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

       

February 2019 - part 1 <--- February 2019 - part 2 ---> March 2019 - part 1

 

February 28, 2019


Whiskyfun

Bunnahabhain until we succumb, part four

As we had said, let’s try some youngsters, most probably peaters. Starting with a very, and I mean very young one…

Bunnahabhain 3 yo 2014/2018 ‘Staoisha’ (60.7%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Bunnahabhain 3 yo 2014/2018 ‘Staoisha’ (60.7%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
Four stars
Don’t quite know what Staoisha means, sounds a bit Gaelico-Russo-Japanese, no? What’s sure is that if our ever-reliable Belgian friends have bottled such a youngster, that should mean that something’s happened in that cask… Colour: straw. Nose: a clean, straightforward peatiness, pretty Ardbeggian I have to say, and extremely kilny if you see what I mean. Raw peat smoke, ‘visiting the maltings’, limoncello. With water: more of all that, plus a maltster’s old tweed jacket. Mouth (neat): peated lemons and grapefruits, really. With water: same, plus a little rhubarb and chewing green tobacco leaves, perhaps. Another one that’s pretty millimetric. Finish: long, with more vanilla this time. Comments: very impressive at just 3. Mind you, this is barely whsiky! Sometimes, but only sometimes, excellence knows no age.
SGP:457 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2011/2018 ‘Moine’ (59.7%, Le Gus’t, hogshead, cask #704134, 278 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2011/2018 ‘Moine’ (59.7%, Le Gus’t, hogshead, cask #704134, 278 bottles) Four stars and a half
Did you know that in French, moine means monk? So it could happen that some good folks would believe this is some kind of trappist whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s most interesting to try this one after a 3 yo, because you can feel some new aromas coming out, especially medicinal ones, camphor, menthol, tincture of iodine. Other than that, it’s all a bed of peat smoke, with only droplets of liquid caramel and vanilla custard. With water: a little tar now. Brake fluid, new bakelite… Mouth (neat): creamier, so even more limoncello-y, very clean, very potent, pungent, almost explosive, with a lot of smoke combined with quite some black pepper. Bang! With water: perfect. Tangerines coming out, perhaps mangos, limes… Finish: long, precise and concise, on smoked lemons. Comments: really looks like Bunnahabhain have upped the peatiness in their Moines in the 2010s. Am I not right?
SGP:457 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2007/2017 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #140, 360 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2007/2017 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #140, 360 bottles) Four stars
I believe they had started to produce quite a lot more ‘Moine’ in 2007. Colour: white wine. Nose: my theory holds and stands, this is peaty but less so than the 2014 and 2011. On the other hand, it’s fresher, more coastal, with more kelp and oysters, for example. One could add that it’s closer to neighbours Caol Ila as far as styles are concerned – and not only geography. With water: a fistful of smoked barley. Mouth (neat): well, it’s pretty peaty on the palate. Smoke, kippers, green lemons, lapsang souchong, lemon drops, lemon marmalade, green curry… With water: as almost always, citrus going up! Some Islay margarita? Finish: long, vertical, with a little stone (flints) this time. More lemon drops. Comments: high precision distilling conducted by the late John MacLellan. One of the sweetest gentlemen we could ever meet within the whisky business.
SGP:556 - 87 points.

A funny finishing, perhaps?...

Bunnahabhain 2007/2018 (46%, Scyfion Choice, Pastoral cask finish, 348 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 2007/2018 (46%, Scyfion Choice, Pastoral cask finish, 348 bottles) Three stars
These small Ukrainian bottlers do love to finish whiskies in their regional wines (in the broadest sense of that word), in this case Pastoral, which, apparently, is a red Moldavian dessert wine. Colour: apricot. Nose: this one isn’t that smoky, neither is it frankly wine-y. Tobacco, raisins, and red peaches, that’s what we’re finding. What’s more, the whole is not unbalanced. Mouth: desert whisky? Raisins, pepper, figs, maple syrup, strawberry jam, prickly pears, date wine, then more and more orange liqueur. That would have been blood oranges, naturally. Finish: medium,  sweet, not liqueury though. Raisins and orange liqueur. Comments: really much more than just okay. Plus, which other occasions to taste Moldavian Pastoral would we have had?
SGP:652 - 80 points.

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2004/2016 (49.7%, Single Cask Seasons, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #800195, 674 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2004/2016 (49.7%, Single Cask Seasons, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #800195, 674 bottles) Three stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah struck matches, leather polish, tar, metal polish, a little gas, a wee bit of black truffle, new sneakers, new stereo set straight from its box, stupid new AI devices, rubber, glycerine, e-cigarette… Mouth: a very funny baby indeed, navigating between raisins, leather, tobacco, plastic, and various polishes. Almost forgot to mention these very Jerezian walnuts. Finish: medium, always a little leathery, with remaining hints of sulphur. Nothing horrendous though, I think it’s a very fine dram. Seville oranges in the aftertaste (I told you, Andalucia). Comments: idem.
SGP:462 - 80 points.

Perhaps a last one?...

Ma2 2004/2017 (55.2%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 1st fill bourbon barrel)

Ma2 2004/2017 (55.2%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 1st fill bourbon barrel) Five stars
This is Margadale, another name for the peated Bunnahabhains. Excuse me? No, flippers and auction cats, ‘Ma’ does not mean Macallan in this context. Colour: straw. Nose: a clean one this time, fresh, beautifully coastal, rather delicately smoky, with pinewood smoke, peat smoke, grapefruits, pine cones, and just the usual drops of limoncello. With water: perhaps one tiny drop of pineapple juice. Mouth (neat): very beautiful, vertical, citrusy, smoky, with just touches of vanilla and a little salt. Simple and perfect. With water: even more so. Superb lemons and limes, plus a little olive oil, seawater, and a bitterer smoke. Finish: long, fruitier, and a wee tad lactic, certainly not a bad thing. Catalan cream. Comments: just excellent, some high-precision young peated Islay. Eternal glory to John MacLellan!
SGP:556 - 90 points.

I would say that little Ma did make for a perfect way of putting an end to our Bunnhabhain madness. Enough is enough.

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

 

February 27, 2019


Whiskyfun

Bunnahabhain until we succumb,
part three

Looks like we already downed ten of them, and we have ten more. Or twenty. Thirty?... Let’s remain careful…By the way, just yesterday Distell have published some update about their complete refurbishment of the Distillery.

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (43.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, two hogsheads, 432 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (43.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, two hogsheads, 432 bottles) Four stars
I doubt this baby could overtake Cadenhead’s fantabulous 23/1994 that we had last time (WF 91), but you never know… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a soft, relatively creamy, yet almost aerial Bunny, with touches of bananas, apples, barley, starfruit (I know those are shy fruits) and fresh croissants, which leads us to sourdough and, perhaps, hay. A pretty natural profile I would say, pretty bready. Mouth: not the 1994, but it’s fine and indeed, one of those very ‘naked’ Bunnies. No, not Heffner’s Bunnies. A little sourdough again, crushed bananas, apple compote, green tea, and a few green spices. Ah and those starfruits. Finish: medium, on pretty much the same flavours. A tad branche-y, perhaps, as Tarzan would have said. Comments: a rather soft and green Bunnahabhain, not pumped-up, all natural. Quality stuff.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2017 (41.3%, Antique Lions of Spirits, refill sherry, 388 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2017 (41.3%, Antique Lions of Spirits, refill sherry, 388 bottles) Four stars
This baby came with butterflies, but will it be light? Many casks in this series of, err, casks had dropped below the 45% vol. point. Colour: straw. Nose: rather similar, as expected, but probably a little fruitier, with added mangos and papayas. Other than that, bananas, barley, syrup, fresh pastries, dough… Also fresh almonds, with a nod to fino sherry. Was it an ex-fino cask? Mouth: it’s a little more active shall we say, with touches of copper, a touch of chlorophyll, fruit peels, green pears, otherwise bananas and papayas again, green tea, some marzipan… Finish: medium, greener again. Apple peel, green tea, sauvignon blanc… Comments: these batches aren’t quite spectacular, I find them rather gentle – with some exceptions.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 27 yo (48.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Marriage, 2018)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo (48.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Marriage, 2018) Four stars and a half
Four casks have been blended together here, all refill bourbon hogsheads from three different vintages. I suppose this baby will be a little bigger than the 1989s. Colour: pale gold. Nose: again, some creamy yet light Bunnahabhain goodness, with rather more custard this time, and rather less bananas, although there would be bananas ‘of course’. Candyfloss, crème au beurre, tangerines this time, dandelions, sunflower oil, then a little paraffin and a kind of waxy greenness that’s adding depth. Mouth: very good, citrusy, with excellent herbalness, notes of manzanilla and vin jaune, walnut oil, white peaches, and those tangerines again. A wee feeling of Japanese sweet bean paste, what’s the name again? Ah yes, anko. So, anko. Finish: medium, fruity, yet rather firm and waxy. Comments: even if this series is called ‘marriage’, bachelors will like it too (whaaat?)
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Older ones please…

