gold. Nose: wow, this is quite unusual, starting on a great mix of dry sherry (taste of ‘yellow’, neo-oxidation) that mingles perfectly well with a very sharp and very ‘rigid’ kind of peat, the whole being full of ‘rectitude’. Lots of ashes, coal oven, vegetables (interesting notes of celeriac and raw turnips), developing on wet dog, old chardonnay, crushed mint leaves, wine cellar (elegant moistness, mushrooms). Highly interesting and hugely enjoyable, especially if you like a little austerity in your whisky. Mouth: again, a superb attack, maybe a little softer than on the nose but the mix of Amontillado and Laphroaig works very well here. It’s quite earthy and gingery, with lots of pepper and notes of cloves, black toffee, cooked mushrooms… Gets just slightly sour but it’s no problems. Goes on with coffee fudge, old red wine (Burgundy), hints of Turkish delights, blackcurrant leaves tea, mint, cough syrup… The finish is rather long, ‘wide’, very rich but not ‘sluggish’ at all, with funny hints of raspberry jam. Very excellent and very unusual, although I’d have loved to taste this one after ten more years of maturing. 92 points (and thanks Marcel).
 
CRAZY ADVERTISING
Flo sends us this picture of a beautiful street advertising campain for some sort of state or city council from some sort of (English speaking, obviously) country. I believe what's written below the main teaser is 'Dont drink and drive - arrive safely'. We couldn't agree more, despite what some may think. (and thanks, Flo).

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Perfect weather these days for listening to the Velvet underground doing Who loves the sun.mp3 in 1970 (from Loaded, Doug Yule is singing, not Lou Reed, and John Cale's gone). Probably not their best song but we've heard worse... Please buy their music.

  

August 23, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE PIRATES The Borderline, London, August 19th 2006
It’s pretty cool to be a Pirate these days, what with Captain Jack Sparrow Johnny Depp and all that. Why thanks to that rascal Johnny Depp there’s even a new album of piratical ballads and sea-shanties, Rogues Gallery, featuring as unlikely a crew as Whiskyfun favourites Richard Thompson, Nick Cave, Bill Frisell, Martin Carthy and David Thomas (amongst others).
But I don’t notice any of these new to the world pirates in the Borderline – this is strictly hardcore brigand territory, and the place is pretty packed with some shifty looking fellows I can say. The Pirate’s Code forbids women being brought onto a ship, and it’s clear that no one wants to breach the rule tonight – the Photographer only gets in because of her piratical headgear. Now let the man at the bar do the talking: “See I first saw them in 1963. Fucking fantastic. Nothing better, even after Johnny got topped. And that Mick Green he’s just the bollocks – always has been. No guitarist better, but of course no one gave him credit for what he done, and then all the punks copied him. But he’s settled down a lot now; I mean in the old days he could be really quite aggressive but he’s almost fucking serene now…”
Johnny Spence and Mick Green
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates are probably best remembered (in fact quite possibly only remembered by people other than those here tonight) for their 1960 smash hit ‘Shaking all over’ (and that riff), for their fantastic name (Kidd was actually called Fred Heath and his band The Five Nutters – who came up with the name seems to be a bit of a mystery) and for their Hollywoodesque buccaneer costumes. Kidd split from the Pirates in the spring of 1966 as he struggled to keep his career alive – sadly he died a few months later in an accident. Actually the guitar work on ‘Shaking’ was done by session man Joe Moretti, but by 1962 the Pirates were Mick Green, Johnny Spence and Frank Farley, the classic line up that was rediscovered in the early 1970s and which flourished briefly (striped trousers and all) during the Punk era. Recently the band have played sporadic gigs and earlier this year released their first album for 18 years, ‘Skullduggery’.
But apart from being a beery Saturday night out the real reason for coming is to see Green, who is acknowledged by many (the man at the bar included) to be one of the most influential British rock guitarists of all time. Readers may remember that he’s the man who influenced Wilko Johnson who influenced Gang of Four’s Andy Gill who in turn inspired the current round of British guitar bands such as (the apparently out of tune) Franz Ferdinand. He cuts an unusual figure for a rock legend, chubby, benign, with a bashed up Fender Telecaster and apparently more concerned that he’s just become a grandfather than with his worldwide fame (he’s big, as they say, in Japan). Actually he collapsed on stage a couple of years ago (he was playing in Brian Ferry’s band) and ended up having a quadruple heart bypass, so maybe there’s a reason for the serenity. Anyway it doesn’t seem to have affected his playing – which if not exactly note perfect certainly stood out as still being quite remarkable and still unique – imitators notwithstanding. It’s a stuttering lead and rhythm guitar sound combined with staccato riffs and shuddering chords. It’s easy to see where Wilko got his style from, and how the influence has worked through to bands today.
The band are pretty tight – new drummer Mike Roberts (Farley having retired through ill-health) powers his way through the songs, and is clearly one of those drummers who cares as much about the end of songs as the beginning. Spence’s bass playing is never going to set the world on fire, nor will his singing to be frank, but he has a fearsome grimace (actually I think he was having problems with his false teeth) and a fine line in saucy patter (“We had to have a break to take our pills. Course we’re taking even more pills now than we were in the sixties, only now we get them from the Health Service for nothing”). There’s a selection of old material ‘Please don’t touch’, ‘Gibson Martin Fender’, ‘Honey hush’ and ‘Drinking wine spo-dee-o-dee’, and of course new like ‘Ugly millionaire’. And there are a few really outstanding moments, ‘I can tell’, the inevitable ‘Shaking all over’ and an almost traumatic guitar solo on encore ‘Baby please don’t go’ which was worth the price of admission alone. On stage at nine, off by ten-fifteen, in accordance with article thirteen of the Code, “all old pirates shall be abed afore the hour of ten and thirty’. Arrrrrrrr! - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thanks Nick, mighty good guitar indeed, I love it! But let's listen to the current Pirates doing Honey hush.mp3 right away... (recorded in 2002 at the BBC). And because we're prepared to sacrifice everything for coherence... Drumroll...
 
TASTING – TWO PIRATICAL 'GERMAN' WHISKIES
Schwarzer Pirat 1995/2004 (40%, OB, Germany, cask #1) Made by Fleischmann, Schwarzer Pirat means Black Pirate. Colour: deep amber. Nose: almost exuberant at first nosing, extremely fruity, with something of a fruit eau-de-vie mixed with caramel. I know that sounds awfully piratical but it isn’t, this nose is quite nice. Notes of orange liqueur, flowers (peonies), mirabelle plum spirit, then something toasted or grilled… Barbecued beef? Something Irish as well (bananas). A rather good surprise I must say.
Mouth: maybe a little weak but the attack is really okay, with quite some wood and, I must say, lots of caramel (slight bitterness) and a little pepper. Alas, it quickly falls apart and there’s almost no middle, not to mention a finish. A toothless pirate - it’s a pity because the nose was pleasant. 51 points.
Jack’s Pirate Whisky 8 yo (55%, Jack Wieber, cask #26703, 347 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re on Islay, obviously, with lots of youth (very fruity, pears, pineapples and apples) plus a distinctive smokiness and quite some minerality. Lots of ashes, burning matchsticks and a faint feintiness (wazzzat?) plus notes of coal oven. Quite some Caol Ila in there, probably. Gets then a little buttery, and finally quite maritime (lots of iodine – Laphroaig?) Mouth: exactly what you’d expect from a young Islayer, with a temporary fruitiness (golden delicious apples) and then a sudden peat blast that takes no prisoners (like all pirates). Lots of pepper as well, a certain saltiness, liquorice roots, hints of gentian and ginseng, oyster juice, lemon zest… Not too original but flawless, I’d say, with a (very) long, salty, peaty finish. Piratical indeed. 86 points.
 

