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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2011 - Part 2

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


January 31, 2011



Tasting two old Bunnahabhain

Ah, old Bunnahabhain… I especially remember an official 1965 for Feis Ile that was superb (never took notes!) And of course the 1968 ‘Auld Acquaintance’ (never wrote notes either – will do one day!) But enough babbling, let’s try these newish 1965 and 1968. We’ll start with the 1965 because it’s lighter, both in colour and in strength.

Bunnahabhain 45 yo 1965/2010 (40.0%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill hogshead, 195 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh fruits, vanilla and white chocolate. Need I say more? Okay, butter pears, overripe apples, custard, ripe kiwis and oranges (a little). Touches of green tea. I wouldn’t say this is overly aromatic nor even complex but balance is perfect and, above all, there’s no tiredness despite the old age and the very low strength (it’s at natural cask strength as always at this excellent  bottler’s). Nice herbal notes arising after a few minutes, typical of very old malts (the well-known trio, mint, eucalyptus and camphor). Mouth: ‘some tannins’ for sure at first sips and a structure that isn’t too big. Some tea, banana skin, cinnamon… The fruitiness is well here as well, papayas, oranges… Quite some vanilla as well. The whole is a tad fragile, with kind of an unstable balance, as if this couldn’t have waited any longer in wood – which is the case anyway according to the strength. This balance is actually quite miraculous in my opinion. Finish: slightly short but yet again, balanced. Miraculously. Oranges. Comments: I think this is a perfect example of a malt that was just beyond ‘the limits’ in all senses of the expression and in that sense it’s a very interesting bottling. And it’s very good. SGP:571 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1968/2008 (41.2%, Adelphi, cask #12401/3, 719 bottles, misprint - actually bottled 2010) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: both the colour and the outturn suggest a sherry butt but it’s not a sherry monster at all, we’re even relatively close to the 1965, only with an added layer of prunes and sultanas. Now, what’s spectacular are the huge notes of liquorice and lavender that come through after a while, not talking about ‘chemical’ lavender here (perfume and such). Rather lavender sweets, in fact. All very nice, astoundingly fresh and absolutely not ‘oldish’. Curious about the palate… Mouth: some wood strike first but the spirit (and the sherry that’s ‘inside’) stand it with gusto. More sherry than in the nose, with some coffee and prunes, then a rather big maltiness (Ovaltine/Ovomaltine, chicory as well) and quite some roasted nuts and toasted bread. Little purely vinous notes, maybe touches of blackcurrants? Not even…  Finish: medium long, with the expected mint and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: with these very old malts, sherry can work like a useful crutch, so to speak. I think this one is a good example. I’d go for 88-89 points but I scored it 90 when I tried it during the MM Awards so let’s not add too much confusion. It’s very good anyway. SGP:461 - 90 points.

Oh well, why not taste the Auld Acquaintance while we’re at it? Bottles have been downed in the past at WF Towers but for mysterious reasons, no notes have ever been written.


Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB) Five stars Not to be mistaken for the 1968 at 43.5% (black label) that was excellent as well but not as stellar. Colour: amber. Nose: really a perfect, fairly delicate but quite assertive sherry, starting with some flints and touches of earth and unfolding with coffee, chocolate, prunes, raisins and many other dried fruits. What’s particularly interesting is that there are also coastal notes behind the sherry, which doesn’t happen too often. Other than that, we have also various herbs and teas and just faint touches of tar and liquorice. In short, it’s both rich and delicate and jammy and coastal.

Mouth: a good idea of perfection. An amazing punch at 43.5% and a richness that’s everything but cloying, as if the coastal notes kept lifting the whole to ‘elegant levels’ while it’s still quite massive. Well, I know what I mean. Many dried fruits, herbs, nuts and a faint saltiness. Finish: very long, balanced, fruity… Notes of strawberries. Comments: benchmark sherried whisky, full of… fullness but not heavy. When I first scored this baby in 2002, I came up with a 93-mark. I’m not far from thinking it’s rather worth 94 but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it ‘low’. After all, it’s now become an ‘old and unobtainable’ bottling. SGP:562 – 93 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding (popularized by Robert Wyatt at the time) here by Yael Naim and the French Orchestre National de Jazz. It's on the ONJ's 2009 CD called 'Around Robert Wyatt'). Please buy all these excellent people's music.


