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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2019 - Part 2

       

August 2019 - part 1 <--- August 2019 - part 2 ---> Current entries

 

 

August 31, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Speysidey Stuff
Until Defeat 
Blended malts, anonymous Speysiders etc. There’s no shortage of the stuff these days amongst the indys. Let’s try to fight our way through a large pile of the things today. But first, a suitable and vaguely ironic aperitif…

 

Glenfarclas 10 yo 2008/2018 (58%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles)

Glenfarclas 10 yo 2008/2018 (58%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles)
Ironic only because so many of the older ‘anonymous’ Speysides are often assumed to be Glenfarclas, whereas this young one is out and proud and will be the only named distillery in today’s flight. I know, I know. More barrel scraping than one of Diageo’s rejuvenated hogsheads. But onwards we must go! Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: cut grass, slightly spiritous, chalk, barley water, paint thinner and touches of wet plaster and limestone. It’s clean and pure but it’s extremely raw and youthful as well. With water: hello? Baking soda, crushed aspirin, damp grains. Hard to grasp. Mouth: raw barley, gravel, newspaper, touches of glue, lemon peel - funny stuff! A lick of cardboard as well along with some plain porridge oats and more grassy qualities. New make and pear drops evolving towards acetone. With water: get’s a little nicer, some soot, lemon peel, barley water again and some vapour rubs. Still a bit tough I’m afraid. Finish: very short. A puff of plain breakfast cereal wrapped in cardboard and its gone. Comments: Bottled a mere one or two decades too soon in my wee book. A cask that has left the distillate literally nowhere to hide can be an amazing thing if the distillate is up to the task, but I’m not convinced that’s the case here.
SGP: 241 - 74 points.

 

 

Not a great start. But it means we should in theory be on an upward trajectory…

 

 

Undisclosed Speyside 11 yo 2007/2019 (60%, Berry Brothers for Whisky + Beijing 2019, cask #13917)

Undisclosed Speyside 11 yo 2007/2019 (60%, Berry Brothers for Whisky + Beijing 2019, cask #13917)
Theoretically this one should be from the ‘second best’ distillery in Rothes… Colour: gold. Nose: from one stylistic extreme to the other. Here we’re very much in ‘active’ wood territory with lots of bubblegum, varnish, pink peppercorns, sawdust, hot workshops, curry leaf, pencil shavings and putty. A pretty unlikely mix I have to say, but it’s not without its charms. With water: hot paprika, sunflower oil and plywood. Mouth: Indeed. Varnish, pepper, strong black tea, wood extracts, a few herbal cough medicine notes and pine air freshener. I’m struggling with this one a little. With water: rather brutal, getting lopsided towards varnish, green wood astringency and peppery heat now. A touch of sourness as well. Finish: short, some red chilli heat, some sawdust and a little vanilla syrup. Comments: I’m very sorry, but I’m just not a fan of this either, we’ve swung from austerity to excess. However, this does still technically count as upwards…
SGP: 341 - 76 points.

 

 

Medevac…!

 

 

Speyside #2 25 year old Batch 1 (51.6%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co, 2415 bottles)
This one is another single malt but not much info on distillery of origin. Colour: straw. Nose: the danger with trying these things after whiskies like the first two is that you can get carried away. For example we appear to have warped comfortably into another galaxy in terms of quality here. Lots of honey and butter on brown toast, pollens beeswax and touches of chamomile and green teas. Some pineapple jelly, lemon curd and sweet glazed pastries. Very lovely! With water: hessian, cider apples, mead, salted butter, lime leaf and some delicate ointments. Mouth: seriously, this is really lovely! A prickle of wood spice then crystallised papaya and mango chunks, ripe banana, star fruit, orange oils, camphor, touches of hessian and wax. Wonderfully honeyed, lightly tropical, the perfect bit of spice keeping things lively and fresh in the mouth. Embarrassingly pleasurable. With water: excellent development. Warming spices, heather, some fruity new world IPA, more hessian and things like lanolin and lamp oil. Still perfectly fruity. Finish: good length, some slightly bitter herbs emerging along with putty, yellow plums and dry farmhouse cider. Comments: I’m still paranoid that a large part of my enjoyment here is magnified by the mirage of lopsidedly beneficial comparison. So, with that in mind, I’m going to be extremely cruel and dock it a single point. I’m sorry Boutique-y.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

A Speyside Distillery 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.5%, Archives, cask #1408806, bourbon barrel, 250 bottles)

A Speyside Distillery 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.5%, Archives, cask #1408806, bourbon barrel, 250 bottles)
Another unnamed single malt. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re in a similar ballpark to the Boutique-y (obviously Angus - it’s called ‘Speyside’), but this time it’s more towards green fruits such as apples, pears, gooseberry, underripe banana and a hint of pineapple. There’s some sunflower oil, very light medical notes, herbal teas, runny honey, fruity muesli and freshly made breads. It’s not really possible that anyone could be against such an open, easy and inviting profile if you ask me. With water: evolves more towards breads, light lemony yeasty notes, autolytic qualities and some fruit scented tobaccos. Sometimes you get a feeling a whisky was captured at a perfect age and I get that sense here. Mouth: Zap! Perfectly fruity, alive, even now slightly tropical with more pineapple, mango and a little passion fruit. Lime, lemon barley water, cough sweets, white flowers, bergamot, floral teas, orange peel and dried mint. Just superb! With water: perfect! The texture becomes fuller and more oily. There’s a perfect balance between ripe fruits, white pepper and cereal aspects. Annoyingly enjoyable. Finish: medium in length but full of honey, ripe banana, star fruit and hints of plums, cereals, lemon cordial and elderflower. Comments: Ok guys, I give up, what’s the distillery? My guess would be Lagavulin…?
SGP: 641 - 90 points.

 

 

A Speyside Distillery 26 yo 1992/2019 (51.9%, Archives, cask #1408809, bourbon barrel, 269 bottles)

A Speyside Distillery 26 yo 1992/2019 (51.9%, Archives, cask #1408809, bourbon barrel, 269 bottles)
Ok, so a sister cask I think it’s safe to assume. Colour: straw. Nose: very similar. Which cannot be bad news. Only here there are perhaps a few more touches of stone fruit such as lychee and plum. More fruit eau de vies and concentrated extracts. Herbal resins, fruit cordials, elderflower, lemon cough drops. But a similar degree of cereal/autolytic/bready aspects. Is it possible for a whisky to give the impression of youth and maturity simultaneously? Answers, as ever, in the post to Serge please. With water: leafier, greener, fruitier, lots of meadow flowers, ripe apples, grass, some mineral notes and hessian. Mouth: shut the fridge door! This is superb! Waxed canvases smothered in olive oil, sweet cereals, herb butter, lime zest, camphor, putty, mead, crystallised tropical fruits. Similar profile to the previous one but I’d say we’re even up a rung on the ladder of concentration and quality. With water: it doesn’t quite ‘flesh out’ in the same fashion as its sibling, instead there’s an added nervousness and tension to proceedings. Sharper, more peppery, more cereals, waxes, herbs - a clearer division of flavour. Finish: similar length but warmer, more peppery, more herbal, a tad sooty, waxy and with some nice easy fruitiness. Comments: I’ve been writing notes for quite a few Archives bottlings recently and, honesty Whiskybase, I think it’s time we talked about which specific model of widescreen television I’m looking for…
SGP: 651 - 90 points.

 

 

Speyside 27 year old 1991/2018 (48.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 318 bottles)

Speyside 27 year old 1991/2018 (48.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 318 bottles)
I could make up some story about how, despite my initial statement that the Glenfarclas we had at the start would be the only named distillery we’d have today and, in my cool and cavalier attitude, I’d decided that - to hell with it - we’ll have this one from Speyside Distillery as well! However, I think we all know that what happened was that I didn’t properly check my samples before commencing this tasting. So, here we are, Speyside Distillery everyone… don’t all rush at once now. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a pure and rather polished cereal character to begin. Brown bread, nutmeg, quite a bit of cinnamon powder and chopped hazelnuts in muesli. Easy, pleasant and perfectly lovely but a tad boring as ever with this imaginatively titled distillery. Mouth: the first thing you notice is that the texture is oddly thin. While there’s plenty nice notes of orange juice, barley water, heather ale, putty, green tea and plain toast. Again this is all perfectly serviceable, mature malt whisky - it’s just that you get a little lost in the valleys of Glen Boring. Finish: medium in length, plenty of crisp cereals, some butter, a touch of sunflower oil and a few more tea notes. Comments: Nice weather we’re having isn’t it…
SGP: 441 - 83 points.

 

 

A Speyside Distillery 28 yo 1990/2019 (50.9%, Archives, cask #18001, hogshead, 207 bottles)

A Speyside Distillery 28 yo 1990/2019 (50.9%, Archives, cask #18001, hogshead, 207 bottles)
Apparently this one also hails from the town of Rothes. Please insert your own salmon jokes. Colour: oaked white wine. Nose: lime leaf, tobacco, overripe plums, fig, ointments, mineral oil. A rather unusual but excellent and vivid profile at first nosing. Hints of leather, orange marmalade with coriander, pistachio, dried mixed herbs. There’s aspects of it which feel kind of sherry-derived, even though it is evidently not a sherried whisky. There’s also a rather distinct note of crème de menthe, rosewater and orange cordial. Very syrupy and concentrated in style. With water: gets quite waxy and sooty now, greasy notes of canvas, chalk, pebbles, oily rags and olive oil. Unusual but extremely good. Mouth: surprisingly old school with these rather fat and oily mineral / waxy qualities. Reminiscent of some Ben Nevis or even an old greasy Cadenhead Dumpy with this specific metal polish / old highland’s style profile. Really excellent! Get’s a little sweeter with candied fruits, wood resins and lightly bitter citrus piths. With water: superb texture with water. Fat, greasy, waxy, full bodied and weighty. Mineral oils, herbal teas, fruit resins, medicines and hessian. Finish: long, citrusy, lightly medical, perfectly drying, waxy, peppery and mineral. Comments: Seriously? Rothes? Ok Whiskybase, I think the Samsung QE82Q950R 82 inch should do the trick. And I’ll need a slightly bigger apartment to fit it in as well if you don’t mind…
SGP: 462 - 91 points.

 

 

A Speyside 43 yo 1973/2017 (52.2%, Whisky-Doris, cask #12, sherry butt, 221 bottles)

A Speyside 43 yo 1973/2017 (52.2%, Whisky-Doris, cask #12, sherry butt, 221 bottles)
Many such bottlings have emerged in recent years and, in my wee book, almost all have been very good. Colour: gold. Nose: a familiarly profile that’s both exquisite and exotic. Boasting an embarrassment of ripe fruits, waxes, honeys and pollens. Overripe banana, mango, pineapple syrup, fruit teas, plum jam, hessian, melon and putty. The kind of gooey, enveloping, syrupy, tropical concentration you can just close your eyes and sink into. With water: beeswax, pollens, wildflowers, carbon paper, dried mint, eucalyptus resins, light chalky notes and some fruity IPA beers. Fantastic. Mouth: what’s often so great about these casks is how the fruity abundance of the nose is often matched by the freshness of the palate and that’s once again the case here. Although it feels oddly a little lighter than the strength suggests, it’s green, lively and full of olive oil, butter, candied tropical fruit chunks, syrups, waxes and concentrated fruit cordials. Retains that wonderfully syrupy texture that the nose kind primed you for. With water: lemon cordial, elderflower liqueur, herbal teas, jasmine and even a little cannabis funk. Finish: long, very herbal, fruity, lightly earthy, hints of fruity tobaccos, citrus peels, green fruit cordials and a tiny peppery nibble from the wood. Comments: Make sure you add one of those wee cocktail umbrellas to your glass when you drink this stuff.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.

