(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2009 - Part 1

November 2009 - part 2 <--- December 2009 - part 1 ---> December 2009 - part 2


December 14, 2009


TASTING THREE GLENDULLAN (with sixteen-year gaps – weird idea, innit!)

Glendullan 12 yo 1997/2009 (56.1%, James MacArthur, bourbon, cask #5059) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical young Speysider with an added flintiness. Apples and mild honey, a little porridge, then quite some wet chalk and hints of ink and linseed oil. A bit shy-ish but water may do wonders here. With water: well, it got rather younger, all on pear drops and soaked grains. Not exactly new-make-ish, having said that. Mouth (neat): very sweet, creamy, thick and fruity (white peaches, watermelon, gooseberries). Develops more on lemon syrup and hints of kiwis. It’s almost a fruit liqueur actually, well matured but without any obvious oakiness. Little vanilla here. With water: good, round, sweet, simple but flawless. Finish: medium long, very fruity. Comments: perfect young ‘simple’ Speysider from refill wood I guess. Not mindboggling but one may down litres of this (humble) baby. SGP:531 – 83 points.
Glendullan 28 yo 1981/2009 (49.6%, The Whisky Agency, Bourbon Hogshead, 247 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: more or less the same profile as the 1997’s, only with more obvious age and more oak as well as a little mint and fresh putty. Very, very clean whisky. With water: gets beautifully vegetal, with whiffs of ‘the forest after the rain’, moss, fern, pine needles, even some fresh mint… Very nice and certainly unexpected. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re rather close to the youngster when undiluted but with more spices and ‘oriental’ flavours such as orange blossom water and crystallised ginger. Also a little cinnamon, oriental pastries (don’t we get hints of rosewater?) and more sweet oak and marzipan. With water: a huge fruitiness coated with quite some ginger and cinnamon. Lemon and plums pie, zwetschke… All that is very fresh and clean. Notes of café latte. Finish: long, half fruity, half spicy. Baklava? Comments: a very good, fresh yet mature Glendullan, that takes water particularly well. SGP:541 - 87 points.
Glendullan-Glenlivet 25 yo 1965/1991 (52.4%, Cadenhead's) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather more metallic and dry than the youngsters, with more wet paper, old books, slightly stale tea and then various herbs and a little rhubarb or even sorrel. Quite some lemon too. With water: waah! Tons of shoe polish and ink, plastic cleaner, linoleum, washing powder, brand new electronics… Bad news for the palate, if you ask me. Mouth (neat): weirdo… ‘Chemical’ lemon juice, ink (?), metal, olive oil and, well, plastic. With water: woof. Cheese, old wood, vinegar, more metal. Finish: curiously long and rather cleaner, with rather nice citrusy notes replacing the vinegar. A bit late… Comments: close to being flawed but of course, it may also be a bottle problem. Cadenhead’s had some much, much (much) better Glendullans, including recently. SGP:371 - 65 points.
Thanks to Patrick the tall Swiss guy.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some excellent funky blues today with Delbert McClinton playing Standing On Shaky Ground. Big sound! Please buy Delbert McClinton's music.

Delbert McClinton

December 11, 2009



Tobermory 15 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2009) Colour: gold. Nose: nice waxy and vegetal nose, starting on fresh walnuts, cut grass and paraffin, with hints of diesel oil and brown coal (or old oven). A meatiness in the background (cured ham), waxed paper and touches of dry white wine (sauvignon). A little sherry in the vatting? Mouth: round and sweet yet nervous, with quite some modern style oak, a lot of ginger and many soft spices on top of notes of apple liqueur and a little candy sugar. Very clean globally, despite a very faint dustiness. Some pepper. Gets grassier and grassier. Finish: long, with more pepper and even hints of chillies, with a greenness in the aftertaste. Strong green tea. Comments: a good official Tobermory, big bodied and grassy. SGP:261 - 83 points.
Tobermory 14 yo 1995/2009 (50.2%, Alambic Classique, cask #9410, 142 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re very close to the 15yo OB here, extremely close in fact. Maybe a little more fresh butter as well as ‘a sherriness’, but there’s also something faintly soapy, sulphury and butyric. Nice smokiness, though. With water: huge notes of gunpowder, metal, used matches and ham. Hints of horse dung. Wild! Mouth (neat): good, rich, flinty and leathery. More rubber after a while, lemon squash, chlorophyll and plain grass. With water: indeed, it’s much more to my liking on the palate. Demerara sugar, rum, speculoos, gingerbread… Finish: long, very candied, really close to some rhum agricole. Some grass and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad whacky and wobbly, but it really has its moments. Worth trying. SGP:361 - 78 points.
Tobermory 13 yo 1995/2009 (59.1%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0281/1173, 273 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is much sharper, more austere as well as grassier than the others but that ay come from the higher degree. Flints, wet rocks, paraffin and lemon skin. With water: it got extremely farmy. Farmyard after the rain, cow stable, ‘clean’ manure, soaked barley… Spectacular in its own genre. Roasted peanuts. Mouth (neat): big, zesty and pleasantly sharp, all on lemon and pepper at first sipping. Gets then sharper and even more nervous, a tad mineral and always very lemony. Not very ‘Tobermory’ in fact. With water: oh, the lemony notes disappeared while it got very farmy, just like the Alambic. Extremely organic in fact, quite spectacular. Finish: long, very grassy. Notes of over-infused green tea. Comments: not a sexy whisky, but I do like its ‘no compromise’ style very much. SGP:261 - 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Jacques Higelin aka Le Grand Jacques does La fille au coeur d'acier (from his great 1976 album Irradié), with excellent slide guitar by future Téléphone member Louis Bertignac.Please buy Jacques Higelin's music.

