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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2007 - Part 1
       
July 2007 - part 2 <--- August 2007 - part 1 ---> August 2007 - part 2
 

August 14, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW - by Serge
Alsace

JOE COCKER
Foire aux Vins, Colmar, France, August 11th, 2007

It’s a wine region here, so we have a huge wine fair in the city of Colmar every year in August, with all the fitting overindulgences that you may guess.

The most surprising part of that fair, that is, are all the concerts that take place every evening since fifty years or so, often showcasing world famous bands and singers, some of them not hesitating to take a stroll along the wine booths after their shows (I’ll always remember that evening when, while sipping a gewuztraminer at one of the booths, I suddenly noticed that the tall guy with long hair and a strange accent standing next to me was Robert Plant). Of course we had many French-speaking singers, such as Brel, Trénet, Brassens or Aznavour, but also all kinds of international artistes such as Ray Charles, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Chet Baker, Lou Reed, Dizzy Gillespie, ZZ Top, Iggy Pop or Joan Baez to name but a few. Yes, it’s quite eclectic! This year the programme is rather varied again, with interesting gigs to choose from, including quite a few old lags: The Chemical Brothers, Norah Jones, Ten Years After, Mika, Status Quo, Smashing Pumpkins… And that good old Joe Cocker, whom we never saw live before, even if he already performed at the Foire aux Vins seven years ago.
So, here we are for Joe Cocker, in the so-called ‘coquille’, a semi-open air concert hall that can shelter up to 9,000 people. And it’s full with a pretty eclectic audience tonight, spanning several generations. There’s the “With a little help” generation, or should I say “Woodstock”. White hair if any, Lacoste polo shirt (crushed raspberries seems to be quite hot a colour this year, just like last year, and the year before, and the year before…) and heavy cotton trousers, beige of course. Coquille
Then the “Unchain my heart” generation. Men, no style, women, discotheque style, stamped 1988. And finally the “You can leave your hat on” generation, that is to say just anybody, since ‘that’ movie is regularly rerun on television.On stage it’s a large band. Drums, percs, bass (a charming girl – but why do so many bands hire female bassists these days? Is the thin girl - big guitar combo that hot?), guitar (Gene Black, excellent, he does both solo and rhythm and brings a more rock and roll side to the whole), tenor sax and accordion (good player), Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes (I believe) and two omnipresent female vocalists. And, of course, Mr Joe Cocker, all dressed in black and starting to look more and more like a thicker Anthony Hopkins.
Cocker They are all as regular as clockwork from the first song on (I think it’s Chain of Fools) till the very end of the set and the whole really sounds like a studio album. Perfect tuning, perfect voice, but everything is very predictable and some passages are too polished for my tastes, like that schmaltzy “Up where we belong” (from the movie Officer and Gentleman, aaargh!) or a very reggae-ish “Summer in the city”. Now, Joe Cocker is in very good voice I must say, doing his famous and obligatory shrieks exactly like… err, at Woodstock. Granted, the skilful backing vocalists really support the whole almost permanently but Mr Cocker, 63, hasn’t lost a single bit of it despite all the compulsory excesses he did in the 1970’s, of which all biographies of any rock legends are full anyway (whether dead or alive).
And of course he does his trademark epileptic body movements, forearms and hands, playing with imaginary pianos and guitars as if it was what he had preferred to do in the first place – even if I’ve read that he used to be a drummer when he was a kid.
The gig is sometimes really like a variety show, despite the very heavy drumming (no swing so it does not mean a thing) and Gene Black’s rare guitar solos, all very perfect (did I already write that?). Little blues, little soul and sometimes it all sounds like a casino orchestra at 2am, especially when the dreadful electric piano is in action. It gets better with “N’oubliez jamais”, the audience cheering of course since there’s a few French words in that song. Then there’s that “You are so beautiful” and all women in the audience are overcome with love and sing the refrain, which sounds quite horrible I must say. And then it’s “I put a spell on you”, a bit dull I’m afraid, except for the guitar solo (geez!) and the support of the Hammond organ. The crowd likes it, that is, and Joe Cocker says, “Thank you Colmar, we’ve been on the road for so long, 40 years!”
Then the backing vocalists start to sway their hips… Yes, it’s “You can leave your hat on”, of course. Works like musical aphrodisiac it seems, as the young couples in front of us get closer to each other after Madame had made languorous eyes at Monsieur. Actually, all women in the hall seem to think they are Kim Basinger at this point, although the male part of the audience doesn’t seem to agree too much.
Then comes “The Letter”. FM sound stamped 1995 this time, a bit embarrassing but certainly less than the almost pure disco sound of “Unchain my heart” that follows. I never liked that song. They play it ponderously, which makes it longer and more painful to my ears, but the crowd stands up as one man. They like it! There is a perfect moment that is, which is the sax solo. Solos! Actually, he sounds as if he is improvising, but he probably isn’t. Improvising? C’mon!
Weeks
And finally, the grand moment a part of the crowd has been waiting for since the beginning of the show, “With a little help from my friends”. I must say he does this last song of the gig perfectly, the famous two screeches being perfectly executed, and even if it’s a shortened version it seems (not Woodstock’s 8 minutes), and doubling the tempo at the end works perfectly. Yes, all perfect now, and Joe Cocker’s voice is superb I must say, maybe it’s the Corona that’s waiting for him backstage.
Corona By the way, we found on the Web a very interesting list (well) of Mr Cocker’s requirements to all concert organisers. It reads; ‘Joe Cocker’s dressing room: to be prepared by 6 pm. Food: 1 bowl of fresh, assorted, uncut fruit (to include banana). Drinks: ice chest with lots of ice, containing only the beer. 4 litres of Evian water. 4 bottles of Gatorade (lemon lime), 8 cans of diet Coke, 8 bottles of Corona beer. Beer to be iced at 6pm, re-iced at 8pm and again at 10:45pm (“Little Help”). Clean cubed (not crushed) ice for drinks – 8pm & 10:45, only beer to be iced. After show: (approx. 10 minutes after the end of the show), one serving of traditional Shepherds pie, with a side of baked beans will be required each show night after the performance. To be advised by the Tour Manager if needed. Fresh clean ice for drinks after show.’ Well, all that plus what’s to be prepared on stage (20 cans of beer for the whole band, diet Sprite, Evian, Gatorade and so on.) They are heavy on drinks it seems!
But it’s time for the first encore, a song that I didn’t know - quite good - and then “Cry me a river”, where the drummer sounds like if he was with the Spinal Tap. The crowd cheers, so there’s going to be a second encore, John Fogerty’s beautiful “Long as I can see the light”, from Joe Cocker’s latest album “Hymn for my soul”. A small part of the audience hisses (pearls before swine, *ssh*les!) but it really is the best part of the show. I’d love to go see Mr Cocker singing only this kind of music, I’m sure he would be brilliant. But like all great musicians he’s probably a prisoner of his repertoire…
«We love you, keep rocking, we’ll be back!» are Joe Cocker’s last words before he leaves the stage for good, and probably for more beer, ending a true live encyclopaedia of soul rock hits. Mrs Serge tells me that she didn’t know that Joe Cocker had created so many hits, so I feel I have to tell her that what we just heard was some Creedence Clearwater Revival (-who?), and that what we had heard before was some Beatles (-ah!), some Julie London (-who?), some Box Tops (-who?), some Screamin' Jay Hawkins (-who?), some Aretha Franklin (-rings a bell!), some Lovin’ Spoonful (-who?) or some Buffy Sainte-Marie (-who?). Yes, Mrs Serge isn't into rock and roll. As for Joe Cocker, sure he delivered (“a touching and sincere travel though time” wrote the local press), but again, we’d have preferred something less polished. Maybe less professional and less for all public, in fact, just like what he was probably doing in that Sheffield pub where he used to play in the early sixties. But that’s being a bit too demanding I guess. Sorry. - Serge Rock and Roll
     
Listen to Creedence's beautiful original Long as I can see the light.mp3
 
Hazelburn

TASTING – TWO 1997 HAZELBURNS

Hazelburn 8 yo 1997/2006 (58.4%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve, 288 bottles) Colour: brown-mahogany. Nose: powerful and starting all on coffee, prunes and tangerine liqueur. One of these new young malts filled in heavily sherried casks and that get almost black within months. Pleasant smokiness in the background, whiffs of paper and cardboard, meat (barbecued beef).

Gets seriously vinous after a moment, with also hints of dried parsley. Faint chemical notes arising after a few minutes (ginger tonic, lemonade). More and more cinchona, Campari, Schweppes… And more and more gravy and oxtail. Really thick on the nose but certainly not uninteresting. Not unlike Loch Dhu in a certain way, only much nicer! Mouth: extremely strong, extremely winey, as thick as it can get but not really oily or fat. Pipe juice, pudding… Clearly an infusion of something, or a mixture of ristretto coffee, Kahlua, chocolate sauce, plum jam, cherry liqueur, soy sauce and orange liqueur. Then you cook all that to get even higher concentration. What’s quite amazing is that it’s quite drinkable, even sort of pleasant. A little cranberry and pomegranate juice brings a little freshness to the whole. Finish: rather long, still big and thick but getting sort of cleaner, with something like armagnac-soaked prunes remaining on your palate. Extreme and interesting! 82 points.
Hazelburn 1997/2006 (59.2%, OB, private bottling, Specially bottled for Brewing & Jahnel, cask #1037) Colour: amber. Nose: much more elegant I’d say, more restrained, with the spirit character managing to come through here (well, what I think is distillery character). Shoe polish, paraffin, roasted nuts… A little smoke and again these bold meaty notes after that (English brown sauce). And now these ‘chemical’ notes again, but I wouldn’t say it’s a problem at all here, quite the contrary (tonic, bitter orange liqueur, Campari and such). Maybe kind of whacked globally, in the sense that it’s anything but classic whisky… Which deserves at least polite applause I’d say. Mouth: closer to the Cadenhead’s but cleaner and, again, more elegant. Very nice oakiness, lots of chocolate (milk and bitter), more tannins that gives it a better structure and kind of nervousness… More fresh fruits as well (oranges) – and more spices (big notes of cloves and quite some pepper). Good stuff I must say, rather convincing, except if you don’t like heavy whiskies. Long finish, a little fresher than the Cadenhead’s, cleaner… Good, whisky, good cask. And still quite extreme. Only problem, it’s hard to taste anything else after these monsters, except maybe a heavily sherried young peat monster. Rollerball. 84 points.
 

August 13, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
 
Port Ellen

TASTING – TWO HIGH OCTANE PORT ELLENS

Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2007 (59.6%, The Whisky Fair, sherry butt, 509 bottles) In a certain way, it’s great to have a tempo di mierda these days, that gives us the occasion to try our most warming whiskies right in the middle of summer. Colour: white wine. Nose: phew, this is extremely powerful! (nice notes of golden delicious apples and lemonade, though). So powerful that we’ll add a little water right away.

Right, this is definitely not a very smoky and peaty Port Ellen. It’s more on almondy notes as well as more apples, apple skin, wet chalk, shoe polish, a distant sherry (more echoes of it), sultanas… The peat smoke is more here as seasoning so to speak. And always litres of lemonade… Quite different from most Port Ellens we’re used to but still great. Mouth (neat): fab, really fab. Drinkable if you take very small sips, all on lemon, almonds, marzipan and all sorts of smoked ‘things’ plus notes of sultanas, probably from the sherry (certainly no first fill, that is). With water: same flavours, just toned down. Lemon, marzipan, sultanas, apples… The balance is perfect and the whisky tastes somewhat like if it had spent twenty years in glass (typical OBE on old Islayers). Surprising! Anyway, another very good, and very interesting PE by Carsten and gang. No wonder he’s a big PE collector. Very solid – and valid – cask selection. 91 points.
Port Ellen 15 yo 1969/1985 (64.7%, G&M for Intertrade) A rather young Port Ellen from the very first years since last reopening, and at very high strength! Let’s fasten our seatbelts… Colour: pale gold. Nose: superb notes of roasted coffee beans when holding my glass at a good 10cm away from my nose as well as newly cut apples and fresh almonds but let’s not tempt fate and add a little water… Oh yes, it’s superb. All on coal, peat, metal polish, tar (not a very bold one, that is), mint, camphor… Exceptional. Mouth (neat): hardly drinkable at full strength but the few ‘pearls’ I took into my mouth revealed fantastic notes of kumquats and pu-erh tea as well as, again, marzipan. With water: censored by the Anti-maltoporn police. Let’s just add ‘lots of salt at the long finish’ and ‘absolutely stellar’. Ah, if only G&M had not diluted whole stashes of 1969 or 1970 PE’s for their CC series (and consorts) at the time… But ‘other times, other realities’ I guess. 96 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring nobody else than Sam Myers are doing Let the good time roll.mp3 (live). Please buy all these youngsters' music! Anson
 

August 12, 2007


TASTING – FOUR BLAIR ATHOLS
Blair Athol 28 yo 1976/2004 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #7310) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts really middle-of-the-roadish, on oak, apples and faint hints of camphor. Gets slightly winey and gingery after a while but I’m afraid that there’s not much else. Maybe hints of mint and eucalyptus. Not much thrill. Mouth: no, this one doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Sort of dirty, oddly gingery (ginger beer), cardboardy, woody and bitter… A miss I think, even if the finish is a little nicer, sort of citrusy but still a little sour (wood). 76 points.
Blair AThol Blair Athol 27 yo 1976/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 172 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Nose: this is sherry! Toasted, roasted, raisiny, orangey, delicately winey… Fab notes of espresso after a moment, roasting peanuts, chocolate cake that juts came out of the oven… Then it gets all on the finest orange liqueurs, pipe smoke, a little tar, leather polish… Brilliantly smoky and toasted. It would be hard not to love this one.
Mouth: yes! Take everything above and add notes of liquorice allsorts and red currant jam and you get the picture. Very entertaining and not thick at all despite the strong sherry. I love it. 91 points (and thanks, Carsten).
Blair Athol 29 yo 1977/2006 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #36852, 266 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: quite vibrant but very buttery and vanilled, with notes of wet wood, earth, oak, toasted bread again… Winey again but also a little sour, mouldy. It seems that the wood and its previous content took more than their share here, yet it’s not too drying on the nose. Mouth: much, much better now. Punchy, oaky but nicely, very peppery and gingery, I’d say it’s a very good oak tisane. Good sweetness and lots of spices (cloves, ginger of course, something like paprika…) Lots of zing even if the distillery itself hasn’t got much to say here. It’s all a matter of cask it seems. 83 points.
Blair Athol 30 yo 1976/2006 (54.9%, C&S Dram Collection, cask #7312, 132 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: underwhelmingly woody and silent at the same time. The Samaroli at cask strength (please see above). Nose: same plus notes of rotting oranges, bubblegum and sour wood. Well, it’s drinkable whisky but we’re expecting a little more from a 30yo SMSW. 75 points.
MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: I really like Bess Bonnier's deep yet fragile voice a lot. Try for instance her beautiful Sonnet XVIII (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day).mp3... Cool, isn't it? (is it Stan Getz' s younger brother on the sax?) Please buy Bess Bonnier's music! Bes Bonnier
 

August 11, 2007


Macduff

TASTING – TWO MACDUFFS

Macduff 12 yo (40%, James MacArthur, late 1980’s) Colour: pale straw. Nose: plain weird, on glue, varnish, plastic, vinegar… Artichokes? Asparagus cooking water? Cabbage? Mouth: as weak, beerish (and bearish) and cardboardy as it can get. Not too far from a disaster. Finish: none, which is rather good news. One of the very few real misses by this reputable bottler (the same that bottled maybe the best Port Ellen and Caol Ila ever, imagine). 30 points.

Macduff 16 yo 1991/2007 (59.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #6731, 180 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this is bizarre! Really powerful but starts on asparagus almost like the 12 yo. Also quite some cut cactus, cooked artichokes again, tinned palm hearts… Really on vegetables, which is sort of funny and very unusual to say the least. I must confess I’m not familiar with Macduff (or Glen Deveron), so maybe that’s the distillery’s profile. Oh, did I mention turnips? But maybe water will make it change… Well, it got mashier and also a little more cardboardy, with also notes of ginger and wet hay. Mouth (neat): sweeter and fruitier, hot and punchy but not aggressive, more on tinned pineapples, oranges, malt and liquorice. With water: it got really enjoyable, even if a little simple. Nice notes of yellow peaches. The tinned pineapple is still very present. Finish: rather long, fruity and spirity, quite clean in fact. ‘No vegetables’ (sounds like a Frank Zappa tune). All these vegetables on the nose are really funny, hence my 78 points for this interesting whisky. Good idea to bottle this as an example of something very, well, vegetal (but only one the nose).
MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: something different for, well, a change, it's the great baritone saxophonist Claire Daly and a bunch of friends playing Theme for the Eulipions/ What We Got Against Tyranny.mp3 (with Napoleon Maddox being the human beat box and Kirpal Gordon on 'spoken word'). I like that, please buy Claire Daly's music. Claire Daly
 

August 10, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
 
TASTING – THREE OLD DALMORES
Dalmore
Dalmore 25yo (43%, OB, 1970's) Colour: full amber. Nose: superbly sherried, nutty, smoky and fruity albeit quite dry at first nosing. Extremely elegant, well-matured, developing on dried oranges and unlit cigarettes, then old leather, hot roasted chestnuts and hints of old rancio and ham. Game (wild boar terrine). Also dried mint leaves, a little camphor and quite some quince jelly. Not really big actually, all restraint and elegance. Mouth: quite punchy! Slightly oily mouth feel, then loads of bigarreaux cherries, raspberry jam, fruit ganache… It gets then nuttier and more honeyed (honeyed cashew?) but the sherry remains quite strong even if it’s all perfectly integrated. Finish: medium long but beautifully dry, quite salty, toasted, pleasantly coffeeish. A wonderful old sherried malt that’s still got lots to tell us. Very salty aftertaste. 90 points.
Dalmore 33 yo 1973/2006 (45%, OB, Cabernet Sauvignon Finish, 1000 bottles) It’s not that often that we microwave PR stuff from the industry but we’re happy to report that this one was transferred on the 11th of July, 2006 to Chateau Haut Marbuzet Cabernet Sauvignon wine butts (uh?) to provide The Ultimate Finish (ah!). There are real gold leaf stag heads gilded onto bottle, packaged within a walnut embossed presentation box (wow!) I’d add that sources vary on the previous wood, a famous retailer in England talking about American White Oak whereas another famous retailer in Scotland ‘prefers’ second fill Oloroso sherry butts. Maybe it was both? Dalmore’s website doesn’t know of this bottling yet, that is. It is also to be noted that Haut-Marbuzet (with an hyphen, guys) is a well reputed St-Estèphe, albeit only a Cru Bourgeois (not a Cru Classé). Haut-Marbuzet
The price of Haut-Marbuzet as ‘primeur’ for a 2006 is 25 Euros a bottle (Mouton or Margaux are priced at 450 Euros a bottle, just to give you an idea). No, no ideas about Pétrus yet. But that’s enough wine prattle (but they started it first ;-)), let’s try this fantamagnibulous new Dalmore… Colour: dark amber with orangey/reddish hues. Nose: no wine, rather ultra-bold notes of varnish to start with, getting then slightly minty and camphory. Goes on with even bolder notes of old rum (really, it smells more of rum than whisky), incense, sandalwood, guignolet (cherry liqueur) and finally vanilla crème and arranged rum (dark rum with sliced bananas and pineapples). Gets a little less extravagant with time but also very slightly beefy. No odd winey note that I can get, the whole being a success on the nose I think. Mouth: we have the same heavy woodiness at the start, with these varnishy notes, lots of tannins and toasted bread, huge notes of liquorice sticks. Also bitter chocolate, unsugared black tea, cinnamon… We’ve also got a little more wine here but it doesn’t stay apart at all (big notes of blackcurrant leaves)… The finish is very long but very oaky, still sort of varnishy, tannic, drying… Yet, all that wood sort of works here, but you have to like this style. You can feel that something unusual happened to this old whisky! 87 points.
Dalmore 35 yo 1965/2000 (53.1%, Big Market Berlin, 130 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: exactly the opposite! The same kind of varnishy, woody notes actually but with less balance and less extravagance. Gets better with time, that is, with notes of earl grey tea, cut grass, herbal teas, mint… Faint soapiness, or is it something like fusel oil? Rubber? Also a little camphor, but it’s a very discreet oldie. With a few drops of water: not only it’s still very woody, but it got watery at roughly 45%, as if the spirit had vanished. Strange… Mouth: extremely woody and tannic, and it is not pleasant here. Hints of bubblegum and marshmallows but the tannins (of a very peppery sort) really dominate the spirit. With water: no-no. Finish: not long, dry, tea-ish. Drinkable but not really enjoyable. On the wane when it was bottled I think. 70 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: in the mood for some true Cuban salsa in the good old Fania tradition? Oaky, let's listen to Estrella Acosta singing Camina y ven.mp3 then (I think that's the name of the song - not sure). Please buy her music... Estrella
 

August 9, 2007


Hunter

CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
JAMES HUNTER AND HIS BAND
The Jazz Café, Camden, London, August 1st 2007

Summer’s come to London – or to be more accurate London’s gone in search of the summer. The place feels deserted – empty early morning streets, desolate school playgrounds, spare seats on the trains. This seasonal exodus is the only reason I can think of to explain the fact that the Jazz Café is only about two thirds full for this first of two nights of the superb James Hunter and his band. Hunter’s album. ‘People Gonna Talk’, was one of the highlights of 2006, and it earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album. It also topped the Billboard charts in the US. It’s a brilliantly constructed piece of 1960s style R&B – think Sam Cooke and you wouldn’t be too far from the spot – recorded at Liam Watson’s Toe Rag Studios, which specialises in using analogue recording equipment (Watson also hosted the White Stripes for Elephant). The result for Hunter is perfect – too perfect for some, who accuse him of being a nostalgic imitator with little original talent. Not fair I would say – there’s a real contemporary verve about the record and the songs, all original compositions, are witty and pleasingly lyrical (“Strike me dead if I don’t love you, and I’d be damned if I do”).

Hunter’s been around for years – he’s 43 so fame has taken some time to arrive, a reward for persistence. One of his former incarnations was as ‘Howling Wilf and the Veejays’, and he was also well known on the busking scene in London before the early nineties when he was taken under the wing of Van Morrison, with whom he performed for a number of years. Having got his band together the album emerged as a result of their playing at a private party thrown by a friend in New York. Fortune, it is said, favours the brave.