 

 

Glenfarclas 37 yo 1970/2008 (46%, Simon Brown Traders, ex-bourbon cask)

Glenfarclas 37 yo 1970/2008 (46%, Simon Brown Traders, ex-bourbon cask)
Let’s booked this rather nonsensical session with another Glenfarclas. Simon Brown Traders is a little known (well, outside Germany at any rate) German bottler/merchant. Colour: amber. Nose: quite a departure from everything else we’ve had today. Really more towards stewed dark fruits, molten chocolate, damp earth, tobaccos, sweet liquorice, hessian, wild strawberries, hawthorn and earl grey tea. Elegant, leathery, lightly sooty and earthy in a rather broad and sumptuous fashion. Blind I’m sure I’d have said sherry rather than bourbon. Very good so far. Mouth: opens with a similarly bold earthiness but also adds medicine, dried herbs, pot pourri, dark fruit jams, hardwood resins and wildflowers. Quite a deep and resinous profile with a few interestingly complicated offshoots of flavour. There’s a bready and rather stodgy texture to it with some notes of meat stocks, wax and juniper. Plenty more tobaccos, leathery notes and a more bitter chocolate streak now. Finish: Long, drying, bitter herbs, dark chocolate, hints of soy sauce and salted caramel. Comments: Are we sure this wasn’t from sherry casks? Anyway, a very fine old Glenfarclas. On reflection there are quite a few aspects that feel rather like good old Cognac to me - make of that what you will.
SGP: 461 - 89 points.

 

 

Once again, big thanks to Dirk!

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2019


Whiskyfun

A crazy flight of Bowmore, part deux

As we said yesterday, let’s have some younger ones, retro-vertically… These distillates are always superb, let’s only hope no Dr. Frankenstein of whisky (on Bell’s) decided to ruin any using shaky woods or wines…

Bowmore 1995/2011 (56.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #111, 1898 bottles)

Bowmore 1995/2011 (56.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #111, 1898 bottles) Four stars
Another one that we had missed when it came out, these larger sessions are always good occasions to retrieve these  forgotten whiskies from WF’s sample library. But careful now, Bowmore + sherry may work gracefully, or create stuffy monsters. Colour: dark gold. Nose: no monsters, but it’s a good conversationalist, so to speak. Patchouli, bits of copper, pipe tobacco, cheery leaves, beef bouillon, pepper, Cointreau, cigarettes, ham, marrow, raisins… I wouldn’t say it’s extremely focussed, but it works. With water: very lovely. Marmite for kids ;-). Mouth (neat): one that works indeed, despite a high amount of leather. Tobacco, salt, cured ham, kirsch, prunes, raisins… All very fine and no dissonances. With water: the usual earth coming out. Finish: long, sweet, spicier and salty. Some lighter garam masala. Comments: I usually like them purer, but this really works rather excellently. Not even a hiccup between us.
SGP:555 - 87 points.

Bowmore 21 yo 1996/2017 (52.1%, The First Editions, 182 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 1996/2017 (52.1%, The First Editions, 182 bottles) Four stars and a half
The bottlers are mentioning lavender oil on the label. Really? But I suppose lavender oil and lavender air freshener are not the same thing (make sense of that if you can)… Colour: white wine. Nose: no lavender, rather sloe gin (I agree there are similarities), seawater, paraffin, limoncello, and garden smoke. Remember when we could still burn branches, leaves and grass in our gardens, and not get instantly jailed or at least fined? With still water (yesterday I inadvertently poured some sparkling water into one of the old Bowmores!): more mud and more damp fabric, as almost always. Dough, fresh bread… Mouth (neat): so very typically untouched middle-aged Bowmore! No whacky woods or wines, rather a pure, almost crystalline development on all things lemons, stones, brines and waxes. A grassy, bitter smokiness that works very well. With water: immaculate lemony brine. Finish: rather long, and really very salty now. You even feel salt on your lips when you lick them. Comments: a wider citrusness and presto, 90.
SGP:456 - 88 points.

Bowmore 21 yo 1997/2019 (58.5%, Douglas Laing for SCSM, China, refill hogshead, cask #DL13020, 290 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 1997/2019 (58.5%, Douglas Laing for SCSM, China, refill hogshead, cask #DL13020, 290 bottles) Five stars
In theory, this should be better than a peanut butter and mayo sandwich, as they say. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a very citric one, it’s as if they have ‘pushed the limes’ all along the 1990s. Huge limes, grapefruits, and simply lemons. This is pretty spectacular, but of course, you have to enjoy your citrus. And if you love a large plate of oysters just as much, you’re in for a treat, as far as the nose is concerned. With water: oh, wee whiffs of crushed mint leaves! No, no, no McMojito please! Mouth (neat): this is funny, someone just redistilled some very good Alsatian or Austrian Rieslings. You say both? And then added a splash of seawater. With water: immaculate, pristine, crustal-clear salty and lemony smoke. Unbeatable outside around Loch Indaal. Finish: long, on the very same notes, which works out nicely. Comments: a fab un-doctored distillate al natural. The best configuration there is, our Chinese friends are lucky.
SGP:556 - 91 points.

Bowmore 20 yo 1998/2018 (54.1%, Sansibar with Acla Da Fans, ship label, refill sherry, 358 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1998/2018 (54.1%, Sansibar with Acla Da Fans, ship label, refill sherry, 358 bottles) Five stars
A ship label, where did we see this before?... Oh, of course… Colour: white wine. Nose: so very close to the SCSM, just a wee tad rounder, as if the cask had been a wee tad more active. Other than that, grapefruits, lime, seawater, and perhaps a drop of liquid paraffin. Love this. With water: those broken branches, or fresh almonds. A drop of verjuice. Mouth (neat): more differences this time, indeed this is rather fatter, creamier, so less crystalline, and rather more on lemon marmalade than on straight juice. But that additional richness is clean and works extremely well ‘on’ Bowmore. Some sides remind me of the first official ‘Tempest’. With water: oh lovely. Tangerines, Seville oranges, some beeswax, all that on a tighter canvas (lemons and seawater). Finish: rather long, grassier, but perfect. Aftertaste: who added some caipirinha? And more smoke? And some pepper? Comments: another fantastic one. Big shtuff that would deserve twenty years of extra-maturing in glass in your cellar. 92 or 93 points in 2040!
SGP:557 - 90 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2017 (55.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for Shinanoya & Club Qing, refill butt, 548 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2017 (55.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for Shinanoya & Club Qing, refill butt, 548 bottles) Four stars and a half
Douglas Laing – and many others - seem to be bottling a lot of their best casks for Asia. I would not blame them, on the contrary, as it seems the West rather thirsts for cheaper (and yet rather good) branded blended malts these days. By rule, you prefer what you can afford, you understand, but I agree, I may be exaggerating. Colour: gold. Nose: you feel a few wee notes of gunpowder at first, as well as this grassy leatheriness that only comes with sherry casks. The rest is meatier, more on broths and hams, with notes of walnut wine as well as Seville oranges and green pepper. With water: brake fluid and brine! Mouth (neat): I have to say I like this palate better than the nose, despite, or perhaps because of these notes of new plastics, bordering rubber. Hit or miss, rather hit in this very case. Also notes of vin jaune, manzanilla, and other mustardy and nutty things. Was it a fino butt? In the background, the expected lemons and seawater, this is well Bowmore. With water: gets very salty and even more savoury. Marrow soup. Finish: very long, salty, meaty, nutty. Lovely sour aftertaste (old walnuts, lemon juice). Comments: we’re bordering perfection once again. You could sip this on the shores of the Guadalquivir, in San Lucar, while eating langostinas.
SGP:466 - 89 points.

I think we’re done with Bowmore. This time.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bowmore we've tasted so far

 

August 28, 2019


Whiskyfun

A crazy flight of Bowmore

Always a joy to weave in and out of Bowmore’s vintages, although I have to say recent ones have been much more consistent. We’ve got quite a few on the tasting table, let’s see how far we’ll manage to go and if needed, we’ll do some sequel-session(s), knowing that one of these will be our 500th Bowmore on little WF! Oh and as we like to do, we’ll proceed more or less randomly…

Bowmore 30 yo ‘Sea Dragon’ (43%, OB, ceramic, +/-2001)

Bowmore 30 yo ‘Sea Dragon’ (43%, OB, ceramic, +/-2001) Five stars
Sure I’ve tried this famous 30 before but those very early tasting notes had been very unsatisfactory. What’s more, there had been several batches, and some were even having various white numbers in the bottom of the bottles. The quality used to vary as well, so we have the best of excuses to try this baby again (but from a different batch!) By the way, it seems that there's a new Sea Dragon for China. 888 bottles, of course, that's what we call unbridled creativity. Colour: deep gold. Nose: these Bowmores are never easy at first nosing, as the taster would find whiffs of bitter earth and some excessive mushrooms, which is exactly what happens here. Bowmore always needed to breathe, you couldn’t even touch a new bottle before you had kept it open for a few days. But then, you were in for a treat! In this very case, we find the expected mangos, notes of concrete, bergamots, some kind of mentholated oysters (ideas ideas), touches of fennel seeds, celery, pu-erh, and certainly a little chalk. Did the latter come from the decanter? Let’s see… Mouth: quite an experience. Mangos and figs at first and as jams, then rather citrus and earth, some smoked fish, a little pipe tobacco, the same sweeter side that was to be found in the Black Bowmores (blackberry jam, old PX), then rather pomegranate and cranberry juice. In truth it’s not totally ‘wow’, perhaps decanter fatigue? Always beware of decanters in general, they don’t always keep well. But do anybody still open them anyway? Finish: medum and even a little short, but very savoury now. Maggi. Comments: fantastic old Bowmore, it’s just a little fragile. Not much smoke to be found, by the way. Still worth a very high score.
SGP:672 - 90 points.

