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December 2010 - part 2 <--- January 2011 - part 1 ---> January 2011 - part 2


January 14, 2011



Tasting two old Glencadam

Glencadam 1974/2010 (48.9%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #3214, 216 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold, which suggests it’s no first fill butt. Nose:… maybe not first fill but it’s quite sherried at first nosing, without being extremely expressive. We’re rather close to the barley, with also whiffs of nail polish remover, porridge, broken roots and branches (right, new wood) and a little green tea. Also bitter oranges and a little rubber. Strange bottling considering the bottler’s usual style, which is rather emphatic (as the pros say). Let’s see if water will change it… With water: not really, even if it became a little cleaner. Mouth (neat): rather more pleasant than on the nose when unreduced but still kind of closed and relatively austere. Quite some tea, bitter herbal teas, Seville oranges, a little ginger, speculoos, bitter chocolate… With water: still greenish, still quite bitter and strangely vegetal. Finish: medium long, on chlorophyll chewing gum and leaves (or cherry stem tea). Comments: as I said, it’s certainly very good whisky but its greenness doesn’t quite match this excellent bottler’s style in my opinion. I must confess I had troubles with this one and could have gone with an even lower score. SGP:261 - 80 points.

Glencadam 32 yo 1977/2009 (54.9%, Douglas Laing, Old and Rare, Sherry, 296 bottles) Three stars This one collected many high scores at the latest MM Awards, yours truly being the lowest scorer with only 80 points while the average was 88. Let’s try it again… Colour: amber. Nose: nutty, dry sherry, with some chocolate, blackcurrant leaves and, just like in the 1974, a little rubber (bands) and a slight sourness (small cherries). Gets then more and more vinous as well as rather Madeira-like. With water: bizarre in my opinion, slightly acetic and quite leathery. More and more old rancio after that. Mouth (neat): certainly nicer, better balanced but still a bit rubbery and greenish for a sherry cask, with a spirit that’s maybe not singular enough to stand the wood. Nice notes of figs. With water: rounder and sweeter. Finish: rather long but a tad oaky. Comments: I remember, it’s the rubber that put me off the first time I tried this puppy. I must be oversensitive to rubber. Other than that, it’s a very fine dram for sure. It’s a draw. SGP:361 - 80 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: between the late 1970s and early 1980s we had a pretty good 'new wave' band in France called Marquis de Sade. They were sometimes sounding like a reunion band of Joy Division and the Voidoids but all their recordings have been pretty decent in my opinion. Let's listen to Wanda's Loving Boy (1981) and then buy Marquis de Sade's music (not the books, eh...)


January 13, 2011


Port Ellen

Tasting two recent
1982 Port Ellen…

… And maybe a bonus. The recent OB ‘10th release’ stunned me with its complexity, let’s now have a few rawer ones again. Not officials, that is…

Port Ellen 27 yo 1982/2010 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, cask #2558) Five stars Isn’t it amazing that Old Bothwell have so many PEs these days? Colour: straw. Nose: yahowow! It’s one of these crystal-clean, extremely zesty Port Ellens, and this one is maybe even cleaner than the cleanest PEs I could try so far. Little tar and little coal, rather bags of seaweed, lime and peat (smoke), then whiffs of barnyard and loads of apple peelings. It’s even a little camphory ala Laphroaig. Superb! With water: candle wax and coal smoke plus oceans of tar and shoe polish this time. This baby reminds me a bit of the two 1978s Rare Malts, even if it becomes a tad cardboardy afrer a moment, which was unexpected. Mouth (neat): yodlayeedleeyah! (that’s no official tasting vocabulary, in case you didn’t notice). ‘Green’ raw peat, lemon and lime, green tea, grass, grapefruits… Extremely zesty and ‘sharp like a blade’, as they say. The purity of crystal, with just a little rubber in the background, as often with PE in my opinion. With water: perfection made whisky. Textbook raw Port Ellen – and it’s even drinkable, imagine! Finish: very long, with a lingering peat (but why is peat always lingering in tasting notes?) Comments: I think we should go burgle Old Bothwell’s. RU game? Not all are great in my opinion but this one was fab. SGP:368 – 92 points.

Port Ellen 27 yo 1982/2010 (61,3%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, cask #2347) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: it seems that this one’s rather rounder than the Old Bothwell, a tad more buttery and with a little more vanilla, which suggests more active wood. Nice notes of riesling or sauvignon blanc (‘barrelled!’) Becomes a little violent after a while, at such high strength! Let’s not burn our noses… With water: it’s as if water erased the wood’s influence as this one is now much closer to the Old Bothwell, that is to say very tarry. It’s still a tad rounder, but I like it a lot. A little camphor and eucalyptus as well. Mouth (neat): once again, it’s a sweeter and rounder version although it’s no sweet and round whisky of course. Big leafiness, chlorophyll, grass… It’s extremely powerful but sort of drinkable – or is it me? With water: now it’s perfect! Finish: long, salty… Anchovies and sardines in the aftertaste, which I like. Comments: great, just great, even if it takes its time and really needs water. At 61+%, no wonder! I scored it 90 at the MM Awards but after due comparison with some siblings, now I believe it’s worth 91. Yeah, splitting hairs. Well done Signor Rossi. SGP:347 - 91 points.

Yes, those two were quite some beasts, but there were even beastlier PEs around a while back, such as this nice bonus that’s very rare…

Port Ellen

Port Ellen 12 yo (62.7%, James MacArthur, pale version, +/-1985?) Five stars This is the first design of James MacArthur’s labels, just after they were called ‘London Scottish’. It’s from the mid to late 1980s as it was bottled in 75cl bottles, so maybe early to mid-1970s distillation. There was also a ‘dark sherry’ version that’s very famous… And truly fabulous. Colour: gold. Nose: yah! Raw, young peat, with more tar and coal smoke than in the 1982s, more wax, more seaweed, herbs (fresh rhubarb, sorrel) and litres of antiseptic. Is that one violent? Yes it is. Raw power, as Iggy would have said before he started doing stupid adverts. With water: amazing how it became organic. A walk in a zoo (heated with coal)…

Mouth (neat): I’m sure you could already read this expression: ‘liquid peat’. It’s very appropriate here, the peatiness being more or less similar to Ardbeg Supernova’s or even Octomore’s. In short, it’s like if you swallowed a dozen ashtrays. Full ones. Beyond the peat, green apples and lemons plus a wee saltiness. This is brutal! With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. It’s a mob, it’s an army, they’re the horsemen of the apocalypse (S., cut the crap, will you!) Finish: as long as some early morning echoes in the Swiss Alps. Comments: do you really need any? SGP:359 - 96 points.
PS: I never published my notes and scores for the ‘dark sherry’ version of this one that was bottled at 59%, as the friend who had presented me with a sample pledged me to secrecy six or seven years ago (which I never do!). Let’s say the oath expired: the score was 98.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a charming little piece called Bordel 1900 by Sergio and Odair Assad. Please buy the two brothers' music!