He hits the stage like a rod of lightning (what do they put in the dressing room tea these days?) and spends the rest of the evening working through the album’s fourteen songs, throwing in a few old ones along the way. The band are as tight as a … well, uncharacteristic sensitivity prevents me from completing the metaphor – but they are. Drums, double bass, keyboards, and on tenor and baritone sax the Barlinnie Twins – Damian Hands and Lee Badau – a heady combination of note to note perfection.   Barlinnie Twins
Hunter rasps out his vocals and plays with an absurd guitar technique – trying to be both rhythm and lead at one and the same time. It looks ugly – all fingers and thumbs – but sounds fantastic. Afterwards, not quite an interview, I ask “James. Thinking about your guitar technique, it’s highly idiosyncratic, very unusual, and frankly probably not what people expect to see. What made you play the guitar like that?” “Mental illness” he replied.
Well, our guests, Big Bobby and Little Claire are going mental at the vibe. The house is rocking – Hunter’s doing old-time Mississippi guitar tricks and even playing that Gibson with his teeth - and it feels like this is what a summer’s night really ought to be. You should catch Mr Hunter if you get the chance, and at worst you should buy the album. Whiskyfun readers in the United States – he’s heading your way. Treat him with the respect he deserves. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick, I must confess that I had never heard of Mr Hunter before. Thanks for having drawn our attention to his music (aren't there a few rocksteady influences somewhere?) of which we have several great examples on his MySpace page. - S.
 
EBAY BUYERS BEWARE!
Empties
These lots have just been sold on eBay! We can’t imagine anybody being crazy enough to hand out 141 Euros plus postage (yes) for eight empty bottles of whisky, so we’re quite afraid that they will reappear one day… But full! So you may prefer to ask for close-up pictures of the necks and capsules if you spot any of those at future auctions, and maybe tend to buy only what’s delivered with original boxes (thanks Luc). While I’m at it, if you ever get broken bottles via courier or the post, don’t forget to check if the corks or screwcaps are still ‘unviolated’. If they aren’t, it’s probably a forgery (either the liquid was stolen during transportation, or it wasn’t there in the first place). Mad, mad world…
 
Glen Grant DT

TASTING – THREE NEW 1970 GLEN GRANTS BY DUNCAN TAYLOR

Glen Grant 36 yo 1970/2007 (45.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Old, cask #3493) From a bourbon cask, distilled in May. Colour: gold. Nose: wow, this is uberfruity! Loads of peaches, melons, apricots, gooseberries… And then the oaky counterpoint, all subtle, that mingles with the fruitiness after a few seconds, with an added layer of fresh herbs (a little dill, a little mint). Superbly simple and simply superb. We’re more used to old heavily sherried Glen Grants but this one may prove that it might sometimes be a shame. Mouth: we had feared the oak would have killed the fruitiness but it’s nothing of the sort. All on white fruits (pears, ripe apples, peaches) and soft spices (white pepper, cinnamon), with much more oomph than expected. Finish: long, getting spicier, more peppery but never drying, with funny muscaty notes in the aftertaste. In short, probably not the most complex old malt but at 36 years it’s still perfectly steady on its feet. And what a nose! 91 points.

Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (49.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Old, cask #3490) A sister cask of the previous one. Colour: gold (slightly paler than cask #3493). Nose: well, this one is more directly marked by the oak and starts more on vanilla, coffee, lactones and cinnamon as well as hints of cloves and nutmeg. Gets spicier and spicier with time but the fruitiness never makes it through those spices from the wood. So, it’s extremely, and unexpectedly different from its ex-neighbour but certainly not less good. Maybe a tad less interesting. Mouth: we’re closer to its sister cask now. The extra 4% make it punchier, that is. Also a bit spicier and woodier again in fact (more nutmeg). Finish: longer but woodier, still not really drying that is. Excellent again but maybe a bit less interesting. 88 points.
Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (49.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Old, cask #861) Distilled in Februray and filled into sherry wood it seems. Let’s do our maths, cask #861 in February, cask #3490 in May, that should mean that Glen Grant filled 2,600 casks within 3 months in 1970. I know, not that we care too much… Colour: mahogany. Nose: ho-ho, once more, this is completely different. Starts on beautiful coffee and cocoa notes, antiques shop, ‘good’ varnish, roasted nuts and develops on more resinous and slightly minty/camphory notes. Little vinosity, no sweetness, it’s all on dry coffee and I like that. Very elegant. (slight smokiness and meatiness after a moment, very discreet). Mouth: yes yes yes, another great old sherried Glen Grant even if the attack is a bit more jammy/winey than the nose. Blackcurrant jelly, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, sugared coffee (slight acidity). Faint hints of rubber. Gets seriously resinous after a moment (Retsina). Finish: very long, still on blackcurrants, both oloroso and PX sherry, liqueur-filled chocolate… Maybe a bit heavy at this stage in fact but the whole is just another excellent old sherried Glen Grant. Just keep them coming! 90 points.
 

August 8, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
 
TASTING – FOUR JURAS
Jura
Isle of Jura 1989/2006 (43%, Private Cellar Collection) Colour: straw. Nose: very sweet and very malty, quite buttery and extremely fruity (banana crème, orange cake). There’s a distinct smokiness in the background, maybe it was one of these ex-Islay casks they use sometimes on Jura, and that can impart quite a smokiness to the whisky. Other than that this one is also a little toasted. Hints of cigarette tobacco. Harmless but very pleasant I must say. Mouth: very coherent, extremely malty and cereally again (like if you ate a whole box of (no brand name, thanks). Add to that a few sultanas, very ripe bananas again, marzipan-stuffed dates (I know, I know) as well as dried figs and you’ll get a very enjoyable dram. Nice honey as well. Finish: rather long, just as cereally and candied. Most funnily, this is an IB that tastes like an OB, whatever that means. Not big but perfectly composed. 84 points.
Isle of Jura 16 yo (40%, OB, circa 2006) A very funny rather new bottle! First, on the neck label there’s a stamp stating that the bottle is from the ‘Vintage Collection’ (but there no vintage stated whatsoever) – ha, magic words! – and on another small label they write that it’s ‘distilled in paradise’. We agree much more on this… ;-). Colour: gold-orange (the colour of c……l). Nose: slight soapiness right at first nosing but then we have more or less the same whisky as the 1989, just with a little more caramel and something maybe a little too candied or rounded. Good spirit. Jura 16
Mouth: I decided to try this one in second position because of the darker colour (silly me) but it’s a little weaker than the 1989 actually, even if the heavy notes of treacle toffee sort of lift the whole. It’s also quite malty again, candied, toasted (toasted cake), honeyed… The caramelly notes are a little too much, that is. Also lots of peanut butter and maple syrup. Finish: not too long but very candied again, toffeeish, jammy… and extremely malty. I like a little more freshness in my Jura, but isn’t paradise sometimes represented as a candy shop? 81 points. I like the 21yo much better (85).
Isle of Jura 1988/2007 'The Delmé-Evans Select' (59.98%, OB, Oloroso, cask #1796, 757 bottles, Feis Ile 2007) Mr Delmé-Evans was the manager and architect who designed the new distillery. I’m sure he did worst things in his life. The whisky came from American white oak (is that bourbon?) and was re-racked from into a European oloroso sherry butt (is that finishing?). Phew… Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts on loads of porridge and loads of caramel. Very heavy and very spicy – and rather oddly perfumy I must say. Yoghurt sauce, caramel crème… And quite some sulphur I’m afraid (but some like it sulphury). Rather thick and, I must say, hard. Mouth: rough, thick, vinous… I’d say ‘cloying’ even if that may be too strong a word. Other than that all the very mashy notes are well here behind that heavy mask. Let’s stop it here because sincerely, this is too much for my taste. I feel this ‘treatment’ is excessive and I doubt that even a young Ardbeg would have survived under these conditions. Too bad, we’ve had many great sherried Juras before, and I’m sure we’ll have many other ones in the future. But this one doesn’t really click for me (especially at £95). 69 points.
Isle of Jura 1975 (60.9%, OB, Matthew Forrest Collection, cask #2620, 192 bottles, circa 2002) Matthew Forrest was specialised in sourcing ‘official’ casks for the Japanese market. I think it’s him who revealed the famous very young peated Juras to the world. Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts all on grass and coffee and that may well be the high alcohol. Also whiffs of wet newspaper of the day (lots of ink) and shoe polish, but it’s a bit pungent, let’s add water right away. An extreme saponification takes place. In case you don’t know yet, sometimes adding water to whisky will create smells of soap (and heat) so it’s better to wait a bit before you go on with your nosing, as those smells should quickly vanish. That’s exactly what happens here, leaving room for more rather beautiful fresh fruits (now I get mangos, papayas, quinces) as well as something very coastal such as very fresh fish, very fresh oysters, kelp… Also quite some fresh almonds. Keyword: fresh, you got it. And superb. Mouth (neat): extremely powerful but also hugely fruity (various apples including their skins, grapefruits), getting very citrusy, sharp like a blade, acrid in a nice way. This one really fires on all (twelve) cylinders, but it’s a bit too untameable. With water now (at roughly 45%): oh yes, it got even more citrusy (always these lemons and grapefruits but also tangerines and oranges). Beautiful notes of Turkish delights (not the ones for cheap tourists), mangos again, then soft spices (cloves as often with Jura, although we know that should come from the wood, not from the spirit)… Truly superb. Finish: long, on roughly the same style except for an added saltiness. A great ‘naked’ Jura, extremely classy. Good work Mr Forrest. 91 points (and thanks, Patrick S.)
Tequila SHOPPING – I shop, therefore I am! That’s what the buyer of this roughly 6 year old Ley .925 tequila may be allowed to claim as the price for one bottle is… Well, we don’t know exactly as Ley .925’s website says this

USD’s? Euros? Better decide quick as it’s not just a tiny difference anymore. Anyway, we all thought the Scots were going for premiumisation but it seems that they are really left behind here.
So, are you into tequila? Here are all details: hand-blown glass created by 32 Mexican craftsmen - Bottle capacity: 1.2 litres (1,200 millilitres) - Covered with 18 microns of pure Sterling silver .925 and an anticorrosive varnish. - 4 Kilogrammes of pure Platinum - Sterling .925 - 6,000 brilliant-cut diamonds 1 to 30 points “D” quality, purity DEF/VVS /VS - Tequila Quality: Extra Aged, 3, 6 & 9 years blended in cured barrels personally supervised by Fernando Altamirano, Tequila Ley .925 CEO - Alcohol: 42% / 84 proof - Black leather and jute case with white stitching, black chamois leather inside with the Tequila Ley .925’s logo in the centre of a white gold blazon. Approximate weight of bottle with Tequila content is 8 Kilogrammes.
Sorry, no tasting notes...

 

MUSICRecommended listening: today it's going to be the great late Katie Webster and her powerful voice singing I'm bad.mp3. Please buy her music.

Katie Webster
 

August 7, 2007


TASTING – SIX BEAUTIFUL LONGMORNS
Longmorn
Longmorn-Glenlivet 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, ‘Finest Highland Malt’, 1980’s) As you may know, I’ve got a few old books about whisky and in ‘The Whiskies of Scotland’ by R.S.J. McDowall, published 1967, the author wrote about Longmorn, ‘The whisky, sold at 70° proof, has perhaps not the rich flavour of Smith’s Glenlivet or Macallan’s but it has an outstanding bouquet worthy of a brandy glass after dinner. A mixture of these whiskies with Longmorn with perhaps a dash of Clynelish makes what is probably the best possible drink in the world.’ We’ll try that one day! But back to this ‘single’ Longmorn…We already had the ‘Pure Malt’ version of this 12yo by G&M, that we liked a lot (87). Colour: gold. Nose: a perfect combination of apple juice, freshly squeezed oranges, malt, honey, yellow flowers (buttercups, dandelions) and whiffs of wood smoke. Quite superb, very fresh, clean and complex. Mouth: yes! Granted, it’s no bold whisky but it’s got quite some oomph, starting again on orange juice and honey and developing on figs, dates, cereals, roasted nuts, with a rather huge and enjoyable maltiness. Again something smoky on top of that and also quite some oak. Finish: quite long, on malt and honey, with hints of salt. The palate is maybe less complex than the nose but the whole makes for a rather perfect dram. I’m a fan of this version. 87 points.
Longmorn 15 yo (43%, OB, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to the 12yo, with just added hints of shoe polish and metal, and maybe a faint soapiness and a little cardboard. Mouth: rounder, creamier than the 12yo, with certainly more body and it’s not only the added 3% alcohol. Also a little more oak and spices (I get quite some nutmeg and cinnamon). Dried oranges, toasted bread, cereals, old walnuts… Truly classic. Rather long finish, very malty, maybe just a tad too drying (slightly tannic aftertaste). Very good again, maybe a tad less pleasurable (and drinkable) than the 12 yo. 86 points.
Longmorn 30 yo 1973/2004 (51.1%, Duncan Taylor, bourbon, cask #8919, 137 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: less demonstrative than the old youngsters but certainly subtler at first nosing, starting on a rather delicate mix of vanilla crème and Longmorn’s trademark fruitiness (butter pears, not too ripe bananas). But it’s also very floral just like them (dandelions, nectar), with also notes of oriental pastry (baklava, honey, orange blossom water) and whiffs of incense. Maybe a little musk, old roses… Quite beautiful even if, again, not really wham-bam. Mouth: all fruits and spices! Again these bananas and tangerines, Chinese anise, cinnamon… A little fructose. Goes on with rose jam, gewürztraminer, eucalyptus honey… More demonstrative on the palate than on the nose. Loads of pleasure. Finish: medium long but still very fruity, with a whispering oak and just hints of soft curry. Keywords: fruits and pleasure. 90 points.
Longmorn 31 yo 1976/2007 (54.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 131 bottles) Colour: gold (slightly darker than the 1973). Nose: it is from a bourbon cask, yet I get something like sherry at first nosing, which sometimes happens. Other than that, I’d say it’s a slightly rougher and oakier version. We have the same expressive fruitiness (maybe a tad more on oranges here), yellow flowers, various honeys, quite some vanilla… And then, as said, the oak with it’s spicy cortege (cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, hints of cloves). Classic but I feel maybe it’s got a little more to tell us, let’s ad a few drops of water to it. Right, it got more complex indeed, with added notes of rosewood, pear skin, leather, even a little pine resin. Fab. Mouth (neat): just great now! Perfect balance between the usual huge fruitiness and the oak (and the spices). Ripe gooseberries, butter pears, papayas and melons mixed with ginger, pepper and cloves. Just excellent. With water it got added notes of various herbal teas (I get mostly hawthorn and rosehip). Finish: longer than the 1973’s, probably thanks to the oak. Even better and anything but tired at 31 years of age. One of the winners of The Whisky Fair’s latest batch of bottlings I think – this is why we’re into whisky. 92 points.
Longmorn 1973/2003 (55.8%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask Collection’, cask #3240) From a first fill sherry hogshead. Colour: deep amber. Nose: as the Belgians would say, ‘whauhhh!’ – or something like that. Starts on an extraordinary blend of pipe tobacco (like Dunhill’s famous early morning pipe – I prefer early morning whisky), old leather and orange or tangerine liqueur. Develops on hints of oyster sauce and old cognac, getting sort of more winey with time. Also big notes of dried figs (and good arrak). All that is ultra clean despite what you make think. Really brilliant. Mouth: an astounding fruitiness mixed with all sorts of nuts, both roasted and fresh. Also toasted brioche, coffee-flavoured toffee and old Banyuls and Rivesaltes. Notes of old rancio, definitely. Maybe just a tad drying and tannic at some point. Finish: long, bold, candied, honeyed, nutty… In short, truly very excellent. Too bad it’s a bit drying on the palate, otherwise I’d have rated it even above 91 points. The nose was stunning. (And thanks, Fabrice) Attention, wrong picture, it's a "white label" not a green one (thanks, Govert!)
Longmorn 18 yo 1971/1990 (58.1%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola) This series is an intriguing one. Some versions are really underwhelming (the Port Ellen) but others are just fabulous, like this one I’ve heard. Let’s see… Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: take everything I wrote for the G&M, minus the winey notes, plus old walnuts and camphor. Result: totally brilliant Longmorn. Mouth: exceptional. All kinds of raisins, nuts, herbs (mint, dill)… Plus quite some liquorice, dried fruits, crystallised ones… and tutti quanti. ‘Just fab.’ 93 points. (and thanks, Johan.)
 