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (45.4%, Sansibar, sherry cask, 220 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (45.4%, Sansibar, sherry cask, 220 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: ah, more body, more roundness as well, more liqueurs, more mandarins, more maracuja, more cassata ice cream, more vanilla, more honey! So indeed a fuller one, curious about the palate… Mouth: these are a little more ‘obvious’, and naturally a little oakier, which is not a problem here. Apricot jam, green tea, tobacco, grapefruit peel, then the expected walnuts and cinnamon from the old cask. Finish: long, tenser, with more citrus peel. Pepper, nutmeg, ginger. Green tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: more immediate than the 1989s, but also a little simpler, perhaps.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1980/2018 (44.4%, North Star Spirits, refill hogsheads, 140 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1980/2018 (44.4%, North Star Spirits, refill hogsheads, 140 bottles) Five stars
1980… wasn’t that the big year of Duran Duran? Apologies… Colour: gold. Nose: halt! Stop it! A perfect creamy fruitiness in action here, with mirabelles, apricots and papayas at play. Then tinier aromas, incense and cedar wood, sandalwood, potpourri, rose petals, geranium flowers, maracuja, old orange liqueurs… This is just perfect and even a tad old-Sauternes-y. Kind of, litchis are missing in action. Mouth: yippee. Everything’s in place here, this is the Berliner Philarmoniker. Clean guavas, pink bananas, muscat grapes, passion fruits, orange juice, sherbets and creams, rosehip and hawthorn teas, a touch of gewurz… And mind you, it’s not even exactly ‘oaky’, even if of course, at this age, you do get a little cinnamon and black tea. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, citrusy, balanced, refreshing, never tannic. Comments: I should have tried this one earlier, my bad. Impeccable selection.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

There’s old and there’s older…

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1975/2018 (41.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, refill hogshead, 341 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1975/2018 (41.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, refill hogshead, 341 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: frozen time. Mild woods (not especially oak) and various stone fruits, prunus, apricots, greengages, almonds, white cherries, peaches… And muesli, marzipan, hazelnut liqueur… All that is whispering a bit, but there’s much elegance and balance. This is not an antique whisky, mind you! Mouth: indeed, it’s at a turning point. The spirit is about to lose the fight against the oak, but that hasn’t happened yet. Say we’re between last night’s earl grey tea that’s remained in the teapot, chamomile, and tobacco. Plus cider apples and touches of avocado (not that we’d need a lawyer here). Finish: a little short, peely, tea-ish. Comments: the old tiger still roars, but it’s starting to be the swan’s song (with apologies to all zoologists within our most distinguished readership).
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Of course there’s even older… Like, one Bunny that was being bottled while the previous one was being distilled… That’s right, in 1975!

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1947/1975 (75°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1947/1975 (75°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son) Five stars
Matthew Gloag & Son of Perth used to be merchants, blenders and bottlers, and creators of the Famous Grouse. They’ve been absorbed by Highland Distillers/Edrington. But watch their old bottles, many are proven fakes. Not this one, though… Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, Bunnahabhain was peated at that time, and that’s obvious in this sumptuous half-almondy, half-petroly nose, full of balms, oils, camphor, bandages, embrocations… We’re reminded of teak oil, seaweed, tar, caraway liqueur, chartreuse, and cigarette smoke, leatherette, bakelite, old records (Duke Ellington, or the first 25cms-10-inch…), carbon paper… Mouth: amazing, really. As idiosyncratic as similarly aged old Laphroaigs, that is to say as medicinal, but rather less tropical (no passion fruits here), and certainly tarrier. I would imagine many old kinds of oils only made and used by alchemists, as well as stuff that one could find in old Bugatti or Hispano garages in the 1920s. Right, Renault or Vauxhall too. Natural rubber tyres, castor oil, paints, leather polishes, early plastics, stuff like that. Pretty fantastic. Finish: long and amazing, rather more herbal, very complex, tarry… Waxed herbs or something made by a smart shaman. I’m sure this cures most modern illnesses. Comments: what a thrill to be able to taste these immediate-post-war whiskies, especially the peated Bruichladdichs or Bunnahabhains! Sadly, they are extremely rare… Oh and I would add that wartime, or post-wartime whiskies were all rather peated, since fuel was still in short supply. Just check the 1940-1950 Macallans! (while carefully avoiding the numerous fakes)…
SGP:463 - 94 points.

So, another session done, next time we’ll try to have some recent peaters from Bunnahabhain’s.

(Mucho gracias Angus!)

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

 

February 26, 2019


Whiskyfun

Bunnahabhain until we succumb, part two

We’re simply going on with our exploration of indie Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2001/2016 (59.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, butt, cask #1430, 580)

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2001/2016 (59.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, butt, cask #1430, 580) Five stars
I just wanted to ask, is it okay to have butts within a ‘Barrel Selection’? (S., diving to new lows…) Colour: gold. Nose: a fair butt, no excessive raisins, some very nice earth, autumn leaves, chestnuts, raw chocolate (no industrial junk), notes of sweet Marsala, moss, fern, pine needles… All that is pretty enticing I have to say. Love forests! With water: wonderful. Figs poached in white wine, honeys, hints of paraffin, figs… This is really top notch Bunnahabhain. I can feel a high score coming… Mouth (neat): extremely good, in line with the 2001 by Single Malts of Scotland that we had yesterday. Grapefruits, teas, maraschino, green walnuts, caraway liqueur, Fernet-Branca… With water: bingo. Chocolate, cigars, figs, pinesap, oranges. Perfect combo. Finish: same for a rather long time, with more honey and all-spice in the aftertaste. Comments: these batches are pretty perfect. Not a throwaway this far.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Time to drop sherry. Temporarily, probably.

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1995/2018 (46.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask # 18-2201, 256 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1995/2018 (46.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask # 18-2201, 256 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: ooh this is different. Roots, celeriac, gentian, almonds, lamp oil, beach sand, heather honey, marzipan… To tell you the truth this is not extremely ‘Bunny’, I would have rather said a softer Highland Park. A wonderful softer Highland Park. Mouth: no, really, this either not Bunnahabhain, or it’s been matured or finished in an ex-peater cask, why not one of those Bunnahabhains ‘Moine’? (more about those later, by the way). So an earthy smokiness, wonderful lemons, drops of cough syrup, more heather honey, lemon curd, tobacco, earth, something reminiscent of… floated wood? This is really very good. Finish: rather long, superbly candied and yet fresh, citrusy, delicately smoky… In truth I think this is rather extraordinary. Comments: indeed a surprise. I don’t know what this really is, and I’m not sure I should care, but it’s just totally brilliant and characterful fresh whisky that was born next to the sea (of some sorts). Enigmatic, yet glorious schtuff.
SGP:563 - 91 points.

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1994/2018 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 195 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1994/2018 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 195 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: a clean and rather mentholy Bunny, rather more on fresh bread, muesli, lemongrass, porridge, melon… Well it’s not impossible that I would have rather said ‘Bruichladdich’! But weren’t they sister distilleries? With water: chalky lemons? Right up my alley! Mouth (neat): a pristine melony arrival, then a smoky/salty development leading to some perfect fresh citrus. Corsican citrons and limoncello. Another one that’s pretty stunning! Between us, Bunnahabhain is slowly becoming ‘Grand Cru’, but that has strictly nothing to do with the owners, it’s all the indies’ work. They should pay them, build an altar, and do some ritual dancing every Friday nights while singing psalms. Drop the singing. With water: Clynelish?  I am not joking. Finish: long, sharp, fresh, mineral, lemony. Comments: what’s happening? Struck by Bunnahabhainitis? It’s a stunning distillate, provided you keep it clean, age-stated, and not buried under tons of stupid cheap oaks and wines.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Let’s try to find a bad one, or you’re going to get suspicious… Eenie miney mo… Oh, no…

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (44.9%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon cask)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (44.9%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon cask) Four stars
An excellent little house, and great people, I doubt this will be bad enough for us… Colour: gold. Nose: vegetables! Love vegetables in my whiskies. Celeriac, turnips, even tomatoes, also sour dough, fresh baguette, porridge, baker’s yeast, leaven… We’re very close to nature here, with very minimal cask influence. Muesli, beer, wine lees, gentian, wild carrots, yoghurt… Mouth: well it is strange-ish indeed. What’s cool on the nose may become a little… this and that on the palate. Mashed turnips, leaves, green walnuts, canned peas, sweet bread, carrot cake… Some peppery liquorice too, which, I agree, is not to be encountered very often. Finish: rather long, lemony, but with a few very tiny notes of plastic and tar. Comments: extremely fine and totally worth it, but possibly a little more uncertain and unlikely than the cleaner previous ones. But remember difference is life!
SGP:462 - 85 points.

A last one, but we may go on tomorrow…

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1991/2018 (50.3%, Malt Musketeers, first fill sherry butt, cask #4321)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1991/2018 (50.3%, Malt Musketeers, first fill sherry butt, cask #4321) Four stars
Some very micro bottling here - or some re-bottling? Now we’ve already tried some excellent whiskies by these tiny bottlers, such as a brilliant St. Magdalene. Colour: deep amber. Nose: perfect cake-y sherry, a style that goes well with Bunnahabhain. Remember all those glorious official bottlings of some 1960s vintages? 1963? 1968? What I’m finding here is some copper (grandma’s kettle), sponge cake, puréed chestnut, ‘smelling an engine’, lamp oil, vinyl, vin jaune or manzanilla, Cuban cigars, pine cones… All that is pretty beautiful! With water: subtle patchouli and leather, old books, mutton suet, chestnuts… Mouth (neat): yep. Bitter oranges, sour fruits, custard, butterscotch, fig arrak, panettone, kougelhopf, fermenting sweet grapes (raisined wines, straw wine, Carole Bouquet’s Pantelleria…) With water: gets a little more chocolaty and coffee-ish. Orange squash. Finish: medium, really all on Panettone, orange blossom water, oriental pastries, coffee… Comments: some walnut cake in a bottle. Excellent, once again.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

(Gracias Tomislav)

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

 

February 25, 2019


Whiskyfun

Bunnahabhain
until we succumb,
part one

Bunnahabhain is easily the name that’s to be found most commonly from the indies these days, as there are literally thousands of new casks launched every year, many middle-aged or even pretty old. So let’s have quite a few of them and see what happens…First a young Bunny for the aperitif, if we can find one!

Bunnahabhain 11 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, 2018)

Bunnahabhain 11 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, 2018) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: nice malty porridge and muesli, fresh bread, pancake syrup, maple syrup, peanut butter, custard, plus a small spoonful of marmalade and one of apple compote. One Bunny for breakfast rather than the aperitif, as it appears… Mouth: very good despite a wee sulphur at first (matches), with some more marmalade, cinnamon rolls, gingerbread, cornflakes and notes of crude chocolate. Some mocha too, breakfast indeed! Finish: medium, rather dry, rather on coffee and chocolate, then ginger. Comments: would have been a 85 guaranteed without the used matchsticks on the palate.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2005/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 12545, 355 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2005/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 12545, 355 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: fully on butterscotch, shortbread, macchiato, Golden Grahams, then oranges and a little coconut oil. Easy, nice, pleasant. Mouth: in keeping with the nose. Fresh, fruity, on muesli, cassata, white chocolate, more cornflakes, vanilla, café latte… They could sell this at Starbucks’ (heaven forbid!) Finish: medium, a tad peppery, cake-y. Marmalade, a touch of salt, malt. Comments: just very good, not much else to add. Typical 85 points in my little book.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Bn7 16 yo (55.7%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, oloroso sherry butts, 2018)

Bn7 16 yo (55.7%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, oloroso sherry butts, 2018) Four stars
Bn6 had been very good (WF 86). Colour: amber. Nose: rather coconut than sherry, as if the casks had just been rejuvenated. A lot of custard too, various breads, all-spice, lemongrass, rosehip tea, a little turmeric, then dried figs and honeys, as well as caraway and cloves. Rose petals, even litchis coming out. Very nice, not  sherry monster at all. With water: rather wonderful. Proper sangria, peonies, fresh figs… Mouth (neat): rich and yet balanced, with really a lot of fresh walnuts and cigarette tobacco at first, then pumpernickel and some kind of honey-glazed ham. A lot of action in there. With water: a little earth coming out, rather more tobacco, a little tea (oak)… Finish: medium, really fresher than your average ex-butt whisky. Blood oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: I think this one is excellent. Careful, it goes down very well.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

It’s time to have this one too…

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 2001/2018 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1254, 602 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 2001/2018 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1254, 602 bottles) Five stars
Should be similar to the previous one. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this one’s even fresher, and certainly more maritime than the Element of Islay. Tangerines and sea breeze, candle wax, fresh-rolled Indonesian cigarettes, kelp, sloe, lemongrass… Love this, really do. With water: just very perfect. Reminds me of when I bought my first pack of cigarettes, some Camels, in the city of Dusseldorf, while I was 12. They were having vending machines in the streets, I would have never dared asking for a pack of cigarettes in a shop! Anyway, I never smoked those cigarettes, but boy did I nose them! But why am I telling you all this?... Mouth (neat): simply amazing, with a wee smokiness, overripe apples, pink grapefruits, hawthorn tea, fresh hazelnuts, nocino (green walnuts liqueur)… And echoes of the older official 12, which was really marvellous back in the early 1990s. Honeyed nuts, praline, heather and all that. With water: exceptionally complex, slightly peaty and very nutty. So very Bunny! Finish: long, firm, roasted, nutty, honeyed… Comments: impressively fresh and complex. Everything’s right in this bottling.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 9 yo 2008/2017 (58%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, cask # 3813679, 67 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 9 yo 2008/2017 (58%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, cask # 3813679, 67 bottles) Three stars
More of those crazy micro-bottlings by DT. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s relatively shy at first sniffs, rather on fresh bread and barley, muesli and porridge, then sawdust and oak spices, especially cinnamon and nutmeg (touches). Notes of ale and even Guinness too, rather unexpected. With water: gets easier, simpler, with more barley, apples, and citrus. Easy as an easy cake. Mouth (neat): as usual you feel the oak, but it’s a sweet, rounded oak, rather on citrus and  spices, and rather moderately tannic. Good balance even if indeed, you do feel the flavouring. With water: ginger, caraway, a bit of curry, that’s the oak treatment. Oranges. Finish: medium, on some kind of spicy orange cordial. Comments: nothing wrong with these wee pumped-up babies.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

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

 

February 24, 2019


Whiskyfun

A new bag of rum

Indeed another short series, going into all directions, seeking malternatives and trying to avoid sugary trouble.

La Mauny ‘Signature du Maître de Chais’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017)

La Mauny ‘Signature du Maître de Chais’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Some young rhum (3 years) blended from different kinds of casks. It’s to be noted that I tend to prefer the house’s whites and in general, I find many ‘modern’ rums where the emphasis has been put onto the casks rather unbalanced and uninteresting. Rum ought to be a distillate-driven spirit if you ask me, and not just flavoured crapola. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with overripe pineapples, sultanas, and notes of warm rubber, gets then pretty grassy and cane-y, which is nice. Some spices such as caraway and juniper, also spicy honey and curious hints of garam masala. A rather complex nose. Mouth: this one’s really fine indeed, perhaps a little too woody at first (nutmeg and cinnamon) but getting very cane-y indeed then, with also quite a lot of pink peppercorns and touches of sour tropical fruits. Fresh bergamots, perhaps? Finish: medium, a little woody again, green and gritty, with touches of salt and liquorice. Unexpected salty aftertaste. Comments: I feel that the woods have played an important part here, but the end result is not unbalanced.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

Nicaraguan 19 yo 1999/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label)

Nicaraguan 19 yo 1999/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label) Two stars
Careful, these could be pretty ethanoly and ‘empty’ (at other bottlers’) Colour: pale gold. Nose: sugared linseed oil, sweetened rapeseed oil, wet rag paper, mud, ink, leaves… It’s very dry and not very expensive, I doubt this was made to be consumed ‘like this’ one day. But then again, neither was Brora. Mouth: I find it rather okay, while I was ready to totally hate it. It’s a leafy, grassy, slightly dirty (dust) and pretty leathery/grassy profile. Perhaps not quite a sipper, having said that. Finish: medium, grassy and leafy. Fruit peels and touches of ink and cardboard. Bitterish aftertaste (bark). Comments: there are almost no fruits in these, so you would imagine they’re using strange ways of making them sweet and fruity at the OBs’. After all, this is just a base.
SGP:351 – 74 points.

Enmore 27 yo 1990/2018 (53.7%, The Rum Mercenary, Guyana)

Enmore 27 yo 1990/2018 (53.7%, The Rum Mercenary, Guyana) Four stars and a half
I believe this stems from the incredible Versailles single wooden pot still, before it was moved to Diamond.  Colour: pale gold. Nose: the question remains the same, could you kiln-smoke bananas? The end result would surely resemble this, which has got a kind of Laphroaigness, some sea air, brine, tar and natural rubber, then many herbal teas, lime tree, thyme, melissa, regular green tea, then some kind of camphory earth… With water: stems and leaves tea. Cherry, cassis, peach leaves, curious touches of spinach and sorrel… So it’s not really fruity. Mouth (neat): it’s really unusual, a tad dirty, sour, rotten or rather rotting, on older bananas, whacky guavas, those smoked bananas, some liquorice, ashes, some menthol… So strange it is, but I like it really a lot for its bacterial side. Sweet Swiss cheese. With water: petrol, smoked fish, limoncello, ashes, coal smoke. Old Ardbeg in Guyana. Finish: long, peppery, citrusy. Smoked lemons? Comments: big crazy old rum that did not see any invasive oak. Wonderful, just a tad… untidy, I would say, or my humble score would have been 90.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (64.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Trinidad, 214 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (64.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Trinidad, 214 bottles) Four stars
What a series, these Kill Devils! I don’t think I’ve ever had any uninteresting one. But watch the strength… Colour: amber. Nose: a sweeter, rounder kind of Caroni, as it appears. A lot of juniper and cumin, a little varnish and sawdust from the cask (high extraction), then piles of butterscotch in a Loch Ness tourist shop, as well as whiffs of lovage and umami. Soy sauce. Not that burning at 64.8% vol.! (S., I wouldn’t brag). With water: pine wood smoke everywhere, also night cream (anti-wrinkles, naturally). Mouth (neat): it is softer Caroni indeed but these touches of pot-pourri and patchouli work very well. Certainly some camphor and eucalyptus, old pineapples, touches of diesel oil, kumquats, some mint extracts… It’s getting strong, cough, cough… With water: mentholated oranges, strongly infused green tea, apple peel, walnut wine, Suze (gentian cordial). Finish: long, on more or less the same flavours. Comments: these single cask 1998s are maybe not the craziest Caronis ever, but I always find them way above par. This one certainly is.
SGP:452 - 86 points.

And stronger yet…

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (65%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Trinidad, 233 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (65%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Trinidad, 233 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: amber. Nose: noses a tad more high-column, less profound, fruitier as well (oranges and mangos), with rather more sweet wine (Sauternes)… But then again, the strength is extremely high. So with water: closer to its bro, perhaps a little cake-y, with more chocolate. But it would remain a rather umami-y rum. Mouth (neat): feels so much stronger than its sibling! More acetone, varnish, wood… But then again, that may well be the higher strength. So… With water: same feeling, it’s probably the same juice inside but the cask made this one a little rounder, one would be forgiven for thinking this came from La Martinique. Désolé les amis. Finish: rather long. Chocolate, nougat (turon), orange zests, and just one drop of diesel oil. Comments: very good again, it’s just that I thought the brother was rather more expressive.
SGP:552 - 84 points.

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

 

February 23, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Speyburn:
Quantum Salmon Leap
Let’s do a brief bit of backwards time traveling with a few Speyburn today.

 

Speyburn 2004/2018 (52.5%, OB for The Netherlands, cask #218, first fill sherry butt, 678 bottles)

Speyburn 2004/2018 (52.5%, OB for The Netherlands, cask #218, first fill sherry butt, 678 bottles)
Our friends over there in the Netherlands are notoriously fond of smoked salmon... Colour: amber. Nose: some kind of lightly buttered gingerbread, toasted crumpets, marzipan, toasted almond flakes, weetabix drizzled with honey, a touch of earthy dunnage and some damp sack cloth. It’s very good, although I detect some rather active wood at play under the rather glossy surface. With water: develops more towards soft earthiness, brown bread and chocolate powder. Which is all good news in my book. Perhaps some lime leaf and butterscotch. Mouth: It’s a modern style of sherry but it’s all good clean fun. Lots of sweet pastries, icing sugar, raisins, hazelnuts caramelised with brown sugar, toffee apples and a hint of sultana. With water: softer, sweeter, again on butterscotch, caramel ice cream, Garibaldi biscuits, chocolate eclair and rather hefty nibble of new oak at the back. Finish: good length but here the oak is really getting a bit too much and the whole thing becomes a bit lopsided. Comments: Some parts are very fine, but other bits, especially the finish, remain somewhat unlikely. It appears this Salmon stumbled at the last rung on the ladder...
SGP: 631 - 80 points.

 

 

Speyburn 1988/2015 (52.3%, Berry Brothers, cask #2114, hogshead)

Speyburn 1988/2015 (52.3%, Berry Brothers, cask #2114, hogshead)
Colour: oaky chardonnay. Nose: a very different world. Lots of soft breads, green fruits, banana skin, lemon peel and other gentle citrus notes. Some hints of vanilla custard, young desert wines, coconut milk and something like rice pudding. There’s a natural sweetness and an elegance to this one that I really like. With water: green leaves, dill, sage, pot pourri and a tiny hint of mustard powder giving a sense of bite. Mouth: really great! Little touches of green tea, hessian, dried mango, pineapple syrup, a faint waxiness, some cough drops and a few dried herbs. With water: again this is really lovely. Easy, fruity, green plums, yellow flowers, damson conserve, runny honey on warm croissant and some muesli full of mixed nuts and dried fruits. Finish: Good length, lightly drying, citrus pith, oatmeal, buttered toast and another impression of soft waxes and hessian. Comments: In one word: time! A terrific wee Speyburn by Berry’s. This one definitely reached the spawning pool!
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

Speyburn 1974/2004 (43%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, refill sherry butt)

Speyburn 1974/2004 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill sherry butt)
This one probably doesn’t make too much sense after the first two, but I said backwards in time and backwards in time we shall go! Colour: gold. Nose: Hey! This is some old Irish whiskey surely? It has something of this pure pot still ‘tropical’ style mixed with coked grains and damp cereals. Sounds odd but it really works very nicely. I also get ripe exotic fruits, honey, maraschino cherry, blossoms, dried apricot and fruit salad juices. Some stone fruits such as lychee as well. There’s also light sootiness that lends some sense of weight. Mouth: the ABV perhaps lets it down a notch here but we’re still in a very fragrant and lovely place with these soft cereals, soot, gentle waxiness, white pepper, furniture oil and various ripe fruits. In fact as time goes on it really becomes quite excellent. Shares something of this glazed pastries and lush fruits profile with the 1988. Finish: medium, but rather earthy, waxy, peppery and expressing orange oils, mushroom powder and cereals. Comments: Another excellent wee Speyburn. I suspect many of these older CC bottlings are worth revisiting, this was a lovely surprise.
SGP: 651 - 88 points.

 

 

BONUS: A sneaky pair of Littlemill

 

 

And why not?