January 12, 2011


Tasting five newish Bowmore, some young


Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars and a half Last time I tasted the 12 was in 2007 and I found it was in great progress (WF85). Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes, a very clean, very coastal and typically Bowmore nose, with some sea air, touches of mangos, grapefruit and tangerines. Hints of clams and other shellfish. No ‘lavender’ at all. Mouth: excellent, salty, lemony, quite peaty, slightly leafy… What’s more, almost no weakness and little ‘air pocket’ that would be related to the low strength. Finish: medium long, even saltier. Very salty, actually. Only touches of caramel. Comments: yes, all good. SGP:346 - 84 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 'Darkest' (43%, OB, Sherry cask finish, +/- 2010) Three stars and a half Colour: orangey amber. Nose: typical flinty and leathery peat/sherry combo. Orange marmalade in the background. Gets then a tad acidic and curiously winey, with an unexpected rancio and even some vinegar. That’s strange, other recent batches have been much cleaner (2007, 2009). Mouth: creamy, smooth at first, with a moderate peatiness but a lot of leather and toasts coming out soon after that. Quite some salt as well, bitter oranges, old walnuts, strong liquorice, tar… Finish: long, bold, very tarry. Strong black tea, heavy pudding… Comments: to be honest, I think this batch went a little too far towards the ‘cloying’ side of sherry finishing. Now, it’s true it’s called ‘Darkest’. SGP:555 - 83 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 1995/2010 (46%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, oloroso butt) Four stars and a half This is a joint bottling with the Whisky Agency. Colour: deep gold with bronze hues. Nose: for me, the Bowmore plus heavy sherry combination sometimes fails (as it creates a bizarre plastic-like profile – at least that’s what my olfactory bulb thinks) but sometimes it’s quite brilliant, maybe when an improbable balance is achieved. It’s the case here, as we have a beautiful string of organic aromas such as fresh walnuts, apple peelings, seaweed, orange zests, humus, unlit cigars, mushrooms, sugar cane, a little sandalwood…  Mouth: yes, perfect! Very earthy and leafy, pleasantly leathery, salty, liquoricy, peaty… Not too sure I like these notes of orange liqueur in the background but other than that, it’s perfect rich Bowmore. Finish: very long, rich yet nervous and kind of ‘clean’, with a salty aftertaste ‘as usual’. Comments: all good. A rich yet balanced sherried Bowmore. SGP:465 - 88 points.

Bowmore 8 yo 2001/2010 (59.9%, Adelphi, cask #1126, 583 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful and extremely farmy, close to raw barley, ‘kilny’ (what?), with unexpected whiffs of molasses in the background. It’s not a clean and coastal young Bowmore so far. With water: farmyard after a hot summer rain. I know that you know that I know that you know what that means. Bugging, innit! Mouth (neat): punchy, oily and creamy. Big peat but also big vanilla and honey as well as many sugary fruits. Jelly beans. Simple but works well I must say! With water: more typical young Bowmore, fresh and fruity. Tangerines and liquorice wood. Less salty than the officials. Finish: long, with more earthiness and just touches of cranberries and caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s very good but maybe a tad youngish. Rather big cask influence. SGP:546 - 84 points.

Bowmore 2000/2010 (58.7%, Malts of Scotland, cask #800266) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the opposite of the 2001 when neat. Sharp, clean and medicinal. Antiseptic and iodine. With water: crystal clean, almost sharpish peat, very mineral this time, only faintly spirity (a little cologne). Nice whiffs of aniseed and dill. Oh, and raw celeriac. Mouth (neat): it’s not unlike the Adelphi, only without the gangue of vanilla and honey from an active cask. Big peat again, wondering if they didn’t increase the peat level at Bowmore around 2000. With water: seawater! Peated seawater. Finish: long, very salty and briny. Comments: quite extreme in its saltiness. Are they still used to roll the barrels in the Loch Indaal from the puffer to the filling store back and forth? SGP:357 - 85 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: let's have a little contemporary pedal steel guitar today with the great Susan Alcorn and her Twin Beams that were on her 'Curandera' CD (2005). Please buy Susan Alcorn's music.

Susan Alcorn

January 11, 2011



Tasting two Tomatins from the 1970s

Aren’t we expecting some kind of fruitiness right now?

Tomatin 36 yo 1973/2010 (44%, OB, refill American oak, decanter) Four stars and a half £490. A bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’d have loved to smash this baby because of its price but I’m afraid I can’t thus far, as all what we get on the nose and for a start is a rather fab combo of Tomatin’s trademark fruitiness (rather think 1960s) with a creamy sweetness from the American oak. Ripe bananas (but not flambéed ones), papayas and guavas topped with some light honey and custard. Becomes more ‘tropical’ after that, with more mangos and passion fruits, and then a little grassier with whiffs of fresh walnut peeling and crushed cider apples plus a little putty and fresh mint. A perfect nose, no need to say more. Mouth: yes, this is quite perfect and it does remind me of our best older Tomatins indeed. Perfect fruitiness without any excessive, well, fruitiness and a profile that screams ‘1960s’ again, not only at Tomatin. The American oak isn’t too talkative nor too modern (you know, vanilla and basta) and it’s only after quite a few seconds in your mouth that a few tannins start to fly around (tea). As for the fruits, it’s a mix of ripe apples, guavas, bananas and mangos. A little simpler and maybe not as stunning and ‘chiselled’ as on the nose but still very beautiful. Finish: medium long, a little more on those fruits’ skins, with a faint sourness (apples). Quite some grapefruit too. Comments: very, very good, no question about that. The nose was stunning. SGP:650 - 89 points.

Tomatin 30 yo 1975/2005 (55.5%, Whisky Wizard, cask #19174, 120 bottles) Five stars Whisky Wizard is a German retailer and bottler. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a little hard to come after the very expressive OB and at a much higher strength, but it seems that the general profile isn’t too different, albeit less emphatic. Shier with the fruits, louder with the grassy notes. Rather big notes of apple juice and vanilla as well. With water: closes up for quite some time but takes off again after a few minutes, more or less on the same notes. Very similar to the OB with a little less American oak influence. Mouth (neat): ha-ha! This is excellent! The fruits are a tad more ‘acidic’ than in the OB, with more lemons and tangerines, and the ‘greenness’ is bigger as well (kiwis, not too ripe gooseberries). There’s also something slightly kirschy, with even notes of pear spirit. It’s all very fresh and extremely playful. With water: perfect creamy fruitiness. I mean, not uebercomplicated but really perfect. Finish: long and a little more on fruit eaux-de-vie. Quetsche/Zwetschke, mirabelle and  kirsch… Even traces of strawberry liqueur. Comments: one hundred percent pleasures, provided you’ve got a little water on the side. Did the whisky wizard shout ‘abracadabra’? SGP:651 - 90 points. (and many thanks, Tom!)