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
The other day a friend of mine told me that he used to favour a 10-scale over a 100-scale for scoring whisky. I just saw that he scored a Laphroaig 8.7 points. Beats me. (And reminds me of the 5-star scale that ended up with halves and quarters ;-)).

December 10, 2009

There are many 1998 Laphroaigs in the market these days, and I must say I haven’t tried a bad one yet. Big, uncompromising drams.
Laphroaig 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, 1300 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: archetypical medicinal Laphroaig, with tons of iodine, sea breeze, antiseptic and bags of seashells (oysters of course). Just hints of barley sugar. Mouth: excellently big at 43% abv, salty, phenolic, medicinal, peaty, smoky and, once again, slightly candied (candy sugar). Finish: long, lemony and salty. Comments: more body and more presence than the official 10 at same strength. But another warning has to be issued: this is too drinkable. SGP:358 - 86 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2008 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Boisdale, hogshead, cask #700213, 370 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a tad rounder and more vanilled than the Jean Boyer but otherwise rather close. A tad smokier as well. From a more active cask, probably. A little more mint as well. Mouth: same as the Jean Boyer, only a tad bigger and more peppery. A little more salt as well. Superb limey notes. Finish: loooong. Comments: classically big and good. SGP:358 - 87 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo 1998/2009 (58.5%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library) Colour: straw. Nose: in the same vein as the BB&R, only more powerful and shy at the same time. Cask strength, baby… With water: wow, so much wet sheep, cow stable, soaked malt, seawater and cough syrup! One of these Islayers that really smell like the island. Mouth (neat): hammering. Extremely powerful, immensely medicinal and hugely peaty. With water: perfect. A lot of salt, liquorice, oysters, lime and spearmint. Finish: endless. Comments: the kind of bottle that one may keep in his cellar… for twenty years. And then, the magic… SGP:358 - 89 points.
Laphroaig 10yo 1998/2008 (62.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask ref 700214, 272 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: powerhouse. Nuclear plant. Grinderman. With water: exceptionally sharp and flinty, all on coal, freshly broken rocks, flints and then eucalyptus leaves, mint and a bit of leather. Ziiiing. Mouth (neat): cough, cough… With water: absolutely loveable. A tad more classical than the Whisky Agency, more straightly peaty and, well, ‘Laphroaig’. Medicine, peat, smoke, lemon, apples and salt. Finish: very long, with more black pepper. Comments: not for the fainthearted. In other words, water’s best friend. SGP:258 - 89 points.
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
Not that it matters too much but yesterday we had our three millionth visit since this humble website became kind of a 'blog' (say a tasting diary) in January 2004. The growth got faster since a few months, both October and November saw +/- 130,000 visits, despite our reluctance to use tools such as FB or Twitter to increase traffic - Because only quality counts! Thanks!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another grand master of Brazil and WF favourite, Egberto Gismonti, playing a feisty Lôro (it's on his album Em Família). Please buy all of Egberto Gismonti's music!

Egberto Gismonti

December 9, 2009

Bladnoch NAS (70°proof, OB, Co.Import Torino, early 1970s) Colour: gold. Nose: rather unusual, quite metallic at first nosing but there are also traces of peat smoke and various herbs plus obvious notes of sherry. It’s also rather more tarry, leathery and smoky than more modern Bladnochs. Very nice whiffs of marzipan and walnuts, a little metal polish and very, very little fresh fruits if any. Only apple peelings. Putty. The whole is very, very nice and, of course, ‘old style’. Mouth: excellent attack, complex, fresh, fruity and rather phenolic. Very good body at 40% and after almost 40 years in a bottle. A little liquorice, marzipan, green apples, more marzipan, almond oil, crystallised lemon zests and even more marzipan. Just excellent. Finish: medium long, a little more on green apples and something just a little resinous. Comments: utterly drinkable. That may be the problem… Funny how these faint resinous notes in the finish remind me of some ripe old Ardbegs. SGP:552 - 89 points.
Bladnoch 16 yo 1992/2009 (48%, Chieftain's, cask #4258, 324 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical ‘modern’ Bladnoch, all on a mix of fresh grains and lemons. Seriously porridgy but nicely so, there are even hints of ‘clean’ baby vomit (not a bunch of Hell’s Angels’). Gets then more and more farmy and ‘organic’, before it switches to flintier and zestier notes again. Very interesting to follow. Mouth (neat): perfect bladnoch, much straighter, rounder and ‘cleaner’ than on the nose. Lemon cake, hints of marshmallows and barley sugar, just a little icing sugar that plays with your lips. Finish: long and perfectly lemony. Comments: blimey, another Bladnoch that’s utterly sippable. Very good selection by Chieftain’s for their new livery and a perfect strength. Having said that, I liked the palate better than the nose. SGP:551 - 86 points.
Bladnoch 17 yo 1992/2009 (55.1%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 277 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: an ultra-clean, almondy and citrusy Bladnoch on the nose this time. Also chalk, clay, more almonds and then even more fresh almonds. Wet rocks. With water: all the farmy elements show up, wet hay, clean cow stable, even our beloved wet dogs (no comment)… When all that settles down it’s rather lemon and grapefruit galore, with notes of wet grains in the background and a little mint. Mouth (neat): ultra-lemony and zesty, sharp, extremely nervous and… delightful. Extremely ‘Bladnoch’. With water: same, only more drinkable. Spectacularly lemony. Finish: long, all on lemon (no kiddin’) and something that resembles peat. But it can’t be peat, can it? Comments: a great dram, recommended (as the old NAS is unobtainable anyway). SGP:652 - 88 points.
Bladnoch 1992/2004 (56.1%, James MacArthur, cask #744) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is much grassier, rawer and… even more almondy than the Cadenhead. Some smoke as well but otherwise it’s quite simple. I guess water is needed again. With water: same kind of development as with the Cadenhead , only a tad less farmy and more on apple peelings and fresh walnuts. Mouth (neat): we’re very close to the Cadenhead’s. Maybe even zestier and more lemony. Lemon juice at cask strength? With water: indeed we’re close but this one is a tad more ‘new-makish’, and bubblegummy when diluted. I guess five more years in wood would have lifted it to another category. Finish: long and clean but once again, a little more bubblegummy (right, estery) than the Cadenhead’s. Comments: very good distillate, bottled a tad too early if you ask me (but who am I?) SGP:641 - 83 points.
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
We very rarely talk about new whiskies without trying them on Whiskyfun but this time it’s different. It’s fun! Indeed, Full Proof have issued new Hanyus bearing very funny and smartly provocative labels by the excellent Dutch artiste Hans Dillesse.
Big Butt I’ve heard the whiskies were excellent and you may read (much) more about them over at Chris’ very great blog Nonjatta. Now, what we found even funnier was to spot two characters disguised as sumotori on the ‘Big Butt’s’ label… These buggers ring a bell, who can they be?
Pete Jack
Full Proof Europe
Hans Dillesse