Good, let’s select the next one carefully for once. And so, since we were talking decanters…

Bowmore 21 yo (43%, OB, Golf decanter, +/-1985, 75cl)

Bowmore 21 yo (43%, OB, Golf decanter, +/-1985, 75cl) Five stars
There were two different decanters, Turnberry and St. Andrews, but rumour has it that the whiskies were the same. This should be fully early 1960s distillate, so one of the most glorious spirits ever made by Man. Some even say that since no one seems to be capable of reproducing this style, even partially, some aliens may have actually helped out. But shh… Colour: brown amber with bronze hues. Nose: sweet Vishnu, I remember! It is totally amazing spirit, in a whole different league, displaying the most incredible range of tropical fruits, in all their states (fresh, preserved, as jams, as syrups, dried, oh and distilled, naturally…). Even Fortnum’s Food Hall looks like a Cuban grocery store by comparison. Do you really need a list? Mouth: feels bigger than just 43%, and rougher than on the nose, which is very cool since we’re now finding more coastal elements, seashells, also tobacco, dried figs, many herbal teas, this feeling of pink grapefruit that’s very ‘60s Bowmore, a little salt, some Sichuan pepper, some chestnut honey, something reminiscent of some very old Sauternes, with a wee mentholy side, some honeydew, some chen-pi (thanks again, Gene), also a little coffee and chocolate (as beans)… Indeed the list is endless, as if everything was in there. Finish: incredibly long, and rather more on savoury flavours, soups, meats, umami… No wonder the distillery was then bought up by some discerning Japanese gentlemen, around ten years after this decanter was issued. Only the aftertaste is wee tad jumbled, which is typically ‘decanter’ in my book. Loses one point here, there! Comments: none. Or rather this, really, careful with decanters, some were kept lying on their sides and could get corked over the years. Or stale. Now some make for nice bud vases.
SGP:653 - 94 points.

Isn’t this starting a little too fast?... Or why not do a retro-verticale while we’re at it?...

Bowmore 40 yo 1970/2010 (43.2%, Signatory Vintage, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #4467, 489 bottles)

Bowmore 40 yo 1970/2010 (43.2%, Signatory Vintage, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #4467, 489 bottles) Five stars
I know some distinguished friends are wondering why anyone would write both ‘oloroso’ and ‘sherry’, since oloroso’s sherry anyway. Well, it is not, they make oloroso in other places. So, oloroso does not equal sherry, and PX even less so. Colour: amber. Nose: aaargh, this is flabbergasting. It’s a little less complex than the 21 yo OB, but it’s got this je-ne-sais-quoi (how do you like my French?) that makes it totally perfect. More costal notes, more polished woods, more essential oils from the oak, more camphor too. The whole just holds together and complement those majestic mangos that reign supreme once again. Mouth: pah-pah-pah, truffle soup and mint sauce, plus mead and chestnut purée. Add a little lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a slice of Seville orange, and some kind of ancient mint cordial, the ones that used to cure just anything according to old ads. Brilliant whisky, exceptionally tight, with an oak that’s just about to start to consider taking over. Like, in five years. Finish: medium, more herbal, spicier, and perhaps a little oakier indeed. Thyme tea and the lightest cinnamon mints in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe Bowmore started to change after 1970. We’ll see if we manage to check that later on…
SGP:653 - 92 points.

And so…

Bowmore 1976/2014 (58%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.2)

Bowmore 1976/1984 (58%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.2) Three stars
That is right, the second Bowmore ever issued by the honourable SMWS. What is particularly fantastic here is to be able to check an old distillate as it was when it was still an infant. Let’s also remember that in theory, the distillery’s good vintages were nearly over by then (why, I do not know), but also that #3.4, a 1976 as well, was just incredible (WF 93). So what will happen now?...  Colour: pale white wine. Nose: interesting (no sugar!), between lightly aged cachaça and unaged damson eau-de-vie. I do not get much peat, if any, rather some kind of sugar syrup and the kind of grassiness that you would find in… indeed, young cachaça. Hints of aniseed, and even pastis. What’s this? Where’s Bowmore? With water: goes straight to the stable. Mud, wool, barnyard, bread, yeast, and almost no smoke. Mouth (neat): a strange spirit. Again, not much smoke, rather some raw eau-de-vie and something burnt, as if distillation was rushed. Friday afternoon work? Notes of supermarket gin. With water: rather a little better, thanks to some friendly lemons, but that’s pretty all. Finish: medium, raw, grassy and a little sugary. Comments: it is hard to understand why 3.4 was stellar, and 3.2 pretty lousy, while both were stemming from the same vintage, and possibly from the same parcel of casks. Mysterious Scotch, as old TV documentaries used to say. Not totally terrible, though, just very disappointing. Welcome to the poorer years…
SGP:353 - 80 points.

A last one for the road, we’ll have some younger guns tomorrow…

Bowmore 26 yo 1991/2018 ‘The Lowest Tide’ (50.9%, Woolf Sung, Sauternes finish, cask # 27935, 287 bottles)

Bowmore 26 yo 1991/2018 ‘The Lowest Tide’ (50.9%, Woolf Sung, Sauternes finish, cask # 27935, 287 bottles) Four stars
I like to find notes of Sauternes in my whisky, but not obligatorily Sauternes as such, even if Sauternes is one of the wines that work best in whisky. I know what I’m trying to say. By the way, some may start to produce bespoke barriques for the whisky industry, but shh, it’s getting complicated down there, the tide is low indeed. Drink more sweet wines! Colour: gold. Nose: wine is best in whisky when you just don’t notice it. That’s kind of the case here, as everything’s fine, the spirit’s dancing in the moonlight (what?) and anything from the sea is doing its job to perfection. Clams, seaweed… Also Islay mud, grass, charcoal, baker’s yeast… All fine. With water: sourdough, mud and damp fabric, that’s what we were expecting. Mouth (neat): I’m not saying the ‘clean’ spirit wouldn’t have been better, and European oak’s not always easy to control (pst, fresh first, for a short time; second used, for a long time), but we’re fine in this very case, the oak brings additional spices (green ones) and the wine imparts tiny bits of apricots and plums. Perhaps. Other than that, it’s a pretty almondy Bowmore, with some paraffin and some limoncello. With water: do not add too much water. Wine-finished whiskies usually swim badly (insult to injury, etc.) but just a few drops work very well here, making the spirit brighter, fruitier, and simply more ‘Bowmore’. Finish: medium, rather herbal. Green smokiness. Comments: ha, peat and table wine! But phew, looks like we dodged a major bullet today. Mind you, Bowmore and Sauternes!
SGP:465 - 85 points.

We need a clean one, we need a clean one… I know we said we’d stop, but… Let’s make it a bourbon!

Bowmore 25 yo 1990/2005 (52.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon barrel, cask #1163, 186 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1990/2015 (52.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon barrel, cask #1163, 186 bottles) Five stars
In my book, 1990 was the vintage of Bowmore’s resurrection, even if there are some very good 1989s as well. Let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: much fun to be had with this baby, as it’s not totally clear, which is an asset under these circumstances. What I’m trying to say is that you’ll find several vintages in one, or rather several styles gathered for your enjoyment. Tropical fruits from the 1960s, more yeasty muddiness from the mid 1970s, and more crystal-clean coastal/mineral smokiness from the early-to-late 1990s. How cool is that? With water: swims like the imaginary son of Mark Spitz and Shirley Babashoff. Utterly perfect nose, state of the art, with this typical muddiness that’s so lovely. Or there, wet dogs (we’ll be eternally sorry, dogs). Mouth (neat): huge, crystal-clean, superbly lemony, blade-y, mineral, coastal, and just perfect. Exactly what we were looking for, even if the pepper in the back is a tad excessive. After all, this is not Talisker. With water: drier, more austere, grassier, but some grapefruits are fighting back. The smoke gets bigger too. Finish: long, pretty peppery, perhaps a notch too bitter or I would have gone to 92. Well that was a possibility. Comments: almost immaculate, almost to sip religiously (time to put an end to this session, S.) PS, I know I should update my references in the field of Olympic swimming!
SGP:555 - 91 points.

See you tomorrow.

(Merci beaucoup Aaron, Angus, Enrico)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bowmore we've tasted so far

 

August 27, 2019


Whiskyfun

Young Clynelishes by or for Elixir

Not something we’re doing very often, but as the good people behind Elixir Distillers are as much into Clynelish as we are here at Whiskyfun Towers, well I thought we could do some kind of exclusive tasting, for once. It’s true that we usually try to spread multiple whiskies by one bottler over several sessions…

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (50%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Specialist Choice NL, cask #700029, 297 bottles)

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (50%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Specialist Choice NL, cask #700029, 297 bottles) Four stars
NL stands for No Limits, but you knew that. But 2010, isn’t that too young and too fast? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: even pears are great at Clynelish. Because there’s plenty of pears, mind you, but in a way, it’s a Clynelish that’s hinting at its neighbours in the North, Pulteney. Beeswax, so rather softer wax, and greengages. A bit millimetric. With water: green tea, clay, beach sand… Mouth: more straight wax, citrons, rocks, salt, in short Clynelish a little simplified. With water: we’re getting there, as water reveals more waxy Clynelishness. Now the pears haven’t given up, and this remains fruitier than usual. Juicy fruit. Finish: medium, maltier, bready, with our beloved citrons and a very moderate amount of wax this time. Touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, and clearly not an infanticide, but you do feel that a few more years would have brought more complexity – and toned down those pesky pears! A tad too sweet for me.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (55.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #700039, 176 bottles)

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (55.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #700039, 176 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine (so darker than its sister cask) Nose: this makes you understand why with young whiskies, some pretty active casks may work better. Indeed this has more depth, more earthy spices, and even more wax, which comes strange  as the make is obviously rigorously the same. On the other hand, it’s got a fewer fruits and, above all, less killing pears. With water: some fresh baguette at 6 in the morning, some fir honeydew, and touches of thyme and tarragon. I’m sure you could prepare some marvellous sauce béarnaise with this drop. Who’s going to try that?  Mouth (neat): exactly the same feelings, this has more depth, more lemon, more vivacity, more wax, more brine, and simply more clynelishness. With water: indeed! Grass, green oak, wax, paraffin, chalk, lemon zests, pomelos… Feels older than just 9. Finish: long, with some pepper, a little spearmint, the usual wax, the expected seawater, and just loads of gentler lemons and grapefruits. Comments: I’m extremely glad I could try these two together. Compare and contrast, or is that the other way ‘round?
SGP:562 - 89 points.

And guess what, there’s another 2010! Elixir, is that some kind of fire sale?

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (58.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, Jazz Series, bourbon, cask #700041, 245 bottles)

Clynelish 9 yo 2010/2019 (58.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, Jazz Series, bourbon, cask #700041, 245 bottles) Four stars and a half
I do not recognise the blower on the label, I’m afraid. Any ideas? Colour: white wine. Nose: by Jove and Vishnu, this is even nicer. Which, in my book, means more typically Clynelish. What I’m finding this time is some smoke, which was literally absent from the others. More organic elements as well, touches of tofu, miso, otherwise paraffin and chalk, zests… And just minimal amounts of pears. With water: baker’s yeast, fresh croissants. Mouth (neat): we’re extremely close to cask #700039. That would be, what, three minutes in the filling store? This time it’s the citrus that’s a tad more dominant, for whatever reasons, and I’m not even sure about that. With water: indeed, more waxy citrus and seawater. But comparing whiskies that are this close can drive you loco loco. Finish: long, perhaps a little rougher. More peppery for sure. Comments: we could down one bottle of each and still not manage to pick our favourite. Both are fingerlicking good anyway. Even the first one was pretty pretty good.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

We have an older one. Oh sweet Vishnu, to think that a 1995 is now an ‘old whisky’!