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some dynamite drumming by miiiiiister Billy Cobham in the 1970s, with his funky Some Skunk Funk (that was on 'A Funky Thide Of Sings' - not kiddin'.) Please buy Billy Cobham's music.


January 10, 2011



Tasting two new old Glenallachie

I could taste very little Glenallachies so far (only eleven!) but there seems to be quite a bunch of old casks around these days, which is great news. Today we’ll have two opposite styles…

Glenallachie 35 yo 'Anniversary Selection' (46.9%, Specialty Drinks, first fill sherry, 2010) Five stars A bottling done by the good folks behind The Whisky Exchange. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s not an exceptionally monstrous sherry but some sherry there is, as it starts all on notes of old red wine, balsamic vinegar (only touches) and ‘new’ leather. It’s actually close to sherry as such and far from chocolate, prunes and jams if you see what I mean. Whiffs of old wine cellar, saltpetre, flints, touches of farmyard, horse saddle, oyster sauce, game… Isn’t all that a bit like a 1934 Chambertin? ;-). Also a lot of cigarette tobacco (newly opened pack of, say Camels?) Mouth: yes, indeed, an old wine! Some rancio like in some old cognacs, prunes this time, milk chocolate, quinces, cherries, coffee and that leatheriness that’s not too far from matches and gunflints but that’s not, well, that thing very en vogue at some writers’ if you say what I mean. What’s sure is that I like these notes. Finish: rather long, perfectly balanced, which isn’t always the case with these old sherry-infused malts. Cpffee, cherry jam and a little capsicum in the aftertaste. Comments: no schmaltz at all, and no sulp…y old sherry monster either. Recommended. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Glenallachie 39 yo 1971/2010 (51.2%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 160 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: as expected, it’s the opposite of the 35yo, all on flowers and fresh fruits. The ‘youthness’ is amazing here and it’s not at all the same kind of ‘youth’ that one can find in young whisky. It’s very complex, like a huge fruit salad (one cannot not think of old Benriachs here), with notes of ripe pears, bananas (not the rummy flambéed kind), guavas, mangos, cut apples, papayas… Yet, it’s not ‘tropical’ either. A walk in an orchard in the end of August (where quite some wild flowers grow as well.) Touches of toasted brioche and warm orange cake. Mouth: yeah! I think it’s a perfect example of a good cask that was probably rather inactive and that let the spirit slowly age and become really complex after… a lot of time. Very nice notes of bananas flambéed (this time!), lemon pie, apple compote, high-end pear eau-de-vie (Swiss Williams… oaky, okay, or German or Alsatian) ad just traces of bubblegum, which comes as a surprise after 39 years. Works well! The mouth feel is perfect and so is the strength, I feel no need to add water to this one. Finish: long, with the tannins showing up a bit now (green tea) but it’s all fine. Comments: typical youngish old malt whisky. Melikes this style even if it’s totally un-commercial. Who said it’s refreshing? Very different but of the very same high quality as the sherried 35yo, and more to my liking than the recent 1972 by the same excellent bottler. SGP:641 - 90 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I remember so well the huge buzz that preceded the short lived supergroup 801's live album in 1976. Imagine, it gathered members of Roxy Music, of Curved Air, or Matching Mole... In short, the fine fleur of the era (Eno, Monkmann, Manzanera...) It polarised opinions but I loved it. Let's listen to T.N.K. today and then buy 801's only two albums.


January 9, 2011


Glen Moray

Tasting two Glen Moray

We already had an old Glen Moray by Duncan Taylor, it was a 1973 and it was excellent (cask #7037, WF89). We’ll have a 1975 first and then the younger one as it’s probably heavily sherried. Heavily sherried Glen Moray? That may be a first on WF…

Glen Moray 35 yo 1975/2010 (52.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #64, 254 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: fresh and pretty delicate despite the rather high strength, displaying vivid notes of acacia honey and tinned pineapples. Also touches of very ripe kiwis as well as quite some flower nectar and a rather discreet oakiness. Also some vanilla fudge and butter crème. Very ‘nice’ (I know that’s a catch-all word but it IS nice whisky). With water: more hay, chlorophyll, cut grass and leaves. Faint mouldiness, not unpleasant (which doesn’t mean ‘nice’). After a few minutes: more on orange juice. Mouth (neat): the oak’s striking sooner than in the nose but it isn’t very tannic. Well, there is quite some green tea and bitter teas (leaves, fruit stems) as well as notes of bitter burnt caramel but other than that it’s all on maple syrup, toffee and cappuccino. Very roasted, definitely. With water: became very cardboardy. That didn’t work! Finish: medium long, on a little ‘mishmash’. White pepper, cardboard, orange zests and quite some paprika. Comments: I don’t think this one’s in the same league as the excellent 1973 also by Duncan Taylor. It’s a little too bitter for my taste and I think it swims like some flat iron. For once, an old DT that I do not like too much. SGP:271 - 79 points.

Glen Moray 1981/2001 (57.7%, OB, sherry, cask #3661, 463 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: full amber. Nose: powerful and extremely chocolaty at first nosing, getting then vinous, very beautifully so. Old Bourgogne wine, old cognac, peonies, black cherries... Also hints of old balsamic vinegar. Very nice profile (again!), clean, with no single touch of gunpowder or struck matches. With water: quite magnifico, not unlike some high-end cured ham. Spanish? A lot of rancio as well, very old sherry, humidor, oxtail soup… Superb, this one swims particularly well, which isn’t always the case with sherry monsters. Mouth (neat): rich, thick and bold but not cloying. Concentrated blackcurrant syrup, caramel, bitter oranges, roasted pecans, hints of ginger, pepper, coffee… Or when richness can be elegant. With water: perfect dry sherry, very toffee-ish and chocolaty. Finish: long, ‘focused’, on raspberry eau-de-vie and bitter chocolate. Maybe pencil shavings in the aftertaste. Comments: state of the art sherry maturing in my opinion. Not too sure there’s much distillery character left but anyway, it was a great cask. Curious to see if new owners La Martiniquaise will go on issuing very nice official single casks of Glen Moray. Let’s pray. SGP:352 – 88 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I think this was one of Brigitte Bardot's last songs. It was in the OST for Robert Enrico's 1971 movie Boulevard du Rhum and it was called, well, Sur Le Boulevard Du Rhum. Miss Bardot was aslo playing in that nice movie with Lino Ventura. Please buy Brigitte Bardot's music.


January 7, 2011


Tasting three recent Hakushu and maybe more


I’m very late with my Japanese, time to try a few recent Hakushus today… Kampai! My all time favourite was the Hakushu 1989/2005 (63%, OB, cask #GW50004, 176 Bts.) with 93 points, and quite some whisky chaps agreed it was brilliant.