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great, great Etta James singing Since I Fell for You. Please buy all of Etta James' monumental music.

Etta James

December 8, 2009

A similar campaign there.


Inchgower 1974/2009 (57.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #7763, 188 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: punchy, with big notes of wine, both white and red, right at first nosing. Then more flinty and even metallic notes but the whole remains very vinous and even a tad acetic for a good two minutes, just before everything vanishes as if by magic. What remains is a rather beautiful smokiness, with quite some flints, notes of old coal oven and a little vanilla. With water: no winey notes, rather a lot of lemon and tangerines. It became fresher and fruitier for sure. Whiffs of grains and a little porridge and malt. Mouth (neat): extremely powerful, very citrusy. Lemon zests and even lime juice, lemon drops, grass… Kind of acidic but that’s pretty nice here. With water: simply more of the same. Tangerine juice and ginger. Excellent mouth feel. Finish: long, fresh, citrusy, very clean. Notes of green tea. Comments: very good and more citrusy than other Inchgowers – not that I tried hundreds. But where have these winey notes gone? Did I dream? SGP:552 - 87 points.
Inchgower 35 yo 1974/2009 (57.3%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 195 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in the same ballpark here, except that there’s no winey notes upfront. Maybe a bigger grassiness and even some peat smoke, as well as hints of damp wood and a little mint. With water: more different from the SSMC with water, with more vanilla and nutmeg from the oak. More polished, so to speak. Soft curry. Mouth (neat): we’re extremely close to the SSMC but it seems that it’s a tad rounder and more vanilled. Other than that, it’s just a lemony storm when undiluted. With water: sweet, lemon drops, barley sugar and a few tannins in the background. Finish: long, on… lemon wood? Anyway, a rather perfect combination of oak and lemon. Comments: same quality as the SSMC. I’ve been thinking that this one and the previous one came from a shared cask but I’m not too sure anymore, except if one of them has been re-racked for a wee while. SGP:552 - 87 points.
Inchgower 1977 (59.2%, Cadenhead, white label, cask #9718, +/-1993) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is just as punchy as the 1974s but rather more on coffee and burnt cake. Water is needed. With water: it got rather strange, a little cheesy and very tarry and smoky. Freshly roasted coffee beans, coal, leather, damp earth, dark toffee… Spectacular and unusual. Mouth (neat): once again, a lot of lemon but also nice notes of precious wood and marshmallows. As for the power, it’s a beast. So, with water: as tarry, citrusy and liquoricy as whisky can get. Truly excellent now. A lot of black pepper. Finish: very long, with added notes of lemon balm and even more smoky tar. A tad resinous as well. Comments: spectacular whisky, not easy-easy but thrilling if you like to play with water (and a pipette). SGP:463 - 90 points. (and thank you, Franco and Patrick)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a bit of R'n'B today with NYC's Ava Andrews singing Movin' on. Please buy Ava Andrews' music.

Ava Andrews

December 7, 2009

Highland Park


Highland Park 15 yo 'St Magnus Edition One' (52.6%, OB, 5,976 bottles, 2009). As you may know, St Magnus is the name of Kirkwall's cathedral. This is no antique bottling, it’s a brand new replica bottle but the whisky inside is not intended to be a replica of these magnificent old Highland Parks (whether official or G&M) that used to bear the St Magnus label, so the Distillery isn’t following the Macallan route here (who said good news?) If you check our HP index you’ll find quite few reviews of those older St Magnus bottlings. Colour: straw. Nose: a very natural, almost ‘naked’ Highland Park, without any sherry influence but with big flinty and grassy notes at first nosing, then more yellow flowers, light honey, sour apple juice and just a little lemon. There’s quite some smoke as well, as well as a little rubber (new tyres). Hints of bacon and liquorice. With water: gets a tad farmier as often, rather smokier as well, with added whiffs of menthol. Funny how it goes back to raw barley after a moment – natural indeed. Mouth (neat): sweet, nervous, citrusy, playful, very fresh. A wee touch of paraffin, almond oil. Then quite some grapefruits and that faint smokiness that’s often to be found in ‘natural’ HPs. Butter pears. A tad austere but very good. With water: perfect ‘natural’ HP indeed (we insist! as Max Roach would say), with more honey and beautiful notes of tangerines, orange zests, wax, vanilla and fresh almonds. Finish: long, a tad bitterer now (grapefruits, lemon zests, green tea). Clean, slightly resinous aftertaste. Comments: a little rounder and more polished on the palate than on the nose, except at the finish. Flintier and less sherried (but maybe also a tad less complex) than all the old original ‘St Magnus’ I could try. The overall quality is very high, though, and there aren’t that many fully ‘naked’ official HPs in the market. Not sure about the price but if it’s fair, well… SGP:362 - 90 points.
Highland Park 15 yo 1990/2006 (56.3%, OB for Grape Vine Market, USA, cask #10132, 750ml) Colour: amber. Nose: it’s the sherry that plays first parts here, with some toffee and plums, quite some gunpowder and hints of coffee and chocolate. Then more straight wine, a little rubber here as well and finally rather huge notes of raspberry jam and mead. A lot of mead… Oh, and quite some parsley and lovage. With water: it gets really restless, with a lot of game, ham, bacon, herbs and leather. The sherry is loud and good old HP never really has the floor but the end result is rather beautiful once you’ve added water. Mouth (neat): once again, there’s a lot of sherry at the attack, a lot of oranges and a lot of honey (various kinds, maybe orange blossom first). Quite some toffee too, sweetened coffee, caramel, crystallised ginger… The whole is rather thick, coating and maybe a tad brutal when undiluted. With water: very, very good, rounder, easier, very honeyed and extremely jammy but not thick anymore. A lot of dates, dried pears, figs and touches of liquorice. Classic middle-aged sherried Highland Park. Finish: long, typical fruity sherry monster, with quite some liquorice and just wee hints of rubber again in the aftertaste. Also a wee pinch of salt. Comments: water is obligatory here, or it’ll be maybe a tad too thick, but quality is undeniably high. Clean, thick, liquoricy sherry. SGP:451 - 87 points. (many thanks, Bryan).

