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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2015 - Part 2

       

 

December 2015 - part 1 <--- December 2015 - part 2 ---> January 2016 - part 1

 

December 31, 2015


Whiskyfun

2016, ready to roll! (and more on NAS)

This is an interview I did a few days ago. Read at your own perils.

Hi Serge, how are you doing?
Pretty good, thank you. I’ve only got this tennis elbow that’s causing a little pain at times.

Too much tennis? Raising too many glasses?
No, way too much Macintosh. I guess I should hire a secretary.

And Whiskyfun? How is the blog doing?
Fine. Figures are pretty similar to last year’s, just a notch higher, with around 230,000 visits a month, give or take. Regular readers are coming more often, but I notice that there are fewer new readers than before. That may suggest that either the general public’s losing interest in whisky, or that the site’s very low-tech side starts to get penalised by Google. Or both. But at least I do what I want, by hand, and I don’t rely on any third-party technology. But the archive’s got so massive that it would be a chore to convert it to any contemporary, cookie-fuelled technology that Google likes, anyway. But indeed I’ve got the feeling that the public’s getting a little less interested in whisky, just a little. Export figures for Scotch seem to suggest that as well.

Or maybe is your content’s not good enough anymore?
Well, thank you. I don’t think so, or there wouldn’t be so many returning visitors. 80% of the readership consist in returning visitors. Bored readers do not come back. You could also think that with many new whisky blogs around, some very professional, there’s some dilution happening. But I know some blogging friends are noticing the same trend, I really think people get bored a bit – although, I insist, Whiskyfun’s still rising, just at a slower pace.

But why would whisky become boring?
It may be losing a slice of its magic. A little less magic, rather more technology, and much more marketing. They all kind of innovate, which should catch more attention from the thirsty masses, but they’re all having the same innovations. Like ‘hey, let’s fill the Madeira casks first, and then the bourbon barrels!’ I’m afraid whisky might slowly become just another commodity, just like tinned beans. And frankly, some interesting whiskies have become too expensive, and certainly not for anyone anymore, like it used to be. Whisky used to gather people, it’s starting to divide people, around two main notions, disposable income and education. It’s becoming the Porsche Club. Some new bottles are clearly aimed at the wealthy and uneducated (w.r.t. whisky), certainly not at the learned. The funny hot air machine even managed to make quite a few people believe that age doesn’t matter, which is a gross deformation of a worthier assertion, which is that ‘not only age matters’. That, is true, obviously. Funnier yet, some claim that ‘age is just a number’. Right, and so is temperature. Age is not just a number, it’s a measurement of something, which is time.

Blimey, the NAS issues again!
Yes, but because age and time, to me, are a seminal notion. Sure they’ve always made NAS whiskies, but those were the cheapest ones. Like NAS – 8 - 12 -15 – 18 – 25. Not NAS- NAS- NAS –NAS -25. I believe even the best of the best ‘brand content’ and the sharpest ‘wood technology’ (how romantic, isn’t it) cannot and should not make up for a deletion of age statements. Even if they’re managing to make acceptable whisky much faster.

But why should people care, if the whisky’s good?
But is the whisky always good? Sure people tend to like what they can afford, and that’s good. Some of these new young whiskies (because most NAS are young, or they’d put an age statement) are very ‘flattering’ on the palate, for sure, thanks to all this vanillin that smoothens it up, but that’s not always ‘whisky’ to me, it’s sometimes just wood-flavoured spirit. Sometimes a little whorish, if I may. Just like Nutella isn’t hazelnut cream – and indeed everyone loves Nutella. But some NAS whiskies are great, no question about that. See this years Malt Maniacs Awards, some NAS defeated their AS counterpart, blind. Such as some Taliskers. But you sometimes hear people say that age doesn’t matter because Arran Punchbowl or Balvenie’s Tuns are great whiskies. You know, like, ‘you saw a few black cows in Australia, so all Australian cows are black’. I think many, if not most NAS whiskies, are below par, and that high quality’s the exception.

You may be going to far!
I don’t think so. And you know, not all distillers agree on the uselessness of age statements. See the very refreshing Tomatin, or Balvenie’s recent statements, or Dewar’s (Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Brackla, Craigellachie…) Those are not small operations, so there isn’t any consensus within the industry. NAS is not about ‘creativity’ or ‘flavour’, in my opinion it’s about cutting costs while raising prices. A winning formula, that, if it works, but I’m afraid some may be sawing off the branch on which they are sitting.

But why would they do that?
Indeed, why. Perhaps because blends don’t sell well, which creates huge lochs full of young single malts and young or old grain whiskies that they need to sell? You see them coming, those single grains! But that’s just a wild guess… The mantra of a part of the industry remains that ‘we drank too much of their precious old malts, so they have to sell younger ones, but we wouldn’t buy younger malts for the same money, so they have to delete the age statements, but since by a stroke of luck, they just discovered the wonders of wood technology, they can now make young whisky that’s as good, if not better than old whisky, so age statements become meaningless anyway, and all is well in the best of worlds’. Imagine, the whisky industry managed to bend time! They’re better than Einstein!

Time, ages, those are the only words you know!
Yes, because they were there when I fell in love with whisky. It’s partly because of them that I fell in love with whisky. Whisky’s called an aged spirit. What’s an aged spirit without an age? Take ages or vintages away, and my love will slowly vanish. Simple as that. But I perfectly understand why other whisky lovers wouldn’t care, no worries, everybody’s got his or her own representation of ‘what is whisky’, beyond the legal definitions. Really, I’ll go as far as saying that to me, whisky’s only time. All the rest carries almost no value, it’s only fermented and distilled grains that are aged in second-hand casks that they can fill several times. What’s the added value of that? Especially when you want to make your product premium, or even luxury? It’s time that gives whisky its value. Proof, they manage to sell a 30 years old for ten times the price of a 10 years old, the only difference being ‘more time’. If that’s not ‘added value’, I don’t know what it is.

So that’s very personal!
Exactly. I’m not saying everyone should share my views, not at all. They are mine, now I know many friends agree. Including friends in the industry, friends who are not, mind you, only regurgitating corporate lines 24 hours a day. But some even seem to believe their own PR, playing it George-Costanza-style, you know, ‘but it’s not a lie if you believe it!’ A few while crossing their fingers behind their backs…

If you say so… If I understand you well, you think most NAS are bad whiskies.
I never said that, not bad, just very average. And again, some are truly excellent. After all, they have an age, it’s just hidden. In a nutshell, the issues are actually not about age, it’s about hiding that age, and selling young whisky, whether good or bad, for the price of old whisky, good or bad. I’m afraid it’s simply a sleight of hand. To think that they have so few obligations as far as information to the consumer goes (origins of the raw material, no obligations, GMO or not, no obligations, carbon footprints, no obligations, colouring, no obligations in most countries, and that’s not all.) But that was not enough, they had to hide the ages. In the 21st century, when the consumer asks for more information and transparency!

But look, weren’t age statements a recent, temporary thing anyway?
Another funny official line by the industry. You’ll find plenty of age-stated or vintaged whiskies bottled one hundred years ago. Mind you, around 1910-1920, even Johnnie Walker Red Label used to be advertised as a 10 years old, then an 8 years old. Now, that the industry would push age statements when they have stocks of mature whiskies, and erase them when they don’t, wouldn’t be surprising, would it? Or see Chivas, three years ago, age statements were all the rage (the ‘look for the number’ campaign!) while they just aren’t anymore. Finance won.

Many seasoned whisky people do not seem to care…
I think they do, they just won’t, or can’t say so. Not talking about the street drinkers of course, they don’t and they shouldn’t care. But seasoned whisky lovers? What I’ve noticed is that people who’re not against, or who even support NAS are usually people from or working with the industry just doing their job, or people who want to be seen as supportive of the industry, or who cannot afford not to be seen as supportive of the industry. They need their jobs, their income, they have mortgages, and many have to ‘go where the money is’, as a famous whisky writer once told me. I do not blame them, not at all, I’d probably do the same. But my position is very different, I’m lucky to be able to tell or write exactly what I think. Like, yes, that I need to know about the age of my whisky, were it the best I’ve ever tasted, just like anyone needs to be able to learn whether there’s horsemeat in the lasagna, palm oil in the ice cream, or the size of the car’s engine. Even if the lasagna are excellent, the ice cream very good, and the car fast and reliable.

But after all, it all happened with wine before!
Exactly. Remember when Bordeaux used to super-oaken their reds? That’s over. Remember when cheap sunbathed new-world wine was deemed as just as good as any grand cru? When vintages were dropped for the sake of ‘consistency’? When some started to say that terroir was a myth? When others started to invent very silly names just to try to create some kind of ‘illusion of value’? Or hype? Now go to a good wine shop (not a supermarket) and see what really sells for good money. Now the prices of grapes can be very different here and there, from a few cents to 6 or 7 Euros a kilo, like in Champagne. Not so with barley, which is extremely cheap. Remember you need less than one kilogram of barley to come up with one bottle of mature whisky. And grain whisky is even cheaper to make, by 40-45%.  No, seriously, I believe whisky, especially Scotch single malt, shouldn’t lose its main consubstantial value, time. Have I said that already?

But perhaps is whisky simply an industrial product? Like, indeed, tinned beans, or raviolis? Why do you need to add ‘value’ and ‘magic’ to it? Isn’t flavour enough?
You’re right, but that’s not what the industry’s selling. They keep trying to premiumise it, and to make it luxury. And to raise the prices even further. I cannot see how a product that would be totally industrial, that is to say mass-produced, and however good it would be, could become luxury if there’s not at least one little bit of something extra, something magic. I can’t see how that would work, especially since bling is becoming so passé everywhere in the world, which may make crystal and gold rather obsolete. Sure a large part of the general public doesn’t care, all they want is something not too bad (sometimes that gets you high fast).  But those good people won’t pay much more for their booze.

Good, but with all that, why do you go on tasting and drinking whisky then? What about your malternative spirits?
First, there are still some marvellous aged whiskies out there, let’s not exaggerate. And again and again, some NAS are excellent. But yeah, that’s what makes me even angrier (I’m joking), I believe I kind of failed in my quest for worthy malternatives. You may remember that when the prices of whisky started to rise, I decided to try to find other great aged spirits. I was ready to switch to other categories.  Really! But I now believe that things are even worse elsewhere. Many, many rums are heavily sugared, glycerined, and contain several other additives. The age statements are often forged. But yes there are some great ones, in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, in the French West Indies, or the indie Demeraras. Cognac? Most are too light, and weak. Or ridden with wood extracts and caramel. A few are magnificent, though, like Grosperrin’s, Vellein-Tercinier’s, and a few others. Armagnac? That’s a little better globally, but there isn’t much of it as soon as you’re climbing up the lather. Mezcal? Yeah, artisan mezcal! But it seems that the industry and the Mexican government will manage to control the small artisan producers. Get your Mineros or Pechugas before it’s too late! Ah, yes, Clairin from Haiti. Superb unaged spirits, but can you only drink Clairin? Maybe, after all…

So?
So whisky’s still up there, and remains, as a whole, my favourite spirit in the world. I’m just hoping they won’t do more stupid things with it, dumbing it down, and further industrialise it, making it lose even more of its magic and of its soul. Oh and please stop playing it all oak, oak, oak! We know it’s a great excuse for not mentioning ages, but it’s becoming boring. Hey, did you know that 60% of the flavours of the distillate are created during fermentation? For crying out loud, who’s talking about fermentation in the whisky industry? Only mashmen and a few tour guides? And the various barleys? Only a matter of yield? But indeed you may aromatise your young spirit using oak (new, first fill, rejuvenated) or using wine. Another can of worms. I have to say I never quite understood the expressions ‘sherry wood’ or ‘calvados wood’ or even ‘bourbon wood’. It’s all more or less the same wood, isn’t it?  Now it’s true that since you can’t, by law, add anything to your whisky prior to bottling (only caramel), you have to add it to your casks before the last filling. But remember nobody’s regulating the lengths of the finishings, so you can season a cask with wine, fill it with whisky, keep it there for a few days, and presto, the result will be the same. It’s a bit like beef, you may either cook it in a great sauce for hours, or grill it and drizzle with some readymade sauce from Tesco’s. Well, not sure about that one ;-). But you know the current story, “How many people do you need to make whisky? One mashman, one stillman, two warehousemen, five blenders, twenty marketers, thirty brand ambassadors, fifty salespersons, one hundred IT guys, and three hundred accountants.” You may add a bunch of lumberjacks and winemakers ;-).

Ha-ha. I’m wondering if you’re not taking all this too seriously. If you’re not deeper into it than the distillers!
Than some of them, for sure! Look, I’ve seen distillery managers refusing to taste a small glass of their own make, distilled more than one hundred years ago, because ‘they still had work to do’ – and then even refuse a small sample that they could have tasted later. Or I’ve seen a high-ranked exec firing a bunch of whisky lovers from around the globe who had gathered and brought a bottle from the 19th century and a BBC crew to the distillery, because it was 17:00pm (or was it 16:30pm?) and because ‘people had homes to go to’. I’ve heard brand ambassadors claiming that they actually preferred gin-and-tonic. I’ve heard distillery managers who had it all wrong about the History of their own distillery. I’ve heard owners claiming that they’ll never do NAS, only to launch a whole NAS range just eight months later. But I’ve also met many extremely passionate, skilled, knowledgeable, and friendly people within the industry, and those, that’s my staunch belief, represent the vast majority of the business.

And after all, they keep sending you samples…
Yes, but not all of them. It’s not an obligation, and I’ll never bend my mind depending on whether I got a sample from the industry or from elsewhere, or from a bottle. In the beginning, quite a few were sending some because they were thinking that was the cheapest way of getting some free publicity, and because there weren’t many websites or blogs about whisky around. But then they found out that it’s not because I get some samples that I will write positive reviews for them, and several just stopped mailing them to me, while finding other, more, say good-willing tasters who’ll happily write laudatory tasting notes. What’s more, those guys usually add links to the distillers’ or retailers’ websites, which is good for SEO. Mail a sample and get one more link, that’s not a bad deal! Having said that, while some have stopped, others have started sending me samples. As I sometimes say, some mail me samples because they know I’ll write what I think, and others won’t for the very same reasons. And a few know that their whiskies are pretty average, or that their overall quality has slipped, or that their style is ‘not for me’. Fair game. In general, when they know the majority of their whiskies are excellent, they mail them to me. And some have just never heard of Whiskyfun.com. No problems! In truth, I’ve got many more whiskies in my library than I can taste, so apart from a few very important ones, such as the latest Brora ;-), I could live with fewer whiskies.

Do you mean you could also taste less whiskies? Like, only one per day?
Never! I need comparisons, and I’m not good enough to assess one whisky out of the blue at any given time. If I ever slow down, I’ll stop publishing every day, but I’ll always compare several whiskies and do sessions. It’s like wine tastings, you need to warm up, go back and forth, fine-tune your nose and palate, and compare before you get a little better. Look, just try this, taste four or five whiskies successively, while never going back. Write notes, give scores, and then try #1 again. You’ll see how much your impressions have changed, most of the times! And that’s not only the effect of alcohol ;-). So imagine, if you only tried #1, how accurate would you have been? I’ve seen, for example, a professional blender nose a very peaty Islayer at a festival, just like that, because a punter had put one glass under his nose. He should have refused, but he said it was a Lowlander! And yet he’s a very skilled taster, it’s just that he could not compare. That’s also why so many people find that any whisky just smells and tastes of… whisky. Give them two whiskies, and they’ll become super-good very fast!