Hakushu 18 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars I already tried the 18 several times, last time that was a circa 2007 version and it was quite to my liking (WF82). Colour: gold. Nose: quite fresh and floral but rather oaky as well, with big vanilla and even something slightly plankish. A little sour as well, yoghurt, custard… In short, vanilla-flavoured yoghurt. It isn’t unpleasant, far from that, but maybe the oak’s too apparent. Mouth: malty and oaky. Touches of lapsang souchong tea, overripe apples, vanilla, quite some cinnamon, a little flour and bread, toasts… Works well but lacks emotion, as I sometimes say. Finish: medium long, with the oak more to the front again. Comments: this is technologically perfect and maybe that’s the problem as well. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still above-80 material in my book! SGP:341 - 81 points.

Hakushu NAS 'Bourbon Barrel' (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re in the same family as with the 18 but this one is rather fruitier and livelier, which is an asset in my opinion. As much flowers and nectar and as much vanilla, but the oak’s also more on the toasted side, with also more fudge. Toasted brioche, café latte…. Mouth: a good creamy attack, with quite some oak again but it’s rather sweet oak, very American. Quite some dried ginger, touches of strawberry drops, cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla. Finish: rather long, toasted and roasted, with quite some pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: textbook young ex-American oak malt whisky, reminding me of Glenmo’s Astar. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Hakushu 1997/2010 (56%, OB, W. Whisky Shop, Hogshead, cask #BJ 41089) Three starsColour: pale gold. Nose: pretty much the NAS ‘BB’ in style, only more powerful, thanks to the higher ABV. Toasts and vanilla. Old roses in the background. With water: the oak comes more to the front but there are also nice notes of smoked tea, hay, cappuccino and new leather. Mouth (neat): sweet creamy vanilla and hints of strawberry sweets again. Very close to the NAS once again. With water: becomes very sweet, almost sugary. Candy sugar and liquorice wood. Finish: long, sweet, a little liqueurish (pineapple?) Comments: another very good one, another one that’s technically perfect. I guess that should be a compliment. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Wait, shouldn’t we try to find even better Hakushus while we’re at it? Okay, let’s simply have a few other ones until we find a wonder, are you game?

Hakushu 25

Hakushu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008) Four stars A very expensive version of Hakushu, at around 650 Euros. Colour: full gold. Nose: another dimension indeed, even if we’re still more or less in the same family. This is obviously more complex, fruitier and smokier as well, with whiffs of garden bonfire, smoked tea, stewed fruits, various honeys and big notes of dried dates. And once again notes of toasted brioche. Very, very nice nose, midway between ‘oldness’ and freshness. Mouth: excellent, quite firm, starting fairly grassy and smoky, with notes of green tea and cinnamon, then oranges and crystallised lemons. The mouth feel isn’t impressively big but it’s all perfectly balanced and certainly not weak. There’s also an enjoyable flintiness. Finish: rather drier, almost a little tea-ish, with touches of coriander and pepper. More black tea in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not the first time that I try this baby and it never really impressed me – despite the heavy price tag, but I won’t deny it’s pretty excellent whisky. SGP:361 - 85 points.

Okay, we haven’t found our wonder yet, let’s go on… Maybe within one of the Owner’s Casks?


Hakushu 1992/2008 'Owner's Cask' (61%, OB, hogshead, cask #2F41566) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: haha, now we’re talking! This is much more aromatic and complex at the same time, with superb notes of incense and sandalwood on top of overripe apples, cinnamon, tinned mangos and quite some fresh mint. Yes, now we’re talking! With water: well, the oak comes out a bit, even if it’s ‘better’ oak than in its brothers. There’s also more putty and quite some peanut butter. Hints of cider and beer. Mouth (neat): rich and very creamy, spicy (cinnamon, ginger) and very fruity (strawberries, kiwis). Sure it’s younger in style than the other ones but this vibrancy is almost thrilling. With water: round, just as creamy, fruity, youthful… We have pineapples, pears, guavas and ginger. It’s all very fresh. Finish: long and clean, just as fruity, with a perfect spiciness. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: a big one! Maybe it isn’t quite perfect yet but we’re getting closer. SGP:551 – 88 points.

Let’s try another hogshead, maybe it’ll be even more to my liking, especially since it comes from the 1993 vintage (that was good over Japan, or so it seems)… It’s also a peated version!

Hakushu peated

Hakushu 1993/2008 ‘The Cask’ (58%, OB, heavily peated, Hogshead, cask #3B40574, 232 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: well, there isn’t much peat as such in the nose, rather lots of ginger and smoked tea as well as quite some vanilla again. The peat arises only after thirty seconds in fact, being rather on the farmy side. Nice flintiness as well, a little coal, ashes, almond oil… With water: it became very mineral. Flints, wet gravel… Just hints of violets and lavender in the background. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, much peatier now, with notes of bitter oranges, ashes, ginger and cardamom. It’s very spicy in fact, but water seems to be needed as it’s very powerful. With water: similar profile, only easier to quaff. Finish: long, peaty and very much on orange marmalade and ginger. Comments: pretty much in the same league as some young Laphroaigs from very active casks on the palate. All good but in my view, no wonder yet… Phew! SGP:447 - 85 points.

Let’s pursue our quest with yet something very different, a very sherried one (but what an idea I had!)

Hakushu Corta

Hakushu 1993/2008 ‘The Cask’ (60%, OB, Spanish oak 'Bota Corta', cask #3C40789, 571 bottles) Three stars Colour: dark mahogany or coffee. Nose: it’s extremely dry and very powerful. The colour is ‘coffee’ and so is the nose so far. Espresso without sugar (yeah, what else). Also quite some gunpowder arising, leather… No fruitiness whatsoever so far. Strange! With water: becomes very meaty and chocolaty, with only faint hints of blackcurrants. I like dry sherry very much usually but I feel this is a tad monodimensional. Mouth (neat): VERY powerful. Some very strong malts are quaffable provided you take only a few drops but this one isn’t, it’ll just burn your throat and anything that’s above. With water: it’s better for sure, with more fruits, currants, strawberries and blackberries, all that in a slightly leathery and herbal gangue. Finish: long, with more liquorice. Comments: a good Hakushu, no question about that, but I feel it lacks the opulence of most Scottish – or Japanese for that matter – sherry monsters. SGP:361 - 80 points.

I tell you, it’s a curse! Okay, last chance… Although I’ll cheat a bit as I have already tried this one and loved it…

Hakushu 1989

Hakushu 1989/2009 (62%, OB, Sherry Butt, cask #9O 50021) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: wowie! Now we’re really talking! A luscious combination of prunes, christmas cake, chestnut honey, flints, dark toffee, dark chocolate and Corinthian raisins. With water: becomes more mineral at first, and then wonderfully meaty and ‘tertiary’. Think very old balsamic vinegar. Mouth (neat): sure it’s very powerful but this mix of rich prunes and liquorice with a wide range of spices seems to work beautifully despite the relative dryness. With water: unfolds like an evening raga (wot?) Notes of chilli and capsicum. Finish: very long, just a tad more grapey now. Blackcurrants. Some pepper and even more prunes in the aftertaste. Comments: I really cheated, this one won gold at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009 but I never published any notes on WF. Ite missa est, we have our Hakushu wonder. SGP:473 - 91 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Nonjatta

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Pat Metheny compadre Lyle Mays and his very sweet little Chorinho that was on the acclaimed 'Street Dreams' album. Please buy all of the excellent Lyle Mays' records, thanks.

