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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2015 - Part 1
       

 

January 2015 - part 2 <--- February 2015 - part 1 ---> February 2015 - part 2

 

February 14, 2015


Whiskyfun

Oops, I had forgotten to post this two weeks ago. Happy weekend!

Whiskyfun fav of the month

January 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Imperial-Glenlivet 37 yo 1977/2015 (53.5%, Cadenhead, Single Cask)  - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Clynelish 24 yo (49.4%, Cadenhead, Sestante, Italy, +/-1989) - WF 98

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Mortlach 20 yo 1994/2015 (53.4%, Cadenhead, small batch)  - WF 91

Favourite malternative:
Rhum des Plantations St James 1885 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s) - WF 92

 

February 13, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

The Sequel Tastings,
lighter Port Ellen

Today we’ll have a short flight of old bottlings of Port Ellen, some quite young, and all at low strength. One of the best ways of ‘understanding’ a spirit in my opinion, and of course, in the case of a long gone distillery, a rather difficult one since some of these bottles have become as rare as hen’s teeth. Although with modern biotechnologies, hen’s teeth may soon become a reality, but we’re digressing… We’ll do this ‘vertically’.

Port Ellen 11 yo 1983/1994 (43%, Bottiglieria Corsini, Verona)

Serge’s Port Ellen 11 yo 1983/1994 (43%, Bottiglieria Corsini, Verona) Four stars and a half A bottle that I had bought in Italy a long time ago. Colour: white wine. Nose: Immaculate, ultra-clean, akin to a perfect blend of oyster water and lemon juice, with just a little hessian and pitch in the background. Also a pile of pullovers in an old wardrobe, including whiffs of Woolite or Snuggle. Perhaps. The tarry, greasy side tends to take over after a few minutes, but this baby never loses its purity. Mouth: just excellent, even the body’s very much okay despite the 43% vol. Tarry peat, seashells, sweet lemon juice, salt, drops of Schweppes, a feeling of almond paste or putty…

And once again, a feeling of sucking the sleeve of your pullover. Finish: rather long, with salted apples, almonds, tar, liquorice and a pinch of salt. Comments: really pristine. Well in the same league as other young PEs such as the Scottish Wildlife 10 yo, or one for Bologna’s Whisky House that I had quite loved. But of course, at 11 years, it couldn’t be the most complex PE ever. SGP:357 - 89 points.

Patrick’s Port Ellen 22 yo 1975/1998 (43%, Hart Brothers) Two stars and a half There used to be a few 1975s around, but not that many. Colour: gold. Nose: this is completely different, this baby’s lost the spirit’s tarry cleanliness and rather exhales sour, woody notes at first nosing. A bag of cider apples, some kind of soapiness (not fabric softener this time), some toasted oak, shortbread, vanilla, teas... All that isn’t unpleasant, we’re just missing more Port-Ellenness.

Mouth: nah, this one’s rather whacky, with some kind of artificial orange juice, rotting apples, more sour wood, something really dirty… And a lot of salt. In a way, it’s an interesting one, but we’re very far from any PE orthodoxy – should there be any. Finish: a bit short, with some burnt cake, orange skins, and always these sour notes. Very young Calvados? Comments: it had its moments, but it’s rather a bottle for people who would already have 247 other PEs in their stash. SGP:466 - 78 points.

Port Ellen 17 yo 1974/1992 (43%, Signatory Vintage, casks #6204-6205, 1200 bottles)

Geert’s Port Ellen 17 yo 1974/1992 (43%, Signatory Vintage, casks #6204-6205, 1200 bottles) Four stars and a half Careful with this series, Eugene. Some were great bargains, others have been just… err, different. Colour: straw. Nose: dirt, dust and cardboard. Does it sound awful? It’s not, because lemons, coal smoke, tarry ropes and ‘a pack of liquorice rolls’ are soon to come this baby’s rescue, together with hectolitres of seawater, although the general profile would rather be ‘briny’ rather than ‘coastal’. Very curious about the palate…

Mouth: good! Lemon-flavoured olive oil, olive brine, seawater, a lemony peat, and then even more of all that. No cardboard or dust at all this time, hurray. Good body, 43% vol. isn’t always too low. Finish: quite long. As if you had just drunk a glass of olive brine. Comments: we aren’t far from the 11 yo, there’s just a little less straight peat smoke – and rather more salt. One of the very good ones within this ‘budget’ series. SGP:356 - 88 points.

Port Ellen 1970/1989 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali, 75cl)

Jon’s Port Ellen 1970/1989 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali, 75cl) Five starsWe’ve had a few 1970s by G&M already, but never this one. I had especially adored another one for Meregali that had been bottled two years earlier, in 1987 (no less than WF 94). Remember, big spirits no need high strengths. Colour: gold. Nose: to be honest, I’ve never quite understood why all these peaty Islayers from the 1960s or very, very early 1970s were so ridden with tropical fruits. Was that direct firing? Own maltings? Yeast? The Gulf Stream?

Anyway, this one starts with passion fruits and mangos indeed, but the expected tarry notes are soon to kick in. New tyres, carbon paper, natural engine oils, brake fluid (while I’m at it)… There’s also quite some wet paint, rubbed orange skins, damp wool, working kiln etc. Magnificent nose. Mouth: oh the power in this! Cuts like a razor, first with salty lemons, then with a chiselled peat smokiness, then with a very Port-Ellenesque tarriness. You may add a handful of smoked almonds, a teaspoon of fish oil, some liquorice, some smoked salmon and a drop of mentholated mouthwash. Finish: sure it’s not the longest ever – how could it be – but it’s perfect. A bit of everything we’ve already mentioned, plus just a little coffee, probably from the oak. Comments: I believe this baby was distilled in coal-fired stills, before steam-heated coils have been installed at Port Ellen. Anyway, thank you Jon, this one was really grand. SGP:556 - 94 points.

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

 

 

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February 12, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

One Lagavulin

I know, only one whisky today, but it’s one of the ‘seminal’ ones. And I've always liked these cryptic Da-Vinci-like codes on the label. And we needed a short rest.

Lagavulin 1979 (43%, OB, Distiller’s Edition, lgv. 4/463, 1l, +/-1997)

Angus’ Lagavulin 1979 (43%, OB, Distiller’s Edition, lgv. 4/463, 1l, +/-1997) Five stars With Angus. The first and most legendary of all ‘finished’ Lagavulins. And possibly of all finished malt whiskies. I remember having tried it – and loved it – during an other extravagant Tour of Islay back in 2005. Colour: amber. Nose: a lot of chocolate, black tobacco, dried porcinis, chocolate/orange, then old vermouth, with this bitter, spicy, herbal kind of profile, then cordite, gunpowder, old sweaty guitar strings (says Angus, who’s a guitarist), and a little smoky bacon as well as a few drops of orange bitters.

Mouth: big, heavy delivery, very smoky, with seashore bonfire, smoked seafood, a little medicine, ash, mercurochrome, bitter oranges, touches of cumin and cloves, something dry and waxy… Really big mouth feel, very engaging, the whole being bigger than expected. Salty chocolate with bits of oranges. Finish: quite long, ashy and oily, wood ashes and an elegant mix of different oils. A fading rubbery saltiness. The oranges turn into pink grapefruits (says sudden co-taster Diego). Medium length. Comments: one of those whiskies that can change quite a lot depending on the other whiskies you’ve had just before, but it’s a great, great one for sure. A lot of pleasure in this. If only all finishings would be like this! SGP:536 – 92 points.