Well, perhaps… But aren’t some people finding your notes masturbatory, and too long?
Yeah I know, and that I’m using descriptors that very few people have heard of. That’s their problem, not mine. They should rather educate themselves, that’s very easy to do with the Internet! I know some also believe that tea is tea, and that going into details is meaningless at best, or simply showing off. Let them try some pu-erh, some earl grey, and some wulong, and check if they find those wildly different teas similar. If they do, they have a problem, no me ;-). Frankly, you cannot say that there are more than 700 different detectable molecules in any whisky, and then reduce your notes to the bare bones. Malt, apples, caramel, and basta. A little lazy if you ask me.

Okay, one last question, when are you going to change Whiskyfun’s layout, and embrace the 21st century?
That’s too much work, as I said before. I’m waiting for more people to complain, but almost nobody ever did. In general, people say that at least, it’s got some individuality, while frankly, almost all ‘modern’ websites just look the same, because they all use the same technologies and templates. So for the moment, Whiskyfun will remain ‘craft’, with many flaws but, at least, some personality. You can’t do any more craft than Whiskyfun, can you? And yes, I’ll keep the ugly yellow background, even if grey on yellow is less easy to read on a tablet or smartphone, which Google just hates.

So, are you happy?
Yes, and ready to keep rolling in 2016!

 

Whiskyfun fav of the month

December 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Tomatin 36 yo 1977/2015 'Rare Casks - Batch 1' (46%, OB, casks #48 & 30142, 798 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Macallan-Glenlivet 'As We Get It' (100.9°proof, MacFarlane, Bruce & Co., +/-1960) - WF 97

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Longrow (46%, OB, +/-2015) - WF 89

Favourite malternative:
J. Bally 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1985?) - WF 92

 

11:30 addendum. Already got many comments regarding the above interview, and some friends seem to have noticed some kind of jibe against Diageo. I do not agree, it’s just that since they’re the biggest player in Scotland, some sometimes believe they ARE the whisky industry. And I'm not anti-Pernod either, neither am I anti-Edrington. How stupid would that be? But would you need more proof that I’m absolutely not anti-Diageo? Please see this… (I’m even wondering whether Baron de Saint-Feux did not belong to the D.C.L. – I’m joking!)...

 

FAV

My Favourites of 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Brora 37 yo 1977/2015 (50.4%, OB, Special Release, 2,976 bottles) - WF 95

Favourite older bottling:
Port Ellen 12 yo (OB, The Queen’s Visit to Port Ellen’s Maltings, 1980) - WF 99

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2015' (56.8%, OB) - WF 92

Favourite malternative:
Baron de Saint-Feux 1888/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac) - WF 95

 

December 30, 2015


Whiskyfun

A true verticale of Littlemill

A verticale of Littlemill is something special for sure, so it’s perfect for the holidays, especially when some of the whiskies you’ve got on the tasting table are stemming from vintages much older than 1988 to 1992. Much, much older… Ready? Let’s start with a 1992->1988 session and then, you’ll see what we’ve got today… Oh and we’re expecting a strike.

Littlemill 22 yo 1992/2014 (52.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, American oak)

Littlemill 22 yo 1992/2014 (52.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, American oak) Four stars This little baby from one of the distillery's very last years of activity. Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts very grassy, with also grapefruit skins and green leaves, but the expected mega-fruitiness is soon to come out. Plantains, passion fruits, more grapefruits (their flesh this time)… Having said that, it remains pretty chalky and grassy altogether, it’s not a fruit bomb. With water: more of a fruit bomb, but a delicate one. Love these touches of fennel and fresh mint that rise to your nostrils. Reminds me of some Jurançons. Mouth (neat): sweets and marshmallows topped with triple-sec, pepper, and spearmint. Very tart, powerful… and lovely. Its as if around the end, Littlemill had benchmarked Rosebank. With water: I’m not sure it swims totally well on your palate, getting a tad too leafy and drying. Strong green tea? But that remains all fine. Finish: quite long, peppery, leafy, rather on green fruits. Maybe rhubarb, maybe greengages. Or maybe limes. Comments: high class for sure. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Littlemill 24 yo 1991/2015 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 144 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1991/2015 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 144 bottles) Four stars and a halfThis one’s brand new, but it seems that there’s been some demand. How bizarre! Colour: gold. Nose: same ball park. Perhaps more ‘evidently fruity’, and with a little more almondy touches (marzipan, amaretti). Whiffs of cloves and nutmeg as well, but other than that, it’s all bananas, maracujas, grapefruits, and greener bananas. The spiciness is very unusual, it reminds me of some old spicy cakes that my grandma used to bake. Some dry oak (not that grandma ever added oak to her cakes). With water: some American oak, more bananas, a little sponge cake, and funny drops of petrol. Mouth (neat): excellent spicy fruitiness. All-vitamins fruit juice spiced up with green pepper and nutmeg. With water: this one swims well! Why one cask would stand water much better than a similar cask remains a mystery to me. Superb tropical fruits, many citrusy. A touch of pineapple as well. Finish: quite long, zesty, fresh, and extremely ‘late-period Littlemill’. Comments: just excellent, and so very drinkable. Some flawless fruity Littlemill. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency with LMDW and Spirits.com.tw, Jam Session #2, bourbon hogshead, cask #30, 172 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency with LMDW and Spirits.com.tw, Jam Session #2, bourbon hogshead, cask #30, 172 bottles) Five stars This baby came with one of the greatest whisky labels ever – says this jazz fan. Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s one of the chalkier ones, but also perhaps one of the more complex Littlemills. Superb whiffs of wulong tea (no wonder some Taiwanese friends selected it) plus a little moss and fern, an obvious sauvignony side (hello Sancerre) and only then, some fresh tropical fruits. Unbeatable so far. With water: immaculate, very zesty, sharp, very far from ‘just fruit syrup’. Love this nose. Mouth (neat): oh my, this rocks, hits, and then soothes. It’s on full Sancerre mode, as if Didier Dagueneau had done a little distilling up there in Scotland. White currants, green bananas, lemons, limestone, grass, rhubarb… Indeed this profile is hard to beat (but rest assured that we shall try). With water: superlative. We’ll leave it at that. Finish: quite long, a tad rounder and fruitier, but the signature remains very sauvignony. We’re not talking cheap supermarket sauvignon of course. All great. Comments: I’ve not found all 1990s stellar in the past, but this one just clicks. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Good, the 1990s are done. All were excellent, but let’s move further down the years…

Littlemill 25 yo 1989/2014 (50.9%, The Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers, 282 bottles)

Littlemill 25 yo 1989/2014 (50.9%, The Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers, 282 bottles) Four stars and a half Some Lowland whisky bottled by some Germans for some Singaporeans and Japanese, how ‘world’ is that? And how cool? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s an Irish Littlemill. You know, these Littlemills that, should you not pay attention, you’d think were distilled at Midleton, with a kind of pure pot still character. Redbreast isn’t too far, but this has rather more oomph and brightness. Herbal teas, bananas (both green and yellow), limestone, grapefruits… In a way, this is a greasier Sancerre. Perfect. With water: soot and limoncello, that’s what I’m finding now. Mouth (neat): and once again I find it a little more ‘Irish’ than the others. This is a true fruit bomb, with mangos, passion fruits, bananas, citrons, gooseberries, even ‘normal’ apples… What’s also great is the way the minerality keeps its all straight and never ‘whorish’ (wot?) With water: more of the same, although it may get a little more citrusy and zesty, losing its Irish fatness. Finish: quite long, but rather more herbal, grassy, unexpectedly austere. Comments: it lost one or two point at the finish, but it’s still totally and utterly great. SGP:561 - 89 points.

As for the 1988, we could stay in Asia… BTW, many authors wrote that Littlemill was silent from 1984 to 1989. Maybe did the owners do a few short pre-re-opening runs in 1988? Or are those authors wrong?

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Whisky Agency for Art Taiwan and Bow Bar Sapporo, World Bar Tour, refill hogshead, cask #7, 147 bottle)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Whisky Agency for Art Taiwan and Bow Bar Sapporo, World Bar Tour, refill hogshead, cask #7, 147 bottle) Five stars Taiwan again! Not only do these distinguished people make great whisky (see Kavalan, see Nantou), they also pull some of the best Scotches. As regards to our Japanese friends, we’ve been knowing that for ages, haven’t we. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a rather different style, a little more buttery and beerish at first nosing, with more vanilla as well, and rather more ‘cooked’ aromas (vs. fresh ones). In truth this one is becoming one of these decadent fruity Littlemills, the ones you just cannot resist. Fruit salad, tinned fruits, fruit syrups, and, well, anything fruity. Bananas, pineapples, mangos, the whole shebang. With water: immediate and complex at the same time, that’s not common. Superb whiffs of pot-pourri. Mouth (neat): more Cooley than Midleton as far as Irishness is concerned – because yes, once again, this Littlemill feels pretty Irish. Fruit syrups, light honeys, a touch of stone and a touch of metal, some honeysuckle tea… All good. With water: perfect. It never gets flabby, while we’ve tasted some fruit monsters that did get a little, well, flabby once water had been added. Not so here, on the contrary. Finish: quite long, complex, on herbal teas and soft fruits. The aftertaste is pretty much on citrus, which keeps your mouth as fresh as a baby’s. Comments: well done TWA, well done Art Taiwan, and well done Bow Bar (a high reputation, the Bow Bar…) SGP:651 - 91 points.

Good, I think we pretty much covered the last vintages, so can we move back to… The 1960s?

Littlemill 17 yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Littlemill 17 yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Four stars A rare vintage, a vintage that’s already been fabulous elsewhere. But will this baby be as fruity as the 1988-1992s? In my meagre experience with older Littlemills, probably not, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s got he ‘black dumpy’ nose. A nose that should come from the spirits, but that may also come from the glass, the caps, time, how they used to work in Aberdeen (where the company was located before it was moved to Campbeltown), or anything else. Because it’s got these metallic touches, these whiffs of old oils and papers, and this phenolic extravaganza that could make any malt smell like old Ardbeg. Also a little butter, croissants, polishes, bits of sour fruits, plasticine… But is it as evidently fruity as the ‘modern’ Littlemills? Certainly not! But it’s very nice for sure, provided you enjoy the ‘olden style’. Mouth: hold on, this is mindboggling. I had also thought most older Littlemills were dry, cardboardy, and a little hard. This one isn’t, even if it’s got this dirty side that won’t please any modern palate. Metal dust. Now it’s also got a pastry-like side that’s easier and most pleasant, with spicy baklavas and, perhaps, a little mead or the spirits distilled thereof. Do you know Breton chouchen? Tends to become more spicy and peppery over time, and a little drying. Finish: long, spicy, metallic in a good way, and fruity again in the aftertaste. Some kind of apple pie without much sugar or honey. Which is the way anyway, remember sugar kills! Comments: yeah well, it’s great, but it hasn’t got its descendants’ fruity brightness. Hard to score, because this is a kind of sacred cow. This will do… SGP:352 - 87 points.

Time to call this a proper tasting session, but since this is a verticale, I think we should try some Littlemill from the 1950s, thanks to our friend Angus. This is a first at WF Towers…

Littlemill 30 yo 1950/1981 (53.5%, OB, stone flagon, 75cl)

Littlemill 30 yo 1950/1981 (53.5%, OB, stone flagon, 75cl) Five stars I’m so happy I can try this! Granted, stone bottles are tricky, and I know many a Springbank or Highland Park collector who’re lamenting the loss of quite a few cls of whisky, due to evaporation. Right, litres. But sometimes, these flagons just behave like glass bottles, I don’t know why. Perhaps the glazing on the inside? Better stoppers? Better environments? Or bottles that were not stored on their sides because some stupid presentation cases stupidly designed by stupid people were suggesting that was the way, like with many Cognacs? Bah, let’s simply check this one and see whether it got stale or not…

Colour: amber. Nose: hold on, isn’t this old rum? Or even old agricole from Martinique? Because I’ll tell you what, had I nosed this blind, that’s what I’d have written. Sugarcane juice, delicate raisins, clay, camphor, old mint liqueurs, embrocations, patchouli, tiger balm, menthol, tarry ropes, aromatic herbs (sage, rosemary)… And more and more clay. It’s not too strong (anymore?), I don’t think it needs water. Mouth: what not strong! This is firm and amazingly assertive (indeed, love that word), wonderfully herbal – old-chartreuse-herbal – and just, well, powerful. Old mint liqueurs, glazed ginger, cinchona, wheelbarrows of bitter oranges, pinesap, honeydew, marzipan, a touch of tapenade (crushed olives and anchovies)… In fact I find this glorious. I hope this kind of complexity will never be lost, not particularly talking about Littlemill here. Finish: long, saltier, even kind of coastal, sappy, almondy… And we’re finding more bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: it was the big question, could Littlemill be as great as the last vintages in the older days? Most old OBs used to answer ‘nope’ (5, 8, 12, 17…) but I have to say this 30 years old was just superb. I’m so glad I could taste it, thanks Angus! SGP:462 - 93 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Littlemill I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 29, 2015


Whiskyfun

Two Aberfeldy 16 and one bonus

Aberfeldy’s usually quite light, so it’s probably the perfect malt to sip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when your body needs a bit of rest. Today we’ll have some new or newish officials…

Aberfeldy 16 yo (40%, OB, 2015)

Aberfeldy 16 yo (40%, OB, 2015) Three stars We had the 12 and the 18 a few months ago, but this one’s newer. Hope it’s got enough oomph… Colour: gold. Nose: very breakfasty, in the sense that it’s got plenty of teas and herbal teas at first nosing, as well as a little butter and raisins. Some hay as well, then more butterscotch and a touch of caramel. Reminds me of Dalwhinnie 15 years old. Mouth: same kind of combination, with a light body, but we’re rather closer to Glenlivet this time. Hay, apple pie, earl grey, butter cream, shortbread, and a little maple syrup. Very very gentle and light. Perhaps a bit of a Mars bar (not deep fried, eh.) Finish: short, a little maltier and spicier. Cinnamon cake, plum pie covered with cinnamon, nutmeg… Comments: all light and all easy, probably an excellent access-category malt for blend drinkers. Oh and the retro packaging is lovely. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Aberfeldy 16 yo 1994/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4016, 460 bottles)

Aberfeldy 16 yo 1994/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4016, 460 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: isn’t it amazing how some extra-6% can make a whisky much more profound and assertive (love that word)? So much more oomph, and an unexpected mineral profile, more grass, some chalk, some bitter almonds, fresh concrete, then grapefruits and plenty of cider apples. Excellent punch and brightness. Mouth: what’s striking is the old-skool-ness, with more mineral notes, even a little salt, and then something curiously medicinal. Aspirin tablets, perhaps, camphor, cough syrup. Ex-Laphroaig cask? I find this very excellent. Finish: long, very chalky, more lemony, with zests in the aftertaste. Comments: rather unusual, but I love this zestiness. The Mo Or Collection was a great collection! SGP:352 - 86 points.

Bonus, the 21.