 

MALT MANIACS NEWS
AWARDS 2006 - UPDATED LIST OF PARTICIPANTS

Adelphi, The Alchemist, Ardbeg, Jean Boyer, Angus Dundee, Arran, Bar Metro, Benriach, Berry Brothers, Blackadder, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Bushmills, Celtic Whisky Company, Chieftain's, Compass Box, Cooley, Corman Collins, Dewar Rattray, Diageo (several distilleries), Duncan Taylor, Edradour, Full Proof, Glencadam, Glenfarclas, Glengoyne, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas Laing, Loch Fyne Whiskies, Ian MacLeod, Laphroaig, La Maison du Whisky, Murray McDavid, Nikka, Royal Mile Whiskies, Signatory Vintage, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Scotch Single Malt Circle, Sun Favourite Taiwan, Taiwan SMWT Association, Vintage Malt Whisky Co., Whisky-Doris, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Fair, Tomintoul, Wilson & Morgan...
... And probably more to come! While praying for our livers (that are evil and must be punished, say our friends the PLOWEDsters) and while our very own Ho-cheng recovers his strength after having spotted the new Dalmore 50 yo at -20% at Sidney Airport's duty-free shop (no he couldn't resist, how could he?), you can still browse the temporarily frozen Malt Maniacs website.
  

August 22, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FESTIVAL SPECIAL: FAIRPORT'S CROPREDY CONVENTION

Cropredy, Oxfordshire, UK, August 10th-12th 2006
Part Two
 
Saturday mornings are always a good time for mature and sober reflection (“Good morning Cropredy” – “Why don’t you just fuck off?” replied Jozzer, head stuck in the oven as he tried to light it for lunch) particularly. You know, three days of this finger-in-the-ear over earnest yet ale-addled holier than-thou-folk malarkey might just be a bit too much. But damn it, we’re here for the duration, and unlike the poor sods who don’t yet know that it’s going to pour from about midnight ‘till the time they bundle their dripping tents and soaking sleeping bags into their cars on Sunday morning, we’re at least living in luxury. So we sat back to watch Jozzer and Trizzer create an impossibly complex (and most delicious) tapas lunch, and waited for our guests to join us as the sounds of Cockney comedian Richard Digance drifted past us in the wind.
A few hours later, following an amusing territorial spat with a social worker called Brian from Matlock (after a good lunch and a bottle of sherry it really isn’t worthwhile coming the Gerrard Winstanley with Jozzer) we pitch our chairs and settle in for the duration. Same crowd, same faces. Our friends in the Pork Pie club are just behind us, eating, errr…pork pies. Tankard Man has his spot to our left – he’s been spending his time doing some watercolours – and of course tankards are de rigueur decoration for the field – as are stupid hats a-plenty.
Did I mention the burly man in the frilly skirt? Add to this piratical dogs, the occasional cat, and the Kitchen Krew, who in addition to their children and pets have their sink, cooker, freezer and even a burglar alarm, and you’ll get the picture that everyone seems pretty much at home. Even us. Hang on! We’re sitting in exactly the same spot as last year too, and the more I look the more I recognise the people around us. Have we become institutionalised too, trapped in this rustic backwoodsman’s retreat, a safe-house from the harsh realties of the twenty-first century, with its hose-pipe bans, hospital waiting lists and humourless traffic wardens?
King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boy
Anyway, due to our extended lunch we’ve missed Dave Swarbrick’s Lazarus (Dave almost missed it too, having got stuck in Denmark due to that other little harsh reality that was going on at our airports), but I can report that they sounded rather nice from a field away, and went down very well with the sherry. By the time we arrive Birmingham’s own King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys are half way through a rip-roaring high energy take on 1940s and 1950s jazz, blues and swing. Great for a party but actually a little wearing, a little too bellicose and certainly a little too long. The King was followed by Dervish – a seven-piece traditional outfit largely from County Sligo, fronted by singer, bodhran and bones player Cathy Jordon (who is “out of Roscommon”), who have apparently “been waiting seventeen years to play at Cropredy”. They are certainly a very talented group of musicians, with several ‘All Irish Champions’ amongst them (apparently this is very good) and a host of awards and plaudits for their performances and recordings. Well – l’d better get this over quickly. This simply didn’t work for me – despite my affection (as regular readers will know) for Irish folk music. I found Ms Jordon’s ‘kooky’ pixie like mannerisms both contrived and irritating in the extreme, and the woops “come ons” and yells unconvincing and superfluous. The ‘sets’ or tunes were good enough but hardly out of the ordinary, some suggesting a desire to capture some of Clannad’s faux Irish commercial success (I note that Dervish’s website talks about “opening the door to the Far Eastern market …” – see what I mean?). And I won’t mention the Cher song.
Former Squeeze front man (and co-writer with Chris Difford) Glenn Tilbrook got the tough pre-Fairport spot and pulls off what can only de described as a blinder (he later returns to play three songs with Fairport, and in ‘Tempted’ produces one of the high spots of the whole weekend). What’s more, he’s quite evidently enjoying himself just as much as his audience, if not more. And as the occasion deserves he gives us a real crowd-pleasing set, with a big injection of songs from the Squeeze back catalogue and a nice selection of his own solo material from his two albums The Incomplete Glen Tilbrook and 2004’s Transatlantic Ping Pong.    
So from the Squeeze days we’re played ‘Annie get your gun’, ‘Tough love’, ‘Pulling mussels (from a shell)’, ‘Up the junction’, ‘When the hangover strikes’, ‘Slap and tickle’, ‘Black coffee in bed’ and ‘Take me, I’m yours’, played on an acoustic guitar with great gusto, and sung with that wonderful soulful voice (“No, I can’t sing ‘Cool for cats’, its an octave too low, I tried it once and it was crap” he tells the audience). And on ‘Black coffee’ he gets the audience to fill in the “doop do do, do do do do’ bits, with remarkable success. In fact he’s got them eating out of his hand. He amuses with Cornell Hurd’s ‘The genitalia of a fool’, and his own homage to masturbation ‘Reinventing the wheel’, and ‘Hot shaved Asian teens’ (which according to one review I read “paints the dark portrait of a man who is trapped in a Daliesque nightmare during the day while his nights are consumed by dreams of hot shaved Asian teens” – Hmmmm). He’s thoughtful with compositions like ‘Hostage’ and ‘This is where you ain’t’ which apparently harks back to divorce and a painful separation from his children, and he simply showboats his way through Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’, complete with an extended guitar behind the head solo (no picture I’m afraid Serge). It was simply a tour de force – cometh the moment, cometh the man.
Fairport Convention
And then of course cometh the three hours of Fairport Convention that most people seem to have been waiting for with bated breath for around twelve months. And having reviewed them twice on Whiskyfun over the past twelve months I’ll keep this short and simple. The Photographer’s friend Chris Leslie sang very well and some of the band’s harmonies were so good that I thought they must have been using tapes. Ace vocalist Chris While joined and sang the Sandy Denny parts on ‘Cajun Woman’, ‘The Deserter’, and ‘Who knows where the time goes’. She also stayed and added very soulful backing to Glenn Tilbrook on ‘Tempted’ (I’ll say it again – one of the highpoints of the weekend – thanks Glenn), with Martin Allcock on keyboards. And they played the very nice ‘Untouchable’ from Transatlantic Ping Pong. Ric Saunders is a hugely accomplished fiddler who manages to inject a few unexpected Soft Machine moments into his traditional repertoire, and he excels on his big solo in Ralph McTell’s ‘Hiring fair’ which merges seamlessly into a Saunders/Nicol instrumental of ‘Summertime’. ‘Jewel in the crown’ (woops – I thought it was called ‘We are a proud land’) is brought controversially up to date with a mention of Iraq (phew – hot controversy!). We’re spared too much of the historical nonsense – I suppose it’s almost mandatory for Fairport to perform McTelll’s ‘Red and gold’ that famously “ill-judged and poorly researched slushy dirge about the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in June 1644”, and I have to confess to rather liking Chris Leslie’s ‘I’m already there’ about explorer Admiral Sir George Back, whose Arctic adventures are commemorated in a window in Banbury’s ugly church. And before we knew it was Fairport’s regular finale, a typically hysterical version of ‘Matty Groves’ (might be time to change this one, boys) and that show-stealing encore, ‘Meet on the ledge’, which we did.
And as we folded up our fishing chairs for another year and carefully tidied away our rubbish (unlike those who chose to leave much of the field looking like a refuse dump – there’s simply no telling with these middle classes is there?) the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. Back in the dry comfort of the luxurious mobile mansion “one last nightcap” followed “one last nightcap” to the accompaniment of that path breaking album ‘Liege and Lief’, Squeeze’s greatest hits (well remembered Jozzer) and bags of Mumbai Mix.
Next year? Surely not? “Time to move on” said Jozzer as he folded his soiled cooking whites – probably not a phrase often found in the Fairporter’s lexicon. - Nick Morgan (Photographs by Nick and Kate)
Many, many thanks Nick. I guess I'll have to look into Squeeze and Mr. Tilbrook more closely... But something bothers me, I mean... You know... Err... The glasses! I mean, please tell us these glasses were supplied with the van! What, the bottles as well?... Anyway, this is still being out on a story with grand style indeed. But let's listen to Glenn Tilbrook now, with Parallel world.mp3 (from 'The incomplete Glenn Tilbrook'). And why not a little Squeeze as well, with their bouncy Picadilly.mp3.
 