 

 

Littlemill 25 yo 1992/2018 (48.4%, The Auld Alliance, hogshead)

Littlemill 25 yo 1992/2018 (48.4%, The Auld Alliance, hogshead)
A new bottling by our great friend Emmanuel for his legendary bar The Auld Alliance in Singapore. Well worth a visit if you find yourself in that crazy city. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure Loire sauvignon blanc at first. All struck flints, cut grass and lemon zest. There’s also ink, chalk, brioche and carbon paper. An extremely pure and elegant style that reminds me a little of St Magdalene rather than some of the other early 1990s Littlemills which were ubiquitous a few years ago and tended to veer more towards exuberant fruitiness. That said, there is indeed a bigger fruity aspect emerging, lots of lime, kiwi, star fruit and green apples. Perhaps even a wee kumquat or two. This is really just cask strength wine! Mouth: very grassy, petroly, mineral and flinty. Really towards a St Magdalene style in my mind. We’re more in riesling territory than sauvignon now. Some rye bread, pumpkin seeds and a very soft white pepper note. Finish: long, grassy, full of crushed nettles, limoncello, lime oil, icing sugar and delicate hessian notes. Comments: I like it a lot, it’s very straight and rather austere in a charming way. Although just a little more fruity opulence would have propelled it higher in my view. Still, an excellent wee Littlemill.
SGP: 541 - 88 points.

 

 

Littlemill 28yo 1988/2017 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency for Taiwan, hogshead, 48 bottles)

Littlemill 28yo 1988/2017 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency for Taiwan, hogshead, 48 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: similarly grassy but this is a bit fatter, more swollen and buttery in profile. Lots of seeds, grains, rye bread, olive oil - we’re not far off some Pure Pot Still Irish here in many ways. There’s also a gravely mineral aspect that sits alongside sweeter qualities like tiny hints of vanilla and creme caramel. Some fruits in the form of lemon peel and ripe gooseberry. Mouth: here it really starts to lift. There’s a big textural fatness to the whole and lots of grass, toasted seeds, gooseberry, olive oil, kiwi, lime zest and even a little curry powder. White pepper, turmeric, cinnamon powder, Jamaica cake and spiced fruit chutneys. Excellent Littlemill! Finish: good length, rather lemony and limey evolving towards more overtly tropical things like mango sauce and pineapple syrup. Some juicy fruit chewing gum, brown bread and poppy seeds. Comments: Classy stuff, as ever with these old Littlemills. Although, only 48 bottles, good luck finding one!
SGP: 641 - 90 points.

 

 

Gratitudes to Jan.

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2019


Whiskyfun

Fight

Wee battles, today indie Ardbeg

All right, this is what I got yesterday from our very dedicated correspondent in Scotland: “Hi Serge. Here's the Ardbeg note for Friday. Hopefully you can find a suitable sparring partner.” And attached to that, this tasting note that would make 'War and Peace' a little short in comparison…

 

 

 

Ardbeg 25 yo 1993/2019 (55.5%, Single Malts Of Scotland ‘Director’s Special’ for the Whisky Show Old & Rare, refill hogshead, 175 bottles)

Angus:
Ardbeg 25 yo 1993/2019 (55.5%, Single Malts Of Scotland ‘Director’s Special’ for the Whisky Show Old & Rare, refill hogshead, 175 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: very pure early 1990s Ardbeg initially. That is to say smouldering beach wood, tarry fishing nets, carbolic soap, wee flecks of iodine, sea salt, oysters, hessian, sheep wool, drying kelp and a wealth of vigorous seashore notes. Parts of it really even call back to a circa 1977 style of Ardbeg with these almost fatty tarry qualities. Rope, fishing wellies, brine, black olives and seawater mixed with sardine oil. Camphor, ash-rolled goat’s cheese and an increasingly farmy, slightly animalistic side. Pretty superb I’m afraid. With water: there’s real charm and elegance now. The medical complexities become accentuated and there’s TCP, ointments, antiseptic, herbal mouthwashes and gauze. Salted cod and soy sauce. Mouth: a little straighter and more direct here; we’re returning to the 1990s again. Notes of smoked plasticine, burning hay bales, salty canvas, tar liqueur, ointments, mercurochrome, more brine, crushed seashells, grilled limpets and smoked mussels. There’s even a rather textural paraffin and creosote side to it as well along with some hefty doses of crushed black pepper. With water: as on the nose it similarly becomes more complex, only here there’s also a velvety softness that accompanies that. A kind of jellied peat spooned out of the glass with sandalwood ash, bonfire smoke, BBQ sauce and smouldering rosemary branches. Finish: long, lightly leathery, gently ashy, very salty, peppery, briny and full of typical Ardbeg touches like tarry rope, shellfish, anchovy paste, some chopped herbs, lemon juice and - of course - peat. Comments: I hesitate to praise this whisky for obvious reasons, but I promise this is fantastic stuff. I really enjoy the way it ducks and dives between 1990s and 1970s characteristics, never settling or alighting in one place too long. It also keeps developing with water and time in a way which totally commands your attention and respect. It reminds me that it’s such a rare thing to fall in love with a new Ardbeg these days. A whisky riddled with pathos.
SGP: 477 - 92 points.

 

 

 

Good, another newish 1993 indie Ardbeg. Let’s find that…

Ardbeg 24 yo 1993/2018 (54.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 138 bottles)

Serge:
Ardbeg 24 yo 1993/2018 (54.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 138 bottles) Four stars
Yeah well, that could be the problem, that the oak would be too sweet, imparting too much vanilla-ed creaminess to this pre-closure little Ardbeg, making it a little simple. Let’s see (I was joking, naturally)… On the other hand, it’s not probably not one of those gimmicky ones, so… Colour: gold. Nose: it is certainly a little simple, but I would add that that simplicity is rather an asset. It’s relatively young, certainly very medicinal (tinctures), with whiffs of beach fire (burning seaweed and floated wood),  some plasticine, some charcoal, and perhaps some white peaches. Barbecued white peaches. Also Barbour grease, charcoal, a little coal, a touch of potash. With water: bonbons, vanilla, marshmallows, a touch of cough syrup. Water seems to decrease a smokiness that wasn’t totally huge in the first place. Reminiscent of some younger Caol Ila at this point. Mouth (neat): narrow in the better sense of that word. Lemon drops, grass smoke, kiwis and rhubarb, touch of salt, hints of green coffee, some vanilla. There’s a little green sourness. With water: gets drier and greener. Chlorophyll, bitter chocolate. Finish: rather long, on salted greengages and quite some green oak. Cider apples and green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: careful with water! Rather drink neat!
SGP:567 - 87 points.

Holy featherless crow, looks like Angus won that one! But revenge is a dish best savoured cold, is it not…

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

 

February 21, 2019


Whiskyfun

Three Caol Ila

One young, two old ones.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2007/2018 (57.4%, James Eadie, Palo Cortado finish, cask#314431, 300 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2007/2018 (57.4%, James Eadie, Palo Cortado finish, cask#314431, 300 bottles) Three stars and a half
Actually, this baby was finished for six months in a first fill palo cortado sherry European oak hogshead. Phew. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather PXed sherry than palo, with this extra sweetness and roundness, but a pulsating peaty smoke is soon to take control. Never understood all the friends that keep claiming that Caol Ila is ‘lightly peated’.  Well, only the unpeated CI is lightly peated if you ask me. After three minutes, we’re having a pure coastal peater, with iodine, kelp, oysters, and mercurochrome. Adios sherry! With water: butterscotch and crystallised ginger. Mouth (neat): very lovely, and indeed very lightly sherried, it’s rather the European oak that we’re noticing, with this rather loud spiciness. Green pepper, nutmeg, ginger, juniper… With water: fine. Caraway and cloves, green spices. Finish: long, a tad meaty. More juniper, cloves… Butterscotch and Tabasco in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, just the spicy EU oak on the palate was a tad too preeminent for me. So the finishing feels a bit, but it’s excellent nonetheless. 
SGP:466 - 83 points.