Aberfeldy 21 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Aberfeldy 21 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars I used to the older version of Aberfeldy 21 quite a lot, despite its lightness. Not sure whether they changed the recipe or not along the new packaging… Oh and I’m not sure I’d have bottled a new 21 at 40% vol. The design is retro and the strength is retro too ;-), but the price is fair given the age (+/-85€). Colour: deep gold. Nose: but it’s even more breakfasty than the 16 yo! Although we’re rather finding marmalade and mint flavoured tea here, as well as curranty buns, Danishes, muffins, and all things from a New York coffee shop. No, not Starbucks. Very lovely nose, I have to say. Mouth: what a pity that they bottled it at 40% vol.! Because it’s totally excellent, bursting with raisins, jams, marmalades, and slightly mentholy herbal teas, some lemon grass, rose jelly, even tinned litchis, a perfect raisiny oakiness… Finish: short to medium, honeyed and grassy at the same time, with something Highland-Parky. Comments: shouldn’t we start petitioning? Why bottle any 20+ years old malt whisky at 40% vol.? Especially when it’s as excellent as this! SGP:551 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Aberfeldy I've tasted so far

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

PJ

 

 

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December 28, 2015


Whiskyfun

Very old Glen Grant

Specialists Gordon & MacPhail keep using some olorious very old Speysiders, such as Mortlachs, Glenlivets, or Glen Grants. 60 years old, 65, 70, or even 75... Proof, maybe, that it's not only the wood that counts, and that age matters as well. So today we'll have some Glen Grants by G&M, especially two old 1950s. But first, as usual, some aperitif...

Glen Grant (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988)

Glen Grant (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988) Three stars An old NAS version, very cheap at the time. Cheaper than an 5, 8 or 10 years old. This is the version at 40%, we’ll also have the one at 43% for the sake of whisky research. Colour: gold. Nose: it was still one of those rather smoky Glen Grants, with more body than other versions, and a combination of rubber and grass, plus bread and yeast. Not an easy-easy entry-level malt for sure. Mouth: good, citrusy, mineral, quite peaty, with some body and some structure. Develops on green tea and a touch of brine, as well as a sooty, ashy side. This ‘old Highlands’ style is rather impressive, even if the whole’s a little rough. Finish: quite long, bitterish, malty, salty, ashy… Comments: a very surprising version, but we’ve had some ‘vintaged’ old 5yos that had this profile as well. . To think that it must have cost a song and a dance… SGP:362 - 82 points.

Glen Grant (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988)

Glen Grant (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988) Three stars Let’s see if the extra-3% have added anything… Colour: gold. Nose: this is funny, this version’s a little lighter, a little less ashy/smoky, and rather fruitier, with all the apples that are still to be found in contemporary young Glen Grants, as well as lovely touches of mangos. So, a batch that’s less smoky. Mouth: closer again. Leafy, grassy, salty, mineral, ashy… It’s even fat, and while the mangos have vanished, the smoke is back. Much texture in this cheap old bottle. Finish: surprisingly long again, with green tea, green apples, and always this ashy mouth feel. Comments: equivalent quality. Frankly, after all these years, and given the fact that it was most probably not the same batch, the extra-3% do not feel. Bottles worth buying at auctions, for a few Euros, as long as the shipping fees do not ‘kill the bargain’. SGP:452 - 82 points.

What else do we have at low strength… Oh, this…

Glen Grant 25 yo 'Royal Wedding Reserve' (40%, OB, Seagram Italia, 75cl, 1981)

Glen Grant 25 yo 'Royal Wedding Reserve' (40%, OB, Seagram Italia, 75cl, 1981) Four stars This official Glen Grant was bottled to celebrate the marriage of Charles and Diana. So, it’s obviously 1950s distillation. Colour: dark gold. Nose: OBE, with flying colours, metallic smoke, and garage-y phenols. Old copper coins, tea, old cough syrup (a bit stale), then dried figs, burning eucalyptus (wildfire in Corsica – well, when we say wild…) And then our beloved pu-erh tea. Any genuine whisky lover should know pu-erh tea! Mouth: this fattish arrival that was already in the old NAS, but of course this has more depth… and rather less structure. Mint tea, old cough syrup, dried porcinis, a wee bit of copper again (or your favourite silver spoon)… Tends to lose a bit of steam, but that’s normal. A little tar. Finish: medium to short. More pu-erh tea, metal, a little cardboard, bitter chocolate… Comments: it got a little fragile, but it’s still a wonderful old malt, with perhaps more complexity than in modern whiskies. SGP:362 - 86 points.

So, the 1950s…

Glen Grant 60 yo 1950/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, first fill & refill sherry, casks #2750 & 2760)

Glen Grant 60 yo 1950/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, first fill & refill sherry, casks #2750 & 2760) Five stars This one’s older than me. Just saying. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: very delicate. Starts with some fresh butter and a little warm brioche, so rather breakfasty, before more dried fruits, some earth, a little old wood, and hints of very old oloroso start to complete the picture. It’s after around five minutes that tinier aromas arrive, such as cut potatoes, light pipe tobacco, walnut wine, a touch of fresh paint, almonds… It’s all very delicate, a bit whispering, let’s see if it goes the distance on the palate… Mouth: no OBE, obviously, and while there’s quite some tea and green pepper from the oak, it never quite gets drying. Chamomile, more walnut wine, perhaps a wee touch of cooked turnip, some bitter oranges, a little chocolate, hints of chives and chicken bouillon, even more walnuts… And a drop of soy sauce – or is that lovage? Maggi? Finish: not that short, and what’s really cool is that it gets fruitier, while these oldies then to get drier. Around oranges and stewed apples covered with cinnamon powder. Love the honeyed aftertaste. Comments: I had feared there would be much more wood. A super-old bottle that’s worth sourcing, because it wasn’t extremely expensive when it came out, given its age. Mind you, sixty years! Of course, at a higher strength, the results would have been even higher I guess… SGP:461 - 90 points.

A higher strength? Just ask!...

Glen Grant 65 yo 1950/2015 (59.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Wealth Solutions, cask #2747)

Glen Grant 65 yo 1950/2015 (59.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Wealth Solutions, cask #2747) Five stars A sister cask of the previous one, bottled at an incredible strength! Even if it was filled at 65% vol. (pure speculation) in ultra-tight oak – doubt it was hazel or chestnut - and then stored just under the roof in G&M’s warehouse in Elgin, a loss of only 4 to 5% ABV sounds totally incredible in Scotland. Unless this baby was matured in Kentucky, Bangalore, or Taipei, ha-ha. What’s sure is that this kind of rarity is super-interesting… Colour: deep gold. Nose: incredible indeed. It’s both old and young, which is a very funny feeling. Starts with tropical fruits, rather around papayas and bananas, and goes on with all things mentholy. A little terpenic, perhaps. What’s really beautiful is that tiny earthy touches tend to come out, I’d almost say to germinate. Tiny roots, watercress, moss, these small mushrooms that are so fragrant (do you know clitocybes? – no typo)… That’s really lovely. With water: more very subtle oaky and earthy tones. Our beloved pu-erh tea yet again, mossy wood… And yet it’s not musty as such. Some menthol and some pinesap for sure. Mouth (neat): bam! It’s not easy, a little acrid, very concentrated, oaky for sure, a little biting… Well it’s no toothless old malt, for sure. I think water’s obligatory. With water: changes a lot, becoming rounder, with some kind of old coconut liqueur, plenty of tea, Korean plum wine, cinnamon… There are small flavours that aren’t often found in malt whisky, even in very old ones. Finish: rather long, and, hurray, rather fruity. Barley wine (yes) and orange liqueur. The oak’s back in the aftertaste. Cinnamon mints, liquorice, lemon drops. Comments: quite a beast! Most interesting and good, you just need to have a Ph.D in Pipetting to fully enjoy it. And probably a little more time. SGP:561 - 90 points.

There will be a part two, stay tuned...

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Grant I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 27, 2015


Whiskyfun

Malternatives on Sunday, today Demerara

After our luscious old Cognacs, time for some young phenolic, oily punch from Guyana. But some may be sweet too, sadly they don’t all keep them sugar free, let’s see…

XM Royal 10 yo (40%, Banks, Demerara, +/-2015)

XM Royal 10 yo (40%, Banks, Demerara, +/-2015) Two stars and a half A blend of rums from the Demerara region of Guyana, assembled by Banks and finished in sherry wood. Colour: amber. Nose: a rather dry and leafy Demerara, with a little iodine, oysters, and butter. Touches of mango and stewed bananas, plus light metallic hints, as well as a little camphor. Quite light globally, but rather pleasant. Mouth: rather sweeter, so a little dissonant perhaps (just like most El Dorados IMHO), but the notes of tar, tyres, and the trademark burnt rubber are well there. Would rather go on with roasted pecans and chocolate. Quite light, not weak. Finish: a tad short, but well balanced. Touches of tar, brine, and caramel. Bananas flambéed. Perhaps a little too much caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: between two worlds, that is to say heavy rums, and light, much more purified ones. A higher strength would have been welcome. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Diamond 2003/2015 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara)

Diamond 2003/2015 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara) Four stars From the same distillery in Georgetown, but this one’s a ‘single style’. Colour: deep amber. Nose: much more characterful, mentholy, coastal, briny… Wonderful seashells, brand new tyres, olives, capers, plenty of salted liquorice… Oh and the difference between 40 and 43% seems to be huge here. Mouth: indeed, what a difference. Salty liquorice, many more citrus fruits (grapefruits, yuzu, bergamots…) and then litres of seawater and dry bitter tea. Hints of fennel, very funny. A lovely dry palate, without any added sugar that I could find. Finish: rather long, dry and bitter, with a little burnt sugar, coffee beans, zests, cocoa beans… Some cardamom and nutmeg in the aftertaste, as well as brine. Comments: lovely dry style, not too heavy. One for Diplomatico or Zacapa drinkers who’d like to trade up a bit, perhaps. SGP:562 - 86 points.

Diamond and Versailles 18 yo 1996/2014 (57.9%, Velier, 570 bottles)

Diamond and Versailles 18 yo 1996/2014 (57.9%, Velier, 570 bottles) Four stars and a half A very rare experimental combination of distillates from the Diamond and the old Versailles stills, blended at birth. The code on the two barrels that were used for this very small batch was SVSG. Colour: mahogany. Nose: just an avalanche of gingerbread, black pepper, polished oak, turpentine, black cherries and the liqueur made thereof, macadamia nuts, then perhaps a little cork (not from the stopper!), musk, sandalwood, and lastly, all these tarry, smoky, and hotly rubbery notes that we like so much in the heavier Demeraras. Very complex! With water: it’s pure lapsang souchong! But the tyres aren’t far away, and then comes a little rhubarb (compote). Mentholated liquorice. Mouth (neat): thick, perhaps a little tannic at first, then very balsamic. Jams, quinces, ‘woody’ chestnut honey, wood polish… There’s also more costal notes, oyster sauce, onion compote… With water: the oak comes to the front, with its cortege of spices, but balance is kept. Finish: long, drier, so less sweet and fruity (it wasn’t very sweet and fruity in the first place). Salted liquorice and leather. Comments: high class. Wondering how many litres of this they have ‘blended at birth’ at the time. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Guyanan Rum 14 yo 1998 (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013)

Guyanan Rum 14 yo 1998 (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013) Four stars Not sure if this is a blend of various styles from Diamond or if it came from a single still (Enmore or such). Colour: white wine. Nose: not as massive as the previous ones, and perhaps drier and a little more spirity, with less oak influence (which the colour already suggested). A little chalk, fabric, grass and leaves, then fresh putty and oil paint, which is sometimes to be found in several Demeraras. So a shier nose, but I enjoy this cleanliness. Mouth: a little light, but more citrusy, cleaner, with some fresh ginger, a little plasticine, Thai curry (with lemon grass), and then more grassy leafiness. Limestone. Easier, but not easy. Finish: short to medium, with some paraffin, then grapefruit. Comments: very interesting, it’s the lighter style of Demerara, without being spineless at all. It’s also nicely refreshing. SGP:352 - 85 points.

Port Morant 1999/2014 (46%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara)

Port Morant 1999/2014 (46%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara) Four starsColour: amber. Nose: burst with some very petroly sugarcane, you could even believe it is agricole made in pot stills. New leatherette, the interior of a brand new Renault, quite a lot of olive brine, some carbon paper and ink, a little Brussels sprouts, and something more unusual in rum, kippers. ‘Low tide’. Ends with some fruitier notes, such as stewed pears. Mouth: starts with a lot of salty sardines and anchovies, which is fun! Goes on with some roasted pistachios – always with quite some pears – and a drier side, around strong black tea (sugarless of course). And tar and liquorice and more salt and some soot. Spectacular! Finish: quite long but not endless, very dry, and perhaps a little drying (strong lapsang). A lot of bitter chocolate in the aftertaste, but rather less salt, although there are touches of black olives. Violet sweets. Not that drying, after all. Comments: a rollercoaster, sometimes massive, sometimes lighter. The heavy saltiness is very noticeable. SGP:352 - 87 points.

Uitvlugt 16 yo 1998/2014 (52.7%, Duncan Taylor, Cask #35, 258 bottles)

Uitvlugt 16 yo 1998/2014 (52.7%, Duncan Taylor, Cask #35, 258 bottles) Three stars This one from the famous Savalle column still. Uitvlugt’s usually a rather lighter Demerara, but you never know… Colour: straw. Nose: starts with hay and flowers, then muscovado sugar, quite some overripe plums, a little marzipan, linseed oil, white chocolate, almond milk, and then a small dusty side. Some jasmine, perhaps. Acacia honey. This is, indeed, the lighter side of Demerara. With water: orange blossom water, more acacia honey, cinnamon cake. In short, baklavas, slightly ‘dusty’. Mouth (neat): easier, sweeter, a tad sugary, and very floral, while a salty touch remains in the background. Oily mouth feel. Barley water, orange syrup, sesame oil, green walnuts… And some salt again. With water: I wouldn’t say it swims very well on your palate. It gets a little too cardboardy and dusty. Finish: medium, a little tart and ‘green’. Green apples and pears, raw rhubarb, with a very grassy side. Peppercorns and green tannins. Comments: this baby started extremely well, but it loses a little steam on the palate, and isn’t quite the best friend of water. SGP:461 - 81 points.

(With thanks to Diane!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 25, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

Xmas

Some Cognac for Christmas
(a rather insane session)

These won’t be malternatives. Because after all, old Cognacs couldn’t really be malternatives, as it’s rather Scotch whisky that, initially, took off as an alternative to Cognac, a good 120 years ago. I’m sure you know the story, the gentry used to drink Cognac, especially in the UK, but the phylloxera destroyed Cognac’s vineyards from around 1875 on, and the Scots lost no time in stepping into the breach that disaster opened up. See, for example, this old back label from before WWII…

Gillon

But which Cognacs shall we try today? Why not pre-phylloxeric ones? Or at least old Cognacs that do contain some pre-phylloxeric distillates? Because you see, this is well Christmas… But first things first, let’s prepare and calibrate our nose and palate with a little apéritif, because we need them to be rather finely tuned today…

Reviseur

Le Réviseur XO (40%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Some single estate Cognac belonging to Domaines Abecassis, just like the brands ABK6 and Leyrat. Colour: amber. Nose: good news, it’s a fresh and fruity one, rather aromatic, without any excessive boisé or caramel and prunes. I rather find williams pears, peaches, and melons, then just a touch of vanilla, coffee, and honey. Plus perhaps our beloved ripe mirabelles. Very nice nose. Mouth: not big, but fresh, this time with a little more caramel, raisins, and honeys. Classic ‘Sunday’ Cognac, good but lacking oomph, mainly because of the low strength. Caramelizes your palate a bit, if you see what I mean. Not something that I particularly enjoy, even if this is very fine Cognac for sure. Finish: short, honeyed, caramelly. The pears and the vanilla are back in the aftertaste. Comments: we shall call it a fair and fine Cognac of medium age. Or perhaps a perfect stepping stone… SGP:541 - 78 points.