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for the Whisky Exchange’s 20th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #11252, 550 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for the Whisky Exchange’s 20th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #11252, 550 bottles) Five stars
I’ve said it a gazillion times before, big spirits and sherry are hit or miss. Let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: hit, seemingly. Chestnut purée, grandpa’s old tobacco pouch, new leather jacket, heather and chestnut honeys, lighter Cubans (cigars), fresh cinnamon rolls… With water: yep. Umami (I know that’s supposed to be a palate thing), bouillons, sorrel soup, nettle soup… Mouth (neat): drumrolls and trumpet licks please, they stroke balance! Tobacco, salty porcini soup, ham, puréed chestnuts again, lemon, peppermint… All good. With water: I am impressed, there are no off notes at all. Say one cask out of five, while the other four could really scream your head off. Clynelish and sherry, yeah yeah… Finish: long and perfect. And there’s this thing that I always love in any finishes, more lemon! Lemon and earth always work at this point. Comments: well, I can tell you I had my pistols on the tasting table. Looks like that wasn’t necessary. One cask out of five.
Oh and yes Angus tried this one ony a few days ago.
SGP:463 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far

 

August 26, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today Ardbeg au naturel

So, the best. Now people are talking more about Daftmill or Chichibu than about Ardbeg these days. Indeed, times are changing and fashions fade, but I for one will always remain officially an Ardbeggite, come hell or high water!

Ardbeg 1999/2019 (58.7%, Or Sileis, barrel, cask #134, 188 bottles)

Ardbeg 1999/2019 (58.7%, Or Sileis, barrel, cask #134, 188 bottles) Five stars
A bottling by Ian Macleod/Chieftain’s for Taiwan. I’m glad they didn’t reduce it to 46%. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s showing self-restraint and would rather talk branches and fresh nuts before a perfectly well-carved smokiness arises, very narrow, almost philosophical (frugality and stuff) and extremely ashy. It’s really plain peat smoke, as if we were in a working kiln, although a few berries would show off as well. Cranberries? With water: it’s the Ten, more or less, with just a little more profoundness. No complains, love the Ten. Mouth (neat): these sour fruits and this tar that scream Ardbeg. As if they had tried to smoke guavas. In the background, the usual tarry ropes and touches of tangerines. Smoked, naturally. It’s not complex, but that’s almost what you were expecting, something simple and perfect. With water: and bicycle inner tubes, lemons, samphires, and seaweed. Well, we’ve got a full team. Finish: medium, with the only descriptor that was missing, smoked fish. Very ashy aftertaste, with a little salt as well, and something medicinal (tincture of iodine). This time,  we’ve really got a full team. Comments: Ardbeg remains perfect as long as it’s kept in its own juices. Like all the great spirits, I think it mixes badly.
SGP:357 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (50.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherrywood matured)

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (50.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherrywood matured) Five stars
We’ve had several sister casks by Cadenhead or Duthie in the past, but that was a long time ago. Some were too harsh and immature, but others have been stellar, with scores ranging from 80 to 93 overall. Now we’ve never tried this very one before… And don’t be afraid of the ‘sherrywood’ mention, could well be third or even fourth fill, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: different for sure, with more fruits. Most peaty Islayers had more fruits in the past, by the way. There’s also an old sauvignon blanc-quality, many sour fruits, some yoghurty notes, and then a large amount of damp plaster and chalk. It’s globally milder and gentler than the 1999 but remember it’s not really any older. Simply different styles, this is rather closer to ‘the peated barley’. With water: ink, carbon paper, fish oil, coal-tar, smoked almonds, old magazines, and, perhaps, wee wet dogs (like Yorkshires). We’re sorry, Yorkshires. Mouth (neat): salt and lemon, plus fish oils and tar. This time it’s really millimetric, concise, and just beautiful. Lace while the 1999 was rather rougher. With water: do not add too much water, it doesn’t need water anyway. As a French friend once said, this is not pastis (yet I do find wee touches of liquorice and aniseed). Finish: rather long and remember it’s in the finish that the very best ones reveal themselves. Salted fish, lemon, tar, and some oiliness. One big fat oyster – or perhaps Venus clams? Indeed it is very coastal. Comments: genius whisky. I wasn’t too sure at the very beginning, but I was wrong. Could be the best 1975 within this very parcel of casks. Humbly my favourite, in any case.
SGP:466 - 93 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardbeg we've tasted so far

 

August 24, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Characterful Makes:
4, 3, 2, 1
Bear with me, there is some sense to this daft title. Although, this tasting is generally contrived and tenuous at best – evidently being a further blatant excuse to batter through more samples. Serge recently referred to a ‘mineral rectangle’ that includes Highland Park, Clynelish, Ben Nevis and Springbank.

 

I like this idea, although, when drawn on a map the shape is more of a shard – which seems appropriate for minerality. Perhaps we could propose the ‘Axis of Minerality’ in Scotch Whisky? I’m sure a few other distilleries might make the cut. Anyway, while thinking about ‘characterful makes’ let's try a few today and then finish with a wee bonus. Now, I’m not sure the various malts of Loch Lomond distillery would be accepted into the Axis of Minerality but, in my view, they are certainly some of Scotland’s more characterful contemporary distillates. Even if that character is occasionally a tad… ‘unlikely’. We’ll kick off with four different malts from Loch Lomond and try to have them in theoretical order of peat level. SMWS, you’re up…

 

 

Inchfad 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #135.4 ‘Lip-smacking seduction’, 2nd fill barrel, 248 bottles)

Inchfad 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #135.4 ‘Lip-smacking seduction’, 2nd fill barrel, 248 bottles)
This is a relatively new number from the SMWS, Inchfad is one of those funny ones that they make unpeated, lightly peated and heavily peated versions of, but all under the one name. The one constant is that spirit is always collected from a mid-cut point in the run. This is an unpeated version. Also of note is that this one was produced using organic malt. Colour: pale gold. Nose: This could really just be some old Irish pure pot still style whiskey. You know the kind that is made with unmalted barley in the mash and displays this kind of glossy sweetness mixed with metal polish and a rather precise grassy note. There’s plenty of that on display here. Also yellow gorse flowers, some clean cereal notes, pollen, straw and fresh fabrics. Abundant personality and very good in my view. With water: some jellied fruits such as pineapple and crystalised lemon, candied oatmeal and grapefruit. Mouth: Again this curious mix of chalk, fabric, limoncello, juicy fruit chewing gum, gorse, putty, some mineral oil (perhaps this one could join the Axis of Minerality Serge?), cornflour and citrus flavoured boiled sweets. A sense of fatness and syrupiness in the texture with notes like sunflower oil and waxed canvass. With water: some bitter lemon, tonic water, very light medical touches, chalk, white flowers, cereals, more putty and some bitter, very grassy olive oil notes. Finish: Good length, getting rather bitter and peppery with more cereals and fabrics. Comments: It’s worth remembering how much damage the former owners of Loch Lomond did to their brand name amongst enthusiast circles over the years by bottling just any old shit lying close to the warehouse doors. The flip side of that is that it’s been a very pleasing revelation to rediscover these malts in recent years and find that they are often quite distinctive and very good. That’s certainly the case here – although it probably remains an acquired taste to a certain extent.
SGP: 641 – 86 points.

 

 

Inchmurrin 23 yo 1995/2018 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #112.37 ‘Teasing and enticing’, refill barrel, 115 bottles)

Inchmurrin 23 yo 1995/2018 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #112.37 ‘Teasing and enticing’, refill barrel, 115 bottles)
Inchmurrin is unpeated malt made in its own pair of pot stills with cooling heads and collected from a high cut point. There’s also a heavily peated version made in the same stills and cut point called Inchmoan. I’ve enjoyed quite a few Inchmurrins in recent years, many are notably quite fruity in my wee book. Maybe an ‘Axis of Fruit’ Serge…? Colour: gold. Nose: Indeed! Exotic fruit syrups and extracts such as guava, pineapple and papaya. Some ripe melon, poire Williams and wee touches of citronella, marshmallow and lemon curd. Quite excellent! With water: citrus piths, lime zest, coconut water and some rather light fruit teas. Mouth: pin sap mixed with orange cordial! Some pink peppercorns, damp earth, tobacco leaf, strawberry lace sweeties – a real mix of stuff! Some extractive notes from the wood that nibble the gums and add a pepperiness to proceedings but it remains well balanced by the fruits which are still rather syrupy and oily. With water: a little dryer and more bitter now. Herbal extracts, light medical touches, crisp cereal notes, brown toast and some rosewater. Finish: Medium and rather ‘polished’ with things like light sooty touches, cough sweets, chopped mixed herbs and grassy aspects. Moves more in line with the Loch Lomond character now. Comments: A very fine dram and worth seeking out. There’s a notable fruitiness about Inchmurrin that I don’t think is quite as present in the other makes. Overall this is still quite a departure from other mainstream Scottish malt whisky styles I think, which is absolutely to be commended.
SGP: 631 – 88 points.

 

 

Croftengea 7 yo 2011/2018 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #122.24 ‘Spray-lashed spinnakers’, 2nd fill barrel, 240 bottles)

Croftengea 7 yo 2011/2018 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #122.24 ‘Spray-lashed spinnakers’, 2nd fill barrel, 240 bottles)
Let’s have some peat now. By the way, if anyone is looking for some exceptionally rare old peated Loch Lomond bottlings from the 1990s, I believe Serge will pay you good money to take them off his hands… Colour: straw. Nose: there’s a gravelly, antiseptic-led purity that wouldn’t be out of place in one of these 10ish year old Caol Ilas. Here there’s also a background waft of farminess as well, along with a whiff of boiler smoke. But also plenty aspirin, wet rocks, lemon juice and smoky wort. Mature beyond its years at first nosing. With water: gets ashier and more direct now. White pepper, petrol, peat embers, seawater, more lemon juice etc… Mouth: Really, this is pure disinfectant and antiseptic. The kind of mysterious liquid your Mum would produce every time you grazed your knee or sliced a finger as a child. There’s also some very nice notes of smoky bacon, soot, paraffin and mercurochrome. The whole is extremely ‘hospital’. Some light notes of yeast and sourdough in the background betraying youth. With water: Elastoplast, gauze, vinegar, old lambic ales, some dried parsley and tarragon. A big oily chunk of smoked mackerel. Finish: long and getting heavier with a deeper smokiness. A meaty aspect again and still bags of medicine and sooty qualities knocking about the place. Comments: It’s slightly annoying how much I’m enjoying this. Hopefully there are some sister casks that will be left a little longer, at 12-18 this should be really something.
SGP: 367 – 87 points.