Lyle Mays

January 6, 2011



Two extreme 1982 Tomatin

A few years back, Tomatin was mostly know for being the largest distillery in Scotland but the official bottlings weren’t that flabbergasting. Only some very old and superbly fruity malts distilled in the 1960s were managing to catch the enthusiasts’ attention but things seem to be changing fast. Let’s try two recent ones if you please, both heavily sherried or so it seems…

Tomatin 1982/2010 (55.3%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry cask #29, 574 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: quite powerful, typical flinty sherry when unreduced, with notes of struck matches, leather, bitter oranges and hints of burnt wood (charcoal). Tomatin’s fruitiness doesn’t quite shine through thus far, even if these whiffs of oranges are very pleasant. Some smoked ham. With water: works well. The fruits come out a bit and the sherry’s much less talkative, although there’s a pleasant farminess remaining. More meaty notes as well, ham, black truffles, wine vinegar… Mouth (neat): extremely creamy and oily, you’d almost need a spoon. Rich like some jam – rather orange marmalade - and very spicy as well, with bags of cloves and grey pepper. Cream sherry? Could the spirit alone impart such a big sweetness? With water: quite perfect but even bigger! Water really unleashed the highly concentrated fruity and spicy notes. Finish: very, very long and very, very rich and spicy. Comments: a beast, a beast! Spectacular. I scored it 87 when I first tried it at the MM Awards (it got a very solid Silver Medal) but I may have gone a little higher as well. Anyway, for the sake of consistency, let’s keep it that way. SGP:662 - 87 points.

Tomatin 1982 2010 (57%, OB, refill sherry puncheon, cask #92, 560 bottles) Four stars and a half This one comes in a beautiful sleek decanter. Colour: pale amber. Nose: we’re close, oh so close to the SSMC here! We’re maybe a little easier on the leathery notes and maybe a tad louder on fresh fruits (oranges again) but that’s pretty all. Same whiffs of struck matches and same punchiness. With water: exactly the same development as with the SSMC. Maybe a little subtler, with some aniseed and mint on top of the meaty and farmy notes. I like it. Mouth (neat): powerful but a little lighter than the SSMC as far as mouth feels are concerned, although the spiciness is big again. Quite some caraway, cloves, nutmeg. Creamy mouth feel, with some sultanas, fig liqueur, spicy herbs liqueur (I sometimes quote Dantziger Goldwasser), Cointreau as well, bitter oranges… Yes, it’s bitter oranges galore! With water: bang! Amazingly rich and fruity, concentrated, powerful and explosive. More a liqueur than malt whisky indeed. Finish: as long as a John Bonham drum solo – and as powerful. Comments: a fascinating monster. I believe this kind of bottle should be bought and then stored for at least forty years. And then and then!... Young fellows, are you listening? (yeah, I know, £350 is a tad too ambitious, even for a nice decanter.) SGP:762 - 89 points.

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


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

More about benchmark malts...

Friends, according to some reactions I’ve got to yesterday’s ‘short ramblings’, it seems that I haven’t explained well enough the worthiness of the ‘benchmark’ or ‘reference’ whiskies, and how it works.

Imagine you use Laphroaig 10 as a benchmark for all peated whiskies. That means that all the peated whiskies you’ll assess and score will be compared to Laphroaig 10, so that Laphroaig 10 will work as a ‘pivotal’ whisky for all your scorings.

Just to give you an example: imagine you like Laphroaig 10 and score it 85. On Monday, you’ll try Glenthis 12 against Laphroaig 10 and like it a little less. Say 83 points. On Friday, you’ll try Glenthat 14 against Laphroaig 10 and like it rather more. Say, 87. In ‘normal’ conditions, your 83 for Glenthis and your 87 for Glenthat wouldn’t be fully comparable, as both whiskies weren’t tasted head to head. But thanks to the use of Laphroaig 10 as the ‘benchmark’, those scores will in fact be more coherent and comparable.  If you keep using Laphroaig 10 through the years, and provided not much batch variation happen (use the very same benchmark method to check that!), all your scores for all your peated whiskies should be more coherent, yet related to your own tastes of course. Does all that make more sense? ;-)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: these 'TV' musics from the 1960s and early 1970s became cult on the internet and rightly so. Take for instance bassist Tonio Rubio's Royal Shuffle N°1, isn't that very... funny? Ah, wehn second degree was de rigueur! Please buy Tonio Rubio's now very cult music!


January 5, 2011



Tasting two independent Glenburgie

Not much to say, for once (please hide your joy!)

Glenburgie 22 yo 1988/2010 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #11242, 236 bottles) Four stars Ah, I fondly remember a 1969 by DT… That one was stellar! Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a rather sharp and very clean malt, fruity (garden fruits) and slightly mineral and waxy, well in the style of many unsherried Speysiders in my opinion. There’s also a nervous grassiness, with quite some walnut skin, green apples, then a little porridge and muesli… Little cask influence, it seems. Pineapple drops. With water: not much changes. Maybe a little more vanilla and sweets. Mouth (neat): more wood influence (vanilla and coconut) that gives this baby notes of old grain. Custard, marzipan, barley syrup… More and more coconut. This one is funny! With water: we’re rather more on barley sugar, brioche, butterscotch… It’s even a little sugary. The coconut comes back after a moment. Finish: rather long and very fruity. Comments: a rather estery malt. If you like them fresh, easy and sweet, this is for you. SGP:730 – 85 points.

Glenburgie 26 yo 1983/2010 (54.7%, Signatory, Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, cask #9811, 184 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: okay, this is the same whisky as the 1988, only with more vanilla and other wood influences and certainly bigger aromas. Superb notes of old pu-erh tea, earth, quinces… With water: works well! More complex, with more herbs and teas and just touches of fresh butter and cake. Fresh and even a little light now despite its complexity. A little ‘Lowland’? Mouth (neat): very rich, much less on coconut than the 1988 and rather spicier and slightly harsher. Excellent presence, even if the spirit hasn’t got too much personality. Some corn syrup, custard, liquorice, black tea, acacia honey… With water: excellent, with the same ‘fruity bed’ as the 1988 but with rather more complexity brought by the cask. Finish: long, grassier. Comments: I couldn’t define Glenburgie’s style but this cask was a very good one. It won solid Silver at the MM Awards 2010. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Wait, there’s another Glenburgie I always wanted to try, a much older one…


Glenburgie 1948/1995 'Centenary Reserve' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Two stars Colour: amber with brown hues. Nose: old style! The kind of old style that translates into soot and ashes. There’s also a good deal of overripe apples, then quite some tea and a little cardboard, malt, a moderate sherryness and only whiffs of old oak and roasted chestnuts. Nice but no big whisky so far, let’s only hope the palate won’t be too tired or weak. Mouth: it’s not tired but it’s a little sour and too vinous for my taste. Quite some old rancio and touches of aniseed but other than that, we’re all on cassis jam, sour apples, old oak and wine vinegar (a little). I wouldn’t qualify this as ‘bad’ but it’s probably the worst side of ‘the old days’. I know what I mean. Finish: medium long, a tad cleaner but still quite winey. An old Rivesaltes? Some bitter wood in the aftertaste. Comments: if you need some old 1948 Glenburgie, better go for the 1948 & 1961/1981 (40%, G&M, Royal Marriage). That one was excellent, maybe there will be another old Glenburgie by G&M for William and Kate’s marriage this year? SGP:271 – 70 points.