TASTING - TWO OLD GLENF*****S BY DOUGLAS LAING
Ballindalloch (Glenfarclas) 40 yo 1965/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, sherry butt ref DL 1979, 289 bottles) Colour: deep amber – cognac. Nose: explosive and vibrant start on notes of open beehive (don’t try that at home), crystallized oranges and a superb oakiness. No vinous notes whatsoever, great news, rather hints of very old Sauternes (I know, that’s wine) and apricot pie. Fab whiffs of menthol coming through after a while, together with a little varnish (high-end varnish if that exists), eucalyptus… and something clearly medicinal (bandages, embrocations). Then we have milk chocolate, roasted nuts, then back to menthol, Darjeeling tea…
What a stunning nose and a what a perfect balance. Yes, close to perfection as far as I’m concerned. Mouth: really powerful, almost ‘invasive’, with lots of body and oomph and quite some tannins, as expected. So the attack is rather dry and almost bitter (nicely) but that’s fine for the moment. Notes of toasted bread, infused tealeaves, orange skin, apple seeds… All that sort of masks the sweeter, fruitier elements that are well here… Yet, we have huge notes of liqueur-filled chocolate, ganache and praline arising after a moment, orange marmalade, nougat, blackcurrant liqueur… Amazingly rich, getting then very spicy (nutmeg, cloves, quite some Chinese anise…) The finish is very long, still coating, on crystallized fruits (strawberries) and milk chocolate. Extremely rich and good. 94 points.
Old Stock Reserve No1 (Glenfarclas) 39 yo 1965/2005 (54.7%, Douglas Laing OMC for Alambic Germany, sherry butt ref DL 1550) Colour: deep amber – cognac, slightly darker than the 40yo. Nose: starts slower than the 40 yo and more on caramel, praline, nectar and pollen, probably more classical. Develops on coffee, chocolate, roasted nuts, fruitcake… And then it gets extremely orangey, with notes of Grand Marnier, crystallized oranges, oriental pastries… Very good but this one doesn’t quite stand comparison with the marvellous 40yo. Mouth: lots of tannins as well but also more fruits. Very ripe strawberries, raspberries, mulberries… A nice oakiness but less spicy and chocolaty notes than in the 40yo, which make it simpler again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent sherry monster but it probably lacks a little extra-complexity. Rather long, fruity and slightly vinous finish, balanced but getting maybe a tad too sour. Well, in its defence, it’s hard to come after a marvel such as the 40yo, so I’d say it still deserves 90 points.
  

August 21, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FESTIVAL SPECIAL: FAIRPORT'S CROPREDY CONVENTION

Cropredy, Oxfordshire, UK, August 10th-12th 2006
Part One
 
Well try as we might we just couldn’t resist the lure of the bucolic folk-filled time warp deep in the heart of rural North Oxfordshire’s wonderful green and pleasant countryside. And as true slaves to our art this year we’ve come for the full three days of beer-filled capers, frolics and festivities.
And thanks to Serge and the limitless Whiskyfun review budget we’re here on the Festival site amongst ‘Nuts in May’ campers and cash strapped caravaners in what I can only describe as the biggest fuck-off recreational vehicle I’ve ever seen – a sort of Sheraton suite on wheels, with ample accommodation for both Reviewer and Photographer, and Jozzer who’s here as assistant chef and critic, and his moll Trizzer, who’s here purely for the fun.
A pity then that the Festival started (“Hello Cropredy”) with P J Wright, a distinguished member of the West Midlands musical mafia that also features Dave Pegg, Steve Gibbons et. al.