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

 

 

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February 11, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

The Sequel Tastings, Jura

Mind you, whisky wise, Islay’s not only about Islay, it’s also a bit about Jura. So it’s with two boats very kindly fitted out by Bowmore (and with a large stash of oysters) that we got to the famous palm trees to crack these three wee babies open. Please note that these notes haven't been taken on location though...

Jura Whisky (43%, OB for the Jura Hotel, twist cap)

Jura Whisky (43%, OB for the Jura Hotel, twist cap) Four stars Not too sure when this little baby was bottled, neither do we know how old it was. Early 2000s? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got this typical oily touch, notes of sour wood, some leather for sure, slightly rotten oranges and then whiffs of old newspapers, carbon paper, sour apples… In short it noses very ‘authentic’, without any wood influence. Mouth: some body and some substance, with a blend of apple juice, grape pips oil, maybe one caper, some bitter oranges and this very particular leatheriness that screams ‘Jura’. Excellent mouth feel at 43% vol. Finish: good length. Apple juice with a little mustard. Comments: I find this pretty excellent. No wonder the owners of the Jura Hotel managed to select some excellent cask(s), all they had to do was to cross the only road up there ;-). SGP:452 - 85 points.

Jura 18 yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Jeroen’s Jura 18 yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label) Five stars We’ve tried a 20 yo 1966 by Duthie last year that was amazing (WF 93). Probably from the same stash… Colour: pale gold. Nose: Jesus Mary and Joseph! What an extraordinary blend of pipe tobacco, cigarette tobacco, leather cream, kumquats (however little some dentist over there in Holland likes that), shoe polish, a box of thin mints, apples and old engine oils! Crates of overripe apples forgotten in an old garage, near an abandoned old Jaguar. No, any old Jaguar. Lovely lovely lovely.

Mouth: phew! Starts extremely sooty, ashy, both a little astringent (old walnuts) and jammy (marmalade), before plenty of greases and oils are kicking in. Also cough medicine, sweet mustard, quince jelly (that’s really loud and clear), leather, more tobacco… It’s the spirit’s fatness that’s really impressive here. Finish: very long, with the walnuts singing louder – together with this spicy marmalade. Comments: these 1966 Juras were all fantastic. Best Juras ever if you ask me – to think that they had just built the distillery (in 1963). SGP:462 - 93 points.

Jura 20 yo 1965/1986 (56%, OB, private bottling for Jane Prosser)

Angus’ Jura 20 yo 1965/1986 (56%, OB, private bottling for Jane Prosser) Four stars This sweet Jura was bottled by Willie Tait, Distillery Manager, in March 1986. It was entirely aged on the Isle of Jura. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s much more a ‘classic’ Jura, less phenolic and sooty than the 1966 – but it is quite sooty and phenolic – that would rather display bags and bags of fresh almonds, small fruit stones, plum spirit, touches of maraschino… In short, it’s almondy. There are also very lovely medicinal notes in the background. Camphor and eucalyptus. This nose grows on you – so to speak.

With water: Campari-apple juice plus a little fresh butter. Gets narrower but swims well. Some wet wool too. Mouth (neat): this is ‘inky’ and medicinal, in an unusual way. There’s plenty of dry cider Breton-style, some iodine, some bitterish eucalyptus, certainly quite a lot of peppermint, and then a spoonful of seawater mixed with ink. Pretty salty! With water: not quite, the oak’s bitter tannins come out. Not a good swimmer this time, but isn’t it well known that some islanders do not like water too much? Finish: rather long, very good when neat, a little too drying when reduced. Comments: some great, great moments, but water may not this baby’s best friend. SGP:362 - 85 points.

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

 

February 10, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Seven, Bowmornography

What an amazing dinner and tasting at Bowmore Distillery on Friday night! Granted, we already had a few stunners during the week, including the 18 yo ‘pear shape’, but that had been a foretaste, so to speak… Imagine, we started our meal (lovely food by the way) with no less than two official 1955s head-to-head…

Bowmore 40 yo 1955 (42%, OB, decanter, 306 bottles, +/-2005)

David’s Bowmore 40 yo 1955 (42%, OB, decanter, 306 bottles, +/-1995) Five stars This one had been first kept in a bourbon hogshead for twenty years, then transferred to a sherry butt for some additional twenty years. Many thanks to David Turner, Bowmore’s very skilful and most engaging Distillery Manager! Colour: deep gold. Nose: fantabulously fresh and fruity, with a lot of ‘immediacy’ and complexity at the same time. Bags and bags of mangos, pink grapefruits, ripe kiwis, juicy peaches…

Whiffs of coal smoke do come through after a few minutes, but the whole remains immaculate. A little brine as well, raspberry ganache (from the sherry?), seaweed…  It’s fantastic that it remained coastal after all these years. Mouth: some kind of fruity lace. Peaches in syrup strike first, then e find the expected tropical fruits. Mangos, maracuja, blood oranges… There’s also a touch of fudge, mandarins, more noble smoke, some salty liquorice… It’s all very amazing, the mouth feel is just perfect. Finish: long, and always clean and fresh. It’s rather more coastal than 1960s Bowmores, I’d say, and both the peat and the saltiness show rather more. The faintest touch of cinnamon from the oak in the aftertaste. Comments: just stunning, just stunning. Many thanks David and Bowmore Distillery! SGP:743 - 96 points.

Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB)

Revisiting Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB) Five stars Courtesy Baron Patrick. I had written before that only 100 bottles had been issued, but higher numbers have surfaced, so it appears that nobody knows for sure. Maybe 200? Anyway, this baby starts greener, grassier, sharper and zestier than the 40, with a lot more rhubarb and lime before it becomes rounder and more tropical. On the palate there’s citrus everywhere plus a touch of salt. The 40 was rather fatter –although it’s no fat whisky at all – while this wee jug is more ‘chiselled’ and citrusy.

As for their respective scores, we could spend nights and nights debating on ‘which is the best’. In truth they’re both utterly splendid. Thanks mucho Patrick! 96 points.

Bowmore 35 yo 1964/1999 (42.1%, OB, for Oddbins, oloroso, cask #3709, 99 bottles)

Sukhinder’s Bowmore 35 yo 1964/1999 (42.1%, OB, for Oddbins, oloroso, cask #3709, 99 bottles) Five stars An excessively rare bottling of one of the famous oloroso casks that also ‘made’ Black Bowmore. Its price was £999 back in 1999. These days it’s ten times more – or more, since one bottle’s just been ‘destroyed’. Ha! Colour: red mahogany. Nose: starts with plenty of blueberry pie, blackberry jam, coffee, black chocolate, tamarind, mango jam… The sherry and the distillate are dancing together to perfection, not unlike Ginger and Fred doing an infernal tango.