Since we're doing finishings…

Caol Ila 30 yo 1984/2014 (56.2%, Riegger’s Selection, rum cask finish, 360 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1984/2014 (56.2%, Riegger’s Selection, rum cask finish, 360 bottles) Four stars and a half
Finishing a 30 yo CI in rum, even if the whisky was a little tired and flabby originally, sounds as odd to my ears as adding raspberry jelly to some caviar that would have gone a little weak. But there, let’s see what happens tovaritch… Colour: straw. Nose: a rather rounder and oilier CI, but I can’t find any obvious rumness. No bananas, no grapefruits, no sugar syrup, no caramel… Rather green apples, lemons, oysters, the ladies’ crab cakes (the Diageo ladies on Islay make the best in the whole world), a moderate citrusness, seawater, and indeed a moderate peatiness. With water: almond oil, olive oil, samphires. Mouth (neat): it is very good. The rum’s almost unnoticeable, which is just cool. Phew! Good lemons, limes, and grapefruits, plus some brine and olives. Cannot be against that. With water: excellent, just a tad peppery at first, then medicinal. Toothpaste, grapefruits, whelks. I know, I know… Finish: rather long, salty, coastal, smoky, brine-y. No sugarcane in sight. Comments: finishings are always better when you cannot quite feel them, aren’t they?
SGP:456 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 36 yo 1982/2018 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles)

Caol Ila 36 yo 1982/2018 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles) Five stars
And so there, in the midst of a cold winter, they’ve issued a 36 yo CI in their rather shy Authentic Collection. And only four-zero-zero Euros a bottle. Now given the outturn, it was probably sold out even before Theresa May started to realise that the EU was meaning it. And didn’t care about exotic dancing. Colour: pale gold. Nose: what I really enjoy in these old ‘naturally matured’ Cis is the purity, as well as the various vegetal oils that you’ll find in the nose. In this case, that would be sesame, grape pip, and perhaps rapeseed. All the rest is pretty perfect, on seawater, iodine, fresh almonds (big and very CI), camphor, herbal liqueurs, Synthol, fresh walnuts, mushrooms… In short this is very Caol Ila indeed. With water: oysters, lemon and kelp. Would you mind passing the Sancerre? Mouth (neat): it’s pretty big, rather more brutal than I had expected, but also more tropical, more exotic, with notes of mangos ala old Laphroaig, a lot of sap and waxes, mint, tar, sesame and olive oils… With water: oh, one that gets a little dirty, not a problem at all. So old vegetables, I would say, French beans… More tar too, ink, oils, almond glue… Feels very fresh, and young I would add. Aren’t these batches pretty immortal? Finish: long, almondy, salty, with notes of citronella and smoked salmon. Works very well. Comments: amazing. These Caol Ilas age like Halle Berry, but 120 bottles, really?
SGP:466 - 92 points.

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

 

February 20, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little trios, today Longrow

I think Springbank are not pushing Longrow enough. Some vintages had been pretty awful (the sulphury early 1990s) but both recent and early ones were stellar (ah 1973-1974, ooh 1987). Let’s check all that again, with first two old 1987s, then a new semi-OB…

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #136-38, 890 bottles)

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #136-38, 890 bottles) Five stars
All these 1987s had been bought by Signatory and, subsequently, Silvano Samaroli and chums. Ah, Mongiardino’s Dreams!!! (WF 95!) Colour: whiter than white wine. Nose: amazing. Wandering throughout a working kiln, nosing raw wool, walking on the beach, nosing oysters and mussels, opening a new magazine, changing the tyres, filling your fountain pen, trying a brand new car straight from the factory… Mouth: well we always keep asking for whiskies at higher strengths, but in cases such as this very one, when the whisky’s big, 43% are just fine, really. Think old Laphroaig 10! This is perfect, rather greasy (smoked salmon), inky, smoky, petroly, and just fabulously elegant. Whenever I’ve got a little time I’ll try to enquire and check how they were making Longrow back in 1987. Finish: medium, utterly perfect. Salty, sooty, ashy, and supremely elegant. Eating kippers while smoking Partagas. And why not? Comments: a gem that not all whisky aficionados are knowing of. Remember, Longrow 1987, almost any of them, but there are exceptions...
SGP:356 - 92 points.

But let’s double-check that…

Longrow 10 yo 1987/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #149-151, 990 bottles)

Longrow 10 yo 1987/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #149-151, 990 bottles) Three stars
It’s also to be noticed that these whiskies were real small batches, which are almost always better than single casks in my book. Don’t get me wrong, we’re talking 2 to 5 casks, neither dozens nor hundreds. Colour: gold. Nose: much more oak influence in this one, more butter and vanilla, more sour cream, milk, custard, fresh croissants, bread… We’ve lost some tension here, but let’s check the palate… Mouth: fine but a little disappointing, with notes of ale, salt, suet, cardboard, hot white wine (Spain, Italy)… A good example of a brilliant distillate that lost a part of its brightness and singularity because of some casks that have been just a wee tad too dominant. As always, oak’s any whisky’s best friend and worst enemy at the same time. Finish: rather long, a little sour and too ale-y. Marzipan and cardboard in the aftertaste. Comments: right, not all and every 1987s were out of this world…
SGP:455 - 80 points.

And so, the newer one…

Longrow 15 yo 2002/2018 (51.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 276 bottles)

Longrow 15 yo 2002/2018 (51.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 276 bottles) Four stars
This baby was part of the Winter 2018 Collection. Indeed you could believe you’re at Dior’s, Balmain’s or Balenciaga’s. Hopefully not at Desigual’s or H&M’s. Colour: amber. Nose: brake pads and aspirin tablets, how very modern Longrow! And wet dogs (love you all, dogs), tincture of iodine, floor cloth, chalk, then chicory coffee, coffee beans, swede, carbolineum, and whispers of the blackest black chocolate… See what I mean? With water: typically sour and medicinal. Green oranges, iodine, bandages… Mouth(neat): some action and some traction. Not that everything’s well-polished enough here, but should you still like bitter oranges and your old leather jacket, you will enjoy this one. Salted whelks, candles, artichokes, cloves, ginger, pieces of wood, leather, bits of black tobacco… With water: gets a little metallic (sucking copper coins – but who would do that?) and pretty salty. Eating bits of tobacco from you untipped Craven A. Missing those days, the Flamin’ Groovies, Steve Harley, Joni… Sorry, got carried away yet again… Finish: long and pretty unlikely. Bitter oranges, leather, tobacco, tomato leaves… Comments: that’s the problem with bigger distillates, it’s extremely hard to strike balance. I like this rather impure (and unbalanced, and sour) one quite a lot, though.
SGP:376 - 85 points.

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

 

February 18, 2019


Whiskyfun

Tasting sessions will resume shortly. We're experiencing technical difficulties (well in truth, our mother Mac was just stolen in Barcelona).

 

February 16, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Assorted rarities and shameless maltoporn
As you are no doubt aware it’s around this time of year, in advance of the Whisky Show Old & Rare, that many very silly bottles start to get opened in order for their various owners to ‘check’ the quality of the whisky. So, if you don’t mind, lets rattle through a small selection of some of them today and stoke the fires of anticipation...

 

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2016 (47.1%, Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry wood)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2016 (47.1%, Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry wood)
Colour: straw. Nose: this is yet another of these really stellar old anonymous Speysiders. I’m sure many of you know the recipe by now: take many flagons of ancient Benedictine and Chartreuse, add a few bee hives, juice a few truckloads of guava, melon, nectarine and mango and then top with the pureed pulp of all the post-Brexit EU style ripe bananas. Finally drench the whole thing in heather honey and drizzle with some drops of molten wax. You could also add some jasmine tea, old leather, elderflower cordial and dried raspberry. Mouth: banana liqueur (could be bendy or straight - my palate isn’t that good!), mixed with tobacco, wood resins, fruit jelly sweeties, honeycomb, nectar, pollen, mint julep,  tea tree oil and wee hints of camphor and many very old sweet wines. Finish: long, resinous and full of supple waxes, tropical and green fruit cordials, freshly baked bread and toasted pine cones. Comments: Yet another killer cask from this big bundle of 73s which seem to have all been totally thrilling! Pure fruit liqueur. No doubt the Brexiters will want none of this multi-continental filth getting in the way of their rationing come March 29th.
SGP: 751 - 92 points.

 

 

Glenury Royal 30 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #6860, sherry cask, 168 bottles)

Glenury Royal 30 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #6860, sherry cask, 168 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: an extremely easy and elegant mix of leafy tobacco, mint leaf, forest mulch, fragrant waxes, metal polish and things like caraway and citronella. Wee hints of beef stock, mushrooms, old school textbooks, orange oils and shoe polish as well. Typical old style, well-aged Highland malt whisky. You can’t help but be charmed by this style and profile. Mouth: the perfect strength and a wonderful delivery, all on roasted hazelnuts, praline, waxes, dried dark fruits such as raisins, some plum wine, strawberry tobacco and herbal extracts. Continues this leafy, minty theme while also displaying some rather resinous aspects, soft oily qualities and denser hints of black truffle, hessian and coal dust. Finish: good length, all on button mushrooms, dried herbs, hints of milk chocolate, green and various fruit teas and pithy citrus notes. Comments: An excellent and pretty textbook old highlander. I doubt many of today’s distillates will possess this kind of character when they are of similar age.
SGP: 561 - 91 points.

 

 

Glenugie 31 yo 1966/1998 (53.9%, Signatory Silent Stills, cask #5082, hogshead, 206 bottles)

Glenugie 31 yo 1966/1998 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #5082, hogshead, 206 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: I don’t ordinarily like to summon Serge’s preferred deity but sweet Vishnu! A big wave of freshly cut grasses, lemon jelly, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, fresh limes, grapefruit, coconut milk, passion fruit and runny honey. An exotic hand grenade in a glass! Continues with cantaloupe melon, lime curds, glazed fruits, guava, pineapple syrup from a tin and some herb-infused waxiness underneath. Lush is the word! With water: a little drier, a little straighter and more direct, a tad more mineral, more waxy, more sooty, more notes of hessian, olive oil, tarragon, chalk, white stone fruits, lychee, dried apricot and a lightly peppery watercress note. Just wonderful and terrifically complex. Mouth: hugely syrupy in texture - like sooking the dregs from a fruit salad bowl! But there’s also a slightly savoury side with pine resin, precious hardwoods, waxes, lemon rind, crushed aspirin, dried thyme and some softer, rather buttery cereal tones. Totally thrilling! With water: tropical fruit syrups once again, only this time more resinous, more fatty, more extractive herbal notes, tea tree oil, green tea, yellow chartreuse, mineral oil, pineapple chunks and mango salsa. Finish: long, leafy, herbal, gently waxy and even getting slightly coastal with these delicate saline touches. Still fruity to the very end. Comments: I mean, are any of us really surprised?
SGP: 761 - 93 points.

 

 

Glenlochy 27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4459, hogshead, 212 bottles)

Glenlochy 27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4459, hogshead, 212 bottles)
Colour: yellow wine. Nose: Ahh Glenlochy! A big hearty waxy beast with these wee pinholes of white fruits, honey, fragrant chalk, hessian, lamp oil, sandalwood, toasted seeds and various fruit jellies. Also add to that some yellow flowers, verbena, vapour rubs and a slightly meaty salami note. With water: evolves more towards the mineral side of things with chalk, pebbles, ink and limestone. Sheep wool, crushed sea shells and an earthy turmeric aspect. Mouth: taught, punchy, waxy, oily and rather full of hessian, camphor, white pepper, green tea, lemon oils, white fruits and things like marc de gewurz and dried sage. Superb old school, fatty and very textural highland malt. With water: drier and much breadier and overall more autolytic. Notes of petrol, waxes, salted butter, some brilliant old riesling made by an Alsatian giant! Really spectacular with water. Finish: superbly long, resinous, flinty, mineral, waxy, slightly salty and with these fading oily and resinous qualities in the aftertaste. Comments: At times it leans towards austerity, but patience and attention yields a captivating and rewarding dram. Power, precision and beauty all rolled into one! I love Glenlochy.
SGP: 571 - 92 points.

 

 

Let’s bring out the big guns. In order of theoretical heft...

 

 

Ledaig 1972/1995 (51.9%, La Maison Du Whisky)

Ledaig 1972/1995 (51.9%, La Maison Du Whisky)
A dram with something of a reputation... Colour: walnut. Nose: where do you begin? Liquid cola syrup mixed with freshly brewed espresso, walnut wine, root beer, sarsaparilla extract, some dark and ancient cough medicine, cherry eau de vie, raisins stewed in old cognac and a huge, simmering, earthy and tar-flecked peatiness. Greasy engines, old tool boxes, oily rags, hessian, brown bread, sooty coal scuttles, mushroom powder, coffee granules and game meats. Utterly immense and bewildering stuff! Like being miniaturised and dropped into the heart of an old Aston Martin DB5 engine parked in a desolate peat moor (Serge’s ultimate fantasy by the way). With water: rosewater, BBQ char, eucalyptus resin, strawberry wine, some very gloopy old balsamico and things like roast chestnuts, more tar and creosote. If you ever wanted to tar and feather someone from the inside out... Mouth: Bovril, bacon, beef stock, iodine, tar, lemongrass, peach stones, black coffee, peppered mackerel, biltong... maltoporn guys, are you around? With water: peat, oil, tar, medicine, seawater, liquorice, herbs, earth, bouillon, rancio... seriously, we’d better stop! Finish: glorious, immensely long, fatty, greasy, mechanical, earthy, herbal, medical and sooty. A laboratory, on a farm, in a field, next to a beach, downwind from a hospital, in a glass - with a workshop. And a cow! Comments: Silly whisky. Not suitable for vegans. (No offence vegans.) But seriously, what an incredible dram.
SGP: 488 - 95 points.

 

 

Port Charlotte 4 yo 2001/2005 (61.4%, OB / Private bottling, bloodtub sherry cask, 39 bottles)

Port Charlotte 4 yo 2001/2005 (61.4%, OB / Private bottling, bloodtub sherry cask, 39 bottles)
I know what you might be thinking, but this one also carries quite a reputation. Bloodtubs were specially commissioned small casks made from deconstructed old sherry casks and used for private customer fillings by Bruichladdich during the early 2000s. Colour: rosewood. Nose: You’d never believe such things could be hewn by four meagre wee years. Smoked cherry wine, strawberry laces, cigar ash, burning rosemary wood, smoked mussels, raw peat smoke from a kiln, black olives in brine, peppered mackerel and anchovy paste. Then we’re back to darker fruitier things again, things like bramble wine, cassis, cloves, beef stock, kippers, roasted mushrooms, leaf mulch and raw antiseptic. Iodine droplets, cola cubes and damson jus. With water: we’re onto strawberry liquorice, key lime pie, salty old rope, fishing wellies, pitch, roof sealant and germoline. Some kind of Harry Potter potion gone wrong, or right? Mouth: natural tar liqueurs, gentian root, smoked game meats, red fruit cordials, more soft ashy notes and huge, textural meaty qualities. Jerk chicken spices, paprika, soot, limoncello, oyster sauce, balsamic, rancio and goats cheese. Mad, totally bonkers stuff but it just works in the most thrilling way. With water: concentrated herbal extracts, resins, herbal toothpaste, salted fish, more kippers, chewing an oxo cube while smoking a strong cigar. More tarriness, more cola syrup and a lean, saline-accented earthiness. Finish: long and pretty immense. On smoked fish, sandalwood ash, bonfire smoke, peat embers, caraway, soot, smoked mead, beeswax, lime pith and dried mint. Comments: A Dwarf from Lord Of The Rings in whisky form I think. Mad, intense and yet totally brilliant whisky.
SGP: 389 - 93 points.