January 30, 2011



Tasting Irish peat vs. more Irish peat
I’ve already noticed that Cooley’s official Connemaras were becoming more and more to my liking with their most recent batches while it was rather the versions by Cadenhead’s that I had found truly superb in previous years. Time to try the new even peatier ‘Turf Mor’ today – Cooley’s Octomore so to speak. It was defeated by the regular Connemara CS at the MM Awards 2010 but let’s give it another chance today if you please…

Connemara 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: very sooty, smoky and ashy. I’ve read that the peat level in the malted barley was of just 20ppm (so less than Talisker, for instance) but this smells much peatier than that, as if much less phenols were lost during distillation than in Scotland. Big notes of shoe polish, grass and flints as well as well as a little liquorice and aniseed. It’s very punchy whisky. Also slightly medicinal and a bit acrid. With water: garden bonfire. Smoke and grass. Mouth (neat): straight on white fruits and ashes. Quite sweet. Some almond oil and a little lemon. Gets then even smokier. Cigar ashes. With water: very good now, with more complexity, more earthy and leafy notes, roots, gentian, grapefruits, pepper… Finish: very long, with some soot and smoke back in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s an excellent batch. Sure it’s a tad youngish and we’re missing the more coastal notes that are to be found on Islay (yes, even when the whisky’s entirely matured on the mainland) but other than that, it’s all quite perfect. Soon at ‘85’, methinks. SGP:367 - 83 points.

Connemara 'Turf Mor' (58.2%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Two stars and a half More or less thrice the amount of peat in this one if I’m not mistaken. Colour: white wine. Nose: maybe it’s me, but I don’t find this is much peatier than the regular Connemara at first nosing, quite the opposite in fact, but the latter was very smoky so... There’s rather more fresh fruits (pears, cherries) and less of these sooty/smoky notes. It’s only after a few minutes that a bigger smokiness emerges, more or less on exhaust fumes and hints of black truffles, which I love. With water: becomes very farmy, much more so than its bro. Whiffs of manure that sort of tame the smoke. Also some menthol and butter. Mouth (neat): once again, I wouldn’t say this is much smokier than the regular CS at first sipping, it’s rather very grassy and acrid. Pear drops in the background. Gets then smokier and smokier, ashy, peppery… Lots of bitter herbs. Not an easy one. With water: more compact and more on ashes and green apple peeling but I’m missing the regular Connemara’s rising complexity. This is quite simple in my opinion. Finish: medium long, ashy and slightly pearish. Ginger liqueur and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s good smoky whisky but again and again, I like the regular Connemara better. A curiosity, I’d say. SGP:377 - 79 points.

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Diamanda Galas

January 28, 2011



Three old Karuizawa, or a concerto for gunpowder and bacon
What more can be said about Karuizawa, Japan’s former hidden treasure? Probably nothing, let’s simply try a few…

Karuizawa 32 yo 1977/2010 'Noh' (60.7%, Number One Drinks, cask #4592, Sherry Butt, 190 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: what strikes me first is this unusual combination of metallic and meaty notes with wheelbarrows of gunpowder and peppercorn. Truly peculiar, especially since it develops on even more grilled meat and ham as well as… exhaust pipes? Sounds weird but it isn’t, it’s all very beautiful. With water: oooh yes! Water makes wonders, it became fantastic, roasted, chocolaty, herbal, sappy, minty, camphory, mushroomy (not musty)… In short, wonderful. If you don’t add water to this kind of whisky you’ll just miss 80% of the aromas. Mouth (neat): hot and fruity. A bit difficult for that matter, you do not want to anaesthetize your palate before diner, do you? With water: it’s definitely rich, not exactly fruity in fact, rather kind of resinous and slightly leathery. The oak becomes louder as well, with spices starting to appear to the surface. Cloves, pepper, even mustard (not wasabi!) