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February 14, 2011



by Nick Morgan


The Waterboys; An Appointment with Mr Yeats
Barbican, London
, February 3rd 2011

Punctuality isn’t my strongest point and I was somewhat embarrassed to be late for this appointment with Mr W B Yeats, but my mercy dash from Speyside to London’s Barbican theatre (sans dinner I may add), was always going to be tight.  Yeats, as I’m sure you know, was the Nobel prize-winning Irish poet, Senator of the Irish Free State created in 1922, passionate supporter of Irish independence, sometime mystic, steeped in the Celtic mythology of his homeland, and a staunch advocate of the theatrical arts. And although he is closely associated with Dublin in many people’s minds (where amongst other things he was responsible for the creation of the Abbey Theatre, now the National Theatre of Ireland), he actually spent his early years in a house just round the corner from where I’m writing this.  Mike Scott was born in Edinburgh, studied English Literature at Edinburgh University, and as far as I can tell didn’t live in Chiswick.  He is however, Mr W B Yeats’ Number One Fan, and has been for many years (as you will know if you’ve read previous reviews of his work on Whiskyfun).  Now there’s a famous quote about Scott: "madman or genius, depending on your point of view", which is very pertinent to this show, for only a madman, or a genius, would risk putting on a two-hour set of unrecorded songs, based on the writing of a fairly unfashionable poet, in one of London’s most prestigious venues.  But even though I missed the first thirty minutes or so, the conclusion would have to be ‘genius’.

It is a Waterboys gig, that ever-changing collection of musical wanders, featuring the familiar Steve Wickham on violin, some less familiar Dublin faces (including singer Katie Kim) and on oboe, sax and cor anglais Kate St John.  Scott’s wearing what my old Mum would call ‘fancy pants’, satin and velvet stripes, a dandyish mandarin-style velvet jacket, striped shirt, and his trademark winkle-pickers. His greying mane of hair hides a well worn face, but there is an intensity in his expression and piercing eyes that runs though the whole evening.  These shows were premiered in Dublin last year; this is their first outing in the UK.  The place is full of Waterboys fans no doubt expecting a good smattering of Waterboys songs.  But that’s not Scott’s style.  So whilst some of the arrangements are given the full-on Waterboys treatment, with more climaxes than you’d get at a Berlusconi ‘bunga bunga’ party, (‘The mountain tomb’) others are delightfully spare, and beautifully staged. 

Mike Scott
Mike Scott, Waterboys

‘The four ages of man’, with a huge clock ticking towards midnight, and ‘An Irish airman foresees his death’, with Scott marching from one side of the stage to the other, are spine-chillingly perfect.  Not all the songs feature Yeats word for word, “I’m pretty ruthless with my lyrics”, says Scott, “and I may have taken liberties with some of Yeats’”.  So in the very powerful ‘Let the earth bear witness’ Scott combines words from two plays to forge a song he dedicated to the Iranian protesters who took to the streets in 2009; sad to say sung here almost the same day as protester Zahra Bahrami was executed by the Iranian regime.  Powerful stuff indeed, aided of course by great musicianship.  I’ll just call out Wickham’s violin on ‘The White birds’, which gave me what I described in my notebook as ‘a St Kilda moment’.  Go to St Kilda and you’ll see what I mean.


And I was very surprised that at the end of the show Scott pulled two Waterboys classics out of the bag, which had the predictable effect of bringing the bum-waggling and arm-twirling so-called dancers to their feet.  But no-one is really going to object to stirring renditions of ‘Bang the drum’, or ‘Whole of the moon’, not even Mr Yeats, whose moving image was projected above us, looking down with a genial, if not slightly mystified smile.  I was so taken with the whole thing that I’ve now got a copy of Yeats’ collected works by my bedside, and damn me, whenever I pick it up I hear Mike Scott’s voice in my head as I read each poem.  That tells me that this is one gig which will stay with me for a very long time.  Genius. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick)



Tasting the two latest Ballechin

The first Ballechin (peated Edradour) was matured in Burgundy casks, #2 in Madeira and #3 in Port. I liked them all, time to try the more recent versions today…

Ballechin '4th Release' (46%, OB, matured in Oloroso Sherry Casks, Bottled 2009) Four stars A good bronze medal at the MMA 2009. Colour: copper-gold. Nose: Ballechin’s farminess strikes immediately, together with quite some leather and pipe tobacco (reminds me a of Danish blend I used to smoke a loooong time ago – I haven’t touched a pipe since ages). The peat is quite beautiful in this context – but I don’t think I ever tried some ‘naked’ Ballechin. Other than that, we have quite some walnuts, a little sage, toffee, dark chocolate, hints of pine sap and quite some bitter oranges. I like this a lot. Mouth: excellent attack, dry, peaty, nutty and grassy, with many ‘florish’ notes from the sherry, some chocolate, ginger, bitter oranges, pepper, a little cumin… And a perfect body. No water needed here in my opinion. Finish: not that long but clean yet complex, leathery and spicy. Comments: owner Mr. Symington doesn’t like to trumpet on all digital platforms and maybe that’s why Ballechin isn’t more well-known in the chatting circles. Maybe it’s better like that. Excellent whisky. SGP:556 - 87 points.

Ballechin '5th Release' (46%, OB, matured in Marsala Casks, bottled 2010) Four stars This one won a very good silver medal at the MM Awards 2010 (remember, all 100% blind tasting). Wilson & Morgan often use Marsala and it works well. Colour: gold. Nose: much less wine influence in this one, and rather more buttery notes (not rancid, all fresh!) The walnuts are back as well, a lemony peatiness ala young Caol Ila, something faintly medicinal (camphor, antiseptic), a little coal smoke, some earth… It’s a complex nose, well balanced and pretty fresh. It’s even a tad coastal (but a friend told me once that all Scotland was coastal). Mouth: a two-step whisky. First it’s all on raw, almost Islay-style peat and then it develops more on the wine’s contributions, including walnuts, bitter oranges and various herbs (maybe touches of artichoke liqueur). Finish: medium long, more herbal and bitter. Comments: very, very good. Now, the first time I tried it it was alone and I scored it 87 but now that I compared to the excellent #4, I think I’ll downgrade it a bit. 1 point, that’ll do. Anyway, please don’t bother too much. SGP:356 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

February 13, 2011



Tasting two very differently fruity Benriach (and that’s an understatement)

Benriach 17 yo 'Rioja Wood Finish' (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars Another one of these numerous finished whiskies that are so emblematic of the deserving ABBE quartet (Arran, Benriach, Bruichladdich, Edradour). I must say some are quite to my liking even if I’m not too much into that style generally speaking. Colour: golden honey. Nose: indeed, liquid honey, very rounded, smooth and kind of Sauternes-y (yes I know what Rioja is). Bags of Mirabelle plums, quinces, jams and only touches of flints and gunpowder (very discreet). Interesting that this one smells much more like some sweet white finishing rather than like some supapowa red, unless it’s the fruity distillate plus some bourbon vanilla from the previous casks that do all the talking while the Rioja is almost absent? Mouth: thick and rich, extremely jammy, almost spoonable as I sometimes write. Litres of honeys and fruit syrups without much complexity but with an obvious sexiness. I think they should sell this in Ibiza’s nightclubs. Finish: medium long, with just touches of grass and rubber. Comments: not quite my style but I won’t deny it’s kind of irrefutable. SGP:731 - 80 points.