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Brazilian musical genius Hermeto Pascoal plays Desencontro Certo (from his 1984 album Lagoa da Canoa, Município de Arapiraca). Please buy Hermeto Pascoal's music.

Hermeto Pascoal

December 6, 2009



Tullibardine 1993/2009 (46%, OB, PX sherry butt finish) Colour: full gold. Nose: very unusual, very ‘Tullibardine’. Vegetal and ‘oily’, with big whiffs of lamp oil, paraffin, French beans and tons of cut grass. Faint whiffs of manure behind all that, walnut skin, shoe polish and rubber. Unusual indeed, some personality indeed. Mouth: rather difficult, oddly vinous and not quite clean. Cured ham, grenadine, overripe oranges and quite some cardboard, then some wax and quite some pepper. Finish: long, similar in style. A dustiness in the aftertaste, some pepper. Comments: pretty nice nose but the palate isn’t easy-easy in my opinion. SGP:351 - 78 points.
Tullibardine 1988/2009 (56%, OB, hogshead, cask #540, 317 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: once again, a malt that’s unlike any other but this expression is a tad cleaner and maybe a little more ‘mainstream’. Flints, scented wax, walnuts and a little vanilla custard. With water: smoke, damp wood, damp clothes and old wine cellar. Salpeter, mushrooms. Mouth (neat): round, creamy, nervous, sweet, honeyed and citrusy. Peppered orange juice, vanilla, ginger, cinchona… Some aspects of the modern Tullibardines indeed. With water: good development on modern style oak, that is to say vanilla, ginger and nutmeg. Finish: medium long, balanced, all on vanilla and spices. Comments: the wood has a lot to say here. Rejuvenated? It’s good. SGP:352 - 83 points.
Tullibardine 25 yo (45%, OB, Stillman's Dram, 1800 bottles, +/-2000) Colour: gold. Nose: much, much more fruity, floral and honeyed. Acacia honey, dandelions, a little wood smoke, bananas flambéed and apricot jam. Much closer to some Speysiders in style, reminiscent of Balblair, Benriach or even Balvenie. A beautiful nose. Mouth: very fruity, soft, rich, kind of silky… Orange cake, Turkish delights, wild strawberries, bananas and many soft spices. Hints of kiwis. Top notch old Tullibardine that, once again, has its eyes on Blablair. Finish: long, beautifully fruity and finely spicy. Extremely well balanced. Comments: hard to recognise Tullibardine here. A great dram, worth chasing at auctions. SGP:641 - 89 points. (and thanks, Konstantin)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a bit of good Texan americana with Jonathan Byrd and his Houston Window Blues (from The Law and the Lonesome). Please buy Jonathan Byrd's music.

Jonathan Byrd

December 4, 2009

Bowmore 8 yo 2000 (46%, A.D. Rattray for Single & Single) Colour: white wine. Nose: peat smoke, flints and seawater. Sea breeze. Just hints of almond milk and tiny-wee touches of lavender, which were unexpected in a 2000 Bowmore. Some vanilla. Mouth: sweet and peaty attack, rather more candied and rounded than expected. Smoked vanilla? A little coffee, cake, cane sugar… Finish: medium long, leafy, smoky and vanilled. Comments: a rounded and curiously vanilled version of a young Bowmore, some first fill bourbon wood must have been involved. Works well, I must say. SGP:526 - 84 points.
Bowmore 10 yo 1998/2008 (46%, The Whisky Agency's Liquid Library, refill sherry wood) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on an unusual combination of clean maritime and smoky tones with ‘a sherriness’, the whole giving this one notes of flinty white wine, maybe Pouilly-Fumé or something. Having said that, the spirit is soon to defeat the wine, so to speak. Gets pretty medicinal, maybe ala Laphroaig. Mouth: classic young Bowmore this time, the sherry bringing only what seems to be added sweetness. A little salt, liquorice, quite some peat, gentian, other roots (maybe)… It’s big at 46% abv. Finish: long, dry, with more pepper and even a little horseradish. Something medicinal again in the aftertaste. Comments: a very potent young Bowmore that has its eyes on the south shore. SGP:357 - 86 points.
Bowmore 11 yo 1998/2009 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Colour: pale gold. Nose: cleaner and grassier than the others. Smoked walnuts? I should try that one day. Wet wool, wet rocks, seawater and just hints of almonds. Nice nose! Mouth: smoother than the Whisky Agency, more on marzipan and gingerbread. Smoked honey? Gets bigger after that, peatier and grassier. Finish: a tad saltier and, just like its twin, peatier than other Bowmores in the finish. A lot of green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: another good one, ‘of course’. Classy and flawless new style Bowmore – were they using peatier malt in 1998? SGP:457 - 85 points.
Bowmore 1995/2009 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry finish) Colour: white wine. Nose: the sherry is more obvious than in the Whisky agency version, somewhat fruitier and sweeter. Develops on marzipan, oranges and sweet spices getting then more organic again. Hints of wet newspaper, ink, leather and leaves… Mouth: a tad rounder than the 1998s but, quite curiously, a tad drier as well. Saltier too. Fresh almonds, lime juice, straight peat, pepper… Finish: long, pleasantly sharp and even saltier. Comments: globally smoother and rounder than the younger ones but the ‘profile behind’ is perfect. SGP:346 - 86 points.
Bowmore 19 yo 1990/2009 (46%, Signatory, UCF, hogshead, casks #649+650, 719 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: yes! A superbly austere Bowmore, all on oysters, seawater, coal smoke, green tea and ‘wet animals’ (yup, I’ve heard dogs were fed up). Mouth: perfection. Peat, lemon juice, lime juice, quince eau de vie, salt, oysters and black pepper. Epitomical (will you cut the crap one day, S.?) Finish: as long as a Fidel speech, extremely zingy, mineral, smoky and lemony. Comments: brilliant, just brilliant (and cheap!) Bang for your buck! SGP:357 - 90 points.
Bowmore 1994/2008 (56.3%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1681) Colour: white wine. Nose: more spirity at first nosing, closer to new make and fruit eaux de vies, with some coffee from the high abv (as often). Coal smoke. Quick, water. With water: rather organic, with some grass, wet wool, seashells and wet hay. Barley. Gets closer and closer to the ‘original peated malt’. Some kind of rebirth? Mouth (neat): very punchy, half sweet, half peaty. Peated kirsch? With water: just perfect now. Salt, lemon, peat smoke, green apples… Finish: long, on the same flavours. Quite some salt in the aftertaste, as well as a little liquorice. Right, salted liquorice. Comments: unsurprisingly good, like all bottlings by BB&R. SGP:356 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Greece's Diamanda Galás and her very unusual voice singing Dark end of the street (with John Paul Jones). Please buy Diamanda Galás' music.

Diamanda Galas

December 3, 2009


Benrinnes 1988/2009 (46.3%, Malts of Scotland, cask #888, 175 bottles) From a bourbon hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts slightly estery but gets then very malty and slightly smoky and flinty, with whiffs of cut grass and hints of white rum. Even a little unaged tequila, in a certain way. Do they grow blue agaves in Speyside? Goes on with a little more fruits (apples, almond milk) and some vanilla from the wood. Not overly expressive globally but its ‘straightness’ is much pleasant. Mouth: sweet, malty, very ‘natural’, with a moderate oak/vanilla influence. Also big notes of pear drops, tinned pineapples, apples and a little honey. Also hints of lemon pie. Gets then rather grassier but it’s still quite zesty and fruity, very ‘natural Speyside’ so to speak. Finish: medium long, on the same flavours, with a slight chalkiness in the aftertaste. Flour. Comments: this one tastes much younger than its age, but the spirit is rather flawless. Very good malt whisky altogether, just a little too ‘middle of the road’ for my taste. SGP:442 - 80 points.
Benrinnes 13 yo 1996/2009 (57%, A.D. Rattray, Cask Collection, Sherry Hogshead #6461, 315 bottles) This one did very well at the MM Awards 2009 and won a very solid silver medal, with an average of 88. Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: extreme sherry, starting on loads of prunes, chocolate and roasted chestnuts. There’s also a little tar and quite some gunpowder, and just hints of redcurrant jam. With water: more of the same. The tar and the gunpowder get louder but it swims excellently. Quite some lovage and parsley growing bigger and bigger. Mouth (neat): rich and thick as a syrup, extremely chocolaty. Maple syrup, Armagnac, treacle toffee, strong honey, liquorice and chestnut purée. Heavy stuff but not unbalanced at all. With water: more oak, with quite some ginger, nutmeg and paprika making the whole rather drier than when undiluted, but it remains very clean. Finish: long, thick and rich, mainly on coffee, with some liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: a very rich and spectacular dram, which I may like a tad better than when I tried it blind (semi-blind, actually). No off notes whatsoever. SGP:452 - 85 points.
Benrinnes 23 yo 1985/2009 (58.8%, OB) Colour: amber. Nose: there’s a lot of sherry again but this one is less extreme than the 1996, and a tad more polished. Yet, there’s quite some gunpowder, shoe polish, dried herbs, mushrooms, leather and chocolate. The driest side of sherry maturing. With water: more beefy and hammy notes. A full plate of ham with some nice boletus and quite some black pepper. Whiffs of old Barbour grease (not in the plate) and more gunpowder. Mouth (neat): rich and heavy, albeit not as heavy as the 1996. Prunes, toffee, liquorice and kirsch at still strength mixed with a few spoonfuls of mustard. Sounds terrible but it’s not, at all! With water: everything is amplified, with also more oranges and tangerines. Gets seriously fruitier. Hints of cardamom and, once again, mustard. Finish: long and rich, with many more spices now. Pepper first, then a bag of cloves and cinnamon. Comments: very good, a tad less ‘compact’ than the very sherried 1996, but a tad more complex. SGP:452 - 87 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great boppy saxist (and alto madman) Richie Cole doing a bouncy and humourous Latin version of Hi-fly sometime in the 1970s. Hear him blow and blow and blow, that'll put you in a good mood as sure as 1+1=2. Please buy Richie Cole's music.