The integration in this ‘sherry monster’ is exceptional. A monster that’s anything but monstrous, in fact. After ten minutes some superb notes of old Chambertin arise (black cherries), as well as hints of the most complex Amarone. Amazing. Mouth: sweet Jesus, this is concentrated! Coffee and black pipe tobacco plus plenty of bitter chocolate. You have to love bitter chocolate, but if you do, you’re in paradise. There are rather less tropical fruits in this one, but they do show up eventually. Rather marmalade, in fact. Finish: extremely long, on prunes, coffee, old kirsch or guignolet, and chocolate. Of course. Comments: a big fat baby that’s as lovely as a prima ballerina. Thanks again, Sukhinder. SGP:464 - 95 points.

And another 1964…

Bowmore 25 yo 1964/1989 (49.9%, Duthie for Europvin Bordeaux for Japan)

Emmanuel’s Bowmore 25 yo 1964/1989 (49.9%, Duthie for Europvin Bordeaux for Japan) Five stars I’m asking you, how rare is this? No, even rarer than that. Colour: gold. Nose: some American oak in action this time. Sardines cooked in coconut butter and vanilla. Chocolate covered foam bananas – a hit within Northern-Scottish whisky circles. It’s a rather lightly peated Bowmore so far, with plenty of active bourbon wood. And yet it’s very elegant despite the oak. I also enjoy these notes of patchouli and menthol.

Mouth: quite a fruit bomb this time, but it’s rather less exuberantly tropical than other unsherried Bowmores from the mid-1960s. What’s great is that the peat never stops coming to the front, it’s growing, it’s growing… Which also makes for one of the peatiest mid-1960s Bowmores. There’s also more oak and tinned pineapples. Finish: long, with more fruits again. A friendly fight between the oak and the fruits. Comments: we’re a bit on the oaky side, but the peatiness is pretty spectacular. Older 1964s tended to lose that peatiness over the years. SGP:656 - 90 points.

Bowmore 1965 (95° proof, John MacTaggart, private bottling, +/-1978)

Angus’ Bowmore 1965 (95° proof, John MacTaggart, private bottling, +/-1978) Five stars Another rare bottling within a series that also saw an Ardbeg and a Jura. Probably bottled at around 12 years of age. Colour: gold. Nose: a style that’s very close to that of the 1964 Duthie, with maybe a few more slightly perfumy notes. For example, I find litchis, gewürztraminer, tinned pineapples, as well as a little white chocolate. Nothing excessive though, this works very well. Mouth: an avalanche of soft tropical fruits. Mangos, passion fruits and all that.

There are many similarities with the 40 yo 1955 OB, with just a little more roughness from the oak. Great Bowmore nonetheless. Finish: very long, all on tropical fruits and white pepper. Comments: I found an amazing connection between this baby and a cask sample of a wonderful ‘Tempesty’ 2000 bourbon wood that we had tried in the warehouse with David Turner. Great, great distillate. SGP:654 – 92 points.

Bowmore 11 yo 1979/1990 (58.4%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Tomas’ Bowmore 11 yo 1979/1990 (58.4%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label) Five stars One of the very last black dumpies. This should be quite a palate cleanser! Colour: white wine. Nose: heavy notes of Vicks Vaporub, camphor, eucalyptus, cough syrup, pine smoke, liquorice, sauna oils… This baby will cure any cold! And probably many other diseases. With water: a lot of lemongrass coming through, Schweppes lemon, soot… It’s got something of modern Longrow.

Mouth: punches you in your face and doesn’t run off. Loads of smoked sweets and pinesap drops, pineapple bonbons, then bitter herbs, Fernet Branca… Gets very herbal indeed. With water: becomes very thick, very oily, with sooty lemons and pepper – and rather less peat. And rather more salt. Finish: long, lemony, always very salty. A little ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: a very restless beat. Fatter than others, oily, salty, extreme. Loved it, it followed the old glories without having anything to be ashamed of. SGP:567 – 91 points.

Bowmore ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB, 1979)

Bonus: we also quickly revisited the multi-vintage version of Bowmore ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB, 1979) Five stars that ‘contains whisky from ten different years between 1950 and 1966’ – as opposed to the 1964. I found it just as fantastic as when I last left it back in 2012. Amazing drinkability, fab brine, tropical fruits, honey, peat, soy sauce, prunes, raisins… All that with a supreme elegance. Thank you Jonny! SGP:566 - 96 points.

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

 

February 9, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Six

Ardbeg

Ardbeg at night

On thursday we were at Ardbeg where, with Mickey Heads, we opened quite a few glories that we had brought, while Jackie and gang were serving the most delicious food on the island.

Ardbeg 27 yo 1972/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 238 bottles)

Sukhinder’s Ardbeg 27 yo 1972/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 238 bottles) Five stars 1972 was the year when the distillery was buying most of its malts from the mainland, before buying more and more from Port Ellen Maltings. Colour: gold. Nose: huge, immediate, full of tar, bandages and antiseptic. Riding an old Ducati Desmo in a long abandoned Michigan hospital. Mouth: absolutely terrific. Menthol, camphor, lemons, more bandages, iodine, ‘good’ rubber, more tar, even more tar, even more tar than that… Phew! Finish: extremely long, tarry, lemony, yet very clean… Epitomical, as they say. Comments: a fat boy for sure. One of the most medicinal, tarry and smoky Ardbegs. SGP:358 - 93 points.

Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 186 bottles)

Hideo’s Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 186 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: easier, more delicate, with a little white chocolate and crystallised oranges before the tarry, medicinal notes come out. But it does become very bandagey again over time. Less immediate than the 27 yo but they become very much alike after a good fifteen minutes. Mouth: a bit easier again, and yet it’s no easy whisky. Big, fat, with a little oranges this time, quinine, tarry liquorice… Full Ardbeg! Finish: long, with more salt and an earthy side. Orange drops. Comments: absolutely wonderful again. It started slower than the 27, but it did catch up. SGP:457 – 93 points.

Ardbeg 30 yo ‘Very Old’ (40%, OB, 1963 bottled 1993)

Hans D.’s Ardbeg 30 yo ‘Very Old’ (40%, OB, 1963 bottled 1993) Five stars Unofficial data courtesy Geert B. Colour: gold. Nose: needs time after the two rather monstrous 1972s, but the delicacy in it and the subtle notes of smoked teas win us over. High-end lapsang souchong, pipe tobacco, pu-erh, a little marmalade and the subtlest earthiness. Mouth: a marvellous blend of lime tree tea, mint, rosemary, hawthorn, liquorice allsorts and ‘smoky bubblegum’ (for lack of better terms). All delicacy and elegance. Finish: relatively short, but so elegant…

Comments: an old lady that would have had a black belt in karate. As co-taster Sukhinder says, it’s getting better and better as we’re getting older. SGP:445 - 91 points.

Ardbeg 1974/1983 (59%, Duthie for Samaroli, 2400 bottles, sherry)

Diego’s Ardbeg 1974/1983 (59%, Duthie for Samaroli, 2400 bottles, sherry) Five stars This is another ‘revisitation’ – we first wrote notes in 2005 - so we’ll be quick. Colour: dark gold. Nose: pungent, earthy, almost brutal. Barley and ashes. With water: not much changes. The years in glass do not seem to have tamed it. An unforgiving whisky. Mouth (neat): extremely rich, sharp, almost violent. It’s not easy to enjoy this wrestler without water. With water: even with water. The barley comes out. Rough smokiness. Finish: very long, but it’s the whisky that wins in the end. You brute! Comments: the darker side of old Ardbeg. Spectacular and excellent, but extremely rough and uncivilised. SGP:457 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 1885 (Alexander McDougall & Co.)