Ric Saunders with Little Johnny England
Wright was supported by “squeezer” Gareth Turner (accordion) and “scraper” Guy Fletcher (fiddle) both members of Little Johnny England (the name says it all) the local folk rock band for which he sings and plays lead guitar, and by ‘friends’ fiddler Ric Saunders and songwriter Peter Scrowther (who, if you ask me, has a lot to answer for).
Time was when a good old folk song was about the nasty brutish and short universe of the noble factory worker or his match selling fair laydee. Now it seems it’s a sort of Daily Mail dirge decrying the fact that “everything’s made in China now” (even the songs if you ask me, because they certainly all seem to sound the same) and that some wicked evil-hearted men have taken all our factories, honest and true – why even our pension funds aren’t what they used to be. Add to that some simply awful Ralph Mctell style [Editor’s note: steady on Nick, you can’t start on Ralph this early] faux historical ballads (“It was back in the winter of 1637 that I sailed on the East Kilbride steam packet”) and you can understand why I retired for an early aperitif, to the pleasing sounds of Feast Of Fiddles opening their set with that traditional scraper’s ditty, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’. We enjoyed them with a Tanqueray and tonic as their breezy tunes were blown across the field to our moorings.
Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior and with Peter Knight (right)
We returned replete (excellent choucroute garnie Serge, with some of your lovely Alsace wines and Munster cheese) for Steeleye Span, who for some reason I had anticipated being a frightful disaster, this poppy face of electric folk having been totally off my musical radar (apart from that dreadful Christmas song of course) since I last saw them in 1970 something. How wrong could I have been? I confess they did play a few real stinkers, like the unconvincing Gracelandesque ‘Seagull’, ‘London’ (a dire follow up to the hit single ‘All around my hat' – which needless to say was the final encore) and a bizarre ‘The troubles of old England’ played in twelve-bar boogie style (very fitting). But these were exceptions in a well structured, well played and well sung set. Peter Knight was outstanding on fiddle, particularly in his duet with Maddy Prior on ‘Betsy Bell and Mary Gray’ and I was particularly impressed with drummer Liam Genockey who injected a real sense of pace and energy as they worked their way through tunes like ‘Van Diemen’s Land’, Tam Lin’, Long Lankin’ and ‘Cam ye ‘oer frae France’ But it was the handsomely proportioned hip swinging Prior who stole the show as she shimmied and gyrated around the stage, her exotic hand movements driving Jozzer into a perspiration soaked fantasy fuelled frenzy. And she sang very well too.
We enjoyed, or should I say endured Friday’s opener (“Good morning Cropredy”) Shameless Quo from the comfort of our mobile condominium over some wonderful chocolate tasting Galapagos coffee and ‘citronnier’ cake. ‘Rocking all over the world’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’ was more than enough, so we went shopping in the once-pretty market town of Banbury instead, marginally less depressing than listening to a tribute band to a band that has long since been a tribute band to itself. Scholars may be interested to know that Banbury was accurately described in the nineteenth century by the following verse: “Poor town, dirty people, built a church without a steeple”. Well Banbury certainly isn’t poor today; with the arrival of a motorway connection to London and Birmingham in the 1980s it’s become a prosperous dormitory town. But it is a shocking victim of the British urban disease of shopping centre blight, with charity-shop and building society dominated streets, and a semi-derelict 1980s precinct leading in to its dismal twenty-first century successor.
Our return was greeted by Then Came the Wheel, a highly accomplished group of session musicians who sounded like a highly accomplished group of session musicians. They were followed by ‘The Guv’nor’, Ashley Hutchings and his latest band, Rainbow Chaser, which we had all looked forward to as a potential high-point of the day. Sadly it turned out to be a low. Over long-introductions, painfully over-written songs with tortuously contrived and naive lyrics, perfectly sung and performed but oh dear me, that song about Nick Drake (‘Given time’) nearly had me reaching for the RV keys. Luckily things perked up with the arrival of The Deborah Bonham Band. She’s the baby sister of the late John, and manages to sound like a cross between Janis Joplin and her brother’s former colleague Robert Plant. Her band, joined by pedal steel ace P J Cole, are tight, rough and rocking (her drummer is Humble Pie veteran Jerry Shirley) – and the only weak moment was when she sang Led Zeppelin’s ‘The battle of Evermore’, which famously featured a duet between Plant and Sandy Denny, which just doesn’t work. She’s at her best singing songs like ‘Devil’s in New Orleans’, ‘Black coffee’, ‘Jack past eight’ (yes Serge she’s a whiskey girl) and her encore ‘Rock and Roll’. If her CDs sound anywhere near as good as this then you should go out and buy one.

Ashley Hutchings and Deborah Bonham
Frank Skinner in the shade of the WF RV (left) - John Martyn (right)
Unfortunately a delicious lamb tagine kept us from Flook, winners in the ‘Best Group’ category of the BBC Radio Folk award. And before them we missed Frank Skinner introducing Fairport Convention, to receive a Gold Disc for Liege and Lief, which was also named as the 'Most Influential Folk Album of All Time' at the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Frank, by the way, had chosen to eschew the luxuries of the VIP area and camp with ‘the people’, pitching his tent, with some difficulty, in the shadow of the Whiskyfun RV). Which meant that we resumed our seats at about 8.15 for John Martyn. Readers may wish to refer to my earlier review of Martyn at the Shepherds Bush Empire in May before going any further. Regrettably I don’t have a great deal to add. Barely coherent, playing well within his former abilities, one paced and formulaic, with nothing to detain the audience who started to drift away at about 9.30. If there was a high point it was probably Ben Harper’s ‘Mister mister’ (which you can hear on The Church with No Bell), but in a weekend crammed with glorious nostalgia this was but a sad reflection on a distinguished past.
10CC
Fortunately enough people stayed on to give Graham Goldman’s 10CC a decent hand. I still cherish this band’s first couple of albums. They gave a new definition to ‘painfully overwritten and tortuously contrived lyrics’, full of in-jokes, knowing references and musical wit. “Bollocks pop music written by advertising men, sneered Jozzer, sedate in his fishing chair as he sipped discerningly at his seventh pint of ‘after dinner’ cider. The ‘ad men’, Lol Crème and Kevin Godley, have long since departed, whilst Eric Stewart no longer performs live. So this 10CC is Gouldman plus some long time Strawberry Studios collaborators and superb vocalist Mick Wilson. Do you remember how many great songs they wrote? The band were like a hit machine and we were played the best of them, ‘The Dean and I’, ‘Donna’, ‘Wall Street shuffle’, ‘Art for art’s sake’ ‘Silly Love’, and the huge hit that I always felt marked their nadir, ‘I’m not in love’. And Gouldman also reminded us of his pre-10CC work by running through compositions such as ‘Bus stop’ and ‘Look through any window’ (recorded by the Hollies), ‘No milk today’ (Herman’s Hermits) and ‘For your love’ (the Yardbirds). But in the absence of the heart and soul of the band neither pedigree nor almost perfect performance could really lift what seemed to an almost soulless affair, and as we left to the final bars of encore ‘Rubber bullets’ (“We all got balls and brains, but some’s got balls and chains”) I couldn’t help thinking back to a fantastic night watching them perform ‘Une nuit a Paris’ way back in the … well you know when. - Nick Morgan (Photographs by Nick and Kate. Frank Skinner photograph by Jozzer.)
Thanks a bunch, Nick… That one made me shriek with laughter! So, let’s try to get our breath back while listening to a little music, like (I’d add ‘of course’, seen from here at least) Steleye Span’s Fighting for strangers.mp3 and its 'Anglo-African' rhythms. Or All around my hat.mp3 (more Anglo-English I think). 10CC? Maybe I don't like reggae.mp3... Or maybe not, but it's too late. OK, I think we're ready for Cropredy Part 2!...
 