Robert Dick
MUSICJAZZ - Very heavily recommended listening - even if you're not into jazz: flutist Robert Dick plays John Coltrane's extraordinary India.mp3 with luminaries such as Regina Carter on violin, Dave Soldier or Richard Bona on bass. No wonder the result flies so high! Please buy all these people's music. (thanks to Mulatta Records)
 

August 6, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
Linkwood

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE SHERRIED 1990 LINKWOODS

Linkwood 1990/2006 (45%, Samaroli, Coilltean, sherry wood, cask #4203) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts quite assertively, on crystallized oranges, toffee, mocha and caramelised nuts and developing on honey, a little wood smoke, coffee and raisins. More than perfect, compact and extremely satisfying. Very clean sherry. Mouth: very beautiful sherry again, very candied and toffeeish, not winey at all. Again lots of sultanas, cappuccino, crystallised oranges, vanilla fudge. Pure confectionery. Finish: more of the same and for a rather long time, with added notes of liquorice allsorts. Pure pleasure. 87 points.
Linkwood 1990/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, fresh sherry, MM 4800) Colour: full gold. Nose: close to the Samaroli, just a little drier and maybe a tad more nervous and faintly meaty. Just as nice globally. Mouth: again, the same as the Samaroli, with maybe a little more ‘responsiveness’ (could it be the 1%?) and a little more fresh fruits (oranges, bananas). Same very pleasant finish. Why give this one a different rating? 87 points.
Linkwood 16 yo 1990/2007 (58.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #5038, 283 bottles) Colour: pale amber. Nose: more spirity of course and a little silent at first nosing but starting to get closer to the ‘lower strength versions’. Same notes of raisins, toffee, orange marmalade, honey… A little more sulphur in this one. With water: more on all things orangey, including cake and orange blossom water. Mouth (neat): even closer to the two lightweights but with more of everything this time, especially spices and maple syrup. Easily drinkable without water but let’s try it with a few drops… It gets even better, really tasting like everything in a candy shop plus quite some cloves and a little cinnamon. Perfect sherry and whisky association, only for pleasure. Perfect balance and compactness. 89 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening: guitarist Sir Richard Bishop (by Appointment To Her Majesty, The Queen) plays Burning caravan.mp3 (from his CD Salvador Kali). Please buy his music.

Sir Richard Bishop
 

August 5, 2007


Glen Scotia

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – A FEW GLEN SCOTIAS

Glen Scotia 13 yo 1992/2005 (43%, Signatory, cask #305, 761 bottles) Matured in refill butt. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very pleasant at first nosing, starting on vanilla yoghurt, caramel crème, muesli and dried pears. Then there’s a little smoke, hints of tar, white rum… Really smells like a rum matured malt. Very enjoyable on the nose. Mouth: excellent attack, smoked and fruity (pears, white peaches), rather phenolic. Cough gums, pu-erh tea, thyme… It’s also quite malty and yes, again, we have notes of young rum. A great surprise. Finish: sweeter, rather long, still quite smoky, with something mineral and hints of tinned pineapples. Very entertaining and certainly a bang for your buck bottle. Worth chasing down if you ask me… 87 points.
Glen Scotia 14 yo 1991/2005 (46%, Murray McDavid, Guigal Hermitage Blanc, 3500 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the wine strikes right at first nosing but as it’s great wine (maybe Guigal's 'ex-voto'?) the sensation is great. Whiffs of high-end emptied barrel, flints, toasts, green tea, mushrooms, old Muscat wine… Frankly, I don’t quite know what’s the whisky’s part here but the end result is superb on the nose. By the way, did I tell you I love white hermitages? Mouth: just like on the nose, it’s the wine that does all the talking. Sweet, rounded but not dull at all, slightly muscaty again, discreetly smoky, spicy just like these wines are (hints of rosemary and lavender sweets)… A true winesky but one that worked out pretty well. Finish: quite long, still spicy and sweet/fruity (blackberry jam)… I’m wondering whether the smokiness comes from the whisky or from the wine – and I’d be curious to learn what Robert Parker Jr. or other wine gurus would think of this one. I say 87 points again.
Glen Scotia 1973/1996 (40%, OB, bulky bottle) Colour: gold. Nose: not very powerful to say the least but it starts on nice notes of beeswax, pollen and dried flowers. Great notes of old wardrobe, marzipan, something antique, quite refined. Also notes of very old Muscat wine, hints of dried figs… Quite complex, this one. Too bad it’s slightly weakish. Mouth: seriously weaker now, a little acrid and peppery but there’s also nice notes of dried fruits in the background as well as a little honey. Caramelised walnuts. Probably less complex than on the nose. Finish; not very long but getting better, fruity and candied. Gets also a little tannic, alas… But the nose was really interesting, hence my 86 points.
Glen Scotia And also Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61,6%, Adelphi, cask #1071, 255 bottles) Nose: pears and farmyard. Mouth: apples, all sorts of fruit eaux-de-vie. Hot. Finish on distillation, fruit eaux de vie. 82 points.
MUSICRecommended listening:
It's Sunday, we go classical with the excellent Soldier Quartet (aka the Ramones of classical music) playing Gershwin's Prelude.mp3 with no less than Myra Melford on piano. Don't worry, nothing to do with the Ramones actually. Please buy their music. Soldier
 

August 4, 2007


Auchroisk

TASTING – TWO AUCHROISKS

Singleton of Auchroisk 10yo (43%, OB, +/-2000) Many versions of this early ‘Singleton’ were vintage ones but this one wasn’t. Colour: full gold. Nose: a very malty, honeyed and nutty start, with a rather short but pleasant development on orange marmalade, with whiffs of ginger tonic and stout beer. And quite some caramel. Mouth: very soft, grainy, caramelly, cereally, nutty… And a little weak I must say. Nice notes of honey but the whole lacks body. Finish: short, a little malty and coffeeish. Not enough to make us plunder the shops that still have these ones on their shelves these days. 72 points.

Auchroisk 16 yo 1990/2007 (59.8%, C&S Dram Collection, cask #13820, 516 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: quite raw, spirity and less mature than expected, with loads of pears and apples as well as quite some porridge, mashed potatoes and vanilla-flavoured yoghurt. Let’s try it with a little water… No, not much else, except maybe peaches but also hints of rubber. Mouth (neat): extremely young and fruity (pears and pineapples) like a very young malt and a little pepper. With water: it got finally better, with much more different fruits (now I get gooseberries, melon, kiwi…) and pleasant touches of fresh vanilla. Finish: long, still very fruity and more peppery. In short, a little average and immature I think but drinkable, provided you add quite some water to it. 75 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
(yeah, that was a bit cliché...)
MUSICRecommended listening: whose guitar is it on Goin' down slow.mp3? That's right, Mike Bloomfield's, with Electric Flag, in 1968 I believe. Stunning, isn't it? Please buy these people's works... Mike Bloomfield
 