Ardbeg 10 yo 1885 (15 under proof, Alexander McDougall & Co. for Charles R. Haig) Most probably another fake. Sadly – I hate to write that – the whisky is good. It’s just contemporary, and tastes a bit like a late 1990s Macallan 12 plus a little peat. Distilled twenty years ago or so, bottled ten years ago or so. And matured in pretty good sherry. Oh let’s cut this short. With apologies. SGP:552 – 82 points. But beeerkkk!

There will be more rare Ardbeg soon on WF...

 

February 6, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Five

Star over Ardbeg

Yesterday was another great day, filled with Caol Ilas, Bowmores and Ardbegs. We'll publish the Ardbegs later. And other Bowmores. And we alos had a great dinner at Ardbeg. Anyway...

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1973)

Emmanuel’s Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1973) Five starsIt’s not quite clear whether this was an actual OB or not. Colour: white wine. Nose: a very clean, precise, seawatery Caol Ila, with a pristine, totally coastal profile. You’d even find flowers that are growing next to the sea, the names escape me. Plenty of oysters, and a very faint buttery side. Those go well together, don’t they. Mouth: same very coastal, ultra-clean, briny style. Kippers, oysters, a touch of candy sugar, lemons, grapefruits, samphires, a dash of black pepper… It’s a light, yet full spirit, with a kind of light oiliness. Great texture.

Finish: rather long given the strength, with apple peelings and bitter almonds, and a salty aftertaste. Comments: this one seems to be a little lighter, and less medicinal than earlier versions, but it remained super-clean and fresh. SGP:346 - 90 points.

Caol Ila 18 yo 1966/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Geert’s Caol Ila 18 yo 1966/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label) Five starsWe’re revisiting this one. A funny one – they might have needed a better mathematician at the good lady’s in Aberdeen at the time. Colour: white wine. Nose: a fatter and sharper one at the same time, with more coal, burnt herbs, engine oils, old garage, tarmac, Bakelite, new plastic pouch, fresh putty, wet paint… And all that. Great nose. Mouth: superbly fat, very oily, with some white truffle oil (but I need to confess that we had some for lunch just two hours ago), lime, kippers, salty fish, lemon grass, a little damp chalk, fish oil… It’s style that’s now forgotten I’m afraid. Great. Finish: not very long, but everything’s there. Fat salted fish, lemon. Comments: just Geert. I mean, greet. That would be great. SGP:346 - 93 points.

Caol Ila 19 yo 1966/1985 (58.3%, Intertrade, 240 bottles)

Young Jonny’s Caol Ila 19 yo 1966/1985 (58.3%, Intertrade, 240 bottles) Five stars Another one from the times when Caol Ila was, as it’s written on the back label, ‘small’. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts with a grassy side that’s close to cork but that isn’t cork, between pine needles, burnt grass and humus. Goes on with ‘a walk in the forest’, some chalk, maybe a bit of washing powder, then moss, more humus and the sharpest lime. Sakes your body a bit, but that’s a great feeling.

With water: a swimming pool full of lemon. Mouth (neat): immense! Citrons, salt, kippers, tangerine liqueur, unusuallu round qo,quatspine (that was Anders, a Norwegian friend who tried to write kumquats using a French keyboard) liqueur or rather genepy, chartreuse… Totally brilliant.  Same with water. Finish: long, same. Comments: fantastic, very ‘nervous’, superb. SGP:556 - 94 points.

Bowmore 22 yo 1964/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA)

Max’s Bowmore 22 yo 1964/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA) Five stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sylphlike and dense at the same time, with a little carbon paper, ink, old magazines, fresh lemon, drops of cod liver oil, fresh almonds, lemon skin from Amalfi (says Massimo), very well refined oysters… This is lace! Mouth: starts light, almost whispering, before more and more lemons (Amalfi, Massimo?) take over, as well as citrons, smoked fish, a feeling of mineral oil (graphite?), and then the expected tropical fruits. Mangos, passion fruits, kiwis and all that. This is a 1960s Bowmore, remember?

Finish: a tad saltier. Light, rather delicate, not thin at all, more on lemon-spread smoked salmon. Iodine. Comments: more a Botticelli than a Warhol! Only problem, ‘you can drink a lot of it’ (says Diego). Nonante-quatre says Geert. Olivier says quatre-vingt quinze. SGP:554- 94 points.

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff’s, pear shape, +/-1969) Five stars A bottle that was originally bought on Islay. It’s ultra-rare. One of the bottles I’ve always wanted to try. Tried the 8, not the 18. Enough babbling. Colour: white wine. Nose: meets your expectations (says famous poet Angus). Like entering the British Museum alone early on a Sunday morning, before human contamination. Oil paint, turpentine, marble, wood polish… Then you enter a Turkish bath in Istanbul, the women’s side. Just before they shoot you (and rightly so), you get rosewater, sandalwood, orange blossom, ambergris, vetiver, handcream… Nivea? And then it would get more ‘Bowmore’, with soft tropical fruits, iodine, lemons… What a trip! Mouth: immediate. Unexpectedly sweet at first (Corsican citron liqueur – whatever), then huge, and huger, and huger. Iodine and lemon, smoked fish and pink grapefruits, peppers and other soft spices, oils, waxes, inks, papers, old books… What’s bizarre is that it suddenly nosedives, losing steam and power. Coitus interruptus? A smoky accordion, says Angus (the famous conductor). Finish: a little short, but what’s there is pretty amazing. Chlorophyll in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t quite know what to say. Not too sure I’ll score this. Thinking hard… It’s a little difficult because the relatively low power kind of contradicts the amazing aromas and flavours. An operapper, says Angus (the famous cook). SGP:453 – 93 points.

Revisiting Diego’s Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, sherry, cask #322, 300 bottles) Five stars Nose: After all this tantric sex, it’s good to, ach, erm, hum… (verbatim co-taster Diego)… In short, this is bigger, fatter, straighter, more candied, peatier, more brutal… And yet there are delicate whiffs of lime tree and verbena. Patrick says rather lime blossom than verbena. Mouth: a big fruitcake made out of citrus and sharp green spices. Caraway, mangos as well… Litchis, crystallised cherries, or this pipe tobacco that’s got cherries inside (we can’t find the name at this moment), cumin, dried pineapple, dried apricots…

Finish: very long, fruity, in the same league. Comments: Massimo says this whisky was probably distilled by Leonardo da Vinci. Massimo’s a walking tourist board. SGP:665 – 94 points.

 

February 5, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Four

Laphroaig

Yesterday we did a really cool session at Laphroaig. After having tried some casks that will make up for this year’s Feis Ile bottling (purely own maltings, distilled in Laphroaig’s small stills in 2003, matured in first fill bourbon), we opened a few old glories that our bunch had brought to their birthplace. First a few old tens, then older Laphroaigs… Expect high notes. BTW, I can’t take proper notes for all whiskies we’re having, so I’ll try to do some ‘sequel’ sessions when I’m back home.