TASTING - TWO MORTLACHS
Mortlach 16 yo 1988/2005 (57.9%, Whisky Galore, sherry cask #4743) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather discrete at first nosing, with whiffs of sherry and a little fresh butter, with a faint smokiness. Gets then more expressive, with lots of elegance: flowers (huge notes of lilac), a little celery, aniseed… and then we have quite some caramel, roasted nuts, candy sugar… All that is very nicely balanced and quite subtle. Very pleasant. With water: the rubber really comes out now but also a nice smokiness. Roasted peanuts, coal, ham… A very good swimmer, getting more complex with water.
Mouth (neat): very creamy and very fruity, almost thick, coating. Also very powerful behind the sweetness, getting a little too rough now. Let’s add water again: again that works, with lots of walnuts, resinous stuff, apple skin. It gets also smokier, especially at the rather long finish. An excellent and very typical Mortlach. 88 points.
Mortlach 1993/2005 ‘The Nightcap’ (57.6%, Art of Whisky, sherry butt # 5228) Colour: pure gold. Nose: starts even more discretely, maybe more on freshly squeezed oranges, ginger tonic… Gets then a little rougher than the Whisky Galore when it wakes up, also meatier like often with Mortlach (hints of smoked ham). Lots of wildflowers as well, hot bread crust, ripe apricots… More caramelly and less fresh, with also a more discrete sherry but it’s still a nice Mortlach. With water: less development than with the Whisky Galore, gets just a little smokier and ashier, with alos paraffin and cider apples, as well as almond milk… Well, it does improve in fact, it just needs a little time. Mouth (neat): curiously less thick and oily than the Whisky Galore, also a little bitterer, smokier. Lots of dried fruits (dates, bananas) but it does get too hot after a moment. With water: gets funnily salty and spicy (bold nutmeg). Interesting. The finish is quite long, now peppery and waxy with another layer of caramel… Another good Mortlach, with quite a presence. 86 points.
  

August 20, 2006


NEW - Maybe you already saw that our parent website Malt Maniacs is temporalily frozen (for two or three months). Johannes is currently very busy designing brand new webistes for both Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs - I've already seen dummies, and I can tell you they are really great. Anyway, Whiskyfun will shelter a few maniacal pieces in the meantime, starting with this excellent one by Lex Kraaijeveld.
 

 

 
KATE BUSH DISTILLED by Lex Kraaijeveld
Credit where credit is due: this article was inspired by fellow maniac Serge Valentin. Some years ago, in one of his e-pistles for “Malt Maniacs”, Serge tasted a range of malt whiskies and tried to ‘characterise’ them by comparing them to famous singers, actresses or sports stars. When I first heard the news that after a 12 year hiatus my all-time-favourite singer/musician was going to release a new album, I thought I’d follow Serge’s example, matching my favourite tipple to my favourite artist, but then in a slightly different way from how Serge did it. Kate Bush’s music has been part of my life from the moment she burst on the scene as a teenager more than 25 years ago. And what I’m going to do in this wee piece is try to match Kate’s 8 studio albums to date to certain whiskies, trying to capture the essence of spirit and music each time. “If Kate’s music is indeed a malt whisky, which one would it be?”
When Kate was interviewed for BBC 4’s ‘Front Row’ programme, broadcast early November 2005, and was asked why making her 8th album, Aerial, took so long, she said:
I think in this case we're talking about the kind of distilling process rather than fermenting. So it's like making a whisky really!
But beyond the long ‘maturation’ period of both Kate’s music and whisky, the two really have a lot in common. Both have many layers of complexity, both are for real savouring and can only fully be appreciated when you give them time, come back to them time and time again ….
So, first album, The Kick Inside, which she released in 1978. What I want to try and do is build up a mental picture of a malt whisky based on the ‘feel’ of the album as a whole, rather than focus on specific songs. It’s not a ‘heavy’ album, so a medium-bodied whisky. Probably a Speysider. But a characterful Speysider, one with good malty notes. Kate’s voice makes it a whisky on the sweet side, certainly not a dry whisky. What kind of sweetness? Not fruity; Kate weaves around the music and coats it in warm honey .... This honey image clinches it for me: if The Kick Inside were a malt whisky, it would be a Balvenie.
On to Lionheart, also from 1978.To me, this is a delicate and deceptively simple album. It oozes charm and character, in a gentle way. Translating this into a malt whisky is actually pretty straightforward. Delicate, charm, gentle are the typical terms used for Lowland whiskies. And arguably the best Lowland whisky comes from the now sadly closed Rosebank distillery, although fortunately there are still plenty of bottles of Rosebank around. Try some 12 year old Rosebank while playing Lionheart and I hope you’ll agree I’m not far off the mark in matching the two.
With the benefit of hindsight, Never For Ever (released in 1980) offers glimpses of things to come. Some of the album is ‘related’ to the previous two, other parts move away from those. But the whole is properly balanced, and clearly has a character of its own. So I’m looking for a whisky which has several different aspects: malt, sweetness and ‘a bit more’. The one that comes to mind is Highland Park. It’s often referred to as one of the best all-rounders; a luscious whisky with malt and sweetness, but also some peat and smoke.
The Dreaming, from 1982, is rich, deep, complex, multi-layered, heavy. The first kind of whisky that comes to mind is one which has matured in casks that have previously contained sherry. And one that is bottled at higher strength than usual. One of the richest, most complex ‘sherried’ whiskies I have ever tasted is a Blairfindy, distilled in 1964 and bottled by Blackadder at 40 y.o. and 55.3% abv. I can not even begin to describe the complexity of this malt. This is one to savour slowly in order to discover all its layers. A perfect match to The Dreaming for me!
One of the key aspects of Kate’s 1985 album Hounds of Love is the two parts it consists of, ‘Hounds of Love’ and ‘The Ninth Wave’, and especially the contrast between those two. If I try to see those two aspects in whisky terms, I see ‘power’ in Hounds of Love and ‘sweetness’ in The Ninth Wave. To me, ‘power’ in whisky comes from plenty of peat smoke. And the best example of a peated malt which provides a perfect balance between plenty of peat and sophisticated sweetness is Ardbeg.
Kate has said in an interview that she considered The Sensual World (1989) her most feminine album. When I put the sensuality and the femininity together and think whisky, I can arrive at only one type of malt whisky: one which has matured for a few years in port casks. Among the more luscious of these port-finished malts is a Glenmorangie, which has been matured for well over 10 years in ex-bourbon casks before being given a few years of extra maturation in port pipes. To me, the velvety rich port influence really captures the sensuality of The Sensual World.

 

I really got stuck with The Red Shoes, which saw the light in 1993. What I wanted to do was find a whisky which would capture both the relative accessibility of the music and the pain and raw emotion coming from much of the lyrics. I actually spent time opening and nosing bottle after bottle from my whisky shelves, with The Red Shoes playing at the same time. Nothing clicked. Then I remembered a malt which I had tasted once at a whisky event some time ago, which combined silkiness with darker, more powerful peatiness. Could this be the one? Fortunately, I know the man behind this whisky, and a fresh tasting sample was only one e-mail away. Compass Box’s Peat Monster does indeed offer both the aspects I was looking for: accessibility (the silky notes) and raw emotion (the peaty notes).