Richie Cole

December 2, 2009



Three brand new Fettercairns (previously known as Old Fettercairn) from the official ‘Vintage Collection’, that should be out this month unless I’m mistaken. I’m afraid I couldn’t spot any vintages on the labels but if they call them ‘Vintage’, I guess these three malts must come from three single vintages. But enough nitpicking, let’s try them…
Fettercairn 24 yo (44.4%, OB, 2009) Colour: gold. Nose: definitely old style, even kind of antique, starting on roasted nuts, caramelised cereals and Seville oranges but soon to get much waxier, flintier and even leathery, rather ‘old Highlands’ in style. Some cooked ham and whiffs of beef stock and old walnuts that hint at sherry. It’s complex yet rather delicate globally, kind of old style once again. Just a little gunpowder. Mouth: the unusual beefiness strikes first, as well as notes of orange zests and quite some bitter chocolate. Goes on with kind of a waxy fruitiness, lemon zests, liquorice, rosehip tea and just tiny wee hints of cardboard and bitter wood. A wee smokiness too. Finish: medium long, a little more on malt and smoky toffee. Marmalade too. Comments: an old Highlander in velvet gloves. It’s very good. SGP:452 - 86 points.
Fettercairn 30 yo (43.3%, OB, 2009) Colour: gold. Nose: very unusual! Starts much more on various herbs, spearmint, beeswax, rather huge whiffs of linseed oil, more wax, turpentine, even huger notes of fir needles (Christmas must be around the corner) and only then more mainstream notes of Seville oranges, leather, malt, honey and chocolate. And once again a slight beefiness. A lot of personality, it doesn’t nose like any other old malt. Mouth: errmnlmnr… No, this is too bizarre for my taste. Dry, cardboardy, tea-ish, too peppery and even a little rubbery… What happened? It cannot be my sample, the nose was flawless (albeit unusual). Finish: nah, it’s long but with a lot of wood extracts, heavily resinous, bitter… Comments: a very strange one on the palate, almost flawed. I’ll try to put my hands on another sample. SGP:171 - 70 points (conservative – and because of the very, very nice nose).
Fettercairn 40 yo (40%, OB, 2009) Colour: apricoty. Nose: frankly, had I nosed it blind, I would have said it’s an old Dalmore, with these very obvious notes of oranges, both fresh and as marmalade or even liqueur, and of chocolate. I must say it’s fantastic, extremely elegant. Then a wee smokiness and the same kind of resinous notes as in the 30yo, plus many fresh and tinned fruits somewhat ala old Benriach, fresh bananas, papayas, hints of mangos... Also superb hints of cumin, tobacco, cashews, sandalwood… What an exceptional nose! Mouth: phew! I was afraid the same kind of misfortune as with the 30 would happen but not at all. Sure there’s a lot of oak but it’s fantastically polished and ‘silky’, with notes of kummel, green pepper and black Russian tea, all that being lifted by beautiful notes of grapefruits and oranges. Globally quite dry but very alive! Finish: medium long, all on ‘good’ oak, bitter chocolate and tea. Comments: I don’t know what the price for this baby will be but if it’s fair, let’s all rush out and buy a bottle because old ‘old’ Fettercairns are rare – unless you really hate oak in your malt, because oaky it is. SGP:461 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Sweden's young wonder of pop Peter von Poehl (he lives in Paris) sings his cleverly crafted and very catchy Broken skeliton key. Please buy Peter von Poehl's music.

Peter von Poehl

December 1, 2009


Please be patient, it seems that the MM server is severely hit...
It can be down at times


Glen Grant 36yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor for The Whisky Fair, Sherry, 209 Bts.)
Karuizawa 1972/2008 (65%, The Number One Drinks Company, Sherry cask#7290, 528 Bts.)
Glendronach 37yo 1972/2009 (53.3%, OB for LMW, Oloroso Sherry Butt, Cask#705, 275 Bts.)
Bunnahabhain 35yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 Bts.)
Yoichi 1991/2009 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, Imported by LMdW, Cask#129374, 453 Bts.)
Hakushu 1989/2009 (62%, OB, TWE 10th anniversary, Sherry Butt #9O 50021)
Macallan 1970/2009 (46%, G&M Speymalt for LMdW, First Fill sherry cask #8326)


Non-Plus-Ultra Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Overall top scoring 'ultra premium' whisky out of all 2009 MM Awards entries)
Karuizawa 1972/2008 (65%, # One Drinks, Sherry cask #7290, 528 Bts.)

Best Natural Cask Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in 'untreated', regular cask(s)
Benriach 33yo 1976/2009 (47.4%, OB for TWF, cask#3558, 162 Bts.)

Best Sherry Cask Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in sherry cask(s)
Glendronach 37yo 1972/2009 (53.3%, OB for LMdW, Cask#705, 275 Bts.)

Best Cask Innovation Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Best whisky matured or finished in 'special' or unusual cask(s)
Yamazaki 1984 (48%, OB, matured in Japanese Mizunara oak, +/- 2009)

Best Peated Malt Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Best whisky distilled from - relatively - peated malt)
Bowmore 36yo 1972/2008 (45.4%, Signatory, Sherry C#3890, 540 Bts.)

Thumbs Up Award 2009 (Ultra Premium)
(Most exciting new release in this price category)
Bunnahabhain 35yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 Bts.)


Non-Plus-Ultra Award 2009 (Premium)
(Overall top scoring 'premium' whisky out of all 2009 MM Awards entries)
Glen Grant 36yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor for TWF, 209 Bts.)