Laphroaig 10 yo (75° proof, OB, UK, late 60s)

Patrick’s Laphroaig 10 yo (75° proof, OB, UK, late 60s) Five starsColour: deep gold. Nose: starts with slightly rotting oranges, in a nice way, then a lot of engine oil, fat grasses, some ‘good’ lavender, brown coal, chicken bouillon with parsley and chives, mushrooms and damp earth… The engine of a 750cc Norton Commando ;-). Dried porcinis, asparagus soup. It never stops changing. Astounding dry Laphroaig. Mouth: quite huge, herbal… Tarragon, liquorice, burnt herbs, salmiak, kummel, some kind of tarry and astringent dark wood (why dark, S.?), then dry chestnut mash, earth… Finish: long, more lemony. Skins. Comments: not a clean one, not a classic one, but it’s extremely great. Great dry grassiness. SGP:466 - 92 points.

Olivier’s Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Filippi, Italy, +/-1970) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: simpler but with much more sherry, fudge, marmalade, some kind of burning leather, chocolate, coal… It’s a simpler profile indeed, but it is just as magnificent. Chocolate, orangettes (chocolate-covered candied zests)… A little warm caramel as well, toffee… Mouth: majestic sherry and peat. Big pepper and acidic lemon, plenty of walnuts, wheelbarrows of pink peppercorns, all that with some black chocolate and the most shockingly dry and bitter marmalade. Huge thing. Finish: long, superb. Oranges, pepper, walnuts, old palo Cortado. Comments: of the most sherried old 10s I could try. SGP:567 - 94 points. (Massimo says one more point because it’s an Italian bottle).

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, for Gibraltar, +/-1960)

Marcel’s Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, for Gibraltar, +/-1960) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s earthier this time, grassier, more mentholy, vegetal… It’s also probably the most coastal, with whiffs of hessian, beach fire, dried kelp… And the most medicinal as well (bandages, antiseptic), so probably the most seminally ‘Laphroaig’. Vicks Vaporub, and more and more of that. Bang! Mouth: indeed, it’s the oldest, and yet it’s the most modern of them all. Peppery and salty, with lemons and oranges, grapefruits, and then a big minerality.

Becomes really sooty and ashy after a few minutes. Finish: very classic indeed. There’s some green malt remaining, ashes, pepper, brine, cough syrup… A wee dirty grassiness as well. Old barley. Comments: let’s not split hairs, this is just as brilliant. Classic Laphroaigness. SGP:467 - 93 points.

Laphroaig 40 yo (42.4%, OB, +/-2001)

Hideo’s Laphroaig 40 yo (42.4%, OB, +/-2001) Five stars We’re revisiting this old glory… Colour: deep gold. Nose: much more delicate, rather on high-end marzipan, clams, old waxes and oils, hessian, old books, old bookshop (polish), beeswax, mint flavoured tea… All delicacy, all elegance, and quite the opposite of all the tens. Notes of plantains. The peat doesn’t feel much anymore, but its there, just very, very delicate. Soft eucalyptus, embrocations... An old lady who works in a very old pharmacy (says Angus).

Mouth: all delicacy and elegance. Not as light as I remembered, certainly not too oaky, but there’s a subtle mintiness, lovely bitter oranges, a touch of angelica (quite a lot of angelica, in fact) and the most complex and elegant coastal peatiness. There’s more than I remembered. Finish: medium length. Citrons, oranges, crème de menthe, genepy, aniseed… Superb ultra-clean aftertaste. Comments: really, I insist, this one’s feels nicer than when last tried it. Would that be good Old Bottle Effect? I’m as happy as a bunny. I used to prefer the 30 in the older days, but things change. SGP:555 (that’s balanced, isn’t it) – 93 points.

Laphroaig (OB, Mackie & Co., bottled 1903)

Laphroaig (OB, Mackie & Co., bottled 1903) Indeed Lagavulin's 'Mad' Peter Mackie used to be Laphroaig's agent at the time, but let’s not dream, this may well be another stinky fake. Colour: troublingly unclear. Nose: ‘the asshole of a rotten kumquat’, says Angus. Thank you Angus for that very flowery expression. Terrible rancid diesel shed, fermented turnips (did you know Angus was Baldrick’s cousin?), spoilt shiitake rubber, says Hideo, six months old dead buried squirrel adds Angus (Angus is in good form), a box of suicided cabbages… but time for the palate. Mouth: aaarrrrrghhhh… Rotten honey, Satan’s breast milk (Angus is back from the gents), fermented dung (Angus loves the countryside), and some elastic band smoothie – something like that. Finish: blaaaahhhh… For luck it’s finish, says Giuseppe Linguini who’s tasting this piece of art with us. Comments: pure misery. Any whisky forgers should be drowned, then hung, then burnt, then made to drink their whiskies. An ugly Laphorgery. You cannot win Puttaniere dell’ Anno with this whisky, says Massimo R. from Formigine, who’s got a reputation. SGP:090 – minus 30 points.
PS
You might wonder why some forgers would have put such an utter rotgut into a fake. Good question, maybe was it genuine indeed, just flat dead? We'll never know.

Serge’s (that’s me) Laphroaig 31 yo 1974/2005 (49.7%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, 910 bottles) Five stars Another ‘revisitation’. Colour: deep amber. Nose: epitomical dry leathery, earthy sherry. It’s the balance that’s impressive. And the menthol, cough syrup, chestnuts, gewürztraminer TBA (totally botrytis affected, not Trockenbeerenauslese ;-)), blackberry jelly… and such and such and such. With water: earth, ashes, smoke, black chocolate. Mouth (neat): totally superb citrusy and peppery and smoky jam and compote. With water: same. Sharp, citrusy, zesty, less fat than I remembered. Finish: long, on black tea, menthol, chocolate and blueberry jam. Comments: perhaps a tad less impressive than last time, but that’s probably because we had so many great ones just before. SGP:466 - 94 points.
 

February 4, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Three

Lagavulin pier yesterday

Alright, we’ve tried a lot of whiskies again yesterday, and toured the stunning-as-ever Lagavulin Distillery and Port Ellen Maltings again. Nothing too new under the sun, but that may well be very good news if you ask me. Why change something that’s perfect? Many thanks to Georgie C. and Nick M., very great company, as expected. So, anyway, instead of posting notes for an interminable string of excellent whiskies (that’ll come), I thought I’d rather try to write about only one of them today. But that won’t be just any whisky…

Patrick's Port Ellen 12 yo (OB, The Queen’s Visit to Port Ellen’s Maltings, 1980) Five stars One of, if not the most legendary Port Ellen, bottled in an Oban bottle when Queen Elizabeth II visited the maltings on August 9, 1980. No need to tell you how rare this is. Nobody seems to remember when it was distilled, but what’s sure is that it’s either 1967 or 1968. Or a vatting of both vintages, as the distillery was restarted in 1967. Are you following me? Colour: deep gold.