And then Aerial, Kate’s latest (double) album, released late in 2005. Aerial is truly a piece of art. It’s Kate painting with music, voices, sounds. And the perfect whisky match for this piece of art is a whisky which I’ve been lucky enough to taste, and which is probably the best whisky I’ve ever tasted: Dalmore 50 y.o. Like Aerial, this whisky is a true piece of art. Amazingly rich (especially with chocolate-y and orange-y notes), holding up incredibly well to the half century in the wood, and with a finish which just lasts for ever and ever.

Some of you may completely disagree with my matches of album and whisky. Actually, I hope you disagree with me, because that means I’ve succeeded in making you think about trying to match music and malt! So, I’d be very curious what your perfect matches look like; please do let me know.

Kate, if you’re reading this, about Aerial having taken 12 years, keep in mind that the best whiskies take at least 10 years to mature. And, uhhmmm, there are plenty more good whiskies around, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find a match to ‘K9’ ….
This article was first published, in a slightly different form, in issue 77 of HomeGround, the longest-running Kate Bush fan-zine.
 

TASTING - TWO OLD LONGMORNS

Longmorn 36 yo 1970/2006 (56.1%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #28, 255 bottles) - revisited Sukhinder from The Whisky Exchange loves Longmorn so I’m sure he selected a great one for his own range. Colour: pure gold. Nose: very fresh and vibrant at first nosing, with a mix of ‘antique’ elements’ (wax polish, old furniture) and fruits.

Excellent, subtle sherry with lots of walnut. Develops on beeswax, fresh almonds, leather, cleaned horse, carpenter’s workshop, old Jaguar (car), Havana smoke… Goes on with old rum (Havana again?), dried oranges, apricots, hints of dried ginger, balsamic vinegar… Very complex, very interesting, very good. No clumsiness and no over-woodiness whatsoever. Mouth: sweet, nervous, spicy at the attack, amazingly lively although it’s a little less complex now. A nice oakiness – no overwhelming tannins or dryness. Lots of crystallised citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines) and marmalade topped with nutmeg and cinnamon. A slight bitterness that further improves the balance. Keeps developing on something waxy and slightly smoky (smoked tea), quince jelly… The finish is long, perfectly balanced, waxy, fruity and spicy, maybe just a tad drying now… Almost perfect old Longmorn, far from having gone over the hill. 92 points (up since last time)
Longmorn 1970/2000 (57.2%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: mahogany - brown. Nose: lots of oloroso sherry, a more classical style of sherried whisky. Lots of prunes, chocolate and toffee as well as dried oranges, blackcurrant buds and praline. Goes on with toasted brioche, caramel and old rancio, armagnac… But it doesn’t smell ‘thick’ or lumpish at all, with almost as much freshness as the 36yo. An almost perfect example of a great old olorosoed malt. Really a classic. Mouth: coating, almost invading, vinous and extremely chocolaty and minty. No rubber whatsoever. Lots of power, again no clumsiness. Develops on raspberry jam, fruit ganache, grated bitter chocolate, mocha, toffee… A slight bitterness does appear after a moment (tannins) but it’s a plus here. The finish is very long, dry and chocolaty as expected, perfectly balanced. Another excellent Longmorn that should please the oloroso freaks but also any whisky enthusiast, even the most ‘circumspect’ regarding sherry. 92 points (tie!)

 

MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with Chicago's excellent tenor Karim Sulayman singing Jean-Baptiste Lully's Oh tranquille sommeil.mp3 (from Persée). To enjoy late at night under the summer stars... Please go to Karim Sulayman's concerts and operas.

  

August 19, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
ARLO GUTHRIE
Dingwalls (formerly known as Lock 17,
formerly known as Dingwalls), London, August 8th 2006
There are three things you should know about Arlo Guthrie. Firstly he was the other-worldly (ie. mostly on another planet at the time), pretty-looking young boy who sang ‘Coming into Los Angeles’ at the Woodstock Festival. Secondly he’s one of the few artistes I can think of to have a film made of one of his songs (‘Alice’s Restaurant’).
Thirdly, he’s the guy who proved you could rhyme ‘pickle’ with ‘motorcycle’, something which he confessed tonight that in retrospect, he regretted (“but sometimes you can’t choose the songs you write” he complained, “they choose you. I mean, why couldn’t that one have gone to Bob Dylan?”). Oh yes, and fourthly, of course, he’s the son of the revered (and much in vogue) hobo folk legend Woody Guthrie, and along with his sister is at the hub of a veritable (albeit respectful and well-meaning) Guthrie family empire. It extends into performance (the Guthrie Family Legacy tour, featuring Arlo, son Abe, daughters Sarah and Cathy), archives and recordings (managed mostly by sister Nora who’s been releasing ‘new’ Woody Guthrie lyrics from a massive archive to singers ‘round the world – including our favourite Comrade Billy Bragg) and a huge amount of charitable work. Did you know, for example, that the church that was at the heart of the story of Alice’s Restaurant was bought by Arlo, it’s now the Guthrie Center (sic), home of the Guthrie Foundation which amongst many other things raises funds for research into Huntingdon’s Disease, which killed his father (and quite possibly his grandmother)?
There’s a lot of Woody stuff in the course of the evening, but it’s nicely done, not overdone, and sits easily with the rather self-depreciating and matter-of-fact character that Guthrie (Arlo that is) casts over this quite intimate evening at Dingwalls (yes – it’s got its name back!) where the largely middle-aged, ex-hippy-turned-retired estate agent audience spend much of the evening squabbling over seats. The structure of the set is much the same as a solo show I saw in Dublin some years ago, held together by Guthrie’s apparently rambling narratives, with as many twists, turns, and byways as a ‘Green green rocky road’ which he sings about.
The recurring theme of the evening is song writing - “it’s just like fishing, you have to sit down and wait for one to come along – but just make sure you’re not downstream of Bob Dylan”. The first half ends with an increasingly animated story about hash and paranoia that leads inevitably into ‘Los Angeles’, and after an instrumental warm up (Guthrie is a much better musician that he gives himself credit for) the second gets under way with those familiar chords that used to be badly played at so many early seventies parties (“Sounds like you might have heard this before – I know I have”) that herald a word-perfect ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ (“one of the things I’ve learned about song writing over the years is to keep the new songs short …”)
There are plenty of funny stories about “my daddy”. We hear a clip from some recently discovered tapes of him yarning – soon to be released on a CD as ‘Woody wires’ – and the similarities to his son’s meanderings are remarkable. There are tales about Bob Dylan and a host of other sixties folksy folks, some despairing observations on the state of things today (“Well either my daddy’s songs have aged exceptionally well or the world still sucks…”) and politics (“I never ever imagined that Nixon could ever start to look good …”). If you haven’t guessed there are lots of jokes too, and lots of laughter.
And there are a few nicely played tunes (Gordon Titcomb is excellent on pedal steel guitar and mandolin), ‘St James’ Infirmary’, ‘In times like these’, Steve Goodman’s ‘Good morning America’ and ‘In my darkest hour’. But then at the end it all got a bit like Billy Bragg meets the Woodcraft Folk round the campfire as the audience sang and rocked their heads like nodding dogs to “daddy’s” ‘This land is your land’ and ‘My peace’. Hmmmm.
Never mind. Arlo is a thoroughly charming fellow, and whilst the sticky and cloying scent of nostalgia might be hanging heavily in the air, he remains an endearing reminder of the naive but caring optimism that thought it could change the world but didn’t, but which certainly changed rock and roll for ever, and which did (and in Guthrie’s case still does) make a difference. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thanks so much, Nick. I’d advise any youngsters out there to watch ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ – the movie, very ethnological and seminal, as they say. Now, while waiting for your much anticipated Cropredy review(s) I haven’t been inactive myself and went to see Robert Plant, then Jamiroquai, then Franz Ferdinand live in Colmar. Three gigs, three evenings in a row – yes. Plant was extremely good (it was his last show from his current tour), very Ledzepesque but they played extremely loud. Not a problem for me (I had my usual cigarette filters in my ears) but when Justin Adams was doing his killer riffs, well, it was like if we had five Airbuses on stage. Anyway, it was great. Jamiroquai were good as well (it was one of their last three gigs from their current tour – eh?) Not that I like listening to them on record too much but on stage, it’s really grooveeey, despite Jason Kay’s strange poncho (was that a Mexican poncho or was that a Sear's poncho?) and Sitting-Bull headdress. But God it was loud! Make that five Airbuses plus three Boeings. And finally Franz Ferdinand, one of their last shows from the current tour (wot? Is it a trash bin for tired rock stars here?) They didn’t play too loud (you can remove the Boeings and at least two Airbuses) but quite out of tune – both voices and guitars. Now, live, they’re rather good even when completely out of tune, as FF are all a matter of energy and rhythm (200bpm?) Plus, they’re Scottish and very friendly! Next gigs for me, theoretically: the New-York Dolls (yes, them), Père Ubu (yes, them) and the Divine Comedy. Plus a little jazz, of course, with Chico Freeman and Jimmy Cobb. Phew! But let’s have a little Arlo Guthrie now, with that famous Alice’s Restaurant.mp3. Like I just told Arthur, it’s not a recent ‘extended club remix’, it's just a very long (18:36 min), yet very entertaining old song.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK are leaving Saint-Tropez!
 