Good, older Cognacs. I’m lucky enough to have the whole set of Courvoisier’s Erté Collection on the tasting table, thanks to a Venetian gentleman whose name I’ll mention a little later.  The Erté Collection gathers seven bottlings plus one, each containing Grande Champagne Cognacs of old age (said to be 60 years old on average), the oldest being from the 1892 vintage, so possibly from pre-phylloxeric vines. Courvoisier issued one decanter per year during the late 1980s and early 1990s, each one celebrating a further step in the Cognac-making process. What I don’t quite know yet is if they were all from the same vatting, kept in a vatting tank and partly bottled each year, or all bottled at the same time and issued gradually, or if they’re simply different vattings/blends. Please be sure that we’ll try to find out, but what’s sure is that the colours aren’t all exactly the same.

Erté Collection

Courvoisier's seven plus one 'Erté' decanters

Vigne

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.1 Vigne' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1988) Three stars and a halfVigne is vine, as you know. Colour: dark amber. Nose: classic, very classic old Cognac, rather on chocolate and Demerara sugar than on fresh fruits. So it’s a ‘warm’ vatting, perhaps a notch retro (as retro as the decanters), and certainly not an aromatic bomb. Develops mainly on all kinds of raisins, which is very ‘retro’ as well.  Mouth: same feeling. A caramelly sweetness, then some cooked honey (honeyed peanuts and pecans), and an avalanche of raisins. A little toffee as well. Pretty light mouth feel. Finish: quite short, on caramel and raisins. Comments: old style Cognac, extremely far from what modern houses and growers are making or selecting these days. Perhaps a little lazy for contemporary palates, but certainly very fine. Just a bit… Out of fashion? Reminds me of some eastern-European or Spanish brandies, just with less sugar. SGP:630 - 84 points.

Erte Vendanges

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.2 Vendanges' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1989) Four stars and a half Vendanges stands for harvest, but you knew that as well. This colour is darker. Colour: darker amber. Nose: different! Drier, almost smoky at times, and also a little gamy. Bouillon, cooked marrow, cured ham, and then rather bitter chocolate and black raisins. Much less honey and caramel than in No.1, which is pretty good news in my book. Mouth: indeed it’s different. Bolder, more ‘responsive’, with orange jam, honeydew, maple syrup, stewed peaches (always enjoy peaches in Cognac), then indeed a little more Demerara sugar, and even hints of molasses, but that’s all more than all right. Finish: shortish but longer than No.1. A pleasant earthiness in the aftertaste. Comments: now we’re talking! SGP:641 - 88 points.

Now, provided they’re from the same batch, how come can they be so different (well, not earth-shatteringly different)? We have to remember one thing with old decanters that were sold in beautiful presentation cases, some buyers tended to keep them lying on their side for years and years. It’s true that some packagings did suggest that was the way to keep them. But we all now that’s a pretty disastrous way, and it’s not impossible, with this collection, that not all decanters had been kept the same way, which may have altered some of them. But let’s go on…

Distillation

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.3 Distillation' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1990) Four stars Distillation means… right, right. Colour: light coffee, so even darker. Nose: an even drier one, even if we’re very close to No.2. Perhaps more rocks and stones, and perhaps a little more herbs and teas? I do also seem to detect old roses… But it’s the shiest so far. Mouth: extremely close to No.2, even quite hard to distinguish. Perhaps a touch of strawberry jam? Perhaps ripe bananas? Finish: short to medium, always with Demerara sugar and molasses. More oranges in the aftertaste, and the retro-olfaction is all on marmalade. Comments: same ballpark as No.2. Great old old-school Cognac, just a little slack. Just a little. SGP:441 - 87 points.

Once again, a great old Cognac, but I’m not totally sure they are spirits for people who, like me, enjoy they spirits punchy and well-chiselled. But let’s go on…

Vieillissement

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.4 Vieilissement' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1991) Four stars Vieillissement means ageing, of course. Colour: light coffee. Nose: same as No.3, aroma for aroma and word for word. Perhaps an added touch of damp earth, but I may be dreaming. Perhaps a wee tad fresher? Mouth: same, it’s almost identical, but this time we’re finding a notch more coffee. Well, you could quaff ten litres of each and keep arguing about minor differences, without managing to come up with definitive conclusion. Finish: ditto. Demerara. Comments: very good. Imagine an Erté Collection at cask strength! SGP:441 - 87 points.

Oh by the way, Erté (1892-1990) was a Russian-born French designer, rather into art-déco. I think he’s a bit forgotten these days. But let’s move on…

Degustation

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.5 Dégustation' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1992) Four stars and a half Degustation stands for what we’re doing just now. Tasting. Colour: coffee, so even darker. Nose: we’re in the same ballpark yet again, but this time I’m finding rather more chocolate, as well as mocha and Corinthian raisins. It’s ‘darker’, and that’s not only the colour, and even drier than No.3 & 4. Love these whiffs of beef stock and Spanish ham. The dried porcinis as well. Mouth: perhaps a little more liqueury than the other ones this time, and a little balsamic as well. I find rather more rancio than in the others, as well as more earth. My favourite so far. Finish: medium, chocolaty, beefy. A little tar in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, fuller, better shaped. Even if it’s the same vatting (but is it?) SGP:462 - 89 points.

Esprit

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.6 L'Esprit du Cognac' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1993) Four stars and a half Cognac’s Spirit. They must have hired some new marketers at Courvoisier’s around 1993 ;-). Colour: coffee. Nose: same as No.5. And this is not Chanel. Maybe a wee-wee-wee tad earthier. Mouth: same Cognac indeed. Perhaps a little… Not. Finish: idem. Comments: not much else to add. How was the turkey, by the way? SGP:462 - 89 points.

Only one plus one more occasions to find a 90+… Unless we go on after the Ertés…

Part des Anges

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - No.7 La Part des Anges' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 1994) Four stars and a half La Part des Anges means the Angels’ Share. Yes they have that in Cognac too. Colour: dark mahogany, so much darker. Nose: well, the colour’s even darker, but the nose isn’t much different. As usual, once you’ve seen the colour, you tend to find ‘black notes’, liquorice, tar, soot, coal and all that. But they aren’t there, once again this one’s very similar to the previous ones. Perhaps a little more ‘roasted’, with more coffee beans? I also seem to find hints of truffles. White ones! Mouth: dry and molassy at the same time, then full of chestnut honey (if you never tried chestnut honey, which I often use in my tasting notes, please do, you’ll find funny notes of… brown spirits). Finish: medium, and leafier than the others. That’s an asset. Black teas, molasses, a little liquorice… Comments: excellent, you’d just want to wonder if reducing such old glories to 40% isn’t, or wasn’t, the equivalent of murder. Quasi-murder. SGP:452 - 88 points.

Good, in 1994, the Collection was complete, but they decided to add a last one in 1995, called the ‘Inédit’. It’s not exactly part of the Collection, and yet it is, but not… I think it was a larger batch. And we’ve got it.

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - Inédit' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 4000 bottles, 1995)

Courvoisier 'Erté Collection - Inédit' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, 4000 bottles, 1995) Four stars Sometimes nicknamed ‘No.8’, but it’s not. By the way, inédit means unreleased – or something like that. Colour: coffee. Nose: perhaps a little less aromatic, and perhaps a little more on tobacco? It’s also very faintly medicinal. Half a drop of eucalyptus essence, which suggests a little more French oak, or a longer ageing indeed. Mouth: it may be the most ‘modern’ of them all, but it’s also got this feeling of caramel and raisins that the last ones had almost forgotten about. Not quite my favourite feeling. Finish: shortish, sweet. May lack zing. Comments: another very very good old Cognac, but it’s as if you were feeling that it’s the end of a reign. I’m not a huge fan of this last bottling. Oh, by the way, some say that it was banned in the US because the decanter was showing a naked woman. Yeah, why not ban Matisse and Picasso while you’re at it. You may keep Miley and Nicki. SGP:630 - 85 points.

You’re right, not one single 90, that’s very frustrating. I’m feeling the same, but what was lacking from all of those was a little more freshness, and a little more complexity, perhaps. So let’s try another very old Cognac, and perhaps yet another one. But I promise, no more than two, because Santa’s waiting.

Bache

Bache-Gabrielsen ‘Le Sein de Dieu’ (OB for Wealth Solutions, 150 decanters, 2015) Five stars A blend of only pre-phylloxeric cognacs, so all from the 19th century, plus a little 1790 for good measure. I guess anyone could write a whole novel about this one, but my friend and compatriot the very excellent and totally lovely Martine Nouet already did that. Kind of. So let’s be more down-to-earth, and simply taste it. Shall we experience a folle blanche extravaganza? BTW, I couldn’( find any information on the ABV. Probably not high. Colour: dark gold (it’s all a matter of demijohns, not casks). Nose: Waaah! I repeat, waaah! The first word that comes to mind is ‘elegance’, then ‘balance’. We’re having the subtlest candle waxes, some old apples from three years ago (kept in the attic), perhaps drops of very old vin de paille (straw wine), and what’s missing in many a commercial Cognac, flowers. In this case, that would be lilies. Many tinier aromas do appear after just one minute, chiefly soft embrocations, a very small touch of camphor, and then our much-beloved spirity earthiness. Any good aged spirit should have a little earth! Mouth: a very old Cognac that starts like some very old Calvados, that’s funny! What’s actually quite unusual is the fact that it hasn’t quite got the very delicate complexity that was to be found in the nose, and that it’s even a little rough. A little… So cider apples, greengages, white peaches, a touch of fudge and toffee, then rather tarte tatin and honeydew. Or fir honey, with a balsamic and eucalyptussy side.

What the master blender has achieved, rather impressively, was to gather only very old Cognacs that had never gotten oaky as such. Impressive, this is more ‘a vibrant echo of the past’ than ‘a tired old thing’. And that’s an understatement. Finish: short to medium, which is normal. You can’t expect a massive and eternal finish from such an old Cognac. It would rather play on honeys and pollens, actually, always with this balsamic feeling in the background. And guess what we find in the aftertaste? That’s right, peaches! (in syrup). Comments: perhaps a little literary and shy at times, but to think that Louis the Sixteenth still had his head on his shoulders when a part of this was distilled 225 years ago is pretty… Mindboggling. Not only rare, also very superb. SGP:551 - 91 points.

A last one. A legendary one. Ever heard of the year of the comet? (not the year of the cat, Al Kooper fans!) I always wanted to try one, and now’s the time… Because this is Christmas!

So… The next one is a legend, for many reasons. First, 1811 was the year of the great comet, aka the imperial comet, which added so much ‘sunshine’ to summertime that all wines from that vintage had been deemed legendary. Not that the wine merchants hadn’t already some sense of marketing, mind you. Second, Napoleon got so enamoured with that vintage that he bought many casks of 1811 Cognac, for his private imperial cellars. What’s more, as the only son of old Napo and Marie-Louise of Austria, the Roi de Rome aka Napoleon II aka L’Aiglon, was born in 1811, many distillers and merchants started to add ‘Roi de Rome’ to their 1811 Cognacs.

< 1811, citizens spotting the comet

But there are also many odd stories related to the 1811 vintage. Fakes, of course. Or even merchants who, already in the 19th century, were exploiting the very high reputation of the 1811 vintage and were labelling as ‘1811’ just any other vintage. What’s sure is that even in the early 20th century, some were still bottling some ‘1811’. So, is this a genuine bottle of 1811? We’ll simply never know, and it’s not the embossing in the neck (Roi de Rome 1811) that’ll make it 100% genuine. But this is a very old bottle for sure, possibly by Sazerac de Forge. The posh restaurant Louis XV in Monaco seem to still have a few of these and apparently, the last consumed bottle was drunk by Winston Churchill. I had thought he was only drinking Johnnie Walker Red! But it’s time to try it… (courtesy of a highly civilised Swiss gentleman – and dear friend).

Roi de Rome

Roi de Rome 1811 (unknown ABV, terroir unknown, grower unknown)

Roi de Rome 1811 (unknown ABV, terroir unknown, grower unknown) Five stars Colour: coffee. And I mean espresso. Nose: we aren’t far from most Ertés, not far at all. There are black raisins, then roasted chestnuts, then plenty of rancio (between leather, game, and tobacco, close to umami), and lastly, some stewed/jammy fruits, hard to pinpoint. Perhaps tamarind, perhaps blackcurrants. After ten minutes, it’s rather tar and pitch that come out, together with a little fir honey, which we already saw before. Undoubtedly very old. 1811? Impossible to say! Mouth: it’s got this little liqueury side that many a very old bottle had, perhaps because they used to season them with fruit liqueurs, precisely, or jams, coffee, honey, cooked fruits (paxarette like), concentrated wine, or else. Just like they do with rum today ;-). Or with the casks somewhere up north, because they’re not allowed to do that otherwise. There’s also a little salt – great counterbalance – and these bouillony herbs that we like so much. Flipside, the strength isn’t very high anymore (around 30%?) so it tends to become a little flabby, although the salt and the herbs do manage to keep it afloat. So is this good, you may ask? Yes, very! Finish: sweeter, not very long, obviously, but a little mentholy, which works just as well as salt to keep it alive. Let’s make it clear, it’s absolutely not tired. Perhaps a tad too syrupy, but who cares! Comments: I’m not taking the vintage into account, neither am I thinking of this baby’s historical pedigree (not to mention its utter rarity) when I’m writing that it’s a great spirit. Because it is. And quite possibly the oldest distillate I’ve ever tried, although I haven’t got any evidence. We wanted another 90+ for Christmas; we’ve got one. SGP:540 - 90 points.

Merry Christmas! (we’ve got more old stuff up our sleeves until new year’s eve, so stay tuned!)

(Happy holidays Diego, Michal, and Patrick!)

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

PJ

 

 

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December 24, 2015


Whiskyfun

Xmas

Christmas tasting, nine Glenlivet

After Macallan yesterday, and the stunning old ‘As We Get It’, let’s have its archrival today, that is to say Glenlivet. We’ll kick this off with one humble little apéritif again, and then go down the years, and see how far we’ll manage to go this time…

Glenlivet ‘Master Distiller’s Reserve’ (40%, OB, 1l, +/-2015)

Glenlivet ‘Master Distiller’s Reserve’ (40%, OB, 1l, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Not the first time we’re trying this travel retail exclusive. I had found an earlier batch pretty correct, with a blendy character that goes well with travelling. Sadly, no age statement, but that doesn’t obligatorily mean it’s an unterwhisky. Colour: gold. Nose: pears and overripe apples plus a touch of rubber and green oak, with a rather spirity background. I find it rather less rounded and raisiny than the first batch I tried. Mouth: very light, with some honey and, this time, raisins. Custard, fudge, light toffee, Ovaltine, maple syrup, apple cake… Finish: rather short, malty and caramelly. Comments: malt whisky for blend drinkers. Do travellers tend to trade up to malt between two international flights? Fair whisky for beginners (if I may). SGP:441 - 78 points.