Wait, let’s have yet another old one, from a funny pyramidal bottle. It’s the...

Glenburgie 30

Glenburgie 30 yo 1954 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Pinerolo, +/-1984) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: interesting that there’s as much soot and ashes as in the 1948 in this one, but the rest is pretty different. Much more elegant, much more flowery and globally much fresher. Whiffs of dandelions, vanilla crème, a little metal polish, orange blossom, a little mocha, maybe touches of jasmine tea, maple syrup… It’s all delicately fragrant, maybe a little feminine in a certain way. Also quite some roasted hazelnuts. Mouth: good attack, not really big but not weak in any way, with the same kind of sooty and almost coal-like notes as in the nose. Notes of roasted almonds, marzipan and touches of bitter oranges, then something delicately mineral that connects to the sootiness. Also quite some smoked tea, but this is no smoky whisky as such. Finish: maybe a little short and a tad dry, with some bitter almonds. Comments: it’s no big whisky but it isn’t weak either. The very tall pyramidal shape of this bottle may have preserved the whisky from oxidation and evaporation as it bears no shoulders. SGP:452 - 86 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-)) Whiskyfun

Tasting: how to make your inherent subjectivity a little more consistent

Friends, every once in a while, someone who’s usually charming but more or less anonymous appears on some forum or blog or else and claims that scoring whisky (or any other thing) is totally subjective thus irrelevant. That, by the way, seldom happens on Facebook, for instance, nor on mailing lists, maybe because most people using those platforms don’t do that anonymously. Ha, anonymity!

So, here’s my take again. First, what’s subjectivity? According to a dictionary and in this context, something subjective is something that’s ‘based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.’
I won’t argue. Maybe except if you’re a professional taster or blender, you’ll indeed be influenced by your tastes when assessing a whisky. A score isn’t anything else than a way of expressing how much you enjoyed a particular whisky and your enjoyment depends on your tastes. Case closed? Not quite…


… Because what some good people will add ad libitum is that your ‘tastes’ or ‘feelings’ cannot be consistent as they depend on a variety of factors, including time, mood, shape, location, glassware, food and so on. In other words, that Monday’s 80 points will be Thursday’s 87 points. In my opinion, that’s correct as well, even if a trained taster should be a little more accurate than that (by the way, I’ve seen a famous master blender (not from Whyte & Mackay’s!) who, after having nosed a very peaty malt whisky (around 35ppm), claimed that it was a Lowlander and no, he wasn’t evoking one of these excellent peated Bladnochs!)

Anyway, so, scores are meaningless because no taster will be consistent enough, at least not as consistent as a machine such as a mass spectrometer, right? Yes and no. There are many ways of lowering your inconsistency, no matter how experienced you are. It’s not a matter of skill, it’s simply a matter of organization. The first thing that, in my opinion, is very important is that a score should always be comparative. You cannot indeed just quaff a single whisky and claim that it’s worth 85 (why not 80? Why not 90?)  Well, you can, but by doing so you’re indeed also scoring your mood, the place where you are, the friends who are around and the pepperoni pizza that you just wolfed down.

So comparison is paramount in my opinion, even more so than ‘consistent settings’ (place, time, glassware and such). The first thing you’ll have to do in my opinion, and I find it funny that no naysayers ever talk about that, is to use ‘reference’ or ‘benchmark’ whiskies to check whether your senses are in good shape or not, to calibrate them and to readjust your ‘internal scale’ before any new tasting session. Find a few rather consistent (avoid whiskies that are subject to too much batch variation) and popular malts, score them several times and then use them as benchmarks, that is to say malts you’ll always have a few drops of before any session, for instance Laphroaig 10 for a ‘peated’ session. Of course, using Octomore at cask strength won’t quite work ;-). So, does your Laphroaig 10 taste different than usual? You’d rather score it 78 or 92 instead of the expected 85? Cancel your session, you’re not in good shape! This is a main difference between tasting and scoring wine and tasting and scoring spirits. Using benchmark wines is much harder to do, as wines change a lot and as it’s not easy to crack open a new bottle of, say Chasse Spleen 2000 every time you’re having a few cabs ;-).


So, I tell you, whether you’re a beginner or a dedicated imbiber, you’ll improve your consistency by using benchmark whiskies. That quite a few old drinkers do not believe in ‘consistency’ at all mainly comes from the fact that they were never organized enough to do that, or never thought about that, and when they criticize others, it’s in fact themselves that they bash ;-).

Now, there’s also the issue of the 100-scale. I agree it’s not perfect, and 5 stars, for instance, can be enough for some tasters (that’s why I’m using both), but I must say I do need the 100-scale for my own use. Why? Because, again, I believe in comparisons and only in comparisons. Not only comparisons with a benchmark whisky this time, also comparisons with similar whiskies. No matter your tasting abilities, if you try, say two young Macallans ex-bourbon head-to-head, you’ll almost always like one a little better, even if both are very similar. That’s where the 100-scale comes handy! 'A little better' may translate into a difference of only one point.
So to sum things up and provided you’d be willing to score your whiskies as well (and were not traumatised by your school days), I humbly think that a fairly good solution is this:

  1. Constant settings (location, glassware and such)
  2. Benchmark whiskies (sets scale, check senses, makes relations and proportions between many scores a little more accurate)
  3. Compare similar whiskies (fine tuning, nuances)

I believe that won’t make your scores any more objective, because your tastes and sometimes your emotions will always rule, but I think this wee method should make them more consistent and maybe less irrelevant both to yourself and to your friends if you’re mad enough to publish them (and are ready to take some flak!) Having said that, we’ll never be machines even we tried hard, and that’s very good news if you ask me.


Oh, one last thing and as I wrote several times before, I believe scores should always come with tasting notes that will explain why you scored The GlenWonka 100 years old only 39 points. But in all cases, everything will always remain personal opinions and the only thing we can maybe achieve is some kind of ‘fairly consistent subjectivity’. - Serge

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is very funny, it's Kayle Brecher's So Complicated that's on her 'Spy Music' album. But shhhh... please buy her records before they self-destruct... shhh...