Benriach 25 yo 1985/2010 (48.1%, Liquid Sun Co) Four stars and a halfA brand name that I haven’t seen anywhere yet. Probably brand new! Colour: white wine. Nose: how very interesting, especially after the Rioja. We’re on a whole basket of fresh fruits here, first everything from a western garden or orchard (apples, peaches…) and only then some tropical fruits such as mangos and pineapples, while it’s rather the opposite in 1970s distillations such as the rightly famous 1976s. It’s all fresh and fruity but not without depth. I’m very curious about the palate but first, let’s add a few drops of water: as often, we have a little mint and even camphor coming through – just a little. Also a little moss and fern. It’s all very fresh. Mouth (neat): exactly in line with the nose. Many garden fruits and a few tropical fruits coated (more bananas than in the nose) with a little almond oil and maybe hints of beeswax. Nakedly 1980s Benriach, which can’t be a bad thing – especially this wee Irishness that I sometimes find in Benriach. With water: perfectly fruity, fresh, clean, refreshing. Finish: long, rather zestier, with the citrusy fruits more to the front. Aftertaste on lemon marmalade. Comments: classic, what more can I say? Maybe it hasn’t got the 1970s’ magnificence but it’s a very excellent Benriach from the 1980s in my opinion. SGP:641 - 88 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


Sunday bonus: eight champagne

We did a nice wee Champagne blind tasting session last night at Whiskyfun Towers. We founded our little wine tasting club, nicknamed ‘Le Süf Club’, more than twenty years ago and we probably organised more than 200 blind sessions since the beginning. I know I seldom write about them on WF but this time it’s different because the winner was quite a surprise. And because it’s unobtainable ;-).


This was the line-up, from left to right:
Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Spéciale 2003
Piper-Heidsick Millésime 2000
Pol Roger Rosé 2002
Louis Roederer Vintage 2004
Jacquesson Grand Cru Avize 2000
Jacquesson Millésime 2000
Veuve Cliquot Cuvée Hors-Commerce (1990s)
Boizel Joyau de France 1995

So eight champagne (seven vintages and only one non-vintage, the Cliquot) and sixteen 100% blind tasters (you don’t know what’s on the table except that it’s champagne). I won’t tell you about all the rankings, only about the clear yet unexpected winner of the evening: it was the Veuve Cliquot Cuvée Hors Commerce from the 1990s. The label looks very similar to the regular entry-level Cliquot but in fact, it’s an Off-Commerce version that was reserved for the ‘Founders, their Heirs and their Successors’. Shareholders could get some too, or we wouldn’t have had that wonderful bottle on our table (thanks again, Jean-Marc!)


MUSIC - Recommended listening: superb singing by David Sylvian on his very moving Small metal gods (that was on 2009's CD 'Manafon'.) Please buy David Sylvian's music.

David Sylvian

February 11, 2011



Ups and downs, tasting three indie Bladnoch

Bladnoch 1975/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Two stars and a half These old G&M CC always make for nice aperitifs at the start of any session because of their low strength. Colour: gold. Nose: sure there’s this slight dustiness and these whiffs of cardboard and tea that are often to be found in the lighter malts in this series (but much less in the latest batches of CC range) but other than that it’s all good. Very nice whiffs of orange marmalade and cinnamon, a little honey, touches of olive oil and a delicate citrusness that always screams Bladnoch in my book. Some fudge and toffee as well. Mouth: good, relatively vibrant attack, on the very same notes of orange marmalade, cinnamon and honey. Alas, it’s soon to become rather weaker and a little cardboardy again. Unsweetened black tea? Finish: short and dry – and drying. Comments: a shame because one can feel that the whisky’s great. Granted, some whiskies in this series were fab but the fairly recent move by G&M towards 43/46% vol. and much less - if any – caramel was really needed, globally. Now, these whiskies can still be great on the nose if you use an amplifying glass such as a large cognac snifter aka a fishbowl ;-). SGP:331 - 78 points.

Bladnoch 1987/2003 (43%, Private Cellar) From a low-key series by Forbes Ross Co Ltd aka Speyside Distillery. Colour: white wine. Nose: this baby’s almost silent after the CC. Not much happening I’m afraid, only a little porridge, muesli and wet cardboard. Even the citrusy notes are subdued, almost non-existent. We’ll try to revive it using a few drops of water. With water: works but it became soapy and overly grassy. Mouth (neat): nope. A lot of cardboard and something plastic-alike. Some tea as well, chemical notes… Not to my liking at all. Flawed, in fact, even if water improves it a little. Finish: as short as a Britney Spears marriage. Comments: these kinds of disasters happen less and less often with malt whisky. Who said things only get worse? SGP:261 - 55 points (for the nose).

Bladnoch 21 yo 1990/2011 (51.9%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #134, 288 bottles) Four stars Single Cask Collection is a new indie bottler from Austria and is the result of the friendship between four dedicated malt lovers who also organise a wee whisky fair in Linz (check ssms.at). Anyway let’s try their new Bladnoch! Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, this one isn’t overly expressive but the expected cleanliness is well here, as well as many cereals and citrus fruits – although it’s not lemon monster. It’s quite grassy as well, with also touches of cologne and agave. With water: faint farminess even after fifteen minutes (farmy notes as well as a little soap often appear with water but are usually soon to disappear.) Mouth (neat): here’s the expected lemony and grassy blast! Very sharp in a nice way, extremely zesty, almost a little fizzy… Also some very nice notes of grapefruits and limes. With water: a perfect balanced Bladnoch with all of its usual attributes. You don’t want me to list them again, do you? Finish: long, with added nutty and almost almondy notes. Lemon-flavoured marzipan? Also funny faintly smoky and honeyed notes a bit ala HP in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good one. If you like Bladnoch, you’ll like this. If you don’t know Bladnoch, try this one. SGP:552 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: 1972, Curved Air, Sonja Kristina. Melinda more or less. Live. Enough said. Please buy Sonja Kristina's music.