Yes, no more holidays for Pete and Jack (they were getting sunburned anyway) but of course they’ll be back soon, with more ‘normal’ stuff. Stay tuned...
 
TASTING - TWO BALVENIES
Balvenie 1992 (55%, OB, Balvenie Club, cask #4605, 10cl sample bottle) Colour: straw. Nose: unusually punchy at first nosing, very woody with lots of vanilla and toasted oak. Very little fruit or sweetness and just touches of honey. A little heather, coffee beans, getting very grassy after a while. Unusual indeed but quite hard to enjoy. Let’s try to wake it up with a little water: no, that’ doesn’t work, it gets just grassier and even sort of acrid, I’m afraid.
Mouth (neat): oh, it’s better, much better now. Punchy, quite liquoricy, with notes of chlorophyll, herb sweets, resin, lots of wood (a tad ‘planky’)… Still quite unusual but now it’s good. With water: it got sweeter and fruitier (ripe peach and quince jelly) but the strong liquorice remains. Surprisingly, the finish isn’t too long but still very liquoricy and woody. In short, a rather good Balvenie but nothing that deserves to be bottled as a single cask. Will/did they? 82 points.
Balvenie 15 yo 1974/1990 (57.1%, Signatory, casks #18103 – 18130, 2500 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: again, maybe not the fruitiest Balvenie but it’s much more expressive than the 1992. Apricots, plums, honey, cake,… The whole getting very flowery after a moment, on nectar, pollen, beehive, wild flowers… Maybe it’s a tad rough for Balvenie but it’s certainly enjoyable. Superb notes of ripe melon arising after a few minutes. With water: yes, that’s even better, we have a full basket of fresh fruits now as well as notes of sandalwood, white pepper, cigarette tobacco and a faint meatiness. Mouth (neat): extremely powerful, thick, infused with nice oak, vanilla, strong honey, pollen again… What a body! With water: oh dear! It’s even better, extremely bold and compact with hints of eucalyptus sweets, caramel crème, cough syrup… Unlike with some other versions, there’s no over-sweetness here, rather a perfect compactness, especially at the perfect and very compact finish. Exactly ‘my’ kind of Balvenie, if I may say so. 91 points.
  

August 18, 2006


No entries today - as an homage to Doris P. (and Roland).
  

August 17, 2006


TASTING - THREE SUPERB 1975 GLEN GARIOCHS
Glen Garioch 1975/1990 (43%, OB, rebottled in 2006 by Jean Boyer SA, private) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not too bold but very complex right at first nosing. Richly phenolic, with a superb mix of peat, damp moss and fern, oysters and seaweed, resinous smoke and pu-erh tea as well as whiffs of coffee, developing on rather bold notes of blackcurrant jelly and cardamom, hints of basil, cashews… Goes on with freshly squeezed oranges, old roses, wax polish… And then cough syrup, Vicks, Very complex with a very subtle peatiness that reminds me of the old Clynelishes but also with something oriental, almost zen. Just superb, a nose for whiskylovers who like to dip their noses into their glasses for a long time while meditating. Mouth: oh yeah, it’s superb. Not really bold, rather smooth and slightly toned down when compared to the nose but very coherent, with quite some resins, wax, spices (nutmeg, hints of clove), cocoa, cardamom again, smoked tea… Lots of peat but a very integrated one, not a ‘pepperpeat’ (eh?) Goes on with crystallized citrons and quince, rather unusual notes of smoked ham, herb liquor, maybe pastis (no kidding!) The finish isn’t too long but rather compact, on wax, tea, flower jelly and just a pinch of salt. In other words, when Glen Garioch is good it’s excellent. A perfect example of the Highlands’ older style that I cherish. 92 points. (and thanks Jean-Marie!!!)
Glen Garioch 1975/1987 (50%, Samaroli) Colour: pale straw. Nose: much rougher, more austere, starting much more on herbs and stone but the phenolic level should be roughly the same. Less resinous but ashier, developing on wet chalk, candle wax, soft spring water, fresh butter, newly cut grass and bitter chocolate… Not less enjoyable but certainly sharper and more Jansenist than its sibling. More and more cocoa with time (smells just like a box of Van Houten). Mouth: amazingly, this one is now fruitier, much closer to the ‘jean Boyer’, just bolder and a tad sharper, thanks to the alcohol. Maybe also a tad saltier, more lemony and more herbal (mint, chlorophyll) but other than that it’s almost the same, brilliant whisky. No need to come up with a different rating: 92 points.
Glen Garioch 1975/1990 (56%, OB, McLelland's for Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #545/458, 75cl) Colour: pure gold. Nose: oh, this is funny, we have sort of a summary of both other versions. We have the Jean Boyer’s resinous, both forest and maritime notes and the Samaroli’s very mineral and grassy notes. And ah, yes, also these huge notes of blackcurrant jelly plus lots of thyme and rosemary. Very peaty as well (Glen Garioch was very peaty until 1978 – 1979 I think). Another brilliant Glen Garioch, quite austere but beautiful. Mouth: we’re in the very same league as the ‘Jean Boyer’ and the Samaroli again as far as the palate is concerned, this one being just more powerful but certainly not less complex. You may just read my comments above again. Another stunner, worth maybe one more point because it’s got a little more oomph and more body. Wowie! 93 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Long time no hear Koko Taylor so time to listen to Stop watching your enemies.mp3 (from Jump for joy) although we could also have had Bring me some water.mp3 but that's already beeen posted here in 2004. Please buy Miss Taylor's music!