Right, NAS… Let’s jump over the decades…

Glenlivet (80°proof, OB, NAS, 26 2/3 Fl ozs, early 1950s)

Glenlivet (80°proof, OB, NAS, 26 2/3 Fl ozs, early 1950s) Five stars A very interesting old bottle from before 1955, stating ‘The Only Genuine Glenlivet Whisky’ on its neck label. I guess all those distilleries that were using the suffix ‘Glenlivet’ were really getting on their nerves at that time… Oh and yes it was NAS, but it was bottled at 46% vol., not at some slightly measly 40% ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: dry, slightly smoky, grassy, earthy, waxy, and faintly metallic, like many an antique malt from around or before WWII. Certainly more ‘Highlands’ than today, and what I especially adore is all this delicate earthiness, with moss, mushrooms, even damp lichen and bark, plus some wee herbs that smell of mint but that aren’t quite mint. There are many of them in Nature! Mouth: really powerful, rugged, with a coastal side that wasn’t uncommon, some salt, plenty of waxes, then bitter oranges and quite a spoonful of a dry herbal liqueur. Caraway, aniseed, gentian, bitter herbs… The mouth feel is very perfect, this baby’s beautifully textured. Finish: pretty long, just as coastal/briny, waxy, with a signature on hydrocarbons. Comments: bang! It’s well known that Glenlivet used to be a much fatter and bigger malt in the olden days, and this bottling was just a perfect example. Forgot to say, I find it excellent. SGP:462 - 90 points.

Let’s see what Sig. Samaroli has to say…

Glenlivet 1976/2001 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, 648 bottles)

Glenlivet 1976/2001 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, 648 bottles) Five stars I think this bottling has been done for Moon Import. Colour: mahogany. Nose: ah. It’s one of these very sherried malts that tended to nose a bit like some thick (yet superb) Demerara rums. Molasses, brown sugar, bags of raisins, marmalade, glazed chestnuts (it’s the season), then a looong development on various tiny herbs, both wild and cultivated. I’m thinking parsley, dill, chives, sage, savory, all that. Very nice soup ;-). Tends to become very chocolaty after five minutes. Mouth: typically Italian! It’s true that great Italian whisky importers and selectors, such as Mr Samaroli or Fiori, used to like their sherry monsters, perhaps because that was what the Italian market was asking for at that time. I have to say this one’s perfect, close to the greatest old armagnacs in style, with plenty of raisins, prunes, chocolate, and crystallised oranges. There’s also a touch of tar and pipe tobacco that’s totally lovely, plus a flinty side that keeps it ‘straight’. This is perfect. Finish: long, prune-y and raisiny, without ever becoming cloying or fattish. Comments: perfect. It’s Glenlivet that’s a little Macallanish, if I may. Quality’s extremely high (did I tell you?) The nose was fabulous. SGP:552 - 91 points.

What happens in that case? This…

Glenlivet 1975/2002 (43%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, cask #7526, 348 bottles)

Glenlivet 1975/2002 (43%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, cask #7526, 348 bottles) Five stars Let’s be careful, this one was bottled at a lower strength… Colour: orangey amber. And yet I’m dead sure they did not add any caramel. Nose: gentler, and that’s not just the strength. More ‘modern Glenlivet’, with a round maltiness and ideas an apple pie covered with maple syrup and acacia honey. And cinnamon powder. You have to work on it a bit to let a few herbal notes come out, but it wouldn’t become as foresty as the wonderful 1976. Mouth: no no no, wait, it takes on you! Gingered oranges, honeydew, smoked meat, tobacco, a touch of salt, chlorophyll, tar and liquorice, mint liqueurs… This is funny, it reminds me a bit of some older Glen Gariochs, like the 1960s or early 1970s. What’s the trick? There’s even a little chicken soup. The 43% aren’t a problem at all this time. Finish: pretty long, salty and rather smoky, with this herbal meatiness. Marmalade in the aftertaste, as often. Tarrier signature. Comments: in the 1976 I liked the nose better, and this time it’s the opposite. Great whisky again, very Samarolian. I can’t see why I’d come up with a different score. Well, perhaps the… oh no, forget. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Right, and what happens in this case? Going vertical!...

Glenlivet 1973/2002 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #3303, 300 bottles)

Glenlivet 1973/2002 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #3303, 300 bottles) Five stars Colour: rich dark amber. Nose: quiet please! Exhausts, tarmac, roasted chestnuts, dark chocolate, old books, bag-o-prunes, very old oloroso, walnut liqueur, beef stock, Jabugo, cigars, earth, newspaper of the day (iPads no work), soot, soft soap (which does not make it soapy – at all)… Enough said. Mouth: ah, it’s not unlike the 1976, the nose was more profound and complex than the palate. This one’s rather massive, in fact, on raisins and chocolate. Just a touch of honey and marmalade, but other than that, yeah, raisins and chocolate. If you desperately need comparisons, it reminds me of the old Macallan 10 Cask Strength from 15 years ago, more or less. I’m not saying complexity is obligatory, but it’s an asset, undoubtedly. Finish: long, perfect, simple. Chocolate, raisins, Cointreau. Comments: great great nose, the palate’s a notch more, well, simple. Sort of. But it’s great whisky. Oh well. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Good, we already tried the older vintages, time to go fly back to the UK, and to remoter years…

Glenlivet 1954/1969 (104.8° proof, Christopher & Co., London)

Glenlivet 1954/1969 (104.8° proof, Christopher & Co., London) Four stars and a half A rare merchant’s bottling at a very high proof. Mind you, 104.8 UK proof means more or less 60% vol. OK, a little less. Christopher & Co. of Jermyn Street were said to be the oldest wine and spirit merchants in London (not sure Berry Bros. would agree), but they simply disappeared sometime in the 1980s (according to angelsportion, a very fine little whisky blog I had never heard of before – a shame, because it’s excellent!) Colour: gold. Nose: bang. Remember Macallan As We Get It? We’re in the same ballpark, with a similar age (probably) and a similar profile, that is to say a fully spirit-driven, totally polished by time only –both in cask and in glass- style. Raw malt, citrus, green apples, rocks… And a lot of alcohol, even after all these years. So, with water: no. I mean yes, but it gets a little raw and rough, as if 50 more years in glass (or 10 years in oak) would have been needed. The palte will tell us – once reduced. Mouth (neat): as creamy as honey, as citrusy as Corsican citron squash, and as powerful as a GT40. The texture is incredible, indeed it’s almost thicker than oil. With water: quite. It’s superb, but it’s a little too simple to reach the 90-mark, I’d say. Lemon marmalade, a few bitter herbs, some raw barley, and minerals. Finish: quite long, rather on limoncello this time. High strength limoncello, of course. Comments: a little mindboggling. Worth a lot because of its pure nakedness, but on the other hand, we cherish complexity at WF Towers. And complex it was not quite, neither on the nose, not on the palate. So… SGP:541 - 88 points.

So, let’s follow through and have a Glenlivet that was bottled more or less at the same time, but at an older age. Dear owners, the floor is yours…

Glenlivet 18 yo 1951 (45.7%, OB, Barretto Import, Italy, +/-1969)

Glenlivet 18 yo 1951 (45.7%, OB, Barretto Import, Italy, +/-1969) Five stars I fondly remember the 21 in the same series, the 1948/1969 for Barretto (WF 92), which augurs well for this little baby. Colour: gold. Nose: ha, the Italians! This is a textbook example of a mineral, flinty, smoky, earthy Glenlivet from that period, that just bursts with tiny herbal smells, as if you would wander throughout a deep Scottish forest. Make that an English forest, they’re more, say luxuriant. I cannot not think of old Clynelish here, as any taster would get overwhelmed with graphite oil, old engine oils, whiffs of new leatherette, almond water, and Cuban cigars. Plus, indeed, mushrooms, dead leaves, and various mosses. I’m afraid this baby’s unstoppable. Mouth: huge, punchy, very smoky, earthy, waxy, and mineral. Exactly the kind of malt that I prefer, and with a perfect strength to boot. It’s even to be wondered if at that time, Glenlivet weren’t buying bulk from up there in the North. No, that’s impossible, of course. Finish: long, immaculate, earthy, salty, smoky, and oh-so-elegantly mineral. Comments: oh! SGP:463 - 93 points.

Is this Christmas, and is this Whiskyfun, or what? Let’s go on…

Glenlivet 34 yo '150th Anniversary' (70° proof, OB, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs, 1974)

Glenlivet 34 yo '150th Anniversary' (70° proof, OB, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs, 1974) Four stars This other rare baby was bottled in 1974 as a 34 years old, which means that it was distilled in 1940 or before, so definitely pre-war whisky. Yep we’ve always been good at math. Not sure about the 70°proof/40% vol., though, but let’s see, and duly celebrate Glenlivet’s 150th Anniversary (I agree we’re a little bit late)… Colour: gold. Nose: all elegance, even evanescence. Shy and subtle after the 18 for Barretto, but the profile is similar, with all things from a deep forest, you just have to nose deeper. Autumn leaves, moss, mushrooms and all that. Quite bizarrely, there’s also quite a lot of Glenlivet’s current marker (in my opinion), overripe apples and pears. Also a touch of butter, perhaps old books, certainly a few hazelnuts. The whole’s rather light, but it’s its elegance that counts. Less smoke than I had thought. Mouth: there, smoke, and mineral oils, and smoked ham, and some brine, and these funny fruit rolls that some are covering with salt in some countries. Yeah, probably in Scandinavia. It’s got the body of an old white wine, so I guess we could call it ‘thin’, but on the other hand, I do not find anything cardboardy or flattish. What’s more, the salt tends to come to the front. Finish: rather short, but if you like a saltiness in your whisky, you’d love this. Again, no cardboard and no tea. Cantaloupe and a little mead in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re touching the limits of our concept. Indeed I’m dead sure this old lady would have been better enjoyed in a large cognac glass, aka a fishbowl, rather than in a regular tasting glass. Because it’s totally flawless old whisky, it’s just that it’s a little… light. SGP:441 - 87 points (I’m almost ashamed to give a score to such a precious old whisky).

And since we’re in pre-war times, why not have a last Glenlivet. Perhaps a Glenlivet that was distilled even before World War One…

Glenlivet 1906/1920 (20° U.P., J.T. Moore, Liverpool)

Glenlivet 1906/1920 (20° U.P., J.T. Moore, Liverpool) Four stars Let’s make this clear upfront, I have the strongest doubts about the authenticity of this bottle. The state of the paper, the use of proportional fonts, and several other clues are making the whole rather fishy. But let’s see, it may also be a very old blend that’s been relabelled, as has been seen several times already… Oh by the way, to our beginning readers, 20° U.P. means 20 Under Proof, proof being 100°. So 20 UP means 100-20 = 80° UK proof, so 46% vol. Pretty high, but not uncommon. Colour: bronze-ish. So, old. Nose: old whisky for sure. Brown beer, fudge, something slightly stale, dried flowers, a touch of leather, but also an earthiness akin to that of the 34yo, with mushrooms, musty cellar, then a touch of Fernet Branca, more mushrooms, plenty of mushrooms… What’s absolutely sure is that this is some whisky that’s been bottled a long time ago. Whether Glenlivet 1906 or not! Mouth: but it’s even good! Some mentholated old liqueur, almond cake (amaretti), a touch of salt, something slightly metallic (silver fork), a drop of olive brine… It sure is old distillate, and it sure stood the distance. I just couldn’t tell you whether it’s genuine Glenlivet or not. Could be, after all… Finish: medium, so not short. Slightly salty, almondy, and earthy. Comments: what this is, I don’t know. If it’s an old blend, it’s an excellent old blend, with high malt content. If it’s Glenlivet 1906, well, it stood the test of time. I’m afraid we’ll never know, but that’s part of the magic of whisky. SGP:252 - 85 points (for what that’s worth).

It’s Christmas tomorrow, you’ll see what we’ve cooked up. Something very, VERY special, stay tuned… (and thanks again again, Angus, Diego, and Max)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenlivet I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 23, 2015


Whiskyfun

Xmas

Christmas tasting, five Macallan

If there’s a name that’s been very ‘Christmassy’ in the past, it was Macallan, with its legendary - now sadly abandoned -  ‘everything in sherry’ motto. Whether paxarette or brandy had been used sometime won’t change anything, their whiskies were simply great, or even the greatest. Perhaps one day they will go back to what they were claiming on their older labels? You know (I quote from a mid-1980s 25 years old), “Whilst other distillers no longer insist on using oaken sherry casks, at Macallan this costly tradition is maintained.” Things have changed, and Macallan got in line within the last ten years or so, but it remains one of the great brands in my opinion. Just the prices have got, say pretty offbeat? Anyway, let’s have a bunch of old and newer bottlings today, starting with a very special apéritif…

Macallan 'Special Reserve' (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1985)

Macallan 'Special Reserve' (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars A rare early NAS bottling by the owners, still wearing a screw cap. We’re having this baby first because of the lower strength, but not totally sure that’s a very good idea, given the colour… Colour: dark amber. Nose: sherry galore, and that would rather be figs, dates, Corinthian raisins, mocha, and dark chocolate, then smoked ham and touches of flints, plus a little coal smoke. No, quite a lot of coal smoke. There’s some old Macallan in there for sure, the smoke gives that away. Tends to become more and more armagnacky (!), with even more raisins but also prunes. Mouth: it still roars, and it’s definitely not a smooth, lazily rounded Macallan. I’d even say it’s a little rough around the edges, with some plum eau-de-vie in coffee, as well as a gritty, slightly drying tannicity. Like in 80%-chocolate. I’m not quite in awe, some sides remind me of the old 10 yo circa the same years. Something feels ‘young’, but it’s very good sherried whisky, no doubt about that. Finish: I like the finish better, it’s very prune-y and chocolaty. Marmalade and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: I utterly loved the nose, and found the palate just a little more mundane and rawish. SGP:562 - 86 points.

Macallan 1989/2003 (45%, Samaroli, sherry puncheon, cask #8274, 798 bottles)

Macallan 1989/2003 (45%, Samaroli, sherry puncheon, cask #8274, 798 bottles) Two stars I’m formally trying this baby for the second time, because I had been very disappointed with it last time in 2011 (WF 77). This is another bottle, so let’s check if that was an accident… Colour: gold. Nose: absolutely not a sherry monster, rather the opposite, hence slightly un-Samaroli as far as Speysiders are concerned. I’m rather finding some candle wax, almond paste, paraffin, and this unusual medicinal side (unusual in Macallan, that is). A little absinth, perhaps? Also a chalkiness. A strange-ish Macallan. Mouth: yeah, really strange. Rubber and ham? Ink, plastic, more chalk, bison grass vodka… Finish: quite long but bitterish, grassy, too waxy/paraffiny… Comments: nah, that wasn’t an accident, and I may have been too generous back in 2011. One of the weirdest Macs out there, but in that sense, it’s fun whisky. I don’t think I’ll try a third bottle ;-). SGP:361 - 72 points. PS I've also just tried a few Glenlivet s bottled around the same time by Samaroli, they're on a whole different planet!

Quick, another 1989…

Macallan-Glenlivet 26 yo 1989/2015 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 162 bottles)

Macallan-Glenlivet 26 yo 1989/2015 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 162 bottles) Four stars and a half A brand new one that reminds me of the times when we were getting as excited as cats whenever an unsherried Macallan was in sight. Agreed, quite the opposite these days ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: aaaah! This one’s as fresh and fruity as a 5 years old, but it’s just stunning because of the added complexity that only age, whichever the cask and its state, can bring to any whisky. That, you cannot replicate with more of that dreadful ‘wood technology’ that’s so en vogue these days beyond Hadrian’s wall. Mirabelles, quinces, apricots, soft vanilla, and this lovely wine that they make in the Pyreneans, called Jurançon moelleux. Mouth: Macallan totally au naturel, slightly rough, with pineapples, bananas, kiwis, and more mirabelles. Or say all those fruits macerated in good artisan kirsch. Let’s see what water does to it, just in the name of science (while the nose got rather maltier and almost bready)… Yeah, very malty, with a typical Macallan fatness, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best swimmer ever. It doesn’t need water anyway. Finish: long, fruity, barleyish. More oranges. Comments: going up again ;-). An extremely interesting – and good – ‘wild’ Macallan. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Good, back to the past if you don’t mind…

Macallan-Glenlivet 15 yo (100° UK proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970)

Macallan-Glenlivet 15 yo (100° UK proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970) Five stars 1950s distillation, what can go wrong? A very desirable bottle at the right proof and of good age, expect quite a rollercoaster! Please note that it came in G&M’s famous silk-screened bottle, with its wee thistles… Colour: coffee. Nose: holy f… err, fudge! Nosing the exhaust of an E-type, first series. Then cocoa pods, just-roasted coffee beans, and roasted chestnuts. Splendid ;-). With water: we’re in a Jerezan bodega, nosing old having said that… There’s even a little castor oil. Mouth (neat): Ellingtonian. Starts smooth (thanks Juan Tizol) and then starts to roar and bite and punch, with no off-notes, only loads of chocolate and marmalade. A little deafening after thirty seconds, this is almost becoming Iggy’s Stooges playing Raw Power. Bye-bye Johnny Hodges. With water: M.a.c.a.l.l.a.n. Coffee, raisins, salt, chocolate, marmalade, smoked beef… Totally impeccable. Finish: very long, on the same flavours, with a slightly peppery aftertaste. Comments: ultra-classic Macallan, no franchised bottling. There used to be a word for these kinds of bottlings… ah, yeah, seminal… Hope they haven’t broken the old mould! SGP:562 - 93 points.

Raw Power, he said…

Macallan-Glenlivet 'As We Get It' (100.9°proof, MacFarlane, Bruce & Co., +/-1960)

Macallan-Glenlivet 'As We Get It' (100.9°proof, MacFarlane, Bruce & Co., +/-1960) Five stars Both seminal AND legendary. 1950s distillation, or possibly the 1940s. A bottling for big boyz, undoubtedly, as this is malt whisky that was fatter and bolder than today, bottled at a super-high strength. We might need a bulletproof vest… Colour: straw/white wine. No sherry! Nose: fabulous, old Macallan without any apparent sherriness, how rare is that? It’s mesmerizing, with an incredible complexity that hints at the best of white Burgundy. No, really. Limestone, grapefruits, honeysuckle, gooseberries, fresh butter, lilac, spearmint, more grapefruits… Perhaps more a great Chablis than a Meursault or a Montrachet so far… Let’s see what happens once water’s been added - because it really keeps punching you after all these years. With water: silex! You just cannot beat this. And myriads of tinier aromas, raw wool, barley, ink, old toolbox, coins, putty, plasticine, marzipan, putty (you're repeating yourself, S.), graphite, asphalt, carbon, brake fluid… Oh, and one tiny green apple. Mouth (neat): I want to marry this whisky. The purity is insane, everything is just totally perfect. This is utterly grand. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade (long time no see, guys!) With water: incredible purity and intensity. Finish: amazing. Lemons, bitter almonds, chalk, nori, citrons… Comments: porno malt. And I’m sure it was dead cheap! Un-oaken ageing at its very best, glorious, pure, vibrant, almost theological. Proof that whisky can be both pure and complex. SGP:662 - 97 points.

PS: well, even without sherry – or very little of it - Macallan could be Macallan.
(Angus, Diego, and Max, you rock)

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December 22, 2015


Whiskyfun

Xmas

Eight Glen Moray pre-Christmas

I know everybody’s expecting only Springbank, Macallan, or anything from Islay before Christmas, but I had thought we’d rather celebrate a slightly obscure distillery today, which its successive owners never quite, well, duly celebrated in my opinions. It’s Glen Moray. Granted, not all Glen Morays have been great, but it’s a distillery which one of Ardbeg’s previous managers, the excellent Stuart Thompson, had deemed his favourite. Right, it’s true that he had also been the manager there. So today we’ll try to have quite a bunch of Glen Morays, and to go as deep into time as possible. But first, a few youngsters as the aperitifs…

Glen Moray 12 yo 2002/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10578)

Glen Moray 12 yo 2002/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10578) Two stars Possibly a perfect apéritif to better understand the spirit’s character, without much wood/wine influence, while the OBs are often ‘made-up’ a bit. Colour: wine wine. Nose: right, perhaps is this exaggeratingly naked! Beer and pear eau-de-vie, plus porridge and barley sugar. That’s all, folks. As, well, naked as malt whisky can get. Mouth: same feeling. Super-malty, very pearish, and extremely beerish. Some kind of half-and-half that some Belgian friends would have done, pouring a few cls of Williams pear into one of the lightest trappists. All what’s missing is a few shrimp croquettes. Finish: medium, on the very same notes. A Gueuze made with pears. Comments: good, I like spirit-driven whiskies a lot, but this one may be a little too extreme in that respect. SGP:331 - 74 points.

Dear DL, please shoot again…

Glen Moray 15 yo 1999/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #10420, 332 bottles)

Glen Moray 15 yo 1999/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #10420, 332 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: ah, maturity! Not that it’s immensely sexier or fruitier, but at least there are minerals, clay, some cut grass, then sweet bread (pumpernickel) and a few tinned fruits. Pears again, peaches… Touches of bubblegum, or even British fruit-flavoured yoghurt (I’ve noticed that our dear friends tend to add much ‘stuff’ to their flavoured yoghurts!) Mouth: fine fine fine. It’s a fruity and cerealy whisky, with good oak and certainly quite some vanilla and sawdust. But once again, the mineral side as well as the grassiness save it. A little liquorice wood, perhaps. Finish: fairly long and very malty. I wouldn’t say anything really stands out, and I guess this would be perfect as a filler in some good blend, but this finish is clean. Salt and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: honest and loyal, if not totally characterful. SGP:441 - 77 points.

Glen Moray 25 yo 1987 'Port Cask Finish' (43%, OB, Batch Number 2, 3,295 bottles, 2004)

Glen Moray 25 yo 1987 'Port Cask Finish' (43%, OB, Batch Number 2, 3,295 bottles, +/-2013) Three stars A long-aged official this time, but sadly, they had to finish it in Port. It’s never great news, in my opinion, when you have to treat a venerable 25yo malt like this. Colour: apricot. Nose: no it’s fine, I don’t seem to find any extreme wineyness. Phew. Rather leaves and buds, such as blackcurrants, then a little earth, then stewed fruits. Red peaches and drops of mulled wine. This is the season after all. Also a little tobacco, as well as overripe apples. Fine, rather elegant, and relatively light. Mouth: a little citric at first sipping, then smoother and rounder, with some marmalade and perhaps a piece of Mars bar. Cherry stem tea, preserved cherries, a touch of cinnamon, and a few dried fruits topped with some tea ice cream. Pretty good, I have to say. Good body, the low strength isn’t a problem. Finish: medium, with blood oranges and a touch of spicy Christmas cake. But of course. Comments: tastes a bit like further-fortified white Port. Yes, I imagine. A good sipper. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Maybe try higher strengths?...

Glen Moray 11 yo 2003/2015 (61.4%, Single Cask Nation, First Fill Jack Daniel's Cask, cask #2740, 214 bottles)

Glen Moray 11 yo 2003/2015 (61.4%, Single Cask Nation, First Fill Jack Daniel's Cask, cask #2740, 214 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: young naked whisky in naked American oak. Plenty of vanilla, plus a few orchard fruits and coconut. There may be something else, but at this strength, I won’t take no chances. With water: at a carpenter’s. Warm sawdust, green fruits, apples, more apples, even more apples, and a touch of grated coconut. It’s minimal, but its balanced and, in a way, faultless. Mouth (neat): pure liquid bubblegum and jell-O, it seems. So, with water: this is where it wins it. A joyful, ueber-fruity malt, full of gooseberries and apples, with a thick layer of barley syrup. Some young friends have made me try vodka containing dissolved marshmallows the other day. I’ve tasted worse, and this Glen Moray reminds me a bit of that experience. Excuse me? Yes, we’re still friends. Finish: quite long, creamy, fruity, fudge-y. More gooseberries, more marshmallows. Comments: smart. Or how to make 61.4% vol. malt whisky easy and sexy. I did not write ‘complex’. SGP:641 - 83 points.

Good progress, good progress…

Glen Moray 27 yo 1986/2013 (56.8%, Adelphi, cask #1931, 243 bottles)

Glen Moray 27 yo 1986/2013 (56.8%, Adelphi, cask #1931, 243 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a bit the OB without the Port. It’s very malty and bready at first nosing, and then it’s almost a pastry shop. Brioche, butterscotch, apple pie, all that… Plus a wee mustiness, hints of old wine cellar… With water: same territories as the Single Cask Nation. Malt, oak, tinned fruits. Mouth (neat): excellent. Full, almost thick, syrupy start, with marmalade and butter cream, plus a lot of marzipan. Some walnuts too, like in a walnut cake. Goes on earthier, grittier, wilder… A rather raw barleyness, in fact. With water: fruit-forward, but those are ‘moderate’ fruits. Apples, pears… Some barley syrup as well, perhaps agave syrup… It’s very good, just not, well, characterful. Is there a pattern? Finish: medium, syrupy, fruity… Comments: in fact, this is some kind of liquid cake. SGP:641 - 84 points.

Things keep improving, which was the whole point. But maybe is it time to call the ‘Christmas’ Glen Morays? Because mind you, that was just a warm-up, our session actually starts NOW!...

Glen Moray 1974/2002 ‘Manager’s Choice’ (53.4%, OB, hand bottled, 676 bottles)

Glen Moray 1974/2002 ‘Manager’s Choice’ (53.4%, OB, hand bottled, 676 bottles) Five stars The distillery manager was Ed Dodson at that time. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh my! Another world. Oils and saps plus dried fruits and many herbs and teas. Tangerine marmalade, lime tree blossom, mirabelles, quinces, honeysuckle, acacia honey, candle wax, humidor… This is magnificent! With water: totally superlative. Pollen, old menthol syrup, barley water, furniture polish, Spanish ham, old wooden cabinets, a beehive… I totally adore this nose. Mouth (neat): extraordinary. Superb notes of cigars, patchouli, litchi liqueur, various honeys, long-forgotten liqueurs from small countries (certainly some arracks), earthy spices, chartreuse… With water: ooh, more herbal teas, hawthorn, honeysuckle, orange blossom, wormwood, anise… Wow oh wow oh wow! Astounding complexity. Finish: medium, but oh-so refined and elegant. Cakes, teas, liqueurs… In short, life! Comments: you could write a whole novel about this kind of whisky. Not a surprise, but, well, yeah, a surprise. What a cask – a refill sherry butt, I suppose. Plain and pure magic. SGP:661 - 94 points.

Further down please… Former owners, the floor is still yours…

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 1966 (43%, OB, +/-1990)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 1966 (43%, OB, +/-1990) Five stars Ah, 1966… A great year for jazz, for rock and roll, and for whisky. Colour: full gold. Nose: it can happen, sometimes, that a particular malt whisky’s so fragrant and ‘perfumy’ (in a good way) that you’d think a perfumer assembled it. It’s the case here, with stunning notes of rose petals, musk (never found this much musk in whisky, honest), and some hand cream-by-some-posh-Parisian-house. Orange blossom water. In the background, rather furniture polish, old Camels, and something like… say old new electronics? Remember when we were unpacking a new stereo, or a new Macintosh circa 1990? Mouth: I cannot not think of classic Macallan. Some of the early 15s, distilled in the early 1950s, for example. Yep that’s pretty good news. Honey and dried fruits, but with a solid backbone, with pepper and soot. What we could call ‘almost-smoke’. Not quite smoke, but it’s smoky. I’m sure you see what I mean. Stunning palate, even if the 1974 still beats it. Finish: long – 43% vol., really? – and magnificently waxy and spicy. Comments: just another glorious one. I hope this kind of complexity isn’t lost forever; not just talking about Glen Moray here. SGP:551 - 92 points.

We could stop now, but you see, this is the Christmas week… So, perhaps one 1959 and we’re done?

Glen Moray 40 yo 1959/1999 (50.9%, OB, 400 bottles)

Glen Moray 40 yo 1959/1999 (50.9%, OB, 400 bottles) Four stars and a half Ah, 1959. Samaroli had a fabulous one, bottled in 1984 at 46%. No less than WF 93. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s perhaps not as immediately immediate (S., please) as the 1966, but this elegance should be mesmerizing, provided you’re ready to give this baby a good chunk of your precious time. Orange cake, a Turkish delight shop in Istanbul, various pieces of precious woods, warm cellulose, many leaves, a little chamomile, a little blond tobacco, a drop of mint essence… In truth, it’s slightly shy after the 1974 and the 1966, and would never quite open itself, but water should help. With water: still a little shy, perhaps, and it’s rather wood essences that come out. Other than that, more of the same. Mouth (neat): there might be a little too much oak, but all the rest is of the highest order. Rosewater, litchis, old gewürztraminer, teas, cardamom cake, acorn squash, pumpkin pips, these sorts of things. Not quite sure it’s too oaky, as we’re wandering around the limits of oakiness. With water: no. Yes! Not quite. Yes. Not sure… That often happens with older whiskies, they are flirting with your senses and sometimes they just lose you. Naughty babies! Finish: medium, perhaps a little drying. That’s right, a little flat and oaky. Comments: the problem is that we had just tried some stunners, so this old baby’s having trouble striking a chord at this point. I’m just having a drop of the very raisiny Samaroli 1959 as we speak, and well, it just kills this little OB. Oh let’s put an end to this madness, if you don’t mind. SGP:551 - 88 points.

(With many thanks to Angus, Gunther, and Johan)

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December 21, 2015


Whiskyfun

Xmas

Some very old Lochside before Christmas

Good, this is the Christmas week! Time to have some magic, genuine old Scotch whisky and to carefully avoid the avalanche of rather uninspired and uninspiring ‘modern’ whiskies that are launched each and every day ad nauseam. Right, exaggerating again, there are some great new whiskies around, but let’s have these Lochsides…

Lochside 44 yo 1967/2011 (41.1%, Coopers Choice, butt, cask #802, 320 bottles)

Lochside 44 yo 1967/2011 (41.1%, Coopers Choice, butt, cask #802, 320 bottles) Five stars This baby may be the oldest Lochside malts ever bottled. Coopers Choice had several casks, and we already had a lighter (in colour) cask a few years ago (cask #807, WF 90). Colour: deep gold. Nose: Jesus Mary and Joseph, what a great Lochsidian nose! Imagine a little copper, or say old coins, plus a large basket full of ripe mangos, bananas, passion fruits and pink grapefruits. Then, after fifteen seconds, you get more menthol, peppermint, and the faintest eucalyptussy smell. Perhaps a handful of fresh almonds and hazelnuts as well. The freshness is impressive, you would have thought this baby would have been ridden with oaky scents. Not at all! Perhaps also rose petals and a touch of fresh butter. This, is a malt of distinction. Mouth: hehehe, it roars! Well, not quite, but I had feared that at barely 40% vol. it would have become flattish and cardboardy. Not at all, and even if it’s not the brightest hyperfruity Lochside ever, and even if it tends to lose a bit of steam after one minute, all the fruits are still there. Maracuja, mangos, all that. A little chamomile as well, lime tree tea, green tea, orange blossom. In fact, it ends its life on you your palate almost all on notes of freshly squeezed oranges. Finish: okay, it’s rather short – no, very short - but it remained fresh. As they say, it leaves your palate ready for another glass. Comments: reminds me of some old Irish! Technically, this very old malt should rather lie around 87/88 points in my book, but a. it’s Lochside and b. this is the Christmas week. So… SGP:451 - 90 points.

Lochside 31 yo 1959/1991 (57.9%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5295, 140 bottles)

Lochside 31 yo 1959/1991 (57.9%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5295, 140 bottles) Four stars and a half A very interesting bottle, as it clearly mentions ‘malt whisky’, while some well-reputed authors rather mention 1961 as the first year when Lochside started to distil malt. Indeed I’ve always thought that from 1957 to 1961, Lochside had only produced grain whisky, 1961 being the year when Joseph Hobbs, who was to pass away in 1964, installed four pot stills. Having said that, the Coffey still was only removed in 1970, so Lochside had been making both grain and malt (and single blends) in the 1960s. Anyway, let’s see if we could find out… Colour: gold. Nose: well well well, this is a tricky issue, since what I’m getting at first nosing is rather… rum. It’s true that Lochside’s ‘tropical’ fruitiness is never far from that of some rums. In truth I find this very malty, and should this baby be a grain, well, it’s the maltiest grain I’ve ever nosed. Oranges, green bananas… With water: same kind of combo. Oranges, Campari, mint leaves. Mouth: tastes like malt, big time! Peppery oranges, green tea, apple peelings, gooseberries, chilli… It’s both very fruity and very spicy, a combo that’s rather unusual. With water: almost a copy of the 1967 now, only with more spices, pepper, bitter oranges… Finish: rather long, peppery, beautifully bitter. Cinchona, bitter oranges, pepper, ginger, orange peel… Jaegermeister in the aftertaste. Comments: wonderful again, only the Jaegermeister was a little disturbing ;-). Oh and I highly doubt this was grain whisky. The mystery thickens… SGP:461 - 89 points.

There’s only one way to find out, which is trying some old grain by Lochside…

Lochside grain 46 yo 1963/2010 (46.6%, First Cask, WIN’s 5th Anniversary, refill sherry, 71 bottles)

Lochside grain 46 yo 1963/2010 (46.6%, First Cask, WIN’s 5th Anniversary, refill sherry, 71 bottles) Five stars WIN stands for Whisky Import Nederland. As for these grains, we’ve already had a few by Douglas Laing, and had found them very palatable. Colour: amber. Nose: an old Yquem, like, with herbal teas and honey, like, plus apricot jam and overripe mirabelles. Like. There is, as always in grains ex-good wood, quite some vanilla and coconut as well, but balance was kept perfect and this nose is simply wonderful. Touches of tobacco and walnuts arising after twenty seconds, that’s the sherry talking. Perfect. Mouth: a wee bit of sour wood at first, but then it just goes ballistic on many honeys, pollens, tobaccos, and dried fruits. Add a little blackcurrant jam, a touch of star anise (white mulled wine), tangerine, and a smidgen of crystallised ginger and, perhaps, cayenne. Marmalade. Very impressive for grain whisky. Strength and mouth feel are perfect. Finish: medium, clean, without the faintest drying oak, with some chocolate and some marmalade. A touch of spicy pineapple chutney. Comments: very impressive indeed. Not sure this was natural cask strength, but if it was, imagine this baby must have gone down from approx 75% ABV to 46.6% within 46 years. No wonder it’s beautifully concentrated and ‘Yquemy’. SGP:651 - 91 points.

So that 1963 was clearly ‘grain’, which implies that the 1959 was well a genuine malt. Mindboggling…
PS: I’ll post an update as soon as I get more information about Lochside’s actual ‘malty years’.

(with mille mercis to Angus, Nicolas, and Philippe)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Lochside I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 20, 2015


Whiskyfun

Christmas Week Special,
a verticale of rhum Bally


Bally’s one of the most famous brands in La Martinique, and is made at Saint James’ since the 1970s. Their rhum agricole is distilled in a column still (Creole column) and aged on location. It’s said that Bally also pioneered the distillation of single cane rums. They only use vintages for their best ‘millésimes’, of which we’ll have six today. Sadly, the labels do not mention the years of bottling, so it’s quite hard to find out about the actual ages of these fine rhums.

J. Bally 1993 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2005?)

J. Bally 1993 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2005?) Four stars and a half Colour: red amber. Nose: aww, what a glorious nose! Peonies, stewed bananas, chestnut honey, honeydew, liquorice, peppermint… The sappy honeyness is totally impressive, and yet it’s never heady or ‘too much’. In short, this baby’s extremely aromatic and elegant at the same time. This little session starts well, doesn’t it… Mouth: the strength is just perfect. The palate totally prolongs the nose, with the same combination of liquorice, honey, and tropical jam. Granted, bananas and pineapples can make any drink vulgar and dullish, but this time that just works, partly thanks to some lovely notes of mint that keep it fresh and ‘nervous’. Perhaps a few kiwis, which even strengthens the freshness. Finish: long, a tad spicier. Chinese anise, liquorice, more peppermint… And a touch of ‘phenolic brine’ in the aftertaste, always welcome. Makes it a little Guadeloupean, in a way. Comments: luscious and firm at the same time. Wonderful. Only small problem, these bottles already go for almost 400€! SGP:651 - 89 points.

J. Bally 1992 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2005?)

J. Bally 1992 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2005?) Four starsColour: orangey/amber. Nose: much, much shier than the 1993, so kind of more austere, more herbal as well, more on teas than on fruity liquorice… Perhaps does it need time? Let’s wait… zzz… Well it does take off, a little, with some dried mint and an obvious musky side. Earth, mint tea, perhaps rose petals, then honey indeed, praline… I’d call this style more ‘civilised’, perhaps a little more contemplative. Takes time, but is great, as they say in Italy. Mouth: wham, this is bigger again. There’s a little more spicy oak, plus plenty of stewed citrus, the jams made thereof, and a funny combination of quince jelly and black pepper. High class for sure, just a little less immediately sexy than the 1993. Agreed, a matter of taste. Finish: rather long, with more cinnamon from the oak, Cointreau (actually, Remy-Cointreau used to own the brand!), and some kind of spicy pineapple. Comments: a wee notch oakier, less phenolic, and less fruity. But it remains high-class rhum agricole. SGP:551 - 87 points.

J. Bally 1982 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2000?)

J. Bally 1982 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2000?) Five stars I believe circa 2000 it’s already got the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée on the label, which was implemented in 1996. Colour: red amber. Nose: more the style of the 1993, but with even more depth, more subtleties, more earthy aromas. There’s also rather more agricoleness, with clearer whiffs of cane juice (vesou) and these fermenting/rotting fruits that are so wonderful. Some grass smoke as well, a few olives, liquorice, even seaweed, menthol… I totally love this nose. Mouth: once again, the 1993 with more complexity, more cane-y notes, more earth, and more rotting bananas. Rotting bananas are super-cool in rhum, provided there’s something else as well. In this case that would be pretty smoky lapsang souchong and drops of tequila. Very complex, very excellent. Finish: long, not too jammy, with touches of salt and always plenty of liquorice. A little coffee in the aftertaste, and something Jamaican. Comments: utterly loveable, this would please many a malt drinker. Oh, by the way, there’s also a cheaper 1982 at 43% vol., not sure it’s of equivalent quality. SGP:551 - 90 points.

J. Bally 1979 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1997?)

J. Bally 1979 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1997?) Three stars This one’s also already got the AOC. Colour: amber/apricoty. Nose: a drier style again, closer to the 1992, but with rather more herbal teas, including lemon grass and spearmint, as well as this kind of mentholated earthiness that can be so wonderful in any nose of any truly aged spirit. I also find whiffs of cedar wood (cigar humidor) and a kind of musty liquorice. Cellar-aged liquorice? And why not? Behind that, the usual ripe bananas. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, this one rocks and punches! The most brutal, rough, and aggressive of them all, with some gritty herbs and a feeling of green tannins. Over-infused green tea, a few pencil shavings. Very good for sure, but not my favourite. Finish: long, a tad varnishy, tannic, acrid… A tad! Some pepper in the aftertaste, plus a strange fizz. Comments: very very good, of course, it’s just that the first three were just marvellous. In other words, the death seat syndrome, perhaps. SGP:561 - 82 points.

J. Bally 1975 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1990?)

J. Bally 1975 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1990?) Four stars and a half No AOC, 75cl, and the old French ‘Sécurité Sociale’ logo – another very bureaucratic invention -, that’s clearly very early 1990s, or late 1980s. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is something else, possibly made at the old location. More ‘unlikely’ in a good way, with metallic whiffs, some chalky notes, old crème de menthe, propolis, chlorophyll… And much less fruits than in the younger vintages. In a way, we’re experiencing almost the same phenomenon as with Scotch malts, with more austere older bottlings, and sexier, more commercial newer ones. Mouth: oh very good! Starts zesty and tart, with peppery lemons, and develops on various herbs, especially thyme, before some classic liquorice and mint are coming into play. The whole remains dry, without all the honeys we found in the more recent distillates. Finish: long, with grapefruits and tangerines, and a herbal/spicy aftertaste. Lime. Comments: it’s to be wondered whether there wasn’t more French oak – and less US oak – involved at those times. Rather more challenging than the others, but I love it. An Old Clynelish of rhum. SGP:461 - 89 points.

Time to have a last one – and one from my birth year! (but why would you care…)

J. Bally 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1985?)

J. Bally 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1985?) Five stars This one’s got the large ‘D’ on the label, so that’s before 1990 if I’m not mistaken. Yeah, yet another smart invention by our friendly French bureaucrats ;-). Colour: amber. Nose: heeeyyy! A Jamaican smuggled into Martinique? This is as phenolic, mineral, smoky, and mentholy as rhum can be, and there’s even a little camphor. Beyond that, we find some furniture polish, anti-rust paint, our friends the olives (both black and green), and just, well, bandages and embrocations, old-Laphroaig-style. Bah-dah-boom. Mouth: superlative. We could leave it at that, but I thought you might want to know that there’s plenty of liquorice, an avalanche of bananas and papayas, quite a few olives, a touch of asphalt, and the most brilliant earthiness that can be found on, well, Earth. All that is coated with some coffee liqueur and just a drop of walnut wine (perhaps). Or wouldn’t that rather be pecans? Finish: not the longest of them all, but the complexity is fabulous. Many many dried tropical fruits, plus quite some strong liquorice. Great tarry feeling in the aftertaste, ala Port Ellen. Yep. Comments: one exceptional rhum agricole. What’s totally impressive is the balance and the cleanliness, while many old tropical-aged rums/rhums can become a little too oaky. No so here, this one goes straight into my personal Pantheon of Rum. Excuse me? Is that because of the vintage, you ask? Of course not! SGP:562 - 92 points.

I think all these ‘vintaged’ Ballys have been totally and utterly perfect malternatives (and grazzie mille, Luca and Cyril).

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far

 

 

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December 18, 2015


Whiskyfun

Idiosyncratic Speyburn

A tribute to a few crazy young Scots who became Speyburn’s most extreme zealots – just for fun. Here’s to you guys.

Speyburn 'Bradan Orach' (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Speyburn 'Bradan Orach' (40%, OB, +/-2015) one star and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: so funny! Where else would you find caper brine and old cider, plus newspapers of the day and plenty, and I mean plenty of porridge, not to forget Kronenbourg? Really, this is so funny… Mouth: very liquid porridge seasoned with lemon juice, custard, and drops of chilli liqueur, plus a growing oakiness. Loads of sawdust, which makes the whole very drying, although the cider in the background kind of makes it kind of drinkable. Thin body. Finish: short. Peppered apple juice, perhaps? More fudge and custard in the aftertaste. Comments: so funny! One to have in the bar, just because of that – and because of its very modest price. So recommended, in a way. A funny way. SGP:331 - 69 points.

Speyburn 1991/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill sherry hogshead)

Speyburn 1991/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill sherry hogshead) Three stars Part of the ‘The Wood Makes The Whisky’ series by G&M. Colour: straw. Nose: perhaps does the wood make the whisky, but in that case it was some oak that tasted just like some good Speyburn, which was quite a coincidence. Dusty porridge, ink, carbon paper, brake dust, overripe apple juice, Gueuze beer, croissants, and butter. A little butyric, perhaps… Also sauna notes. Mouth: much more depth and zing than the OB. Stats with some great fresh parsley, dill, and sorrel, which is unusual, and rather goes on with a slightly dusty maltiness, partly mineral and partly spicy. Very far from being unpleasant, and this ‘old skool’ profile is actually just lovely. Now, would the vodka-fuelled Millenials drink this? Not too sure… Finish: quite long, pleasantly dirty/mineral. Old skool indeed. Cider apples, grapefruits, and custard in the aftertaste, plus pepper. Comments: a malt unlike any other indeed. SGP:362 - 81 points.

Speyburn 26 yo 1988/2015 (52.3%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, sherry, cask #2114)

Speyburn 26 yo 1988/2015 (52.3%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, sherry, cask #2114) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: very same vein as the G&M, with infinitesimal differences. Perhaps a little more bacon this time? Because of a little more sherry? But that was probably re-re-re-refill. Custard, butter, ink, sawdust, cider. With water: strange. Lemon squash, fresh concrete, butter, paper, stewed artichokes. And in artichoke there’s… right, art. Mouth (neat): Speyburn seems to like higher strengths, the difficult parts being kind of counterbalanced. Nice creamy bitter orange liqueur, plus pepper, Gorilka vodka… With water: really unlikely. Imagine some kind of peppered and ‘sawdusted’ lemon juice… But then and once again, it’s funny. Finish: quite long, but a drying oak took control. This feeling of having just drunk a cup of over-infused tea. Some mint in the aftertaste. Comments: intriguing, challenging, amusing… You know what that means when tasters use those words, don’t you. But it’s good whisky, just, yeah, a little challenging. SGP:361 - 79 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Speyburn I've tasted so far

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

PJ

 

 

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December 17, 2015


Whiskyfun

All over the world, four by four,
today France vs. Spain

Don’t worry, we’ll be fair, we won’t only select the best of France, we’ll chose them at random…

Bastille ‘1789’ (40%, OB, France, single malt, +/-2015)

Bastille ‘1789’ (40%, OB, France, single malt, +/-2015) one star and a halfFrench whisky that’s totally unknown in France, that’s probably not good news. And Bastille, come on, why not a whisky named Baguette or Béret? Or Mademoiselle? Tried the Bastille blend (this is malt) in 2012 and found it pretty miserable (WF 35). Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this ain’t repulsive. Very young yet smooth, with oak spices, bread, gingerbread, a little cinnamon and cumin, some vanilla and honey… Nothing revolutionary ;-) but this isn’t un-nice at all. Quelle heureuse surprise! Mouth: c’est okay. Ça démarre bien, avec pas mal d’épices sur une tarte tartin et une bonne tranche de cake à l’orange, mais trois fois hélas, un boisé un peu vulgaire (planche) rend le tout un peu désagréabale après quelques secondes. Ça manque de corps pour un single malt. Finish: oops, excuse me. Nothing earth-shattering anyway. Dry oak and a little vanilla. Drying aftertaste. Comments: how would I call this? Loyal but dispensable? As I’ve written before, we’ve tasted much worse. SGP:431 - 68 points.