 

 

Inchfad 13 yo 2005/2018 (53.2%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 295 bottles)

Inchfad 13 yo 2005/2018 (53.2%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 295 bottles)
Back to Inchfad, but a peated variant this time. Colour: straw. Nose: quite a different peat profile. Far more towards yeast, fermenting wash, various freshly baked breads, chalk, beach pebbles, ointments and surgical ‘things’. Some oily sheep wool, salted almonds and anchovy paste. With water: lots of lime, ink, cereals, seawater and crushed seashells. Very fresh and pure. Mouth: the peat is actually surprisingly light compared to the nose. Instead there’s lots of brine at first along with some green pepper and then a strangely assertive and rather tart fruitiness. Like lemon jelly and cider apples with some hessian and barley water. Farmyard and seashore in impressive balance. With water: gets fatter and more towards freshly malted barley, hessian, wood smoke and some salted peanuts. Earthy coal smoke in the background. Finish: rather long, sooty, earthy, smoky and lightly tarry. Plenty of medical embrocations and touches of gentian eau de vie. Comments: A curious head on collision of the first Inchfad and the Croftengea. If you ever get the chance to visit Loch Lomond distillery then do take it as it’s a fascinating place to see round. Having said that, I think if I had to be manager there I’d go insane within a month trying to juggle all the various distillates.
SGP: 466 – 86 points.

 

 

Let’s now return to the Axis of Minerality, as officially approved by Serge, and have 3 Ben Nevis if you please.

 

 

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.5%, Archives for Shinanoya, cask #521, hogshead, 265 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.5%, Archives for Shinanoya, cask #521, hogshead, 265 bottles)
There are many lovely drams sheltered in this series I think. High hopes here… Colour: straw. Nose: perfect mix of soft fruits such as ripe banana, green apple, star fruit and lemon peel mixed with very soft waxes, mineral oil, putty and chalk. Some stone fruits such as lychee an pear as well. Something like gin and tonic sorbet if you’re feeling wretchedly middle class about it. Also a rather ‘sauvignon’ note of nettles mashed up with passion fruit. I just love these late 90s Ben Nevis. In case you couldn’t tell. Mouth: superb fruits, elegant waxes, green tea, herbaceous, tropical, cereals, minerals (Axis worthy indeed!) more inks, putties, melon, bitter lemon. Just superb and extremely fresh and balanced too. Finish: long, some rather crisp lemon notes, lots of fresh breads, cereals, camphor, wax, olive oil. Just great! Comments: Is it boring that these Ben Nevis are all so good? Discuss…
SGP: 651 – 90 points.

 

 

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.5%, Archives, cask #1862, hogshead, 202 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.5%, Archives, cask #1862, hogshead, 202 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: whereas the first one had a more immediate and obvious fruitiness, here we’re rather on waxes, cereals and an almost Clynelishesque minerality. Chalky, notes of sandalwood, white flowers, heather, dried herbs. There’s even a very slight coastal element too along with things like petrol, putty, vapour rubs. Really excellent! With water: full of lovely notes of oily sheep wool, hessian, ink, fabric, pebbles, vase water, seashells and dried flowers. More medical, more fatty and more waxy with water, I love it. Mouth: Seriously, blind you could say this is an old Clynelish. Or even some old Cadenhead dumpy bottling due to these wee metallic and sooty touches it displays. Something extremely pure, old school and distillate dominated. Gets increasingly polished, waxy and sooty. More medicine too. With water: that slight grassy edge is fully developed now and there’s lots of overripe green fruits, baked banana, custard, lime cordial and elderflower. Hints of fennel seed and waxed canvas too. Finish: long, herbal, medical, waxy and slightly salty. Comments: I’m always looking for reasons to score whiskies down, or not to go to 90+ etc. However, this one is pretty indefatigable and unequivocally superb. This really could be some old full-bodied highland malt distilled in the early 60s.
SGP: 562 – 91 points.

 

 

Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (59.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #1505, fino sherry butt, 593 bottles)

Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (59.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #1505, fino sherry butt, 593 bottles)
In my experience the early 1990s Ben Nevis could be a little more funky, although, almost everything in this series so far has been uber impressive, so let’s see… Colour: coppery gold. Nose: indeed, this is a rather different profile, although still impressive with these lovely notes of apricot jam, tinned peaches, olive oil, sultanas, daffodils, wildflowers, pollens, carbon paper and leather tobacco pouches. There’s also some nice medical aspects such as gauze, crushed aspirin, ointment and bandages. With water: some darker shades of fruit such as fig and date but also a slightly resinous saltiness and a leathery note too. Some game meats, old toolboxes, metal polish and camphor. Mouth: wonderfully syrupy arrival. Old herbal liqueurs, lightly tarry, bouillon stock, miso, camphor, toasted pistachios, verbena and wormwood. Quite a departure from the 1996s but we’re in the same territory in terms of quality. With water: the texture holds well and the whole becomes more complex and elegant. Extremely herbal, nicely bitter, hints of salted liquorice, jasmine tea, dried mint, pot pourri and some dry earthy notes. Finish: wonderfully long, salty, meaty and still glimmering with a few candied fruits and grassy olive oil notes. Comments: I’m not really sure why Ben Nevis wasn’t picked up by whisky geeks sooner, it’s such a terrific distillate, even when it’s not technically ‘good’ it’s still hugely entertaining. This one however, pulls no punches! Terrific distillate in a perfect cask + time. Another great selection in this lovely series from Signatory.
SGP: 662 – 91 points.

 

 

And now, time to head east…

 

 

Clynelish 2009/2019 (57.3%, OB for the Highland Whisky Festival 2019, cask #303029, 1st American oak hogshead)

Clynelish 2009/2019 (57.3%, OB for the Highland Whisky Festival 2019, cask #303029, 1st American oak hogshead)
It’s not often that Diageo cough up a single cask. Well, at least that used to be the case before they discovered rich people. Anyway, this cool wee bottling was done earlier this year for the first Highland Whisky Festival. Everyone seems to be starting their own whisky festival these days. You’d never catch me doing that (ahem). Colour: light gold. Nose: happily this is very fresh and pure and Clynelishy at first nosing. No clouds of sawdust clogging things up. Instead it’s more on pineapple syrups, wet rocks, beach pebbles, sandalwood, gorse and citra hops. In fact there’s a rather nice citrus zing about the whole thing. A wee thread of wax running through it all as well. With water: funnily enough I do find a wee sawdusty note with water but it’s only slight and kept in check by bath salts, dried seaweed, wildflowers, olive oil and plenty freshly chopped and muddled herbs. Mouth: buttery and herbal on arrival. Chopped chives, parsley, nettles, crisp grassy Sancerre and getting nicely saline. Some notes of Edinburgh rock, sweet pastries and American cream soda. With water: gets more waxy and traditionally ‘Clynelish flavour’ now. White jellybeans, hints of pastis, eucalyptus throat sweets and a light chalky note. Finish: long, lemony, lightly herbal, cough medicine, soft waxiness and some flowers and fruit tea notes. Comments: Top notch young Clynelish that remained commendably true to the distillery character. I’ve tasted quite a few younger Clynelish recently and it’s extremely heartening to see that it remains a great distillate. More stuff like this please Lord Diageo!
SGP: 662 – 89 points.

 

 

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #11252, refill sherry butt, 550 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #11252, refill sherry butt, 550 bottles)
I hear that Sukhinder is planning to celebrate TWE’s 20th anniversary by allowing his staff to leave 10 minutes early on a Monday night next January. Colour: bronze/amber. Nose: the sherry is quite voluminous here. Lots of damp earth, leather tobacco pouches, strawberry jam, Maggi, some old Cointreau and herbal bitters. Soot, beef stock, waxed canvas and hessian. You can also add some very expensive dark chocolate and a chunk of salted liquorice into the mix as well. With water: salted almonds, marzipan, pancetta, paprika – all rather classical and excellent. Mouth: Hello Clynelish! The distillate character comes through more clearly here. A lovely chocolate-accented waxiness, with dried herbs, Darjeeling tea, pollens, cough medicine and nutmeg. I find Clynelish and sherry don’t always dance too well together but here they have found harmony. In time it gets more meaty, tobacco and chocolatey. With water: gets more peppery and spicy. Lots of wood spice, cumin, paprika, some rather fruity red chilli and also things like cinnamon dusted breakfast cereals and sultanas. Finish: long, leathery, deeply earthy, full of black tea, bitter chocolate, game meats, hessian and some kind of lightly spiced wax. Comments: It’s more about the sherry than the Clynelish most of the time but it’s a terrific cask that has delivered a highly polished, clean profile. Mucho pleasure here.
SGP: 562 – 90 points.

 

 

Mystery bonus…

 

 

Unknown Cadenhead Dumpy. Presumed 46%.

Unknown Cadenhead Dumpy. Presumed 46%.
A bottle cracked open by our friend Harrison from Whisky Online. It’s dark sherry and from one of those old Cadenhead Dumpies that didn’t display vintage but instead just an age statement. The only fragment of label remaining on this bottle was a small piece of the collar label. So, if any of you can narrow it down based on those factors then let me know. Colour: dark brown/coffee. Nose: Ooft! Nosing these old school sherry monsters is like getting into a time machine nowadays. Beautifully deep and stunningly aromatic old school sherry. Abundant fruits, both dark and tropical. Bitter chocolate and herbal extracts. Kirsch, rosewater, wormwood, ancient herbal liqueurs, soy sauce and strawberry wine. Not forgetting some of that funky Italian green walnut liqueur. Dense, profound, deep and totally spellbinding. Mouth: immensely herbal and medicinal at first. Lots of black pepper, tar, ointments, lime pith, Maggi and other liquid seasonings, umami paste and a hint of smoked sea salt. Camphor, soot, old tar liqueur, metal polish. It’s remarkably fresh and punchy, not a shred of OBE about it. The sherry also starts to reveal a mineral side as well. Humbling stuff! Finish: endless! Dazzling, poetic and majestic. Fruits, spices, wax, chocolate, earth, medicine, tar, herbs…. Everything! Comments: Ok, non-vintage collar label + dark sherry. Internet… assemble!
SGP: 664 – 95 points.

 

 

Apologies for such a useless tasting note at the end there. And big thanks to Dirk, Harrison, Stewart and Serge.

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today 40 years old indie Glenglassaugh

These are getting scarcer, but there are still a few to be found. Most are interesting because there’s often less oak spiel than with the officials, so that you could really appreciate the original distillate as it got much older, and not obligatorily ‘more flavoured’.  

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1978/2018 (40.9%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #258, 154 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1978/2018 (40.9%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #258, 154 bottles) Two stars
We’ve already had quite a few wonders in this celebratory series, haven’t we. Colour: gold. Nose: bonbons coated with some kind of oak liqueur, bergamots, earl grey, powdered porcinis, paprika… It’s very unusual, although it would tend to fall back into line after a few minutes, with more cakes, marmalade, and cinnamon cake. Now the dried porcinis remain there, cowering in the shadows, together with some small juniper berries. Oh the vision… Mouth: I believe this one went too far; it’s become fragile and I think the oak has taken over. A lot of tea, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cardboard… It’s a bit bizarre that they would have bottled this one, unless it lost some power superfast in the bottle. You never know with large corks, although accidents are very rare in my book. Finish: short, tea-ish, cardboardy. And yet the spirit did not get opaque at all, it’s clear as daylight. Comments: bizarre. I’ll try to taste it again from another bottle. In the meantime, let’s come up with a temporary score. After all the nose was pretty lovely in its own way.
SGP:261 - 75 points.