Sonja Kristina

February 10, 2011


Tasting eight young Ben Nevis (quite a stampede!)

Ben Nevis

Young Ben Nevis! Tricky malt whisky that can be great but sometimes also completely whacky in my opinion. What’s sure is that it’s never boring. Young Ben Nevis are plentiful on the indies’ market and no two bottlings are quite alike. Which reminds me of Ben Nevis’ owner Joseph Hobbs, who built some washbacks made out of… concrete at the distillery after having discovered the merits of concrete at some Californian winemakers’. Never boring indeed…

Ben Nevis 1999/2009 (40%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, 1980 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely young, fruity and slightly feinty spirit. Apple juice, porridge, yoghurt, tinned pineapples and wheelbarrows of pears and a yeastiness. Mouth: same profile as in the nose. Apple juice, candy sugar, eau-de-vie and pineapple drops. No feinty/yeasty notes this time. Hints of barbecue herbs (thyme? Rosemary?) Finish: medium long, fruity, with a slightly burnt aftertaste. Molasses. Comments: good body at such young age. Perfectly all right but would accept a few ice cubes (later on in summer?) SGP:331 - 78 points.

Ben Nevis 6 yo 1999/2005 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon/Port, 6000 bottles) Three starsColour: gold. Nose: not far from the Jean Boyer, only rounder, more powerful and with much more vanilla. Other than that, we have gooseberries, apples, pears and hints of orange squash as well as violets (the flowers!). The Port’s influence is very discreet. Mouth: liquid bubblegum plus a few spices. Blackcurrant-flavoured jell-O, caramelised peanuts, caramel and maple syrup. Good body, good mouth feel, slightly oily. Finish: quite long, on vanilla, then pleasantly fizzy. Gin tonic? Some pepper and grass in the aftertaste. Comments: a funny young dram that, I’m sure, would take ice without any problems. No excessive vinosity. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Ben Nevis 12 yo 1996/2008 (46%, Cooper's Choice, sherry cask) Three stars Very, very little Cooper’s Choice bottlings around these days. Where are they? Colour: full gold. Nose: very interesting as we have just the same profile than with the two 1999s plus a layer of sweetish sherry that goes well with the juicy fruitiness. More blood oranges after a while and a distinct flintiness. Whiffs of hay, old wine barrel, very slightly musty. Maybe a little soap. Mouth: excellent attack! Something that reminds me of the official 10 – but I haven’t tried that one since ages (zoom, onto the to-do list!) Toffee, mint and chocolate, lavender sweets, bitter oranges, liquorice… And always that funny mustiness in the background. Shitake? Finish: long, clean, candied and then rather spicy. Peppered honey sauce. Comments: as atypical as Ben Nevis can be, that is to say typically Ben Nevis. I know what I mean. SGP:541 - 80 points.

Ben Nevis 14 yo 1995/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2, rum cask) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the same kind of profile as the Jean Boyer’s, that is to say a young spirit, close to the grain and to the mash, only with more marzipan and putty. Boiled cereals, wet papers, a little lavender… All that isn’t unpleasant at all, it’s all very ‘natural’ so to speak. As far as the rum part is concerned, I wouldn’t say it’s very obvious (especially after the fantabulous Port Mourant 1975 that I tried yesterday – more on that one later!) Mouth: oily mouth feel. Quite some apple compote, sweets, redcurrant jam, orange drops… It’s all very fruity and very clean, probably straighter than the ones we just had. Finish: medium long, just as fruity and fresh. Comments: same quality as before, just a little less interesting but also a little ‘better’. Say more orthodox. SGP:531 - 80 points.

Ben Nevis 1999/2010 (52.2%, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #363630, 72 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: no more Bennevisness but a very nice, fairly dry sherry that does all the talking. Whether that’s good news or not is a matter of POV. Quite some gunpowder, cooked red cabbage (that’s much less offending than the usual cooked cabbage), leather, moss, mushrooms… So far, so (rather) good. With water: struck matches and dried mushrooms galore. Old books. No rotten eggs, no H2S. Then morels and Havana cigar. Mouth (neat): punchy and rich, starting all on chestnut purée and marmalade, with excellent balance. Also some tobacco, kumquats, curry sauce and notes of lemon syrup or drops. Works very well. With water: sweeter and spicier. Nutmeg, herbs liqueur, pepper and funny notes of pomegranate syrup. Finish: rather long, a tad sugary now. Cane sugar. Comments: extremely entertaining, at times ‘vegetably’ and at times very sweet. A rather fascinating little cask, that sherry octave. Good recipe! SGP:551 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 1995/2009 (55.5%, OB for The Nectar, Hogshead, Cask#964, 212 bottles) Four stars This one’s been very controversial at the MM Awards 2009, with a very wide standard deviation – from low 70s to low 90s, imagine. Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one is unusually grassy, flinty and piny, it reminds me of some much older old style Highlanders from inactive casks (or when the spirit was doing all the talking). Pine needles, putty, grapefruit skin… It’s rather austere but very classy. With water: became even grassier. Always these notes of putty, almonds, marzipan… Mouth (neat): very nervous attack, curiously Japanese. Isn’t this a Yamazaki? A Yoichi? I’m not joking. Some ginger, vanilla, crystallised oranges, chilli paste (just a pinhead) and just touches of pinesap and tobacco. This one came from an active cask for sure. With water: yes, it’s amazing how different from the nose this is. Rich, spicy, orangey, fruity… and Japanese indeed. Finish: long, clean, with quite some earl grey tea. Comments: I don’t want to sound stupid but did they use Japanese mizunara oak? Remember Ben Nevis belongs to Nikka… In any case, this is excellently ‘modern’ (aka extractive). SGP:542 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 1997/2008 (56.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon cask) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re pretty close to the OB here but this is maybe a tad rawer and (even) grassier. Whiffs of lamp oil and maybe a little rubber (bicycle inner tube). Also whiffs of rice vinegar, motor oil, putty… Interesting, with such a profile the palate could be a complete disaster or something really excellent, we’ll see. With water: more of all that, and something like… seaweed? After all, Ben Nevis is almost coastal. Mouth (neat): punchy, resinous, lemony, crisp… And kind of peaty – or maybe that’s the high alcohol. Perfect zestiness here, yum-yum! (that was between us). With water: perfect. Crisp, clean, lemony, oily, almondy… Melikes. Finish: long, just as clean, crisp and delicately almondy. Barley water. Comments: clearly my favourite so far. Simply perfect spirit, it’s got something of Caol Ila. This at 20-25 years of age, my my! SGP:552 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis 1996/2010 (57.1%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #1466, 258 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: aha, another planet ;-). Stewed fruits, toffee, tobacco (both Virginia and Havana), prunes, glazed chestnuts, balsamic vinegar, game, tar… With water: old balsamic vinegar all over the place. You have to like that, I must say. Mouth (neat): extremely rich, thick and amazingly, say, oriental. Huge notes of old pu-erh tea, smoked ‘things’, roasted nuts (cashews), bergamots and kumquats. Also hints of toasted bread, maybe burnt caramel… With water: right, not only balsamic vinegar. I also get some Comté cheese, salty liquorice, something like… rhubarb? No, I didn’t smoke the carpet. Finish: long, a tad more, say quietened. Bitter oranges, Brussels sprouts and burnt caramel. Comments: it’s far from being semantically perfect – and that’s an understatement – but extremely funny it is. I’m not suggesting anyone should have 70cl of this extremely funny malt whisky at home but I’ve had better malt whiskies that were much more boring. Having said that, a score should reflect perceived ‘classical goodness’, shouldn’t it?  SGP:372 - 78 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Eric Burdon of course, in 1982, with Take it easy (from his album 'Comeback'.) Please buy all of Eric Burdon's music.