And now just the opposite, I wager…

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2015' (59.6%, OB, France, Brittany)

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2015' (59.6%, OB, France, Brittany) Four stars No comments needed. I’m sure the owners won’t like it if I state that this is the French Ardbeg, but there, this is my website and I write what I want  ;-) … Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s simple and it’s perfect, which makes this simplicity very desirable. Are you following me? Citrons, a medium peat, whiffs of sea air, and a touch of humus and moss. What’s striking, I find, is the elegance, this is the opposite of a wham-bam-see-my-peat whisky. In that sense, agreed, it’s not very Ardbeg. With water: the fruity sweets come to the front, the peat gets more discreet. Love the sunflower oil. Mouth (neat): wow, perfect balance between a mildly marshmallowy American oak and a coastal peat, very well chiselled. Usually, this kind of fruitiness (Haribo stuff) can make peaters dull when balance is not reached, but when it is, that can work like in… wait, Caol Ila? With water: keyword balance. A little apple juice – or would that be Breton cider? Finish: medium, clean, very elegant. Once again, no wham-bam peat, rather some kind of earthy grapefruits. Comments: let’s drop stupid comparisons, this is Kornog. SGP:546 - 87 points.

Over to Spain…

Navazos Palazzi Malt (52.5%, PM Spirits, Spain, 300 bottles, 2014)

Navazos Palazzi Malt (52.5%, PM Spirits, Spain, 300 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a half Single malt from DYC (who used to own Lochside) matured in a Palo Cortado cask by the crazy people at Equipos Navazos, who already bottle the best sherries down there. Colour: amber. Nose: cornflakes and sweet walnut liqueur, with a bready/spicy background. In fact the sherry’s doing the job here, but it seems that it’s a great sherry, shooting tobacco and walnut aromas plus earth and flints. All very nice so far. The spirit brings, well, the degrees. With water: not that many developments. Perhaps more bitterish herbal tea? Leaves and stems? Mouth: yess. That this would be segmenting spirit, as the say in the cutlery industry, is certain, but I’m totally into these salty and mustardy walnuts blended with tobacco and earthy tea. Totally. Once again, the distillate is probably anecdotal, but I’m no DYC expert. With water: beats any brandy de Jerez in my book, and that’s the most noticeable aspect here. As if our friends down there had been doing it wrong since circa the year 1500. Perfect salty walnuts and sweet mustard. Finish: quite long, leafy, tobacco-ish, and mildly salty. Was the cask stored in Sanlùcar? Comments: after all, why should it surprise us that Equipos Navazos have had access to some stunning (and genuine, hear, hear) sherry casks? For once, a totally cask-driven whisky was an (almost) ace. SGP:362 - 88 points.

Navazos Palazzi Grain (53.5%, PM Spirits, Spain, 300 bottles, 2014)

Navazos Palazzi Grain (53.5%, PM Spirits, Spain, 300 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a halfThis is the grain variant. A little scary, but after all, in a great sherry cask, you could as well pour slivovitz, applejack, or Brora. Ha-ha. Colour: deep gold. Nose: hold on, after all, the spirit did have some importance. This one clearly shows to which extent malt is superior to grain, because on the nose, and despite similar and very wonderful notes of walnuts and tobacco (and mustard and all that), there is a kind of vacuity in the middle. In a way, that’s the same difference as between solid gold and gold-plated. So a great nose, but a frustrating one. With water: a little less so. What a cask! Can we buy a bottle of the Palo Cortado? Mouth (neat): no, frankly, this is extremely good. Cask strength cappuccino made out of high-end dairy cream and the best blue mountain coffee. There is this lack of structure and body that’s inherent to grain whiskies, but the cask was so good that we will let bygones be bygones with regard to those matters. With water: oh, coffee and salt and walnuts and almonds and cashews! Finish: only medium – the grain, the grain – but surprisingly clean and tidy. Leaves your palate surprisingly fresh. Comments: mindboggling. I’ll leave it at that. SGP:452 - 88 points.

Boo-hoo-hoo, the Spaniards won that one. But to be honest, those Navazos were anything but representative of the overall quality of Spanish whisky. There!

(with many gracias to Steve aka Sku. Very often, people ask me what makes me keep going. Well, the fact that a Californian friend would have mailed me Spanish whiskies is a reason large enough.)

 

 

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December 16, 2015


Whiskyfun

All over the world, four by four,
today Tasmania vs. England

Prince Charles will be happy, whichever the outcome!

Heartwood ‘Any Port in a Storm’ (69.9%, OB, Tasmania, 2015)

Heartwood ‘Any Port in a Storm’ (69.9%, OB, Tasmania, 2015) Four stars A most funny bottling, a vatting of 95% Tasmania Distillery aka Sullivan’s Cove and 5% Lark, done by independent bottler Tim Duckett. At 69.9% vol., you bet this is cask strength! Colour: dark amber. Nose: anaesthetizes your nostrils, your olfactory bulb, and probably your brain at this strength, but the careful taster will find some touches of damson plums, gunflints, and crushed cassis in the background. But water is obligatory! With water: no, more water. With more water: we tamed it! Leather, blackcurrant buds, chocolate, malt, black earth, bitter oranges… What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): extremely strong of course, but all this spicy chocolate mixed with oranges and perhaps chervil just works – provided you don’t take more than one drop at a time into your mouth. A touch of ‘good’ sulphur too (mineral sulphur). With water: gets pretty gingery/spicy. Middle-European gingerbread, more bitter oranges, dry Madeira, and a wee carbony side. Finish: quite long, gingery, a tad fizzy/sparkling. That’s just a feeling, it doesn’t make bubbles mind you. Comments: different and unusual, very interesting, very well composed. Malt for chocolate lovers! SGP:452 - 86 points.

So, let’s try to find another Australian/Tasmanian…

Overeem ‘Bourbon Cask Matured’ (60%, OB, Old Hobart Distillery, Tasmania, +/-2015)

Overeem ‘Bourbon Cask Matured’ (60%, OB, Old Hobart Distillery, Tasmania, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Another ‘world’ distillery that pulled success and a high reputation within just a few years. Colour: gold. Nose: bourbon wood reveals good distillates, said a friend of mine. This is pristine vanilla-ed (but not too vanilla-ed) and softly fruity, with melons and apples, custard, tinned fruit salad, and acacia honey. The cereals feel in the background, which is great. With water: between Arran and Amrut! Very nice easy fruitiness, with some backbone. Mouth (neat): excellent! Lemon-flavoured jell-O, banana sweets, vanilla pods, and a very discreet coconutty side. The whole’s extremely sweet, but that may be the very high strength. With water: more easiness that goes down too well. Marshmallows, leaves, vanilla, a touch of barley syrup. Perhaps just a notch too easy? Finish: medium, very sweet, a little syrupy. Comments: I almost liked it better without water. But then, 60% vol… Excellent whisky anyway. SGP:641 - 83 points.

English Whisky Co. 7 yo 2007/2015 (63.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Sauternes cask, cask #804, 224 bottles)

English Whisky Co. 7 yo 2007/2015 (63.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Sauternes cask, cask #804, 224 bottles) Two stars and a half I find that more than great that the very smart people at Blackadder manage to bottle unusual ‘world’ malts such as Amrut or, for that matter, the English St George. I believe this one was still distilled by Mister Iain ‘Laphroaig’ Henderson! Unless he was already at Edradour’s. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah I know, an English malt matured in Sauternes sounds a bit like some Chinese Appenzeller, but in this case, there’s something that seems to work. In fact, the Sauternes does most of the job, with mirabelles, apricots, honey, vanilla fudge, and perhaps a little rubber (sulphury), while the distillate only adds a porridgy side. With water: perhaps a little more mineral. Mouth (neat): not bad at all, I must say. Not that this is Agincourt/ Azincourt reloaded, but once again, the Sauternes tends to lead, with notes of a plum pie straight from the oven as well as quinces, but the spirit’s a little more talkative on your palate, with a lemony/porridgy expression. With water: sweet creamy maltiness covered with a lot of mirabelles, orange marmalade, and more quince jelly. What was the château again? Finish: not that long, and perhaps not extremely ‘focussed’. Plums and muesli. Comments: there’s an experimental side to this. I find it very honest. SGP:551 - 79 points.

English Whisky Co. ‘Peated’ (55.2%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 290 bottles)

English Whisky Co. ‘Peated’ (55.2%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 290 bottles) Two stars and a half Not much is told about this bottling, but the fact that TWE selected it is intriguing… Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh sweet peat. Smoked pears, a little patchouli, orange leaves, ashes, coal smoke. A little narrow, perhaps, but pretty clean. With water: same. Elementary peat, I’d say. Mouth (neat): sweet, easy peat, akin to that very young peater that Benriach had, called Bernie’s moth or something ;-). Tends to become ashier and smokier, though. The first steeping of a very smoked lapsang souchong. With water: fine. Finish: shortish, a little fruitier. I just couldn’t quite tell you which fruits we’re talking about. Comments: indeed, it’s smoky, but I find the body a little thin. Frankly, apart from Brora and Ledaig (and Glen Garioch and Jura at times), who managed to make some really great peaters outside Islay? Should all distilleries make peated variants or not? Discuss… SGP:645 - 77 points.

Was that rugby? It seems that the Australians won big time.

(many thanks, Brooke!)

 

 

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December 15, 2015


Whiskyfun

All over the world, four by four,
today Japan vs. Sweden

Tasting ‘world’ whiskies without any preconceptions just like we did several times already, flying from one continent to another, in no particular order, just for fun. We’ll see what happens, but you may expect both the great and the unlikely…

Fujikai 10 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 8,808 bottles, +/-2015)

Fujikai 10 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 8,808 bottles, +/-2015) one star and a half Not too sure what this is, not even sure it’s a single malt. Monde Distillery seem to have been involved, somewhere. Colour: deep gold. Nose: plum wine and sawdust, plus pumpernickel bread and a little cardboard. Perhaps a little sake. I don’t find this unpleasant, just a little un-whisky. Mouth: really unusual. Something weird in the arrival, with some dust and, perhaps, some cold tea that should have been served hot. Some gingerbread, more pumpernickel, and a sourness in the background. Stale lemon juice? Finish: short, dusty, with more sawdust, perhaps tapioca, and always these touches of sake. Comments: I don’t find this totally bad, just weird. The oak’s rather too loud. SGP:341 - 69 points.

Chichibu 2011-2012/2015 ‘ePower’ (61.1%, OB, Japan, casks #1490+1683, 538 bottles)

Chichibu 2011-2012/2015 ‘ePower’ (61.1%, OB, Japan, casks #1490+1683, 538 bottles) Two stars It’s amazing how Chichibu quickly acquired a ‘grand cru’ status and matching prices (this goes for approx €500), while no Scottish distillery ever managed to do that. No, not even that one. It’s a vatting of a hogshead bearing mizunara heads and a hard-charred new barrel. Some heavy oak to be expected, perhaps… Colour: full gold. Nose: very hot, very pungent. Raw kirsch and a lot of varnish, plus whiffs of hand lotion. And vanilla, fudge, Mars bar... Quick, water… Wirth water: huge viscimetry! Gets shier and a little plankish. I think I’ve nosed much nicer Chichibus! Mouth (neat): creamy and loud. Very oily mouth feel, and an avalanche of sweet oak. Oak-aged fudge? With water: easier, rounder, with some oranges, but also a big tannicity taking the lead. Finish: medium, oaky, young. Comments: a strange bottling, too young and too oaked for my taste. As I said, I’ve had some much greater Chichibus! SGP:461 - 72 points.

Let’s fly to Sweden…

Box 2011/2014 (58.2%, OB, Sweden, for Hasse Peters, oloroso sherry, cask #A414)

Box 2011/2014 (58.2%, OB, Sweden, for Hasse Peters, oloroso sherry, cask #A414) Four stars and a half This baby was aged in small 40l casks. The malt was peated to 45ppm. Colour: amber. Nose: very compact, with some sweet leather notes, some bitter oranges, lit cigars, a little curry, drops of walnut liqueur, and a spoonful of black olive brine. This kind of combo usually works, in this case it works even better. With water: oh perfect! Caraway, oranges, smoked ham, lapsang, and all that. It was good wood. Mouth (neat): as creamy as honey, first sweet (bitter orange liqueur), then firmer and spicier. Black chocolate, a touch of salty mustard, some tobacco, a handful of salted liquorice, Dutch-style, and then a little menthol snuff (as far as I remember). With water: it’s the balance that’s impressive, as well as this herbalness that may cure any wintery illness. Colds, influenza, et al. Myrtle, eucalyptus… Finish: long, sappy, mentholy, spicy, and always balanced. That’s the main achievement in this context. Comments: remember the first Port Charlottes ex-bloodtub? They were quite different, and yet kind of smiliar, ‘in the spirit’. Very well done, this is craft – although the 45ppm don’t feel mucho. SGP:463 - 89 points.

Mackmyra Bruks Whisky (41.4%, OB, Sweden, +/-2015)

Mackmyra Bruks Whisky (41.4%, OB, Sweden, +/-2015) Three stars and a half This is the regular Mackmyra. I have to say when I first tried an earlier version, a few years ago, I liked it better than almost any ‘special’ bottlings by them (WF 83). Colour: straw. Nose: an easy bready, slightly floral, and partially grassy style, very fresh and pleasant. Fresh baguette, a little cumin and mint, then a second layer, with more vanilla, juniper, and grapefruits. Balance was found. Like this clean freshness. Mouth: really good, easy spicy, with grapefruits again, ginger and cardamom, lemon grass, a little rye and buckwheat (Breton galettes), sweet bread… This might be very young, but it’s not youngish. Finish: medium, perhaps a little rougher this time. Cloves. Pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: as I remembered it, perhaps even a little smoother, although the finish was frankly spicy. Same personal score. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Sweden clearly won this time – and they didn’t even need Zlatan. (with thanks to Hasse)

 

 

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December 2015 - part 1 <--- December 2015 - part 2 ---> January 2016 - part 1


 

 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Glen Grant 65 yo 1950/2015 (59.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Wealth Solutions, cask #2747)

Glen Grant 60 yo 1950/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, first fill & refill sherry, casks #2750 & 2760)

Glenlivet 18 yo 1951 (45.7%, OB, Barretto Import, Italy, +/-1969)

Glenlivet 1973/2002 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #3303, 300 bottles)

Glenlivet 1975/2002 (43%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, cask #7526, 348 bottles)

Glenlivet 1976/2001 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, 648 bottles)

Glenlivet (80°proof, OB, NAS, 26 2/3 Fl ozs, early 1950s)

Glen Moray 1974/2002 ‘Manager’s Choice’ (53.4%, OB, hand bottled, 676 bottles)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 1966 (43%, OB, +/-1990)

Littlemill 30 yo 1950/1981 (53.5%, OB, stone flagon, 75cl)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Whisky Agency for Art Taiwan and Bow Bar Sapporo, World Bar Tour, refill hogshead, cask #7, 147 bottle)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency with LMDW and Spirits.com.tw, Jam Session #2, bourbon hogshead, cask #30, 172 bottles)

Lochside 44 yo 1967/2011 (41.1%, Coopers Choice, butt, cask #802, 320 bottles)

Lochside grain 46 yo 1963/2010 (46.6%, First Cask, WIN’s 5th Anniversary, refill sherry, 71 bottles)

J. Bally 1982 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2000?)

J. Bally 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1985?)

Macallan-Glenlivet 'As We Get It' (100.9°proof, MacFarlane, Bruce & Co., +/-1960)

Macallan-Glenlivet 15 yo (100° UK proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970)

Roi de Rome 1811 (unknown ABV, terroir unknown, grower unknown)

Bache-Gabrielsen ‘Le Sein de Dieu’ (OB for Wealth Solutions, 150 decanters, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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