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1972/2013 (42.9%, Woolf Sung, sherry butt, cask #R13/08/01, 160 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1972/2013 (42.9%, Woolf Sung, sherry butt, cask #R13/08/01, 160 bottles) Five stars
I believe this was a butt that’s been shared amongst several bottlers, so you’ll find this juice in various liveries. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the Berliner Philharmoniker after a viola da gamba solo. It’s really beautiful and powerful, starting with this combo that I’ll always love in any whisky, beeswax, honey and yellow fruits. Apricots, mirabelles, yellow peaches… Goes on with herbal teas, some from the oak (with cinnamon), orange zests, and then some buttery old chardonnay. Buttery, not butyric! A touch of lovage and curry too, something Indian, rather indefinable. We should ask a very good Indian whisky taster, there are many. Mouth: there’s almost the same amount of oak as in the Signatory, but this time it’s not solo, it’s complemented with some bold, sweetly spicy, err, spices. Stolle, masala, then fudge and a drier toffee, as well as this old chardonnay once again, with its buttery and nutty side. Always loved Meursault in my whisky, as long as it’s all about reminiscences and not straight wine. Sometimes I ramble on, I know. Finish: this is where it could have gone pear-shaped, but no. Which is a quasi-miracle.  Medium, sweet and spicy, like some unknown cake that they would have baked just for you in India. Oh come on, not that kind. A little leather and walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: I really loved it how it kept flirting with the limits of over-oakiness, without ever being caught. Fabulous and very singular old whisky.
SGP:551 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenglassaugh we've tasted so far

 

August 21, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
A Coagulation of Caol Ila
Indeed, samples of Caol Ila appear to be accumulating rapidly at Whiskyfun HQ Edinburgh. Not much needs saying about Caol Ila, it remains one of the most dependable makes in Scotland and when it’s good, it’s often great. Let’s try to go backwards in time as usual and be a tad more concise than we were with the Bruichladdichs last week (ahem!)

 

Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive (58.8%, OB, 2017, 3000 bottles)

Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive (58.8%, OB, 2017, 3000 bottles)
One of Diageo’s distillery only NAS bottlings that they feature at quite a few of their distillery visitor centres now. Colour: straw. Nose: typically crystalline, clean peat. Chalk, seashore, brine, lemon juice antiseptic. Very ‘millimetric’ as Serge would say. Some nice ashy smokiness in the background. With water: beach pebbles, chalk, sandalwood, seaweed crackers and with a lovely, fresh coastal quality. Mouth: despite the relatively high strength this has a pretty approachable profile. Rather lemony, oily, ashy, kippery and with lots of kiln smoke and mineral salinity. With water: develops towards yeasty sourdough and salty, bready qualities. Very briny and medical now. Pin sharp peaty notes. Finish: long, ashy, smoky, very salty and with quite a bit of sharp lemon juice. Comments: straightforward, clean and very in keeping with this modern blade-like Caol Ila. Very good and the sort of fun thing that would work well for what it’s designed for: cracking open somewhere windy on Islay!
SGP: 367 - 87 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (51%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 338 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (51%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 338 bottles)
The pace of bottling appears to be increasing steadily up there at Dornoch Castle, no bad thing as many are very good in my opinion. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh fabrics, linens, pure sea air, lemon peel, chalk and many mineral qualities such as flints and beach pebbles. A rather more elegant and chiselled style of Caol Ila with a pretty direct and brittle minerality. Some fragrant notes of bath salts and dried herbs. With water: petrol cut with seawater. Smoky grist, cooling wort and other pretty raw, unvarnished distillery aromas. A rather coarse coastal edge with a little lemongrass. Mouth: rather dry, salty, autolytic and getting increasingly bready and rich with a few yeasty notes underneath. Very good! Some notes of kippers and brine. With water: a tad sootier and moving towards a greasier peat profile. Boiler smoke, tar and more kippery notes. Some oily smoked mackerel with black pepper as well. Finish: long, herbal, nicely oily, sooty and with a some notes of hessian and seawater. Comments: I’m not sure it bears repeating, but what an impeccable distillate Caol Ila is.
SPG: 366 - 88 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (53.6%, Usquabae Bar, cask #311532, bourbon barrel, 328 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (53.6%, Usquabae Bar, cask #311532, bourbon barrel, 328 bottles)
This for the excellent Usquabae bar in Edinburgh. Well worth a visit if you find yourself in the city. Colour: white wine. Nose: more immediately medical than the TB bottling. More on vapour rubs, antiseptic and elastoplasts. Also rather saline, mineral and lightly cereal. An easy and quite approachable Caol Ila. With water: green apple now, the peelings in particular and some tart cider apples too. Gooseberry, lemon juice and a touch of malty sweetness. Mouth: lots of mouthwatering salinity, beach pebbles, soy sauce, hints of camphor, petrol and mineral oils. Very good and very pristine and crystalline. With water: peaty, medical, very salty and slightly tarry as well. Finish: long again, some more mechanical smokiness such as boiler smoke, engine fumes, tar, hessian and green olives in brine. Comments: It’s fun to spot the wee variations between these young Caol Ilas but they evidently share the same pin-sharp helix of DNA. In other words: a little nurture, but mostly nature. Same score.
SGP: 467 - 88 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/051, refill sherry hogshead, 142 bottles)

Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/051, refill sherry hogshead, 142 bottles)
The Whisky Exchange is 20 years old this year. Happy birthday! Colour: light gold. Nose: indeed there is a different profile here, we’re on a more immediately syrupy and sweet kind of peat. Oily rags, embrocations, whelks, lemon juice, olive oil, anchovies and tar. A few black olives bobbing about in the background. There’s a leathery and gingery quality from the sherry but thankfully it’s nicely restrained and well integrated. With water: evolves more towards wet rocks, sheep wool and herbal cough medicine. A rather camphory and oily edge developing. Mouth: pretty powerful delivery. Although the texture is impressively full and oily. Lots of hessian, peat, wood char and embrocations. Mercurochrome, pink peppercorns, sea salt and coal smoke. Excellent stuff! With water: superbly tarry, herbal, peppery, lightly fishy in a good way and a few nervously salty notes of seaweed and some liquorice. Finish: long, herbal, oily, camphory and full of things like putty, kelp, olive oil mixed with brine and lemon rind. Comments: We’re within a whisker of 90 points here, just lacking that tiny extra layer of complexity to jump over the hurdle. Nevertheless, a great wee cask, very well selected by team TWE!
SGP: 466 - 89 points.

 

 

Let’s have a wee break then a couple of lighter ones before going older...

 

 

Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.1%, Jack Wiebers ‘Fighting Fish’, sherry, 159 bottles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.1%, Jack Wiebers ‘Fighting Fish’, sherry, 159 bottles)
An unusual one from our German friend Mr Wiebers. I wonder if this is the natural cask strength? I expect so but it’s very low for a 19yo whisky... Colour: gold. Nose: smoked lemons, pear syrup, hessian, liquid seasonings, soy sauce and wee hints of things like old fashioned herbal toothpaste, sheep wool and bandages. It’s light but there’s still a nice sense of roundness and elegance about proceedings. Some pine sap and cough medicine too. Mouth: pickling juices, lemon peel, brine, sardines in oil and a kind of funny mix of golden syrup, chopped herbs and peat embers. It’s really on the lightest end of the Caol Ila spectrum - which is not surprising but definitely interesting to experience as its rather a rare occurrence. Some smoked sea salt and hints of green pepper. Finish: a bit short but quite salty with some nice notes of dried herbs, lime and smoked cereals. Comments: A funny one. Not for most Caol Ila enthusiasts but if you’re looking for an easily quaffable and unusual Islay malt then this will do the trick.
SGP: 454 - 84 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, 2018)

Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, 2018)
Always a fun bottling to follow. Colour: gold. Nose: ahhh yes! Gentle medical embrocations, dried seaweed, seashore, various shellfish, lemon infused olive oil, dried herbal aspects, some light petrol notes and lots of old school cough medicines. The height of sophistication and elegance! Mouth: this is the missing link between these great early 1980s casks and the mid-1990s ones. Many medical balms, cooking oils, gentle smoke, sootiness and a rather earthy and herbal peat profile. Wee touches of camphor, ink and waxed canvas. Some pebble-driven minerality too. Great balance and perfect poise. Unequivocally excellent. Finish: good length, some wonderfully resinous coastal and salty characteristics. Smoked fish, black pepper, olive tapenade and oyster sauce. Comments: I think this bottling improved again over some previous batches. A kind of old fashioned style of bottling that you might have found more readily in the 1990s (Caol Ila’s Laphroaig 30 year old if you see what I mean?), but I think it really works very well. Effortless and charming stuff.
SGP: 465 - 90 points.

 

 

Now, another exciting release from Diageo’s recent ‘Millionaires Malts’ series...

 

 

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (57.1%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask # 0021, European oak, 288 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (57.1%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask # 0021, European oak, 288 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: what’s great is that even so many years later these rather chiselled and pure Caol Ila qualities remain not only present but vibrant and direct. Only here there’s an extra layer of coastal complexity, time has also added some distance and a rather deep and elegant nuance. Smoked sea salts, grassy olive oil, gentle medical embrocations, green tea with lemon, bergamot and a rather prickly white pepper note. Typically excellent! With water: a lovely and very easy smoky / cereal combination. Mineral salts, dried seaweed and something like smoked wildflowers. Mouth: pretty powerful and punchy. Raw salinity, sheep wool, various mechanical oils, mineral oil, green peppercorns, smoked teas, hot paprika, lime zest and raw shellfish. Some kind of extremely fresh ceviche perhaps. A rather brittle and pure peatiness with touches of lamp oil and camphor. With water: this lovely oiliness is enhanced and becomes more enveloping and textural. Lots of lemon cough medicines, citrus infused oils and syrups. Also quite a few dried herbs such as verbena, parsley and bay leaf. Some big notes of hessian too. Finish: long and rather drying, ashy, herbal, lightly briny, some sharper lemon juice notes and very pleasant warming peatiness. Comments: No surprises here, but still abundant pleasure. Many of these early 80s Caol Ilas are still holding at pretty high strengths even after 35+ years now. I suspect these are the kinds of bottles that will really become stellar with time in glass in around 20-30 years. A wee treat for survivors of civilizational collapse, lol! Have a lovely weekend.
SGP: 465 - 91 points.

 

 

(Big thanks to Gene and Dirk.)