Eric Burdon

February 9, 2011


Not much sense: tasting three varied malts

Glen garioch 12

Glen Garioch 12 yo (48%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars After the nice ‘Founder’s Reserve’ that was already bottled at 48% vol., here’s a newish 12. Curious about this one… Colour: gold. Nose: bursts with garden fruits, gooseberries, greengages, strawberries, pears… A flintiness in the background, hints of eau-de-vie (stone fruits, kirsch), then more grains and porridge, a little yeast, beer… Gets then grassier. Slightly roughish, without much wood influence. In short, rather ‘natural’. Mouth: it’s punchy, fruity and almondy, rather clean, with a slightly oily mouth feel and once again notes of kirsch (almonds, fruit stones). Goes on with a little bubblegum and then quite some coffee. Gets then grassier, with maybe hints of white tequila. Finish: long, waxier and slightly phenolic and smoky. Comments: rather old style in my view, honest, faithful and fairly close to the distillate. I like it quite a lot. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Clan Denny

Clan Denny 'Speyside' (46%, Hunter Hamilton, Speyside blended malt, +/- 2010) Three stars and a half This is one of Douglas Laing’s sub-brands. This newish vatted malt is supposed to contain Glenrothes, Macallan, Longmorn, Mortlach, Glen Grant and two ‘secret’ distilleries. Colour: straw. Nose: perfect ‘regular’ malt whisky displaying a very nice combination of ripe apples, vanilla and light honey plus rather discreet notes of wet gravel and touches of smoke. Also a little paraffin and orange zests. Mouth: sweet and rather mellow but not weak at all, going on with more or less the same notes as in the nose plus touches of liquorice and cider. Very easy. Finish: rather long, maltier. Turkish delights in the aftertaste. Comments: a supra-blend, in a certain way. It’s very good in my opinion, especially if you like very ripe apples. SGP:441 - 84 points.


Dufftown 25 yo 1984/2009 (57.5%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #80, 455 bottles) Four stars I haven’t got much experience with Dufftown, I’ve barely tried twenty of them in the past. The latest expression I tried was the official Singleton and it was, well, oakyish at best in my opinion (wasn’t it rather overshadowed by the very good Singleton of Glen Ord?) Colour: full amber with red hues. Nose: well, it’s the sherry that does all the talking here at first sniffs, with a classic combination of bitter oranges and struck matches. You may call that sulphur but it’s not H2S-y at all, it’s rather the kind of sulphur that many people enjoy. I certainly do – well, quite.

Goes on with more dried meat, beef jerky, leather, balsamic vinegar and chocolate. Classic ‘secondary’ kind of sherry so far, with no obvious fruitiness, only the orangey notes. With water: becomes flinty and tarry, also a little rubbery. The sulphur got even bigger (freshly fired gun, cordite) but I think it’s all under control. Also lit Habano, maybe one of these fashionable maduro versions. Mouth (neat): once again, typical heavy sherry (think some Glenfarclas or old-style Macs), with something almondy that’s almost soapy but which isn’t, if you see what I mean. Also quite some orange liqueur and touches of ginger, bitters and cinchona. Notes of molasses and rum as well. Good body, big but not thickish. With water: same, with an unexpected saltiness coming through. Finish: long, on marzipan, marmalade and always these minerals (salt!) Comments: a ‘debatable’ malt for sure. Some will love it, some will hate it. Mind you, these sulphury issues (indeed) now became almost political in whiskyland. I quite like it I must say. SGP:451 - 85 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the sheer brilliance of Sun Ra in 1956, with this Paradise that was on the 'Sound of Joy" LP (recorded around 1956 but issued in 1968). Ah, the Wurlitzer! Please buy Sun Ra's music.

Sun Ra

February 8, 2011



Tasting one old Linkwood

Linkwood 36yo 1973/2010 (50,4%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams and La Maison du Whisky) Four stars This one won a solid Silver Medal at the MMA 2010. Colour: gold. Nose: starts very aromatic, on juicy fruits, quinces, ripe apples, sultanas and yellow flowers. It’s got something of the very old Linkwoods by G&M (we’ll soon have a nice head-to-head session with two pre-war Linkwoods). Discreet whiffs of fresh mint, then more vanilla custard and mead (very faint sourness). With water: nice notes of high quality green tea (Taiwanese oolong - whatever), with whiffs of menthol and something unusually medicinal. Bandages?