Nose: starts vegetal, with notes of turnips and beetroots, some leather, some other roots, some Barbour grease, some clay… Typical of an old bottle that was just opened, but we know the fruits will come out eventually. Transits through overripe apples, notes of cake… Before more acidic notes, soot, carbolic soap and garden bonfire arise. More sour fruits as well, mangos, passion fruits… It’s also more and more mineral, with some kind of sooty gravel, scoria, coal… What a whirlwind! Totally exceptional. Mouth: the label wouldn’t say, but it tastes like +/-45% vol. Starts compact, greatly sour and sooty. Unripe kiwis and cider apples on a very ashy background. Eating cigar ashes moistened with grapefruit and kiwi juice. Or something like that. Gains power over time, let’s just let this baby breathe for a few hours, as it was just opened. Zzzz zzz… After around eight hours (that’s right, 8 hours): full-blown passion fruits, utterly magnificent, with a light coal smoke, as well as mangos. Utter perfection. Finish: an astounding freshness, for a long time. It kills you. Nearly. Comments: the son of Michelangelo and John Coltrane. After having tried quite a few whiskies, I think – well, I know – that I will never find a dram that’s even better. Peace and love. And thank you caro Patrick. SGP:657 - 99 points.

 

February 3, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day Two

Yesterday we first went to Bunnahabhain where Manager Andrew Brown welcomed us with much gusto… and lovely old whiskies to taste. Of course we had also brought our own…

Bunnahabhain 20 yo ‘Centenary’ (43%, OB, decanter, 1983)

Anders’ Bunnahabhain 20 yo ‘Centenary’ (43%, OB, decanter, 1983) Five stars A stunning decanter that may contain peated pre-1963 peated Bunnahabhain. Remember the distillery’s output used to be peated before 1962/1963. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts smoky indeed, with whiffs of coal, pine needles, then some herbal teas such as chamomile, old chartreuse, old leather, cigars… It’s all dry, smoky, and really beautiful.

Mouth: very dry, rather with notes of old fino sherry, walnuts, then touches of mustard that sit somewhere between an old Glenglassaugh and a Banff, then more smoky sooty grains. There’s even a little salt. The body’s perfect at 43% vol. and after all these years in a wide-neck decanter. Deliciously old style. Finish: long, herbal, mostly on eucalyptus and coal smoked tar. Comments: a very dry and beautifully austere late peaty era Bunnahabhain. Very interesting because the distillery’s set-up had been changed quite a bit when they switched from peated to unpeated. SGP:274 - 92 points.

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1963/2003 (42.9%, OB, 743 bottles)

Revisiting Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1963/2003 (42.9%, OB, 743 bottles) Four stars and a halfCourtesy Andrew Brown, Bunnahabhain’s excellently friendly and courteous Distillery Manager. Colour: deep gold. Nose: fruitier and sweeter than the Centenary, with more cherries, then quite some tobacco, walnuts, marmalade… Less smoky for sure, and certainly woodier. Mouth: again, it’s rather sweeter, with oranges, wood spices, and no smoke that I can get. Finish: rather long, more extractive, with an oak that feels a bit, strong black tea and such… Comments: no peat, more oak, and proof that not all 1963s were peaty. A great dram nonetheless, just a wee bit oaky for my taste. SGP:451 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 17 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1982)

Jonny’s Bunnahabhain 17 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1982) Five starsColour: pale mahogany. Nose: wonderful, on chocolate, with some old rancio, old balsamic vinegar, then a little mint, shoe polish and walnut oil. So a fatter Bunnahabhain, but that’s the sherry. Mouth: really big for both this series and the distillery. Marmalade, a touch of aniseed, mint, liquorice, then more bitter chocolate and even more walnuts. Finish: a tad shorter now, with more bitter chocolate. Loses it a bit – just a bit, but that’s the low ABV.

Comments: excellent, compact, with a lovely chocolate. Our Swiss wing should love it, but he couldn’t make it to Islay yet. SGP:462 – 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 40 yo (41.7% OB, Limited Edition, 750 bottles, 2012)

Andrew's Bunnahabhain 40 yo (41.7% OB, Limited Edition, 750 bottles, 2012) Five stars No vintage on this one, it ay have been a multivintage version. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a very fruity one, full of ripe bananas, plantains, with also guavas and papayas. Then a little menthol and caraway. It’s a very clean one, pristine, rather light and elegant. The oak remained rather shy, hurray. Mouth: juicy fruits, chewy fruit salad sweets, then a little more greenness from the oak. Green tea. Remains fresh and easy. Finish: an acceptable length. Always on fruit salad and green tea. Comments: one of the fresher old ones, very drinkable. SGP:651 - 90 points.

After our visit to the shores of the Sound of Islay, we went back home in Bowmore and did more freewheeling Islay tasting…

Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB)

Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB) Five starsAnother old friend. I’ve had a few but just noticed that I had never taken any proper tasting notes. How’s that possible? Colour: pale gold. Nose: as I remembered it, that is go say relatively light, very fruity, and yet not quite ooh-ah watch my mangos. The trademark melons, guavas, then ‘simple’ apples and ripe gooseberries. All elegance. Mouth: a kind of supremely elegant green fruitiness. Melon skin, peaches, yellow plums and a touch of honeydew. Some very racy blue-green tea as well. Very delicate. Finish: medium long, on more or less the same notes. Lovers of heavy beasts might not enjoy this style to the max, but I find this subtlety pretty amazing. Comments: I think this baby remains one of my favourite ‘contemporary’ bottling of Bruichladdich (not talking about the peaters), but it may have lost a bit of immediateness after a good ten years in bottle. It got a little drier, I think. SGP:551 – 91 points.

Bruichladdich 1970/2001 (45.5%, OB, valinch ‘I was there’, bourbon, cask #5081, 250 bottles)

Tomas’ Bruichladdich 1970/2001 (45.5%, OB, valinch ‘I was there’, bourbon, cask #5081, 250 bottles) Five stars This little baby celebrated the first distillation after the reopening of Bruichladdich, and was bottled on May 29, 2001. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the style is obviously similar to that of the ‘large batch’ 1970, but it’s got a little more power, and probably more citrus fruits, including pink grapefruits. A little kiwi, perhaps, lemons for sure, perhaps some slightly unripe kumquats (very popular in Holland)… Rather zestier, globally.

Mouth: once again, we’re close to the ‘big’ 1970, but this one’s a little better chiselled, with (even) more defined fruits. Melons and sweet grapefruits, a drop of rosehip tea. Maybe a slice of banana. Finish: medium. More tart fruits and hardly any straight oak. Comments: crikey, it overtook the ‘regular’ 1970. SGP:651 - 92 points.

Caol Ila 15 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1987)

Revisiting
Jeroen’s Caol Ila 15 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1987) Five stars I’m glad I’ve got his one in my glass again because another bottle had been absolutely splendid, but a little flat and short (WF 85). This one has more oomph indeed, with something that, quite bizarrely, reminds me of the older version of Laphroaig 30. Superb tarry and sooty passion fruits on the palate – and it would never lose steam. Phew, glad I could do justice to this lovely pre-rebuilding Caol Ila. SGP:544 – 90 points.