August 3, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
 
TASTING – TWO PEATY VATTINGS
Lapbeg Lapbeg 75/25 8 yo 1998 (48%, MacY, Denmark, Butt #2, 900 bottles) A vatting of 75% Laphroaig and 25% Ardbeg. Colour: white wine. Nose: full peat mode, punto basta. Smoke, ashes, oysters, wet stones, smoked tea, lemon juice… Ultra-clean. Smells stronger than just 48%. Simple but classy stuff, we don’t always need complexity when the profile is perfect.
Mouth: less demonstrative now but still balanced. The peat is sort of rounded off and so is the smokiness. A little acacia honey, apple compote with cinnamon, smoked tea again, a little candy sugar… It’s at the long finish that the peat strikes back, together with a little pineapple syrup (sign of young age in my books) and a little pepper. More civilized than on the nose but still quite, well, assertive. Another perfect Islayer for your (silver) hipflask, but no sherry despite the butt. The Danes did it properly, as expected. 87 points. (and thanks Al and Carsten-H.)
Pillage 2005 12 yo (55.8%, OB’s, Lagavulin Fundraisers) Each year, a few friends and distillers sail and row between the distilleries of Jura, Islay and Bushmills and pillage whisky en route and then sell the vatting of all for charity. It seems that in 2005, they managed to gather no less than £40,000 for children's hospice in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Kudos to them. Colour: gold. Nose: very nice! It seems that there’s a lot of smoke but not too much peat, which is unusual under these latitudes. Granted, there’s quite some peat in fact (Lagavulin sort of stands out) but also nice vanilla, gingerbread, hints of mangos and bananas (could that be Bushmills?), wood smoke, a little coal, pepper… And kiwis? Really super. Mouth: a very successful blend of Islay’s south shore and of its gentler colleagues from Ireland, Jura and Islay. Actually, it’s so nicely composed that it’s hard to believe that it’s not a master blender who made it and that it’s a vatting done almost at random instead. Really??? Superb fruitiness, mangos, guavas, passion fruits… Plus the peat and loads of various spices (dozens)… It’s extremely drinkable, probably one of the best vatted malts I ever had (together with John Glaser’s Flaming Heart). Finish: long, sort of soothing, ideally balanced between the peat and the fruits. And, of course, a little salt. Just great, 91 points (one of the points is for the idea). Quick, let’s start to experiment with home vattings of Lagavulin and Bushmills…

 

MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: let's be bit cliché today... Take your favourite dram, sit in your favourite armchair, close your eyes and click on Diane Schuur's perfect interpretation of New York state of mind.mp3 (well, the other way 'round). And then please buy her music...

Diane Schuur
 

August 2, 2007


CONCERT REVIEWS by Nick Morgan - TRIPLE REVIEW BONUS EXTRA!
Well with life being what it is I’ve been away from my desk for a little while, in the course of which a few reviews have been waiting to be written. And as a number of hefty gigs are looming it seemed the best way out of this problem, without doing a disservice to the artistes involved, was to write three (thankfully no doubt for some) abbreviated pieces. So here they are.
 
PAT METHENY AND BRAD MEHLDAU The Barbican, London, July 2nd 2007
Metheny Mehldau
It’s just a shame that we went to see Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau so soon after Chick Corea and Gary Burton. The latter robbed me of my sparse vocabulary of jazz descriptors and superlatives, and to re-use them again so soon would be a disservice both to you, dear reader, and to my limited literary talent. Metheny of course has been around for years – coincidentally starting his career in Gary Burton’s band – at 37 (almost to the day) Mehldau is a relative whipper-snapper. However this equally ill-matched couple – think of Garth from Wayne’s World meets British snooker ace Steve Davies – play together as if joined at the hip (more than ably supported for some of the set by Mehldau sidekicks Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy on drums). Metheny as one would expect is more forward and perhaps obvious, Mehldau’s keyboards restrained and subdued yet complex beyond belief. The result is entrancing. Well almost. Metheny plays in the classic jazz guitar style with a very full-fat and rich plectrum driven tone from his big semi-acoustic Epiphone (I think), and a lot of finger board carry-over. He occasionally plays (quite beautifully) an acoustic, and also a Roland G-303 synth guitar (which sounds like a trumpet) – but the Barney Kessel sound predominated, and to be honest became just slightly tedious. Having said that the appearance of his frankly absurd Ibanez Pikasso – a sort of cross between a guitar and several zithers, with its five sets of strings – would lead me to forgive him almost anything. What I couldn’t forgive was the overbearing steward who jumped on The Photographer as she fired off her first shot, muttering “You can’t do that, it’s copyright”. So I’m off to consult my best friends the Intellectual Property lawyers on that moot point.
 
STEELY DAN The Hammersmith Apollo, London, July 7th 2007
Steely Dan
I’d come a long way for this gig. Over thirteen hours on a jet plane to be precise, into a bomb-scared Heathrow. Home, shower, sharpener and straight out into our plush balcony seats for a Steely Dan spectacular, or as the outrageously expensive programme put it, “The Heavy Rollers Tour”. If I were to say, “Maybe I was a bit too tired …” then you might imagine what’s going to come next. So I’ll restrain myself and say first that much of the musicianship from this twelve-piece outfit was just outstanding. And if Walter Becker had a few dodgy moments on guitar then these were more than made up for by guitarist and band leader John Herrington. Nor were there many duff songs – why Becker chose to sing ‘Hawaiian divorce’ in the way he did we’ll never know, and though nice it was an unnessecary gesture to give ‘Dirty work’ to the backing vocalists, sort of throwing the song away really. What did surprise me was that there were only two songs from the Dansters’ first two albums. You see for me these were works of real genius, after which it all got a bit too clever, too slick and just like a well-practiced production line.
Steely Dan 2 Whilst I know the parallel might shock Dan fans, it is a bit like (as the Photographer suggested) 10CC, who after two and a half brilliantly accomplished and funny albums lost sight of the joke and started to take themselves too seriously. And boy these guys are so serious they’re sanitised. And though the set is presented as an American soul review, it’s actually a totally soulless affair with the band remaining as far to the back of the huge Hammersmith stage as they possible can. Audience engagement: nil. Try as I might I could only see cynicism in place of sincerity, and a granular image of Fagen and Becker counting the night’s quids in the back of a stretch-limo on their way to the next gig.
 
THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE QUEEN
 The Tower of London, London, July 9th, 2007
GBQ In case you didn’t know, or so my daughter tells me, Damon Albarn is a bit of a prodigy. He’s certainly all over the place at the moment, with the hugely successful cartoon band Gorillaz, a new opera, Monkey, a Journey to the West, and his latest project, the Good, the Bad and the Queen. The eponymous album has been something of a surprise hit (Gold within a week), and on the road the band have been receiving increasingly positive reviews.
I hope they’re good – we’re at the Tower of London (which features on the album cover) and it is, as befits an English July evening, pissing it down, cats, dogs, kitchen sinks and the lot. It’s cold too. So we take shelter by the forbidding walls of the Tower and eventually take our (flooded) seats just before the band take the stage. They are an accomplished lot – ex Verve and sometime Gorillaz guitarist Simon Tong, drum virtuoso Tony Allen and ex Clash bassist Paul Simonon (who, by the way, is responsible for the excellent drawings that come in the album’s wonderful little booklet). The songs are sinister, pessimistic (count the references to war) and largely melancholic London streetscapes and vignettes: some of it feels like a guided tour of Holloway, Islington and Camden Town. But it’s compelling and engaging, the band supported by a hauntingly powerful choir and at one stage David Coulter and his saw (on ‘Behind the sun’).
The sound is defined by Albarn’s distinctive singing, Tong’s pedal driven guitar, Allen’s surprisingly delicate drumming and most of all Simonon’s deep pounding reggae-fuelled bass playing. In fact he’s the star of the show – he’s rarely more than a foot away from Albarn and with his menacing swagger and perpetual posing he confirms that this is something from London’s darker side. It was certainly enough to scare the rain away and keep the cold from biting too deep. And I, I have to say, sat in these incongruous and damp surroundings simply engrossed by what I heard. Highly recommended. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Albarn Simonon
Damon Albarn and Paul Simonon
(GBQ website forum)
Very much sank yoo Nick (as my neighbour would say). My! A triple review! And varied, at that. That was worth waiting for your return home. We’ve got quite a program here as well in the coming days (Chemical Brothers, Smashin’ Pumpkins and Joe Cocker in a row, find the odd one out!) but I’m not sure I’ll find time to write modest reviews, as writing such pieces in English takes me a very long time if I want it to be more or less understandable. We’ll see… In the meantime, let’s listen to… Wait, Mehldau? Metherny? Steely Dan? Not Steely Dan… Why not simply The Clash and their most famous hit London calling.mp3? - S.
 