Kayle Brecher

January 4, 2011


Tasting a bunch of Aberlour


We’ll first try two official 18s, one bottled in 2010 and the other one in 2009, and check if they’re consistent (and why not?) Then we’ll have an indie and then a recent batch of A’bunadh, I’m really behind with all these batches!

Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: aromatic and really old style, not too far from some ultra-premium blend in style. Some sherry, oranges, toffee, caramel, vanilla cake, butterscotch, malt… Develops more on leather, smoked tea, walnuts and touches of motor oil. Maybe just traces of scented soap and paraffin. Mouth: round, malty and chocolaty, with some liquorice and various cakes and pies. Pleasant mouth feel, not too thin. Again, tastes like some high-end blend in a way. Finish: medium long, a little drier, with notes of green tea. Caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a very classy whisky, very easy to quaff and truly old style in my opinion. Very nice sherry. I will keep the rating I came up with at the MM Awards 2010. SGP:441 - 86 points.

Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s different from the more recent version, rather less on fudge and toffee and a little more on motor oil and other mineral and phenolic elements. Maybe a tad more complex and ‘wide’ in style, a little less classic. It’s also rather grassier and the gap between both versions becomes wider with breathing. There’s probably less sherry in this one. Mouth: it’s definitely more complex, with more oils, phenols, smoke, herbs, mint… A bigger body too. Finish: rather long, with some cough syrup, honey and black tea. Maple syrup and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: wonderful. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Aberlour 19 yo 1990/2010 (52.9%, Signatory, Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, cask #101775, 222 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: rather typical unmasked Aberlour, bursting with garden fruits and the eaux-de-vie made thereof. Apples, plums, peaches… Also a little kirsch… It’s very fresh and it seems that the hoggie was pretty lazy, which is often great news if you’re into true distillery character. With water: notes of barley sugar come out. Raw malt. Mouth (neat): young, fresh and fruity like a 10yo Speysider of very good quality. Excellent body. Notes of marshmallows and liquorice allsorts, tinned pineapples, apricots, then a little custard and green tea that puts the whole straight. With water: becomes a little more mundane, simpler, more on sweets and apple compote. Not that I have anything against apple compote. Finish: medium long, clean, on sweets and barley. Comments: I really like the ‘naturalness’ of this Aberlour, it’s always interesting to be able to try whiskies that are so different from their official versions. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #30 NAS (59.8%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: A’bunadh. Okay, that wasn’t very helpful, so we have Seville oranges and milk chocolate on a bed of gunpowder and prunes. Enough said I guess. The whole is big but not overpowering at all. With water: more leather and even shoe polish on top of the gunpowder. Mouth (neat): powerful, with bags of chocolate, litres of rosehip and hawthorn teas and quite some preserved cherries. The notes of gunpowder are there again, as well as something really flinty. Ever licked stones? A lot of black pepper as well. With water: excellent half-fruity, half-leathery kind of sherry. Finish: very long, drier, with more herbs and teas. Chlorophyll chewing gum. Comments: rather extreme kind of sherry, with a great deal of gunpowder. Do you like that as much as I do? Just an impression but I feel A’bunadh is becoming a tad more anoraky, so to speak – and always excellent. SGP:552 - 88 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: warning, this won't catch you at first try but any repeated listening may get you addicted forever. It's Brian Eno's Flies (from his 2006 Plague Songs album), with compadre Robert Wyatt and some rather beautiful noisism (yes, your stereo's all right). Please buy Eno's music!


January 3, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

The year that 2010 was for little Whiskyfun and what we'll do and not do in 2011
Friends, another year is over, little Whiskyfun will be 9 in 2011 and it’s probably time to check our statistics again in this ever-changing digital whisky world.

December of 2010 was the record month so far. Globally we had roughly 105,000 unique visitors per month in 2010 (up 36.7% from 2009 – hurray!) but as always, not all were worthy visitors, as only 67.7% of the visits, for example, came from returning visitors. So in all honesty, the number of 'worthy' readers, that is to say the frequent (and most distinguished, and very cool) visitors who are mad enough to connect to WF several times a month or more is signficantly lower for sure.

At the continents’ level and now taking visits into account, not 'visitors', Europe’s and Africa’s figures are quite coherent with the global progression (+37% and 34% respectively) while Oceania and Asia are rising faster (+62% and +56%) but the Americas are rising slower (+25.5%). Europe (not only the EU) now makes for two third of WF’s numbers. Regarding countries, I would say these major visiting countries are the ones that are really booming: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Taiwan (+69%), Japan (+65%), Finland, Canada, Russia (+85%!), Australia, Poland and New Zealand. And the ‘emerging markets’ you may ask? Well they’re rising fast but the global numbers remain low. For instance, we gathered 64% more Indian visitors than in 2009, 43% more Chinese and 41% more Brazilians but those BRIC countries together still represent less than 4% of Germany alone. The figures for Muslim countries were always quite low, naturally, but they’re now dwindling fast, which may be sort of scary. Palestine -94%, Bahrain -86%, Indonesia -26%, the Emirates -12% and Pakistan -6% but bizarrely, Iran is up 65% (but we had only 220 ‘Iranian’ visitors, most foreign visitors or workers I guess.)

Lastly, some ‘smaller’ markets that are also rising fast are all Eastern European countries including the Baltic states, as well as the Far East (South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam…) Oh and I’m happy to report that we now have one visitor from San Marino, but also that sadly, the unique visitor from the Vatican that we had two years ago never came back. The ways of the Lord are impenetrable.


While I’m at it, I’ve been thinking hard about what I should change to WF. Allow comments, at last? Add Facebook or Twitter ‘I like’-type links? More or less automatically spread the news of any new post on other platforms (social, blogs, forums, you name it)? In short, open up WF and seek more traffic? Well, after having considered the possible benefits and losses related to all options, and since our figures are still rising and quite sharply so, I decided to do this: nothing.  Oh and yes, WF will remain an ad-free blog, and no, we won’t do any sorts of paid consultancy, affiliations, trips, PR, seminars, classes, tastings or anything like that in 2011. I think I won’t even change the unlikely design, nor go 'white', as in this mad world where so many people are bustling about, I’ve often noticed that one of the best strategies was ‘urgent inertia’, which has nothing to do with laziness (yeah, yeah). It’s the one I chose for 2011. Santé, keep drammin' and happy new year again! - Serge

Important PS: if you sent me one or three emails and I didn't reply, that's normal (well, no, it isn't, S.!), I have a huge backlog and I probably won't manage to answer all of them. I'm deeply sorry and I must apologize, please don't consider I'm neglecting you, it's just that things have been and will probably remain very hectic at Whiskyfun Towers. Again, I apologize profusely.