 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
  

August 16, 2006


TASTING - TWO TALISKERS
Talimburg 20 yo 1986/2006 (43.8%, The Whisky Fair ‘Artist Edition’) Colour: pale straw. Nose: extremely precise and pure at first nosing – another of these ‘riesling’ malts, it appears. Lemony, mineral and smoky but not extremely peppery. Huge flinty notes, lots of grapefruit juice… Something of a margarita cocktail, almost sharp like a blade but also with kind of a softness (it’s far from being overpowering). The kind of profile I like a lot.
Mouth: we have more oomph now, with quite a peat blast right at the attack. Quite smoky, salty and peppery as ‘it should be’, with the fruits being in the background now except some bold notes of apple skin. Very compact, very satisfying, very pure – and the rather long finish is just in the same vein (even saltier in fact). Not too complex but very, very good: 90 points.
Tactical 23 yo 1982/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask Ref 542, 418 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Nose: lots of sherry and quite some rubber, like in many of these heavily sherried Taliskers by Douglas Laing. Lots of oranges, a little earl grey tea, chocolate… It does get more texture and body with time, when the malt manages to get through the sherry, the end result being very spicy, on nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon. Also notes of scented candle wax. Rather nice. Mouth: starts on full sherry mode, with a rather bold sourness (reduced red wine) and again lots of rubber. Then we have the spices (huge notes of cloves) and finally the peat that’s maybe a bit shy here – or let’s say ‘dominated’. Long but rather bitter and, again, a little too sour. Well, we’ve had some much better sherried Taliskers, including by Douglas Laing, but it’s still a rather good one. 80 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Hehe, an excellent, catchy and artsy piece (just like we like them) by Fujiya & Miyagi: Transparent things.mp3. And a very strange website... Please buy these guys' music!

 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
  

August 15, 2006


TASTING - THREE INCHGOWERS

Inchgower 1989/2004 (46%, Helen Arthur, finished in Port wood for 9 months) Colour: pale straw. Nose: a fresh, clean and rather fragrant start with little Port influence if any – good news, I’d say. Lots of white fruits (apples, green bananas, gooseberries, hints of passion fruit) for a start but it gets then milkier, mashier, with a little porridge and yoghurt. Faint hints of smoke and rubber. Also hints of blackcurrant buds (from the Port?) A rather nice nose. Mouth: a fruity, sweet and simple attack but it gets then quite beer-ish, a little bitter. Goes on with canned pineapples and peaches, with kind of a metallic taste… Herbal tea, cough sweets… The finish is medium long, sweetish, with notes of orange skin and pepper. 75 points.
Inchgower 17 yo 1959/1977 (80° proof, Cadenhead dumpy) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts much smokier, as expected, with some superb mineral notes, lots of lemon juice and something slightly metallic (nice here – old bottle effect). Goes on with some very fresh vegetal notes (fern), eucalyptus leaves, hints of tiger balm and keeps developing on apple skin and almond milk as well as lots of marzipan, fresh putty, resin, cold oven… A rather beautiful old, clean Inchgower, a great counterpoint to the heavily sherried ones. Mouth: a creamy start, smoky, earthy, leafy… Quite some peat now, lots of resin, eucalyptus sweets, mint and liquorice flavoured ones… Very, very phenolic. Goes on with wax, mint flavoured tea, hints of calvados… Gets very spicy after that (white pepper) and quite salty as well. The finish is rather long, smoky, herbal, citrusy and very bold. It’s an invasion! Just a great, old style whisky with quite some backbone. Which means 92 points.
Inchgower 25 yo 1980/2005 (55.8%, Whisky Tales, cask #14156, 324 bottles) Colour: mahogany with reddish hues. Nose: a beautiful sherry right at the start, with lots of chocolate and coffee as well as a beautiful smokiness. Truckloads of all kinds of roasted nuts, old rancio, very old dry white wine (Burgundy, with its toastiness). No excessive sweetness, no clumsiness and no heaviness. Goes on with hints of orange liqueur, linseed oil… Another beautiful sherry, very elegant, very straight. Almost perfect. Mouth: a slightly sweeter start but it’s not short of ‘rectitude’. Also lots of pepper and salt. Develops on cocoa, coffee, bread crust, raisins, roasted nuts again… Gets more and more chocolaty, with a beautiful dryness. Not much development but it’s so beautifully coherent that that’s not a problem – at all. Very long and bold finish on raisins, oloroso and rum plus, again, lots of salt. Just excellent again: 92 points.

 

MUSICHighly recommended listening - Hesitation blues.mp3 by Hot tuna (from 'Hot Tuna', 1970). Still brilliant after all these years... And they are still wonderfully alive - and kicking greatly, so please buy Jorma and Jack's music!!!

 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 

August 2006 - part 1 <--- August 2006 - part 2 ---> September 2006 part 1


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

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

Ballindalloch (Glenfarclas) 40 yo 1965/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, sherry butt ref DL 1979, 289 bottles)

Balvenie 15 yo 1974/1990 (57.1%, Signatory, casks #18103 – 18130, 2500 bottles)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1973/1999 (52%, OB, cask #720)

Ben Nevis 34 yo 1966/2001 (53.7%, OB, German Market, 209 bottles, cask #4276)

Brora 1972/1992 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail CC, old map label)

Brora 29 yo 1971/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 210 bottles)

Brora 30 yo 1972/2003 (49.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 222 bottles)

Brora 30 yo (56.3%, OB, 3000 bottles, bottled 2005)

Brora 34 yo 1970/2004 (56.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 157 bottles)

Dumbarton 32 yo 1962/1994 (49.9%, Cadenhead)

Glen Garioch 1975/1987 (50%, Samaroli)

Glen Garioch 1975/1990 (56%, OB, McLelland's for Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #545/458, 75cl)

Glen Garioch 1975/1990 (43%, OB, rebottled in 2006 by Jean Boyer SA, private)

Inchgower 17 yo 1959/1977 (80° proof, Cadenhead dumpy)

Inchgower 25 yo 1980/2005 (55.8%, Whisky Tales, cask #14156, 324 bottles)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, sold 1988)

Laphroaig 14 yo (46%, Kingsbury, Valdespino’s Coliseo Amontillado)

Longmorn 1970/2000 (57.2%, Scott’s Selection)

Longmorn 36 yo 1970/2006 (56.1%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #28, 255 bottles)

Old Stock Reserve No1 (Glenfarclas) 39 yo 1965/2005 (54.7%, Douglas Laing OMC for Alambic Germany, sherry butt ref DL 1550)

Talimburg 20 yo 1986/2006 (43.8%, The Whisky Fair ‘Artist Edition’)