 

 

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)
Another dram that has something of a ‘reputation’... Colour: gold. Nose: what strikes first is just this immense sense of control and poised power. It’s coastal in the extreme with these walls of seawater, crushed seashells, beach sand and drying beach kelp, but there’s also a core of fruit within that. A big, beating heart of pineapple, mango, guava and passion fruit that just screams 60s Bowmore. Around that swirls some cigar smoke, mineral salts, fresh butter, chopped chives, aspirin, lemon dust and - eventually - bushels of raw, freshly kilned malt. It keeps changing as well, veering at some points more towards medicine and then back towards the shoreline. In between there’s these wee notes of fabric, linen, putty and miso broth. Incredible complexity and power. A whisky that is totally in control; you can but follow... With water: all the above but add waxes, putty, cereals, pure acacia honey, various fruit eau de vies, Elastoplast, mead... utterly stunning! Mouth: holy fuck! A tidal surge of coastal complexities and ripe tropical fruits. Star fruit, mango, banana, apple, all shades of citrus, passion fruits again - even grape syrup and pomegranate. Just incredible! Beyond all this fruitiness there’s soft notes of tar, herbal ointments, fish sauce, lime juice, mouthwash, iodine, herbal toothpaste... Gah, I’m not sure I know how to continue describing this one. With water: we’re reaching perfection here. The fusion of oils, peat, seashore, salinity, waxes and immense tropical fruits is a combination that is near impossible to surpass in whisky in my experience. Finish: we’re well and truly down the rabbit hole now. And I for one have no interest in returning. Comments: It’s not the first time I’ve tried this whisky. I recall a bottle opened for a friend’s 50th birthday which was an utter monster when first cracked but revealed all its hidden qualities slowly over time. And by time I mean approximately 2 years. This one seems to be really at its peak, the kind of whisky that I think really only existed for a snapshot of human existence. Humbling stuff.
SGP: 667 - 97 points.

 

 

Now, sadly neither of these final two whiskies are appearing at the Old & Rare show this year, but I unexpectedly had the chance to record some notes for them earlier this week and if ever there was a tasting where they might ‘fit in’ so to speak... Also, who really needs an excuse...

 

 

You may have heard of this crazy new Italian bottler called ‘Samaroli’ who is doing some cool stuff with ex-Marmite casks and has just released a really incredible new peated whisky brand called ‘Port Ashtray’ (rumour has it that it’s Speyburn inside!)

 

 

Glen Grant 1959/1999 (47.3%, Samaroli, sherry cask, #3790, 180 bottles)

Glen Grant 1959/1999 (47.3%, Samaroli, sherry cask, #3790, 180 bottles)
Colour: deep rosewood. Nose: There’s something of a very old Karuizawa about this, that is to say dried porcinis, firecrackers dusted with paprika, pot pourri, jasmine tea and morello cherries. Ahh, but there’s just so much more! A sublime and lean earthiness with these pointed leathery notes. It’s a big sherry cask but it’s also bafflingly deft, elegant and controlled. Crushed walnuts, fresh espresso, juniper, verbena, herbal oils, cannabis resin, strawberry liqueur. Utterly stunning and just overwhelmingly beautiful and complex. The kind of aroma that involves medicines, natural oils, herbs and resins, fruits, earth and meats. All bound up in this web of nutty, salty, effortless sherry. You know who to call for God’s sake! Mouth: where do you begin! It feels stronger and more powerful than 47.3%, but it is also utterly perfect at that strength. A lean, salty and ropey sherry. You can practically feel the hessian twine between your teeth! There’s drops of the oldest balsamicos, truffle oil, maraschino juice and, in case you didn’t already suspect, the rancio to end all rancios. Some game meats confit in some ancient dry madeira. Keeps evolving, towards eucalyptus, mint and dried herbs like lemon thyme. Liqueurish but also still resinous, biting, lively and full of exotic notes of lapsang souchong, dried citrus peels, crystalised tropical fruits and aged cigars. Majestic! Finish: longer and with some fully blossoming tannin. Lots of toasted seeds, black tea, dry earth, mushroom powder, strawberry scented pipe tobacco, strong coffee, peppered game meats and - yet - a crystalised tropical fruit flourish in amongst it all as well. Comments: Glen Grant and Samaroli. Both resonating at some kind of lofty mutual pinnacle that resides somewhere in the general direction of Andromeda.
SGP: 671 - 96 points.

 

 

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)
To think there were once 2400 bottles of this juice! I’d love to know if Springbank had the presence of mind to refill these casks? Colour: orangey amber. Nose: a quick grasp of waxes and putty, then it drags you hell for leather into a vortex of dried wild mushrooms, various tobaccos, oily sheep wool, golden sultanas soaked in honey, rancio, salted meats, leaf mulch, caraway, rosehips, red fruits such as red currents and cranberries and things like black pepper. There’s also animalistic notes of game, sweat and stables. The sherry is rather profound in that it displays multiple facets with such breathtaking distinction and precision. There’s this earthy side that encompasses coal scuttles and hummus, then the sinewed mineral side that nods towards preserved lemons, salinity and beach pebbles. And finally that fruity core of raisins, dates, kumquats, citronella, pineapple syrup and something floral like foxgloves or carnations. You can see the foundations of this whisky’s almighty reputation. With water: dark chocolate infused with sea salt and dried chilli, mirabelle, yellow wild flowers such as dandelions, a whole rack of dried herbs, toasted fennel seeds and more of this deep and profound rancio quality. Mouth: the thing that strikes first is this salty and oily meatiness, like a salami laced with fruity red chilli. But it gives way to this abundance of silky and sinewy dark fruits. Dates, fig, plums baked in sweet wines, prune eau de vie, camphor, linseed oils, dried tarragon and things like hawthorne, golden syrup, balsamic and lanolin. A level of intensity and a density of texture and flavour that goes beyond simply powerful but feels almost purposeful as well. With water: really evolves quite strikingly with water. I get things such as gun oil, strap leather, mint julep, pipe tobacco, bitter chocolate, a flicker of matchbox, flinty mineral notes, mineral oil itself and then ancient herbal liqueurs such as yellow chartreuse. You could really just go on and on picking out an endless list of flavours and aromas from this beguiling old Siren of Campbeltown. Finish: Ridiculously long. A slow drift through herbs, nuts, dunnage warehouses, Jerez bodegas, workshops, the Kintyre shoreline, some sweet wine orientated wine cellars, the farmyard and the delicatessen. Comments: It’s not the first time I’ve been fortunate enough to taste this whisky. It’s one of these drams that just seems determined to never give up its full self in one go. Every time I try it I come away feeling differently about it; with a sense that I’ve discovered something new or thought it was different from before. There’s not many drams that can toy with you in such a profound and affecting way. In that sense it really shares something with the Bowmore above. But anyway, Samaroli, pffft, what did that guy know...
SGP: 672 - 97 points. 

 

 

Just a quick thought on those two drams. The Glen Grant is, in my book, a rather underrated whisky (I’m not taking into account crazy auction prices here - which I think become increasingly unrelated to the actual quality of whisky, but that’s another topic...). Whereas the Springbank, while staggering, is perhaps not quite as world beating as many have suggested in my view (I’m talking ‘100 point’ proclamations here). The Springbank I think is better by a single point on technicalities, whereas the Glen Grant is perhaps a more pleasurable dram by virtue of just how easy and luxurious it is. Both whiskies are sublime in their own ways, and indeed if you look at the SGPs they are not so different in overall profile. This is where the 100 point scale proves its importance and weight of meaning in the 95-100 range and where we really start to separate out whiskies along divisions of ‘technicality’ and ‘emotion’. Anyway, what a terrific chance to try these two legends side by side.

 

 

If I were some kind of psychopath I’d probably vat the rest of each of these two whiskies together right now to see what sort of demented potion emerged. Such a combination would probably taste like a Karuizawa 1965 having a threeway with a 50yo Dalmore and some pre-war Macallan as a Largimeanoch 67 Bowmore watched from corner while simultaneously sexting a 1940s 10yo Highland Park all leading to a climactic, very messy 97 points and a hotel room out of service for at least a week!

 

 

Thankfully, as Serge will confirm, I’m a sensible kind of guy.

 

 

Eternal gratitudes and hugs to Thomas, Enrico, Emmanuel and Jonny.

 

 


February 2019 - part 1 <--- February 2019 - part 2 ---> March 2019 - part 1


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1947/1975 (75°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son)

Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1980/2018 (44.4%, North Star Spirits, refill hogsheads, 140 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1994/2018 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 195 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1995/2018 (46.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask # 18-2201, 256 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2001/2016 (59.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, butt, cask #1430, 580)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 2001/2018 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1254, 602 bottles)

Caol Ila 36 yo 1982/2018 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles)

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #136-38, 890 bottles)

Ma2 2004/2017 (55.2%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 1st fill bourbon barrel)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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