Caol Ila 1974/1995 (43%, Velier, hogsheads, casks #12497-12500)

Caol Ila 1974/1995 (43%, Velier, hogsheads, casks #12497-12500) Four stars A bottling by Signatory Vintage for Velier in Italy. Probably f om the first months of distillation after the distillery’s massive expansion. Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather mineral, flinty, lightly peaty Caol Ila, with a little antiseptic. Green apples as well, lime, sauvignon blanc… Mouth: excellent. Great body at 43%, some sweet lemons, a touch of dill, a little chalk… Tends to lose steam a bit, though, but it remains very clean. A slightly sweeter sauvignon blanc. Finish: rather short, quite surprisingly, but clean, mineral, lemony. Comments: a notch simple, but otherwise just excellent. Very drinkable. SGP:456 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 1968/1984 (40%, Gordon MacPhail, Celtic label)

Laphroaig 1968/1984 (40%, Gordon MacPhail, Celtic label) Three stars We should expect some tropical fruits, I guess. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, not quite, it’s rather restrained, grainy, coming with whiffs of damp cardboard, a little mud… What’s funny is that everything’s falling into place after a moment, while some pretty oranges and citrons are coming out. Not quite sure yet, but things seem to be improving. Mouth: sweet, soft, with unexpected touches of coffee and liquorice/smoke. The whole’s very light, and pretty dry/drying at this point. Finish: short, with some putty and smoked barley. Very sooty and drying aftertaste. Comments: nothing to complain about but this is a very, very light version of Laphroaig on the palate. Unless this is not Laphroaig 1968. That’s not totally impossible. Ermnlmrn…SGP:255 – 80 points.

Laphroaig 22 yo 1976/1998 (50.4%, Kingsbury, Japan, sherry, cask #4437)

Marcel’s Laphroaig 22 yo 1976/1998 (50.4%, Kingsbury, Japan, sherry, cask #4437) Five stars Like this on the back label: this is ‘not blended with lesser grain whiskies’. Not kidding ;-). Kingsbury used to be related to Eaglesome Ltd., so W.M. Cadenhead. Colour: pale gold. Nose: full-blown grapefruit and passion fruits. In truth, there isn’t much else, but that was more than sufficient. Maybe a drop of eucalyptus medicine or something. The smoke’s rather discreet. Perfect. With water: even more perfect. Mouth: massive, extremely powerful (tastes like much more than 50%), and quite brutal. Grassy peelings, grapefruits, green lemons, an almondy grassiness, some fresh bitter walnuts, a spoonful of manzanilla, some mustard… Seizes your tongue. With water: do they have an Anti-Maltoporn Brigade on this island? Finish: loses it a bit, just a bit. Maybe a touch of old cardboard? Comments: can you be pristine and massive at the same time? Not too sure. Not a peat monster at all, tough, but that’s probably better in this context. SGP:654 - 93 points.
 

February 2, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day One

We arrived late in the afternoon in Bowmore and did just a bit of warming up in the Cottages, with Alsatian tartes flambéed, foie gras, Munster cheese (pass) and this mixed bag of whiskies. Expect more serious stuff from tomorrow on.

Wonderful interpretation by artist Hans Dilesse->

 

Haig & Haig ‘Five Stars’ (30 under proof, OB, blend, +/-1915)

Haig & Haig ‘Five Stars’ (30 under proof, OB, blend, +/-1915) Three stars and a half An amazing WWI Haig. The back label says that they were using this regular bottle shape because the famous ‘pinched’ one was in short supply during the war. We’ve heard David Beckham’s great-great-grandfather used to love it. Colour: gold. Amazingly limpid. Nose: a basket full of ripe orchard fruits and mangos. Flabbergasting freshness, with only a touch of pinesap. Coal smoke arises after two minutes, smoked almonds, whiffs of carbon paper, marzipan, cough syrup... This nose is almost perfect. Mouth: a little less complex, narrower, more on raisins, retsina, a wee dustiness, something slightly stale… There are also notes of old Cointreau, some soft spices around caraway, garam masala… Finish: sure it’s not the longest ever, but it’s not getting completely flat and cardboardy at all. An achievement after all these years. Comments: the Five Stars used to be sold as a premium version – and indeed it was excellent, despite the fact that it’s probably at around 35% vol. after having lost quite some alcohol. SGP:442 - 84 points.

PS: the price was on the label and it was 13 shillings, so 65 pence, but the average wage at the time would have been £5 per week (thanks Colin).

John Begg ‘Gold Cap’ (OB, blend, +/-1936)

John Begg ‘Gold Cap’ (OB, blend, +/-1936) Three stars and a halfNothing to do with Islay, I know. No ABV on this old bottle of Lochnagar’s John Begg. It was bottled by appointment to the late King George V. Colour: gold. Nose: this old baby rather has a lot of shoe polish and soot, before it gets a little flattish. Old papers, old spices, old wooden boxes, these sorts of things. A funny feeling of old spicy aquavit. A little too much OBE. Mouth: very spicy, a little drying. Oranges and a lot of cinnamon and white pepper, then more and more caramel and praline, which is nice. Never stops improving after five minutes, with more and more spicy orange cake – and caramel. Finish: quite long, spicy, with herbal teas and the same spices. Comments: more oomph than in the Haig. I liked the nose of the latter a little better, and preferred the palate of the former. SGP:451 - 84 points.

And now, the Islay-driven blends

Black Label 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970)

Black Bottle 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970) Three stars An early Black Bottle in a tall straight bottle, without the traditional bulky shape. This very one had been imported to Portugal. Colour: gold. Nose: this baby’s rather more aromatic, but also dirtier than both the Haig and the Begg. Some leather, some soap, a feinty side, beer and cardboard… I have to say we’re disappointed. Mouth: ah this is much better. The peat is quite big, I find some sweet vegetables, sweet carrots, then bitter oranges, a bit of earth and gravel… It’s a pretty powerful old young one. Finish: good length, sooty, with a little dry tea. Some barley sugar. Comments: mixed feelings. The dirty earthiness is a little unpleasant, but it really improves after a few hours of breathing. SGP:464 – 82 (was 77 when just opened) points.

Islay Mist (OB, blend, UK, +/-1960)

Islay Mist (OB, blend, UK, +/-1960) Four stars and a half No ABV on this early Islay Mist either. Some great information on the back label, especially the fact that there are only three malts inside, namely Glen Grant, Glenlivet and Laphroaig, plus some ‘soft grain whisky’. It’s also said to be older than 8. So 8. Colour: gold. Nose: a big fat nose, peaty, earthy, slightly floral (roses and orange blossom), with some roasted malt and notes of ‘old fur in an old wardrobe’. Mouth: absolutely excellent, as peaty as plain Laphroaig from the old days, with the expected tropical fruits, mangos, passion fruits… An amazing power. Some camphor as well, cough syrup… All perfect. Finish: long, superbly peaty and orangey. A little aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: superb. No wonder these old Islay Mists are legendary. It literally killed the poorer Black Bottle. SGP:454 - 89 points.