Tasting two new Abeferldy
I think my favourite Aberfeldies so far have been a 1975 by Cadenhead’s (WF91) and a recent official 1991 for LMdW (WF93, no less).

Aberfeldy 27 yo 1983/2010 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency and The Daily Dram, joint bottling, bourbon hogshead, 272 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: very floral and rather delicate, with many small notes of garden fruits and only touches of warm orange cake and cinchona. On top of that, a little candle wax and faint hints of clay or chalk. Elegantly shy so far… With water: the oak comes out a little more, which is normal, together with bags of cut grass and a little chicory. It’s very ‘natural’ malt whisky, slightly austere in my opinion. Mouth (neat): sweet and kind of young, again on a lot of garden fruits such as apples and pears as well as gooseberries. A green waxiness in the background, a little toasted oak, apple peeling, liquorice wood and then big notes of malt. Ovaltine/Ovomaltine? With water: becomes a little more complex, with more spices and more green fruits. Greengages? Finish: medium long and grassy. Comments: an interesting choice, very close to the barley so to speak. Different from both bottlers’ usually more demonstrative whiskies. SGP:261 - 86 points (43 to each bottler – kiddin’)

Aberfeldy 18 yo (54.9%, OB, Chris Anderson's Cask, 248 bottles, Bottled +/- 2010) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: more powerful than the indie and much grassier as well. Fresh walnuts, cut grass, green tea and then even more chalk and clay than in the indie. A little pear. With water: becomes very organic, even grassier and quite yeasty. Notes of ale and fresh bread. Mouth (neat): very punchy and slightly raw, on more or less the same profile as the 1983. Malt and grass plus apples. It’s not a very easy one… With water: creamier and sweeter, with notes of marshmallows and barley sugar, but it’s still grassy whisky. Finish: long, grassy and slightly peppery. Comments: a profile that’s close to the 1983, very ‘natural’ again and very grassy and malty. SGP:361 - 86 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: young French guitarist Adrien Moignard managed to capture the spirit of many jazz greats including Django. No wonder he's one of the rising stars of jazz over here. Let's listen to Blue in Green and then buy Adrien Moignard's music and go to his gigs.

Adrien Moignard

January 2, 2011


January 1, 2011


MM Wishes


Glenfarclas 1960

Tasting two 1960 Glenfarclas for the New Year
I’ve been thinking hard about which tasting notes I’d publish for the new year. I finally decided to try two 1960 Glenfarclas, for several reasons. First because I love these whiskies, second because some great friends were involved (quite some people will never understand that whisky’s all about friendship, and probably only about friendship), and third because these two bottles are quite unique, one of them being even more unique than its sibling, you’ll see why…

Glenfarclas 1960/2007 (52.4%, OB, Family Cask, cask #1767, 228 bottles) Five stars This one was within the first batch of the acclaimed Family Casks, and I thought it was so good that… I never published any tasting notes. Now’s the time. It’s ex-sherry hogshead. Colour: dark amber. Nose: sometimes sherry casks start all on coffee and chocolate, sometimes all on prunes and fruitcake, sometimes straight on winey notes and sometimes more on tobacco, mushrooms or leather. This one does all that. Then it develops on many tinier, more complex notes such as balsamic vinegar, cherry liqueur, bacon, mint, lovage, peonies, iris, cured ham (Iberico), raspberry jam… It’s truly endless but the general feeling remains very coherent, almost compact. No ‘aromatic holes’ in there! With water (just one or two drops): oh my god, it’s a ballet. Mouth (neat): wham! It’s very big, very rich and extremely concentrated but, quite curiously, not lumpish or aggressive. Big liquorice, hints of cola, dark chocolate, blackcurrants, then more resinous notes from the wood, pine sap, mint… I cannot not think of a very old Armagnac. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Only the faintest drying notes (grape pips) will prevent this baby from achieving total perfection. Finish: very long, dry, mostly on herbs, leather, mint and touches of cinnamon. Comments: swims like… wait, I think we already quoted Mark Spitz, so why not Shirley Babashoff? A wonder that’s very different from the legendary first 1965, even the opposite in style, but of the very same high quality in my opinion. SGP:572 - 95 points.

Glenfarclas 1960/2010 (45.4%, OB, Family Cask, Serge’s birthday, cask #1774, 1 bottle) Five stars This 50 years old Glenfarclas is even more special, as it’s a ‘one of one’ bottling my excellent friend Luc Timmermans presented me with for my 30th birthday. Right, 50th. I think the word ‘unique’ has never been more appropriate. Oh, and dear Glenfarclas collectors, the answer is ‘no way’. Colour: dark amber (slightly paler than cask #1767). Nose: sure we’re in the same family but this one is rather drier, more mineral and more waxy, which cannot not please this taster. It’s also a little more on the mentholated/herbal side, with also playful whiffs of dill and even chives, whiffs of old books and papers, touches of liquorice and quite some smoked ham. In the background, a little wood smoke, coffee and milk chocolate. Saying that this is perfect would be an understatement. With water: pure beauty. Less emphatic than cask #1767 but more elegant, beautifully restrained, delicate… And so complex! Mouth (neat): we aren’t far from its sibling once again but this is even more on pine sap and liquorice, bitter herbs, Smyrna raisins, then prunes and dried figs, tobacco, more liquorice… A light heaviness, does that exist? With water: more dried herbs and more tannins but it’s all under control. Superb. Finish: long, spicier. Evokes some precious woods and soft spices. Comments: frankly, it’s very great. It doesn’t need water but it takes it well. Swims like… Frenchman Benoit Lecomte who crossed the Atlantic Ocean for 73 days in 1998. SGP:462 - points: give me a break! ;-). (but I am and will remain eternally grateful to Luc and George)


MUSIC - Recommended listening: what shall we have for the New Year? Well, I thought we should have something frenzied, jazzy, worldly and simply completely irresistible, like Plunky Nikabinde's Oneness Of Juju and African Rhythms (from the eponymous album). Try to resist that for more than, say 30 seconds! But please buy the music of all of Juju's various incarnations.


December 2010 - part 2 <--- January 2011 - part 1 ---> January 2011 - part 2

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



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

Glenallachie 35 yo 'Anniversary Selection' (46.9%, Specialty Drinks, first fill sherry, 2010)

Glenallachie 39 yo 1971/2010 (51.2%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 160 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1960/2007 (52.4%, OB, Family Cask, cask #1767, 228 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1960/2010 (45.4%, OB, Family Cask, Serge’s birthday, cask #1774, 1 bottle)

Hakushu 1989/2009 (62%, OB, Sherry Butt, cask #9O 50021)

Port Ellen 27 yo 1982/2010 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, cask #2558)

Port Ellen 27 yo 1982/2010 (61,3%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, cask #2347)

Port Ellen 12 yo (62.7%, James MacArthur, pale version, +/-1985?)

Tomatin 30 yo 1975/2005 (55.5%, Whisky Wizard, cask #19174, 120 bottles)