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far

 

August 20, 2019


Whiskyfun

A few Highland Parks

The sequel…

Highland Park 13.5yo (55.4%, OB, The Geert Bero Family Reserve, Quarter cask, cask #700064)

Highland Park 13.5yo (55.4%, OB, The Geert Bero Family Reserve, Quarter cask, cask #700064) Four stars and a half
Love the family idea, very smart. The half year is funny too, I suppose the SWA will get them all jailed subito presto. No worries Geert, we'll bring oranges (I am joking, this is most certainly 100% legal). Colour: amber. Nose: we’re geared towards cakes, and milk chocolate, and praline at first nosing, but some camphory, almost tea-ish notes are soon to emerge from the oak (I suppose). It is more ‘old’ style HP after the very clean secret ones we had yesterday, but I see no sulphur, or rubber, or vanilla, or any embarrassing aromas that tend to pester many a modern whisky these days. Nutshell, it’s rich and it’s balanced at the same time. With water: oak, teak, beech, pinewood, black tea… Mouth (neat): rich, extractive, almost a little heavy, and very singular, with more ginger than usual. Typical quarter cask (or even smaller vessels), this is almost akin to some of the many new craft spirits that are making massive, and sometimes very smart use of small active casks. Oh I’ll say it, it’s as if, say Smögen had bought some HP fillings and taken care of then ‘as they usually do with their own stuff’. Would be cool, no? I’d love it if, say Westland would buy some Lagavulin new make, for example. See the idea? With water: craft! Finish: long, jammier. Always this ginger in the aftertaste, that’s the oak dancing on your palate. A little coconut. Comments: to make a huge first-tier distillery kind of ‘craft’, that’s a good idea! But beware deforestation…
SGP:452 - 89 points.

Older ones please…

Highland Park 30 yo 1988/2018 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1988/2018 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles) Five stars
In theory… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s much smoother, easier, cake-ier, and perhaps more complex than all the other ones. We’re rather finding fudges, creams, some butterscotch, shortbread, madeleines, herbal teas, chamomile, many nuts (earthy macadamias is obvious), and many flowers. Chamomile again, dandelions, light honeys…  It really is an easy, gentle, civilised HP after the flavour-packed young ones. Mouth: ooh this is good! Citrus and medicines, the perfect combo. Lime, camphor, iodine, grapefruits, angelica, wormwood, mint tea, eucalyptus, green and white peppers… And the strength and mouth feel are just perfect. Finish: very long, much more peppery. Huge pepper, paprika, you have to like that. I do. Liquorice wood in the aftertaste, plus some custard to round it off. Comments: something else, clearly, and it’s clearly indy too, that is to say very deviant, in the greatest of ways. Perfect, well done, this is clearly offering ‘an alternative’. That’s how the indies used to introduce themselves… thirty years ago.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Back to a newer one (since it just came in while we’re doing this - at time of writing)…

Highland Park 17 yo 2001/2019 (54.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, cask # 19/066, 163 bottles)

Highland Park 17 yo 2001/2019 (54.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, cask # 19/066, 163 bottles) Four stars and a half
Bottled for the 20th Anniversary of The Whisky Exchange. Crikey, The Whisky Exchange is even older than little Whiskyfun(dot)com, by 3 years! But kudos Sukhinder and brother and gang, very well done! Now, could you please talk to Boris and…  Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s more brutal, almost more ruthless than all the others, with more raw eau-de-vie-ish notes at first, then many fruit stones, kirsch, then peelings, earth, fresh nuts, beetroots, celeriac, gentian, zests… In short, another kind of Highland-Parkness yet again, more rustic than the others. With water: vase water, mud, wool, metal polish. Rustic indeed. Mouth (neat): oh, this has got nothing to do with the nose! Some hotter sauvignon blanc (warm place, hot vintage), plus some aniseedy grasses, fennel, carrots, then some saltier, mildly smoky notes. Custard. The cask was rather active this time but the tight spirit was not buried. With water: tiny notes of tiny tinned litchis. Frank Zappa would have loved this, I suppose. Finish: it improved over time, this time the citrus fruits are taking over. Grapefruits running the show, love that a lot. The aftertaste is much bitterer and grassier, having said that. Comments: a movie malt, meaning it keeps changing, while it never lost its rusticity, which is not very London, is it? Happy anniversary, TWE! And so about BoJo, if you could stuff him with…
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Since we were at G&M’s in a way…

Highland Park 30 yo 1989/2019 (51.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, 489 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1989/2019 (51.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, 489 bottles) Four stars
They have merged the CC and the CS ranges, the CS having become CC CS. All clear? This is Elgin, baby! Colour: gold. Nose: stones, rocks, chalk, grasses, mint, camphor... then butter, sylvaner, asparagus peel, mashed potatoes and turnips, lovage… To be honest, I’m not sure I ever found this much lovage in the nose of any whisky. With water: earth, mud, old musty cellar, more turnips. Beets and even cabbage. Mouth (neat): ah, yes! Citrus, tartes, angelica, some earthy/lemony roots (the name escapes me), agaves, then lovage again, with touches of rosemary. I think this is relatively beautiful. With water: ouch, it does not like my Vittel on the palate. Gets a little metallic (in the wrong way), even if the citrus behave admirably. Finish: medium, lemony and peppery, but with a little sour wood, especially in the aftertaste. Not the nicest part. Comments: that’s the thing with single casks or very small batches, you cannot reproduce them and that makes for a large part of their charms, even when they have tiny flaws. Consistency is for vodka, friends. I’d ad that G&M have had some of the most seminal HPs ever, including some majestic 30s (but we also fondly remember the 8s)…
SGP:461 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all HPs we've tasted so far

 

August 19, 2019


Whiskyfun

A few H…. P….

We could have a few Highland Parks, don’t you think? Well, theoretical HPs, as more and more indies seem to have to use other names, such as ‘A Secret Orkney That Starts With An H And Not With An S’. And since I doubt Scapa’s owners would disagree with anyone using their name, well…

Kirkwall Bay (46%, Morrison & MacKay, +/-2019)

Kirkwall Bay (46%, Morrison & MacKay, +/-2019) Four stars and a half
This is well a single malt. Some age or vintage statements would have been welcome, but there. Even a proud 8, or a 7, or a 6. Perhaps not a 5. Colour: very pale white wine (perhaps 5 indeed). Nose: the thing is, HP is a perfect distillate when no one starts to try to flavour it. Fantastic notes of limestone, aspirin tablets, green lemons, and sauvignon blanc. Simple and very all right. Mouth: I so much love this distillate, even if it’s bizarrely sweet (ish) here. I know some good folks have been shocked because I gave some very high score to the distillery’s latest – and pretty humble – 10 yo, but that’s because it’s the closest you could get to the make’s purity. Same here, while we’re also finding notes of roasted pecans that, who would have imagined that, go extremely well with the salty, mineral and lemony profile. Finish: medium, perfect. Great smoke, chalk, barley syrup… Comments: bang-for-you-buck. Stock up before Brexit! Oh and it seems that they raised the peat levels – unless the bottlers have used that dirty trick which consists in using ex-Laphroaig barrels to do finishings (just an example, eh).
SGP:454 - 89 points.

Orkney 12 yo 2007/2019 (55.5%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 370 bottles)

Orkney 12 yo 2007/2019 (55.5%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 370 bottles) Five stars
I think Angus tried this one before, but Angus is Angus (wow, S.!) Colour: white wine. Nose: less smoke in this one, rather a briny and acidic nose at first (lemon juice), then a very chalky development, with also some fresh bread and whiffs of beach sand at low tide. Angus wrote some longer note, check it! With water: wet wool, sourdough, flour and all that. After all, this is barley eau-de-vie. Mouth (neat): tight and punchy, once again close to the original distillate, with just hints of coffee, bone dry chenin, and just bags and bags of chalk mixed in/with lemon juice. Shakes your spine, and that’s good. With water: oh how good is this? It’s got some best-mezcal quality that I couldn’t possibly refute. Finish: long, brilliant. Comments: love it, j’aime ça, ich liebe es, quiero mucho this, mi piacere a lot… And psst, were I the distillery, I would be proud to have my name on such as whisky. Just saying.
SGP:563 - 90 points.

The Secret Orkney 2005/2017 (57.5%, Spirit & Cask Range, cask #21, 370 bottles)

The Secret Orkney 2005/2017 (57.5%, Spirit & Cask Range, cask #21, 370 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: a tad more jumbled, a tad less pristinely vertical, and with notes of lemon syrup that add a wee clumsiness to this proposition. Other than that, it’s perfect. With water: a little mint that adds a pleasant freshness, as well as the expected doughs and porridge and poor man’s muesli (less fruit, more cereals). Mouth (neat): no, seriously, this is a rather superb distillate, with just the right amount of cask influence (that is to say very little, ha-ha) that translates into a wee coffee-ishness. With water: I hate to say that this is another great one. What a spirit! Finish: perfect Comments: obviously, a great spirit with no name is better than a lousy one in full disclosure. Having said that, as we’ve said before, ‘Secret Orkney’ tells it all anyway.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Ha-ha-ha…

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2002/2018 (55.5%, Cask & Thistle, SCSM China, 360 bottles)

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2002/2018 (55.5%, Cask & Thistle, SCSM China, 360 bottles) Five stars
More secrets, but probably no lies. Lies are about to kill whole categories as far as beverages are concerned, but Scotch is safe unless they get more liberal after Brexit (S., give us a break with Brexit, please). Having said that, I’m glad this is no calvados cask. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s rather fascinating to check that, as we go back in time, the smokiness decreases while the breadiness increases. Not obligatory a bad thing, both clusters being fantastic when balance was found. What’s more, the lemons are always here to help, while this distillate seems to be a little fruitier as well. Hints of strawberries? With water: bicycle inner tubes! There was a little more rubber as well back then, and that is not the sherry. Mouth (neat): just fantastic. No wood in the way, just a perfect, pristine, crystal-clean lemony and mineral spirit. Love the notes of tinned sardines, not to mention the obligatory kippers. With water: by Jove! Finish: long, as salty as Bowmore. Lemons. Comments: I’m sure the great helmsman would have loved this. What unnecessary remark?
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Yeah, who needs a brand name anyway… We’re approaching the end of brands anyway, are we not?

Orkney 15 yo 2002/2019 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #3, 180 bottles)

Orkney 15 yo 2002/2019 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #3, 180 bottles) Three stars and a half
Oh, a sherry butt, well that’s okay. Given this low outturn, I suppose some shares of the cask are enjoying a stroll elsewhere. Colour: gold. Nose: these wee hints of used matches at first, whiffs of bicycle inner tubes as well, some kind of chalky ginger, artisanal kirsch… It’s fine, really, but the other ones just crush it because of their amazing purity. With water: I’ll say it, there is a little sulphur. Mouth (neat): fine, but the game here is just to check if the sherry did not wreck the spirit too much. How could any ‘active’ cask improve a great distillate? The answer in this case would be ‘this is very okay, we’re safe, phew’. Salty chocolate and old walnuts roasted in honey and oils. We’ve tasted worse. With water: fine. Oranges, pepper, ginger, lemon, walnut skins. Finish: rather long, herbal, bitterer. Some salt in the aftertaste. Comments: I have to apologise, I should not have had this sherried expression after the bright, tense and luminous ‘refilled’ ones. Rondo Veneziano after Karl Böhm (!) I think HP got much bigger over the years, hence more adverse to ‘flavouring’, with exceptions. But I love the fact that we now have this magical ‘mineral rectangle’, Clynelish – Springbank – Ben Nevis – Highland Park. I agree, hardly a rectangle.
SGP:452 - 83 points.