Best Natural Cask Award 2009 (Premium)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in 'untreated', regular cask(s)
Bunnahabhain 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)

Best Sherry Cask Award 2009 (Premium)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in sherry cask(s)
Yamazaki 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)

Best Cask Innovation Award 2009 (Premium)
(Best whisky matured or finished in 'special' or unusual cask(s)
Lagavulin DE 1991/2008 (43%, OB, ref 4/496)

Best Peated Malt Award 2009 (Premium)
(Best whisky distilled from - relatively - peated malt)
Laphroaig 20yo 1989/2009 (57.1%, Douglas Laing for LMdW, 219 Bts.)

Thumbs Up Award 2009 (Premium)
(Most exciting new release in this price category)
Ardbeg NAS 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2009)


Non-Plus-Ultra Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Overall top scoring whisky in this price category)
Glendronach 15yo 'Revival' (46%, OB, Oloroso cask matured, +/- 2009)

Best Natural Cask Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in 'untreated', regular cask(s)
Amrut NAS 'Fusion' Batch#1 (50%, OB, Bottled March 2009)

Best Sherry Cask Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Best whisky matured exclusively in sherry cask(s)
Benrinnes 13yo 1996/2009 (57%, A. D. Rattray, C#6461, 315 Bts.)

Best Cask Innovation Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Best whisky matured or finished in 'special' or unusual cask(s)
Clynelish 12yo 1996/2008 (58.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala finish)

Best Peated Malt Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Best whisky distilled from - relatively - peated malt)
Douglas Laing NAS 'Islay Blended / Big Peat' (46%, DL)

Thumbs Up Award 2009 (Daily Drams)
(Most exciting new release in this price category)
Adelphi's 12yo Laudale 'Batch #1' (46%, Adelphi)