Mouth (neat): more oak than in the nose, more dry spices (bags of cinnamon) and more paprika. Behind all that, apricots and quite some vanilla. With water: ha-ha, water improved it and brought out the fruitiness. Apple pie and brown sugar, with notes of saffron and mustard in the background, most probably from the oak. Finish: medium long, rather dry, with some bitter caramel. Comments: I liked the nose a lot, and I really enjoyed the palate with a few drops of water. Heaving said that, I’m not sure this cask wouldn’t have stood much further ageing. SGP:461 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


Malternative Bonus: tasting two old Armagnacs by Dartigalongue


Dartigalongue in the Gers region is still a family business. Their motto is "Par Armagnac toujours debout", which may translate into “Still standing, thanks to Armagnac.” Ahem. I could try two of their vintages in a great bar in Strasbourg called Le Camionneur. Of course those were no proper tasting conditions so please expect neither lengthy tasting notes nor ‘accurate’ scores.

Dartigalongue 1958 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2005) A slightly roughish nose, very ‘terroir’ whatever that means, grapey. The palate is a tad smoother, typical old Armagnac, with smooth tannins like in a well-aged Bordeaux wine. Very nice. Score: around 85 points.

Dartigalongue 1942 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2005) Much rounder and much more aromatic as well, more on coffee, toffee, prunes. Beautiful rancio. The palate is in keeping with the nose, rich and smooth, on high-quality coffee liqueur and cherry liqueur. Quite some honey too. Was this aged in old sherry butt? Not sure that would have been legal but you know, wartime production… Score: around 90 points.



MUSIC - Recommended listening: Kellylee Evans Feeling good. Aren't we feeling good as well? Please buy Kellylee Evans's music.


February 7, 2011


Tasting two old unsherried Glen Keith

Glen Keith

There’s a constant stream of superb old whiskies coming out of Germany these days, how do they do that? Today it’s an old Glen Keith that we’ll oppose to an older bottling of a 1963 by G&M (those came at many different ages, 13, 15, 17, 19…) as we haven’t got any other 1970 on the shelves. Boo! While I’m at it, I’ve read that we taste too many unobtainable malts on WF but I can’t see why 215 bottles of Glen Keith 1970 would be more unobtainable than 215 bottles of Laphroaig 2000. Huh.

Glen Keith 19 yo 1963 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail CC, old brown label, +/-1982) Three stars and a halfColour: gold. Nose: screams ‘old refill’ at first nosing, with mostly notes of passion fruits, metal polish and soot. The problem is that those rather superb notes are soon to fade away (or you get used to them too quickly, you know, your olfactory bulb and your brain playing dirty tricks…), leaving room for some faintly flattish and blandish grainy and slightly cardboardy notes. There are some herbal convulsions (mainly mint) but that’s pretty all. Wow, that was fast! Mouth: not as ‘flatly dead’ as I had feared, quite the opposite! Good attack, fairly rich and even oily, on green apples and tropical fruits (I get mangos, maybe papayas), with some fresh butter and vanilla coating the whole. The middle is a tad weaker but that’s more than okay here. A little tea and touches of ginger and cinnamon. Finish: not short, on more cinnamon and nutmeg. Grassy aftertaste (green tannins), some lemon as well. Comments: ups and downs here but the ups are very interesting. SGP:561 - 84 points.

Glen Keith 40 yo 1970/2010 (45.1%, The Whisky Agency, ex-bourbon hogshead, 215 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: I think I never had a malt whisky that smelled so much of Riesling in my entire life, and I’m not exaggerating. Late harvest Riesling, to be more precise. Touches of pineapples, sour apples, Belgian gueuze beer, grapefruits, pineapples, a little dill, lemon balm… This is really fun and even after fifteen minutes, it’s still all on Riesling even if there are also wee whiffs of mint, camphor and vanilla. It’s quite spectacular, let’s see if there’s as much Riesling on the palate. Mouth: the rieslingness is less obvious but not completely absent, while wheelbarrows of pineapples in various forms make for the heart of this palate. Tinned, crystallized, fresh… There’s also a little coconut and vanilla, touches of white chocolate, milk chocolate, cake and then a soft spiciness. Mostly cinnamon and nutmeg but little pepper. Very soft oak. Finish: long and NOT oaky, which is quite an achievement at this age. A little more on oranges now. Perfect aftertaste on lemon and bergamot, with just a little pepper and ginger. At last! ;-) Comments: I think this is spectacularly good. I know it’s fashionable to talk about ‘knackered’ old casks these days but in my view, it was simply a marvellous refill cask that did let the spirit talk, somewhat ala 1976 Benriach (or ala top-notch pina colada ;-)). Loved it. SGP:651 - 93 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

Gary Moore RIP

When we last saw Gary Moore a couple of years ago (I first saw him more years ago than I care to remember with Skid Row, in I believe, Wincott's Ballroom in Banbury) I ended the review like this: "So good old Gary is what I say. He didn’t have a lot to say for himself, let the guitars do all the talking really, delighted his audience by his showboating at the front of the stage, and predictably enough left them in raptures with an encore of ‘Parisian Walkways’."

Gary Moore

Now I learn that Moore, one of the last dinosaurs of British rock has died suddenly in Spain. It's a great shame - for all the impersonators ('young' Joe Bonamassa springs to mind) Moore was in a league of his own, from his peerless playing, always surprisingly soulful singing, to his absurd facial grimaces. And you know what? Gary may have been a dinosaur, but we've grown old together. And I'm going to miss him. - Nick

Nick's latest Gary Moore review

February 6, 2011


Old bottling blues: black and white tasting, old Cardhu


Old bottling blues? Yes, with all these new whiskies around, I have less and less time for old bottlings while there are so many that I have yet to try… So, I was perusing my shelves and stumbled upon an old ‘white’ Cardhu (that was the one we were sipping in bars when I was a student) as well as on a ‘Cardow’, a label that was showcased in the early editions of Michael Jacskon’s Companion. Nostalgia… Cardow was, as you know, the name of the distillery before it was rechristened ‘Cardhu’ (I forgot why, but I know that Cardow’s the name of the place.) Let’s try these old glories, it is to be noted that both were distilled more or less at the same time, in the early 1960s.

Cardhu 8 yo (43%, OB, Wax & Vitale, Italy, early 1970s) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: superb! There’s this very peculiar scent that only comes with old bottlings and that’s hard to describe. It’s not really OBE, it’s rather something that’s between orange peel, candle wax and old turpentine but that’s none of those. Maybe ‘old book and antique shop’? The whole is also rather phenolic, delicately smoky, with touches of cigarette tobacco, old pu-erh tea, old tin boxes and biscuits. Quite some presence but it’s no bold whisky. I hope the palate won’t be too dry. Oh, and a little parsley coming through after a while, which I always like. Mouth: hey hey, it’s not tired at all! There might be too much caramel in this, which is even more obvious when you compare this with the Cardow that’s coming up, but otherwise it’s quite perfect, nutty, roasted, honeyed, malty and chocolaty, with notes of plum spirit and green bananas in the background. Also quite some herbs, a little thyme… Finish: medium long, quite caramelly. Toasted bread, overripe apples and a little pepper. Black tea. Comments: the Cardhu 8 was a great dram! SGP: - 88 points.

Cardow 23 yo 1962/1985 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: waaaah! Starts with superb grassy notes, very different from anything you can find in ‘modern’ bottles. Green tea, then leather grease, graphite oil, linseed oil, fresh almonds, hints of smoked ham, a bit of liquorice, touches of mustard, ink, fresh walnuts, apple peeling… A very ‘green’ waxiness, unless it’s a waxy greenness. What’s sure is that it’s quite fantastic. Mouth: hohoho! It’s very big, very dry and extremely herbal and grassy. Extreme in style like many of these old dumpies by Cadenhead’s (the old lady wasn’t afraid of ‘differences’), on the verge of being too bitter. Also quite some paraffin, notes of… vegetable bouillon? Maggi? Unusual to say the least. Quite some mint and camphor as well. Mint and beef? Salt? Oxtail soup? ;-) Finish: long, becoming even meatier. Pemmican? Grisons meat?... Marmite? Well, I couldn’t really tell you, my experience with marmite being extremely short. No I need no samples, thanks. The aftertaste is much nicer, more mineral and very waxy. Comments: a bizarre dram. The nose was fab but the palate’s a little unlikely in my opinion. Difference is good in whisky, no doubt, but that much difference? Not sure… SGP:353 - 82 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful Filipino jazz singer Charmaine Clamor and her very controversial (but why?) My funny brown pinay (that was on 2007's Flippin' Out CD). Please buy Charmaine Clamor's music.

Charmaine Clamor

February 4, 2011


by Nick Morgan

Royal Festival Hall, London, January 21st 2011

This isn’t quite our first outing of the year.  That was the previous week, a funeral on  a cold, wet and miserably dark January afternoon at the cramped neo-Gothic chapel at Putney Vale Crematorium.  Music fans of a morbid disposition might like to know that Sandy Denny lies somewhere in its grounds. 


As we waited in the rain we met guitarist John Etheridge, who had been a student at Essex University with our friend Richard Whittington. Time had not diminished the impact that Richard had made when they first met, nor did it diminish Richard’s feisty, fearless, sometimes ferocious, but fundamentally very caring character, despite the long illness he had borne.  By coincidence we bumped into John again in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall on this much happier occasion.  Etheridge collaborated with Richard Thompson for his Meltdown Festival last year, and includes some Thompson compositions in his performances, but here he was just a fan, clearly as excited as everyone else by what was a riveting ensemble performance.

Thompson (newly created an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list) has a new album to promote, Dream Attic, recorded live at a number of venues in the USA.  It’s a collection of new songs, characteristically mournful and misanthropic, which have a certain air of predictability about them.  It’s hard to pin down a real stand-out track, it could be the folky ‘Among the gorse, among the grey’, or the soulful ‘A brother slips away’.  The playing throughout is, as you would expect, of the highest calibre: just check out the solo on ‘If love whispers your name’.  And for the Thompson completist I would recommend the ‘Limited Edition Deluxe’ [Editor’s note: is this a Glen Wonka product?] version, which has a second CD of studio acoustic demos of all of the songs.  It makes interesting listening.


"Thompson playing a sea-blue Fender Stratocaster with considerable verve..."

So the first half of this much-anticipated gig (I note that I bought our tickets in June last year) features, not quite in album order, the new material from the new album, starting with Thompson’s high-tempo anally-fixated dig at the banking industry, ‘The money shuffle’: “If you'll just bend over a little, I think you'll feel my financial muscle, Spread it wide, wide as you can, To get the full benefit of my plan.”  This was an all-electric set, with Thompson playing a sea-blue Fender Stratocaster with considerable verve.  It could be the one with the ‘57 Fender Reissue body painted in a deep sonic blue, with a modified compound radius Fender SRV neck fretted with jumbo narrow crowned frets (which give better intonation and string bending), a Fender Reissue Vintage bridge set up to float with three springs, and  an early set of Rio Grande pickups fitted with pearl tops to match the white pearl pick guard. Or maybe not …

His soloing was intense (‘Among the Gorse’) and possibly occasionally over-long (‘Here comes Geordie’).  His playing is so accomplished that naturally enough at times you might think there were two lead guitarists on stage, although this was the first time watching him when I had thought one of them might be Duane Eddy.  Thompson’s solos were peppered with an infectious Eddyesque ‘twang’, which grew more prominent as the gig wore on.  I hadn’t really noticed this before in his playing, but if you listen out for it you will find it there as far back as albums such as the Fairports’ Liege and Lief.

Michael Jerome
Michael Jerome

Not that Thompson’s guitar was the only ear-catching part of the show.  His band was fantastic.  Drummer Michael Jerome has become quite a fixture on Thompson recordings and tours, while bassist Taras Prodaniuk is a relative newcomer, injecting a little humour into the performance (Thompson is unusually restrained in the comedic area) and a wonderfully sweet solo in the second half of the set on ‘Al Bowwly’.  Violinist Joel Zifkin is a newcomer, a long-time collaborator with Kate and  Anna McGarrigle, through whom he met Thompson.  His violin adds a dreamy and sometimes other-worldly edge to the music.  Long-time accompanist Pete Zorn’s screeching sopranino saxophone injects a manic feel to some of the songs, as if a Whirling Dervish was just about to pass by. 

He plays alto and baritone sax, flute, mandolin and guitar, and with the rest of the band provided very tuneful and harmonious backing vocals to Thompson’s ever improving voice.

The second half of the set saw Thompson return to his ‘greatest hits’, opening with ‘The angels took my racehorse away’ from 1972’s Henry the Human Fly (“Warner Brothers worst-selling album of all time”), and ‘Can’t win’ from 1988’s Amnesia, in the course of which, my notebook says, he opened his box of twangy guitar tricks and almost used them all up.  I was open-mouthed.  Over the years Thompson has produced some wonderful songs, perfect for live performance like  ‘Al Bowwly’s in heaven’ (almost a show-stopper), the frantic ‘Never give it up’, and  the reliably  misogynistic ‘Tear stained letter’.  But few compare with ‘I want to see the bright lights again’ (which ended the show, with daughter Kami on vocals), and ‘The wall of death’, recorded originally with Linda Thompson;, both songs  infused with a timeless energy and love for life not always found in Thompson’s work.  They stood up well in this unmatched collection of tunes, played by an unmatched collection of musicians, one of whom, now that he has an OBE, must surely be a National Treasure. - Nick Morgan

Listen to Richard Thompson's music on myspace



Tasting two recent 1975 Longmorn for Germany

Old Longmorns are often great but not all the ones that were distilled around the mid-1970s were stellar in my opinion, although I wouldn’t talk about a ‘hit or miss’ situation. Rather ‘just very good or truly excellent’. Let’s check these two ‘German’ 1975s…

Longmorn 35 yo 1975/2010 (40.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, for Germany, bourbon) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: typical fresh and fruity old Longmorn, starting with notes of banana skin and touches of coconut milk, then white chocolate and oranges. There’s also a slight farminess in the background, hay… The coconut grows then bolder, with also a little papaya and vanilla. It’s all pleasantly light but certainly not weak. After fifteen minutes: a little tobacco and molasses. Mouth: the oak talks and fairly loudly so, so this isn’t for people who’re against, well, oak in their whiskies but other than that the fruitiness is most pleasant. Oranges and passion fruits then a little mint, tea and touches of cardamom. Finish: medium long, on more mint and liquorice. The aftertaste is a tad drying. Comments: I think it’s a good example of an old malt that’s lively and fruity enough to stand a good dose of dry oak. In short, oaky but not tired. SGP:661 - 87 points.

Longmorn 35 yo 1975/2010 (52.5%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 107 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: light gold. Nose: rather punchier because of the higher strength and a little grassier as well. Some green tea, apple peelings… Then kiwis and papayas, marzipan and a faint, rather ‘lively’ sourness (lemon juice). Perhaps a little pineapple as well. With water: we’re very close to the Daily Dram now. Milk chocolate, hay and coconut milk. Mouth (neat): close to the Daily Dram in style, with almost as much oak and a similar fruitiness. Having said that, it’s spicier (a lot of cinnamon and white pepper) and the higher alcohol tones down the woodiness a bit. Hints of strawberries. With water: a tad fruitier and slightly less oaky. Sweets, tinned pineapples, liquorice and grass. Finish: rather long, rather more citrusy. Pink grapefruits and pepper. Comments: maybe not quite up there with the great 1976 that The Whisky Agency bottled in 2009 but quality’s still high. SGP:651 - 88 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

February 3, 2011



Tasting two 1967 Tamnavulin, one old and one recent

I formally tasted only six Tamnavulins so far, which is a scandal, isn’t it! Time to put things a tad straighter today, with these old glories. One is an old official bottling while the other one is almost brand new.

Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 1967/1986 'The Stillman’s Dram' (43%, OB, casks #1480+1481, 1212 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: light gold. Nose: very nice old style nose, not too big but rather waxy, oily and mineral, with only touches of apples and pears in the background. Interesting hints of curry as well, maybe a little celeriac (or turnips, Baldrick?) and then big, very obvious notes of Chartreuse. Verbena, eucalyptus, wormwood, liquorice, fennel… Really fun and unusual – well, that’s why it’s fun. Mouth: excellent attack, unexpectedly nervous and fruity, with apples and pears yet again, a good maltiness, notes of guavas (maybe), liquorice, sweet mustard, touches of lemon juice, a little cinnamon… It’s all very satisfying even if this palate hasn’t got all of the nose’s eccentricity, so to speak. Finish: medium long, sweet, smooth, tea-ish and slightly caramelly (no bitter notes). Earthy aftertaste. Comments: soft and excellent, almost on par with another 1967 by Duncan Taylor that I really enjoyed a while back. SGP:441 - 89 points.

Tamnavulin 43 yo 1967/2010 (41%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 204 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: this is curious, it’s as if this one didn’t spend any more years in wood when compared with the Stillman’s Dram. Very similar albeit a tad less waxy and mineral at first nosing, with notes of apples and pears and a light grassiness. No obvious oakiness after all these years, it was most probably a very shy cask. Goes on with these herbal notes as well but they’re rather less big than in the Stillman’s Dram. Also a very nice earthiness, putty... Great freshness at 43 years of age. Mouth: frankly, it’s incredible how close to the Stillman’s Dram this is. Same earthiness, same notes of apples and pears, same maltiness, same very soft spiciness (cinnamon)… And, above all, no obvious tannins and/or dryness, which is almost miraculous considering the low natural strength. Finish: medium long, half-grassy, half-fruity. Marshmallows and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: pour this blind to your friends and ask them to guess the age. There’s no reason to score this differently from the old OB. SGP:441 - 89 points.

Last minute: just found these short notes for two other Tamnavulins that I took a few years ago but forgot to publish (I’ve got quite a backlog here as well)…


Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 10 yo (43%, OB, Moon import, mid-1980s) Four stars A rather meaty nose, also minty, mineral. Great surprise. Goes on with liquorice and a little caramel. Good punch. Mouth: rounded, sweet, honeyed. Nougat, milk chocolate and liquorice. Very good, excellent body, highly drinkable. Slight bitterness in the finish (tea). SGP:541 – 86 points.
Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 1968/1985 ‘The Stillman’s Dram‘ (40%, OB, 996 bottles) Four stars and a half A beautiful bottle that I had never seen before. Nose: unexpectedly nervous and displaying a big Highlandness. Beeswax, iodine, smoked ham, verbena. Mouth: nervous again. Salty butter toffee, sage, burnt bread crust, roasted malt. Excellent, old style. SGP:452 - 89 points. (tasted at Mr. Timmermans' 40th birthday bash!)
More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto and his composition for piano, cello and rap singer called Undercooled: acoustica (2004). Please buy the master's music.
UPDATE: Arthur @This music don't buzz tells us that the rapper is Korea's MC Sniper. Knowledge is power.


February 2, 2011


Tasting six old entry-level blends for France

Old Blends

An easy and cheap way of tasting some old style Scotch is to put your hands on some old blends. Having said that, some are great but others aren’t so great. Let’s have a few of them today and see if we can find some beauties, all being bottlings for France.

William Lawson’s (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980) Colour: straw. Nose: weakish and a little cardboardy but the smokiness is rather pleasant. Touches of vanilla. Really inoffensive. Mouth: very weak, watery and sugary but the honeyed notes are pleasant. Faint dustiness. Finish: short but clean, with a slight maltiness. Comments: a light blend. Ice would work well I guess. But probably not a bottle to collect… SGP:321 - 65 points.

Whyte & Mackay ‘Special Reserve’ (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1985) Colour: white wine. Nose: much more presence than with the Lawson’s although it’s quite cardboardy as well. Hints of burnt herbs and a little paraffin. Not uninteresting. Mouth: again, more presence than with the Lawson’s but these burnt and even slightly chemical notes are a little off-putting. Finish: medium long, malty, slightly burnt. Comments: some parts are okayish but others are really problematic. No collector’s bottle. SGP:441 - 50 points.

The Famous Grouse (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1985) Three stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: ah yes, this was something else. More malt, probably, and something of Highland Park. Honey, nuts, pine sap, warm oak and herbs (parsley)… Very nice nose, surprisingly big. Mouth: same! It’s big, rich, honeyed, fruity (oranges) and quite smoky. Finish: as often, it’s the finish that’s a tad less interesting with old blends and it’s the case here. But there’s a nice malty honeyness. Comments: these batches were really excellent and they would put many malts to shame. THIS is buyable – and so cheap at auctions. SGP:542 - 84 points.

J&B (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1985) Two stars Colour: almost white. Nose: much lighter than the Famous Grouse’s but clean and nicely fruity. Light eau-de-vie (plums) and notes of roasted nuts and brioche. Hints of gravel as well. Mouth: light but balanced and clean, slightly smoky, quite malty. Apple juice and a little vanilla. Finish: rather short but fresh and clean, with a malty aftertaste. Comments: better than I remembered but of course, it’s no powa whisky. SGP:331 - 70 points.

Defender (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1985) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one is rather grassy, light, slightly resinous and maybe a little sour. Stale cider or beer. Well… Mouth: a little weak and cardboardy like many cheap blends but there are also pleasant notes of marmalade and lemon liqueur. A little liquorice as well. Gets better over time, richer and more honeyed. Finish: medium long, maltier, with some tea in the aftertaste. Comments: not bad but probably not collectable. Well, surely not. SGP:431 - 71 points.

White Horse (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: maybe not the depth of earlier versions of White Horse but the peatiness is very obvious, the grassiness as well, and the minerality as well. Rather dry and surprisingly austere. Mouth: excellent and very, very peaty! Perfect attack, with oranges, honey, soft spices and then a growing peatiness. Was there 1/3 Lagavulin in the mix? Finish: long, peaty and orangey. Comments: Lagavulin’s younger brother. Same global quality as the Famous Grouse despite a slightly weaker nose. An old blend for malt drinkers and peat lovers alike. SGP:444 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: are you ready for some big fat sound today? It's Hoediddle by John Paul Jones (from his acclaimed solo album 'The Thunderthief') and I think one cannot not think of his former band... Led Zeppelin! Please buy John Paul Jones' music.

John Paul Jones

February 1, 2011


Tasting two middle-aged Ardmore


These new bottlings by our German friends deserve good competition, which is easier to say than to do. Take this new 1992 Ardmore, for instance, not easy to find another middle-aged Ardmore that could defeat it (unless it’s crap but I doubt it!) Wait, why not one of these old Dun Eideanns? The name was used both in Italy and in France under different labels and many were actually Signatory bottlings but not all of them. Most were totally great and many command very high prices these days on the collectors’ market, which doesn’t always happen with indie bottlings.

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2010 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency, ex-bourbon hogshead, 212 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: typical! In my experience Ardmore can be very sooty while not being very peaty and that’s exactly what happens here. There’s some metal polish and lamp oil on a bed of white garden fruits, mostly apples and gooseberries, with a development that happens more on rather farmy notes. Fruit peelings, hay, soaked grains… Also very nice notes of smoked tea, growing bigger and bigger. The whole remains relatively austere but let’s see what happens with water: the peat comes out but it becomes also a little more ‘usual’, so to speak. A little mint, a little camphor, more straight barley, maybe a little leaven. It’s not that it doesn’t swim well, it’s just that it does not need water in my opinion. Mouth (neat): how unusual! Starts with the same notes of smoked tea but also huge notes of green apples and smoked salmon, then olives and brine, salt, maybe even anchovies (touches) and just hints of lime. It’s very unusual but it’s also very good. When you try a lot of whiskies, this is the kind of kick you’re looking for. And powerful it is. With water: becomes more classic, with this sootiness and more green apples. Finish: long, relatively dry, with a briny aftertaste and even a little tobacco. Comments: a no-water-needed Ardmore. I think I shouldn’t have tried it with water, I’d have gone higher (not that Ardmore makes me fly). SGP:365 - 90 points.

Ardmore 20 yo 1968/1989 (58.4%, Dun Eideann, Casks #5490-5491) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: more or less as if you put your nose over an old chimney at first nosing, reminding us of some old Ardbegs (1974/1976). Actually, this baby could have been an old Ardbeg that would have lost 50% of its peatiness. There are also whiffs of leather, manure and rotting fruits, a bit in the style of some old Ben Nevisses if you see what I mean. The whole makes for a very interesting and unusual combination once again but warning, it’s hot whisky! So, with water: my oh my! An avalanche of herbal notes that are utterly superb. We would need pages to list them all. Mouth (neat): bang! What an extreme whisky, peatier now but also immensely rooty and earthy, and fruity as well. There are ripe, juicy peaches all over the place as well as quinces and maybe mirabelles (those yellow plums that abound in Alsace and that we like to distil!) Brilliant so far. With water: terrifyingly earthy and rooty, with also bags of bitter oranges and quite some pepper. Even quite some wasabi, which should tell you how big this is, even at +/-45% vol. Finish: very long and very peppery, ala 20yo Talisker OB. Comments: quite a monster, not for the fainthearted. A beauty but that didn’t come unexpected. SGP:466 - 93 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: an old French chanson for once, it's Trenet's very famous La Mer sung by the most excellent Canadian vocalist Chantal Chamberland. Please buy Chantal Chamberland's music.

Chantal Chamberlan

January 2011 - part 2 <--- February 2011 - part 1 ---> February 2011 - part 2

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



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

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2010 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency, ex-bourbon hogshead, 212 bottles)

Ardmore 20 yo 1968/1989 (58.4%, Dun Eideann, Casks #5490-5491)

Glen Keith 40 yo 1970/2010 (45.1%, The Whisky Agency, ex-bourbon hogshead, 215 bottles)