We’ll have two or three ‘disclosed’ HPs tomorrow, let’s hope they’ll be as good as the undisclosed ones.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all HPs we've tasted so far

 

August 18, 2019


Whiskyfun

Random rums from the stash

As it says, starting with… oh, crikey!…

Ron Cortez ‘Oro’ (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2018)

Ron Cortez ‘Oro’ (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2018)
We tried an anejo last year, it was very mundane, yet acceptable (WF 65). Some say these rums are the same as the Abuelos. I think we will survive. Colour: white wine. Nose: hey hey, this is pretty fine! Rather on grasses than on sugary fruits and liqueurs, with no signs of excessive coconut or vanilla, and a rather complex development on small green vegetables and tiny fermentary notes, rather similar to what you may find in the finest Cubans (Santiago). The sugar cane is also easily detectable, which is always nice. So far, it’s rather oro indeed, despite the lightness. Mouth: it was a dream, this is too light, too uncertain, too much on coffee liqueur and molasses, and simply too weak. You cannot sip this like that, unless you’ve got a stupid blog you feel you should keep feeding up on a regular basis. Finish: almost none. No complains either. Comments: huge disappointment and a dream that lasted three minutes.
SGP:330 - 50 points.

Let’s get serious, if you don’t mind…

Guadeloupe 2014 (43%, Transcontinental Rum Line, +/-2018)

Guadeloupe 2014 (43%, Transcontinental Rum Line, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
This baby by La Maison du Whisky. If they bottled this young lad at 3, there was a reason, let’s try to find it… Perhaps is it a Bellevue? Colour: straw. Nose: it is gewurztraminer. Rose petals, litchis, apricots, mirabelles, quinces, and then raisins, sugar cane, asparagus, leak, and just more rose petals, Turkish delights, and yeah, gewurz’. It is extremely aromatic, almost heady. Mouth: almost some LOL rum. Tinned apricots and peaches all over the room, more Turkish delights, and a double-magnum of Alsatian gewurz. Indeed, per glass, while that would include a can of preserved litchis. Finish: rather long, really sweet. More… tinned litchis, in their syrup. Comments: fun stuff, good stuff. But someone did something to this baby… Wait, viognier?
SGP:730 - 83 points.

Let’s take the next boat to Barbados…

W.I.R.D. 17 yo 2000/2017 (56%, Cave Guildive, Barbados, 177 bottles)

W.I.R.D. 17 yo 2000/2017 (56%, Cave Guildive, Barbados, 177 bottles) Four stars and a half
A name that’s at the centre of all concerns these days, but we shall not elaborate. No added sugar in my rum, please. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather mineral, rather unusual, pretty nice. Some wood smoke, chalk, pine cones, charcoal, concrete, pot ale, ink, and many tinier nice things. Especially pu-erh tea, and big time, while it gets earthier by the minute. This, I like mucho. With water: a little sawdust and oak essences coming out, but they would come with various high-end green teas. Faint smokiness (wood). Mouth (neat): it’s very good. These guys at Cave Guildive know their rum, for sure. Firm, spicy, phenolic and tarry, with some bitter oils and some wood extracts that should feel ‘too much’, while they do not. Notes of pastis too. With water: gets subtler, coastal, almost Islayian. Really very very good, surprisingly so. Finish: rather long, with touches of pineapples underneath all these tarry/phenolic elements. Citrons in the aftertaste. Comments: super-excellent, I hope no one will ever wreck this  wonderful spirit.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

That called for more…

Barbados 18 yo 2000/2018 ‘1st Confidential Cask’ (55.6%, Kintra and The Rum Mercenary, Barbados, cask #36, 132 bottles)

Barbados 18 yo 2000/2018 ‘1st Confidential Cask’ (55.6%, Kintra and The Rum Mercenary, Barbados, cask #36, 132 bottles) Three stars and a half
Could be that this would be W.I.R.D. too, let’s see. Colour: gold. Nose: what’s sure is that there’s more floral/fruity oak influence, with more mangos and dandelions (nutshell). That gives it a more whisky-y profile, which is pretty spectacular. We’re wandering around the borders of each category here. Softer and gentler than the Guildive. With water: fine! Mushrooms, soft spices, earth, a touch of spearmint, and Elmex toothpaste, which is WF’s official brand of toothpaste. And so you’re wondering whether we’re joking? Serious? Mouth (neat): well, we’re much closer to the Guilidve now, while this spicy earthiness juts works. Clove cake, cinnamon cake, bananas, aniseed… Only the middle is a tad weaker, with a wee dent towards vanilla and varnish. With water: much softer than the Guidlive now. No Islayness, rather some cakes and roasted nuts. Pecans, perhaps. Finish: rather long, rather cane-y. Comments: very good, now it’s like if the proportions of column rum were higher here.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

So W.I.R.D. or Foursquare? Only one way to try to find out…

Update: it's Mount Gay! Thanks Thomas.

Foursquare 13 yo 2005/2018 (59.4%, Valinch & Mallet, Barbados, cask #19-1301R, 293 bottles)

Foursquare 13 yo 2005/2018 (59.4%, Valinch & Mallet, Barbados, cask #19-1301R, 293 bottles) Three stars
One of their single blends, very good but lighter and thinner than those W.I.R.Ds. Many have displayed a high proportion of column in the glass (vs. pot still). Colour: very deep gold. Nose: gentle, cake-y, almost ‘grainy’, with notes of pink bananas, butterscotch, croissants and shortbread. This is almost Invergordon or Cameronbridge, if I may. With water: oak coming out, more sweet varnish, plywood, coconut… The spirit is almost evanescent. Mouth (neat): there are ideas of Scottish grain indeed here, indeed. A touch of varnish, orange squash, coconut, rose jelly… It’s unusually light this far. With water: better, more on orange cake and fruit wine. Perhaps redcurrants? Finish: medium, sour and sweet, fruity. Pencil shavings. Comments: the lightest Foursquare ever? Did the Distillery ever fill their pure pot still for the brokers or have they always internally blended everything? Because this is very very good, but pretty lightish. Arrivals perfect, weaker middles. Typically ex-columns.
SGP:541 - 82 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

August 16, 2019


Whiskyfun

A brace of Braes, or a little more

Many second (or third) tier distilleries have become much more common at the indies since some big names have virtually vanished from their lists, but Braes a.k.a. Braeval remains rather obscure. One thing is sure, Braes takes sherry particularly well. Let’s see what we have…

Braeval 1998/2018 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, cask #26004, 185 bottles)

Braeval 1998/2018 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, cask #26004, 185 bottles) Three stars
What’s an American hogshead, exactly? A bourbon hogshead? New oak hogshead?  Colour: gold. Nose: pretty perfumy but also a little brutal at first nosing, rather on kirsch and other hot eaux-de-vie, then warm sawdust, honeysuckle, elderflowers and vanilla. With water: it’s the oak that wins it. Also banana skin, overripe apples, strong beer… Mouth (neat): kirsch again, with this almondy soapiness on top of it. Plum spirit, then more sawdust, with some bitterness. With water: gets a little fresher and rather less oaky, while it’s usually the opposite that happens after reduction. So, good news, but it’s still a little rough around the edges. Finish: rather long, rather maltier, but the kirsch would not give up. Bitter almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: all fine, this is good malt whisky that would have added structure and body to a good blend.
SGP:451 - 81 points.

Braeval 22 yo 1994/ 2017 (53.2%, Le Gus’t, bourbon, cask #165365, 178 bottles)

Braeval 22 yo 1994/ 2017 (53.2%, Le Gus’t, bourbon, cask #165365, 178 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: smoother, richer, more on cakes and tartes. I’m thinking mirabelle and apricots, the latter remind us that this excellent little bottler is located in Provence. I’m also finding liquorice and sweets, say liquorice allsorts (what they call bonbon anglais in Provence and in the rest of France). With water: very nice, some orange cake just out of the oven, mirabelle jam, more ripe apricots, and even that spirit they make in Switzerland, called apricotine.… I think you can’t make that in France (in the EU?) because of all the prussic acid that’s in the stones. Sure you take those out, but the spirit’s not as good then, same with plums. Anyway… Mouth (neat): good, creamy, with a warm fruitiness, on mirabelle jam, with drops of citron liqueur. Quite some pepper in the background. With water: same, plus more malt and beer. Shortbread. Finish: long, fruity, clean. Comments: some very good ‘middle-of-the-road’ malt whisky. No huge personality, but yeah, it’s very good.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Braes of Glenlivet 1991/2018 (55.6%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #7859, 138 bottles)

Braes of Glenlivet 1991/2018 (55.6%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #7859, 138 bottles) Four stars and a half
Another one by our friends in Taiwan. Colour: straw. Nose: rather in the style of the Le Gus’t yet even creamier and more on cakes, shortbread, butterscotch, soft beers, dandelions, acacia honey… I would say you’d be forgiven for believing this is Glenmorangie. With water: lovely beeswax and madeleines, or small sponge cakes if you like. Mouth (neat): very excellent! Jaffa cakes all over the place, more butterscotch, triple sec, vanilla cake, lemon curd, biscuits (rather boudoirs, these small things our ancestors used to have with Champagne)… With water: top notch indeed. Rather more fruits this time, those mirabelles, citrons, wee juicy golden sultanas… Finish: medium, malty, very cake-y. Comments: seriously, I’d have said Glenmo. I’m rather impressed, well selected, Taiwan!
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Well, Braes does not only take sherry well, it takes bourbon too!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Braeval we've tasted so far


August 2019 - part 1 <--- August 2019 - part 2 ---> Current entries


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardbeg 1999/2019 (58.7%, Or Sileis, barrel, cask #134, 188 bottles)

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (50.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherrywood matured)

Bowmore 21 yo 1997/2019 (58.5%, Douglas Laing for SCSM, China, refill hogshead, cask #DL13020, 290 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1998/2018 (54.1%, Sansibar with Acla Da Fans, ship label, refill sherry, 358 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1990/2015 (52.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon barrel, cask #1163, 186 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo (43%, OB, Golf decanter, +/-1985, 75cl)

Bowmore 30 yo ‘Sea Dragon’ (43%, OB, ceramic, +/-2001)

Bowmore 40 yo 1970/2010 (43.2%, Signatory Vintage, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #4467, 489 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2019 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for the Whisky Exchange’s 20th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #11252, 550 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1972/2013 (42.9%, Woolf Sung, sherry butt, cask #R13/08/01, 160 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1988/2018 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Orkney 12 yo 2007/2019 (55.5%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 370 bottles)

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2002/2018 (55.5%, Cask & Thistle, SCSM China, 360 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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