With thanks to Davin
Glen Grant
Maybe you already saw that the ‘best of the best’ whisky at our Malt Maniacs Awards 2009 was an old Glen Grant, the Glen Grant 36 yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor for The Whisky Fair, 209 bottles) to be precise. When I first tried that baby back in august I scored it 92 points and called it ‘candy for grown men and women’. Right, right… Anyway, I won’t try it again today – not that that wouldn’t be con mucho pleasure – but rather taste a bunch of other brand new old Glen Grants, including three by Duncan Taylor, to celebrate the end of the MM Awards 2009 with a bit of panache. I always tell friends who ask me what the best bargains are these days that those old Glen Grants (or Strathislas, or Longmorns) by the best bottlers are all sure choices, especially when they come from the best vintages… Let’s check whether that’s still true or not…
Glen Grant 39 yo 1970/2009 (49.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3492) Colour: gold. Probably bourbon cask. Nose: starts bold, a tad varnishy and estery at very first sniffs, but the expected fruitiness is soon to unfold, with melons and peaches first, and mirabelle plums and gooseberries second. Also a little pineapple and even pears, signs of youth. Youthful indeed at almost 40 years of age! Then more vanilla and a little mint. With water: a little more oak, banana skin and apple peelings but everything is under control. Mouth (neat): well, there sure is much more oak and tannins than on the nose. Quite some green tea, bitter oranges and then many spices such as cloves, white pepper and paprika (something dry). Nutmeg. A tad too oaky for my taste just now. With water: works well, the tannins got tamed and replaced with notes of marzipan, orange cake and vanilla cake. Finish: medium long, with good balance between the oak and the spirit. Quite some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good one but one that needs quite some playing with water. Funny how H2O either blocks or unleashes the woodiness, depending on the number of drops you add. SGP:361 - 89 points.
Glen Grant 39 yo 1970/2009 (51.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #844, 143 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: more sherry it seems but in no way a ‘sticky’ sherriness, with a huge amount of coffee and precious wood, ‘good’ varnish, thuja wood, then a little camphor, pine resin, eucalyptus and liquorice (you may male all that cough syrup). Roasted nuts, chestnut honey (I’m often told that quoting specific kinds of honey is pure showing off, or at least useless. I say compare, say acacia and chestnut and then get back to me). Very, very discreet winey notes. Top notch. With water: superb notes of rancio, mushrooms, old wine cellar, wine barrel and ham. Hints of gunpowder. Mouth (neat): I don’t know whether there’s less oak than in #3492 or if it’s better integrated but what’s sure is that the ‘oaky feeling’ is much lower here. Rather some roasted nuts, orange marmalade, bitter chocolate and prunes, with the oak’s spices more in the background for a while, before they start to come more and more to the front after a while. With water: not much development this time, only more cinnamon. A tad oakier globally. Finish: long, dry, tannic and clean. Comments: fantastic nose, the palate is maybe a tad more difficult/oaky – and that’s why we cannot go to 90+. SGP:261 - 89 points.
Glen Grant 39 yo 1970/2009 (51.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #4195, 126 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: a tad more closed than #844 at first nosing, a little more spirity and certainly less resinous/camphory, although there is quite some pine resin. A tad jammier and a little more candied and fruity. Apricot jam. Obvious notes of tinned pineapples developing, even a little tinned litchis. A tad rougher and less focused globally, but still great. With water: very close to #844 now. Nice notes of old style leather polish and once again a little gunpowder. Mouth (neat): we’re rather close to #844, but the oak is bigger again, almost trumpeting. So, a big spicy oakiness, with quite some strong tea, pepper and cloves. In the background: orange marmalade, strawberry jam and prunes, with something Armagnac-ky. A few grains of salt as well. With water: once again, the oak comes out but some assertive fruits (?!) keep the whole balanced. Strong tea, apricots and prunes. Finish: very close to #844. Comments: a third one that’s wonderful on the nose and ‘very good’ on the palate because of an oakiness that starts to be a wee tad too talkative. Now, the aftertaste is rather fruitier and fresher here, so let’s go for 90. Very good sherry! SGP:361 - 90 points. (and thank you, Herbert)
Glen Grant 1972/2009 (51.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #744/9) Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is definitely more austere (but it’s no austere whisky!), grassier as well (but it’s no grassy whisky!) and a tad more roasted (but it’s no…) Develops on various honeys (did I already tell you that different honeys can smell and taste wildly different?) and quite some vanilla crème, nougat and, yes, a little mint. Beautiful again even if a little less emphatic than the 1970s. With water: ha-ha, exactly the contrary now, it got rather fuitier and more lively than the 1970s. Funny notes of Vicks, eucalyptus, camphor… Water makes wonders with this one. Mouth (neat): there’s less oak than in all the 1970s, and rather more fruits instead. Notes of bananas, sweet curry, crystallised orange zests and apricot pie, getting more citrusy after that. Very good. With water: indeed! There is some oak of course but it’s all under control. Bananas flambéed and vanilla plus chestnuts. Finish: long, fruity/oaky, balanced. Comments: the nose was a tad less complex and ‘tertiary’ than the 1970s’, but the palate is rather fresher and less tannic. Another perfect example of a 90 points malt in my book. SGP:451 – 90 points.
Glen Grant 50 yo 1954/2009 (42.2%, Ian McLeod, cask #3612, 100 bottles) The bottlers didn’t even bother stating that it’s actually 54 or 55 years old. Yes, ‘over 50yo’ is enough ;-). Colour: pale amber. Nose: what, more than 50 years? This is actually as fresh as a morning sunrise over Speyside in May and as fruity as… The fruits department at Fortnum and Mason’s. Incredible avalanche of ripe bananas, apricots, peaches, papayas and even ripe strawberries, all that coated with whiffs of pinewood smoke and a little liquorice. Very, very wee beefiness floating over the fruits and just hints of dried flowers, patchouli and fresh mint. Truly exceptional but hey, we all know that the truth lies on the palate with these very old whiskies. Will it be tired and drying?... Mouth: no! Amazingly rich, fruity, jammy, coating, ‘freshly’ spicy and polished. Bananas flambéed, honey, chocolate cake, café latte, apricot jam, then liquorice, mint, Demerara sugar, extra-old rum, old Sauternes… At the spices department there’s wee touches of paprika and white pepper, just a little ginger, cinnamon and then liquorice again. Totally flawless at such old age. Finish: long, creamy, jammy, fruity, with just a wee chalkiness from the wood – I guess - in the aftertaste. Comments: this is a rare, expensive bottling (£3,000 while G&M would sell a Glen Grant 1954 at £250) and okay, the presentation is a tad GlenWonka-ish, but what’s inside the bottle is stupendously heavenly indeed. SGP:551 - 94 points.
Brora 30 BONUS: this has nothing to do with the Malt Maniacs Awards, although I seem to recall that the Brora 30yo 2003 edition won our Awards in 2004. No, in fact, I already got hundreds (okay, dozens) of requests for tasting notes for the 2007 edition of the Brora 30. It’s true that I never published those notes, which is a shame, agreed. So, after another friendly – but firm - request from our friend Bill last night, here we go…
Brora 30 yo 2007 Edition (55.7%, OB, 2,958 bottles) I take this opportunity to remind all the retailers who add vintages to these Brora 30s that they’re actually no-vintage bottlings, that is to say possibly vattings of different vintages.
Colour: gold. Nose: what’s striking at first nosing is the rather perfect combination of straight raw peat with soft and rounded nougatty notes. Highland shortbread and coal smoke, then the expected farmy notes (cow stable, wet dogs, farmyard), notes of apple peeling and fresh walnut, then a little linseed oil and damp earth (and chalk)… Plus just hints of horseradish or mustard. A tad less ‘wild’ than earlier batches in my opinion, but not quite a transition between the 30s and the 25 that was to follow this one. In other words, a true 30. With water: totally Brora. More farmy notes and this superb kind of camphory/antiseptic notes that only old peated glories can display. Mouth (neat): hugely huge, extremely powerful, sharp and pretty zesty, much less polished than on the nose when neat. Some lemon, mustard, a lot of raw ginger, green apples, cardamom, liquorice, tar… It’s not exactly brutal but it’s no philosophical malt, if you will. Maybe something of Port Ellen. With water: lemon cake, sweet mustard, quince jelly, smoked tea, civilised kippers ;-) and marzipan. Finish: long, with more ‘peated lemon’ and a little mint. Tar. Notes of lemon sprinkled oysters in the aftertaste. Comments: a Brora that takes water extremely well. In fact, water is de rigueur here or you may miss the best part. I had thought it would be rounder when I nosed it undiluted but no, it’s a genuine, punchy, early-70s style Brora. There. SGP:267 - 93 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: somewhere between Weather Report and Lambert Hendricks and Ross, here's Clare Fischer and one of his Latin patterns called Thru the ages. Please buy Clare Fischer's music.

Clare Fischer

November 2009 - part 2 <--- December 2009 - part 1 ---> December 2009 - part 2

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



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

Bowmore 19 yo 1990/2009 (46%, Signatory, UCF, hogshead, casks #649+650, 719 bottles)

Brora 30 yo 2007 Edition (55.7%, OB, 2,958 bottles)

Glen Grant 39 yo 1970/2009 (51.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #4195, 126 bottles)

Glen Grant 1972/2009 (51.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #744/9)

Glen Grant 50 yo 1954/2009 (42.2%, Ian McLeod, cask #3612, 100 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 'St Magnus Edition One' (52.6%, OB, 5,976 bottles, 2009)

Inchgower 1977 (59.2%, Cadenhead, white label, cask #9718, +/-1993)