Logan’s (70°proof, OB, White Horse, blend, 1950s)

Logan’s (70°proof, OB, White Horse, blend, 1950s) Four starsThe label says ‘Logan’s Extra Age Superb Old Scotch Whisky’. Rumour doesn’t disagree. It’s also said that this whisky, just like Mackie’s Ancient Brand that used to share the same bottle shape, does contain a fair proportion of Malt Mill. Ahem… It also says that it’s ‘entirely free from any artificial sweetening, flavouring or other foreign matter’. Good. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not that far from the Islay Mist, just a tad more rubbery and burnt, and a little less fruity. A little more on hay. Some greasy coal as well, graphite… Some sides do remind us of older White Horses (spring cap). Some dark chocolate. Mouth: very punchy, with this kind of sweet peatiness that’s quite ‘Lagavulin’. Oranges and cloves, some good tarry dirt, notes of burnt coffee… Globally greasier than the Islay Mist. Finish: long, drier, with more coal, perhaps. Comments: another superb blend. The lower strength may have handicapped it a bit after the Islay Mist. SGP:444 - 87 points.

Somebody just decided to have some malts…

Bruichladdich 1965/1981 'Centenary' (53%, OB, decanter)

Bruichladdich 1965/1981 'Centenary' (53%, OB, decanter) Two stars and a half We had the lighter version at 43% in November last year, but it had gone flat, possibly because of loose cork – and the corks are large on these decanters. Colour: amber. Nose: very bizarre, ridden with pinesap, paint, fresh putty and all that. It’s almost as if it was matured in pinewood. Crème de menthe. Funky stuff! With water: killed. Overinfused mint tea and lavender soap. Mouth (neat): really astringent, heavily mentholated, gingery, with a lot of retsina again… Weird, very weird. With water: rather better now, thanks to oranges coming out (crystallised). There’s even more crème de menthe, though. And maybe kumquats (there). Finish: long but extremely mentholy. Comments: I had already found this heavy menthol in the 43%. Sherry transport casks made out of chestnut? I find this baby pretty difficult but I know some friends love it. SGP:271 - 78 points.

Bowmore 16 yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #1036/1039)

Bowmore 16 yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #1036/1039) Four stars and a half We’ve already tried this sweet baby back in 2004. Time to revisit it, don’t you think? Colour: gold. Nose: a tiny metallic side and many many tropical fruits, plus a wee bit of cardboard. A little orange blossom, some leather… It’s not a big, explosive nose, some would even say it’s slightly weak. Whiffs of fermenting grass as well. Mouth: much more like it. Classic fruity Bowmore, with raisins in the background. Rather more grapefruits than mangos and buddies. Tends to improve with oxygen, just like many freshly opened old bottles of Bowmore. Finish: medium long, more on peelings and green tea. A part of the fruitiness is gone now. Comments: not a lot of peat in this easy drinking Bowmore. The 1965 in the same livery was on another planet, but this is still excellent. And very drinkable. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Bowmore 34 yo 1972/2007 (48.4%, OB, for Globus 100th Anniversary, Switzerland, Hogshead, 100 decanters)

We also revisited this baby:
Bowmore 34 yo 1972/2007 (48.4%, OB, for Globus 100th Anniversary, Switzerland, Hogshead, 100 decanters) Five stars I find it rather bigger, and harsher, and actually (even) better than seven years ago. A little less civilised. Who needs civilisation? 93 points (up one point).

 

Another variant of an old friend...

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1987)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1987) Five stars Rotation 1987, this ‘unblended’ version should be quite something. Colour: gold. Nose: pristine whistle-clean tropical fruits and peat smoke plus fresh almonds. An old friend. Enough said. Mouth: over to Jonny: f**k my a**e. Thank you Jonny. Finish: a bit drying, not the very best part. Like eating ashes and grapefruit skin. Comments: a very punchy version that’s got plenty of fruits. Brilliant. I know, that was short. SGP:657 - 91 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1985) Five stars A slightly earlier version, extremely similar. Maybe a tad more grapefruity, as they say in Congo. A little better, actually, even better chiselled. SGP:657 - 92 points.

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-1985)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-1985) Five stars The well-known version that was sold between the 12 white label and the first 16s. Colour: gold. Nose: a fantastic tarry and leathery nose, appropriately dirty, full of seaweed, tarry ropes, old hessian and cider apples. Mouth: perfect dirty nasty and yet compact and focussed palate, with a touch of lime over liquorice and dirty waters (or something like that). Finish: long, both fat and very precise. Quite an achievement. Comments: a classic. SGP:457 - 92 points.

Oh and another go at this other glory…

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, short label, mid 1970s)

 

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, short label, mid 1970s) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: one of these whiskies that are both focused and wide, heavy and light, aromatic and elegant, civilised and rough. In short, Laphroaig Bonfanti. Mouth: fruity fireworks. Mangos and pink grapefruits aplenty, on a fattish peaty foundation. And this kind of very specific minerality. Wet concrete? Finish: long, a citrusy blade. Comments: one of the whiskies that any whisky lover should try to taste once in his life. SGP:557 - 94 points.

Stay tuned…


January 2015 - part 2 <--- February 2015 - part 1 ---> February 2015 - part 2


 

 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Ardbeg 27 yo 1972/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 238 bottles)

Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 186 bottles)

Ardbeg 1974/1983 (59%, Duthie for Samaroli, 2400 bottles, sherry)

Ardbeg 30 yo ‘Very Old’ (40%, OB, 1963 bottled 1993)

Bowmore ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB, 1979)

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff’s, pear shape, +/-1969)

Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB)

Bowmore 40 yo 1955 (42%, OB, decanter, 306 bottles, +/-1995)

Bowmore 25 yo 1964/1989 (49.9%, Duthie for Europvin Bordeaux for Japan)

Bowmore 35 yo 1964/1999 (42.1%, OB, for Oddbins, oloroso, cask #3709, 99 bottles)

Bowmore 22 yo 1964/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA)

Bowmore 34 yo 1972/2007 (48.4%, OB, for Globus 100th Anniversary, Switzerland, Hogshead, 100 decanters)

Bowmore 11 yo 1979/1990 (58.4%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Bowmore 1965 (95° proof, John MacTaggart, private bottling, +/-1978)

Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, sherry, cask #322, 300 bottles)

Bruichladdich 1970/2001 (45.5%, OB, valinch ‘I was there’, bourbon, cask #5081, 250 bottles)

Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo (41.7% OB, Limited Edition, 750 bottles, 2012)

Bunnahabhain 17 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1982)

Bunnahabhain 20 yo ‘Centenary’ (43%, OB, decanter, 1983)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1973)

Caol Ila 15 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1987)

Caol Ila 18 yo 1966/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1966/1985 (58.3%, Intertrade, 240 bottles)

Jura 18 yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-1985)

Lagavulin 1979 (43%, OB, Distiller’s Edition, lgv. 4/463, 1l, +/-1997)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, for Gibraltar, +/-1960)

Laphroaig 10 yo (75° proof, OB, UK, late 60s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Filippi, Italy, +/-1970)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, short label, mid 1970s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1985)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1987)

Laphroaig 40 yo (42.4%, OB, +/-2001)

Laphroaig 31 yo 1974/2005 (49.7%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, 910 bottles)

Laphroaig 22 yo 1976/1998 (50.4%, Kingsbury, Japan, sherry, cask #4437)

Port Ellen 12 yo (OB, The Queen’s Visit to Port Ellen’s Maltings, 1980)

Port Ellen 1970/1989 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali, 75cl)