Bunnahabhain

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE NEW BUNNAHABHAINS

Bunnahabhain 29 yo 1977/2007 (45.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 108 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: an unexpectedly fresh start on a mix of tinned pineapple and herbs (sage, chive) plus quite some acacia honey and whiffs of wet newspaper (fits the weather we had over here in July). There’s also a little smoke, ashes, watermelon, hints of porridge, hay, hints of beer… Rather complex, with no obviously dominant aromas. Let’s say it’s a little wilder and farmier than most old OB’s. Mouth: a rather grassy, grainy and nicely sour attack with also quite some fruits (pears, tangerines, peaches with their skin) but the tannins start to put their stamp on the whole. Gets also quite kirschy (or is it plum spirit?) Lots of cinnamon from the wood. Finish: medium long, with the fruitiness fading away but not the tannins. It’s pleasant wood but it’s like if the spirit didn’t really stand it – on the palate, at least. Not really my cup of malt this time, but most other new TWF bottlings are excellent so no big deal. 78 points (for the rather complex nose).
Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1979/2007 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #11488, 234 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re very close to the 1977 here, although this one a little more nervous and more citrusy. Just the same notes of tinned pineapples (also pear juice), then these whiffs of wet hay, ashes, ink, cut grass, porridge… Raw wool? A striking freshness again considering this one’s age, a little sharp. Anything but ‘round’ at 27 years of age. Mouth: quite punchier than the 1977 at the start, starting on the same notes of both tinned and fresh pineapples as on the nose, melons, peaches… There’s a rather heavy oakiness again but it’s kind of spicier here, more an asset to the whisky. Cloves, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg… Finish: not extremely long again but more balanced, although the tannins start to dominate the spirit again. A good old Bunnahabhain. 84 points.
Bunnahabhain 9 yo 1997/2007 (46%, Signatory, refill butt #5274, 864 bottles) This is from the famous peated batches they made ‘for peatophiles’. Colour: almost white. Nose: as peaty as a very young Laphroaig, and relatively similar I must say, minus the medicinal and/or coastal notes. What’s left then? Well, ashes, wet stones, white peaches, white pepper, porridge, cherries, wet paper, chalk… Not complicated but pleasant, with little oak influence it seems. Mouth: simple but pleasant peat and fruits. Or let’s say peated pear juice with a little pepper. Very simple indeed but balance is achieved. Finish: medium long, in the same vein. Kind of a super-gin I’d say. I’m sure it would be brilliant on ice. 84 points (with extra-points for drinkability and ‘general feeling’).
 

August 1, 2007


TASTING – VARIOUS CAOL ILAS
Caol Ila
Caol Ila 10 yo 1995 (46%, Queen of the Moorlands, 318 bottles) You can try several of these new ’Queen of the Moorlands’ whiskies at the Lanesborough Hotel on Hyde Park Corner, London, but the prices are pretty insane over there (ever seen a 1964 Bowmore – not a Black one – at £700 for 2cl? And this is no joke!) Anyway, let’s try this (probably) more mundane Caol Ila. Colour: white wine. Nose: quite mineral and grassy, soon to get sort of chemical (aspirin) and unusually medicinal for a Caol Ila – not nicely medicinal. Quite poor in my opinion. Let’s go straight to the palate: very peaty and very peppery, quite harsh, almost pungent despite the ‘low’ strength. Little pleasure with this one, and little sweetness. The palate isn’t as terrible as the nose in fact, far from that, but it’s still very average. 78 points (still, because of its punchy attack).
Caol Ila 17 yo 1974/1991 (61.1%, Signatory, cask #5-9) Colour: straw. Nose: much straighter, crystal-clean peat and sea elements. Sea breeze, oysters, kelp… Then lemon juice, wet stones, freshly cut green apples. Hints of aniseed and dill. As pure and clean as possible. Mouth: ultra-punchy but very drinkable at such high strength. Very close to the Samaroli in fact, just a tad purer. Please see above. With a little water: extraordinary notes of high-end marzipan, butter apples, smoked salmon, dozens of various crystallised fruits… And so on. One of the greatest, utterly brilliant, will send many Ardbegs/Laphroaigs/Lagavulin back to the Peat School. 96 points (and many thanks, Konstantin)
Caol Ila 24 yo 1975/2000 (54.3%, Wilson & Morgan, millennium bottling) Colour: gold. Nose: rather discreet, grassy at first sniffs. Takes off on wood smoke (birch?) and fusel oil, cider apples and lemon juice. Hints of porridge. Notes of freshly cut grass, green tea. Funnily, there’s also notes of new make after all these years. High-end wheat beer. Lemon sweets. Excellent nose. Mouth: sweeter, bold, creamy, with beautiful balance. Maybe not very complex but the peat and crystallised lemons combo works perfectly well. Earl grey tea. Hints of strawberries. Finish: long, sweet, fruitier now (tangerines). Excellent, with a perfect balance. A sweeter old Caol Ila. 89 points.
Caol Ila 26 yo 1975/2001 (56.1%, Signatory, cask #459, 242 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: same as the W&M, just a tad sharper in style and a tad less beer-ish. Mouth: again, very close to the W&M, just a little less rounded and slightly wilder. 90 points.
Caol Ila 1981/1995 (63.1%, G&M Cask, casks #1747-50-52-53) Colour: straw. Nose: heavily alcoholised lemon juice, tequila. Really pungent, water is needed. With water: it got even grassier, with notes of pear and light peat. Gets sweeter after that but a little indefinite (very sweet apples). Mouth: extremely strong, lemony… Don’t expect to enjoy this without water. With water: rounder, creamier, on lemon and apples topped with black pepper and grated ginger. Finish: long, hot, lemony… Good Caol Ila but it’s quite, let’s say explosive. 83 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in Saint-Tropez
 
 
MUSICRecommended listening: do elephants have a sense of rhythm? It seems so! Indeed, let's listen to the Thai Elephant Orchestra 'playing' Thung Kwian Sunrise.mp3. Yes, thats right, true elephants, and here's the obligatory stupid comment: 'Don't they play better than some famous human drummers with big ears?' Please buy, err, these animals' music. (What, a joke? No, they were even featured in National Geographic! And they even make whisky! No, that was a joke...) Elephants
July 2007 - part 2 <--- August 2007 - part 1 ---> August 2007 - part 2


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

Blair Athol 27 yo 1976/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 172 bottles)

Caol Ila 17 yo 1974/1991 (61.1%, Signatory, cask #5-9)

Caol Ila 26 yo 1975/2001 (56.1%, Signatory, cask #459, 242 bottles)

Dalmore 25yo (43%, OB, 1970's)

Glen Grant 36 yo 1970/2007 (45.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Old, cask #3493)

Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (49.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Old, cask #861)

Isle of Jura 1975 (60.9%, OB, Matthew Forrest Collection, cask #2620, 192 bottles, circa 2002)

Longmorn 18 yo 1971/1990 (58.1%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola)

Longmorn 30 yo 1973/2004 (51.1%, Duncan Taylor, bourbon, cask #8919, 137 bottles)

Longmorn 1973/2003 (55.8%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask Collection’, cask #3240)

Longmorn 31 yo 1976/2007 (54.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 131 bottles)

Pillage 2005 12 yo (55.8%, OB’s, Lagavulin Fundraisers)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1969/1985 (64.7%, G&M for Intertrade)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2007 (59.6%, The Whisky Fair, sherry butt, 509 bottles)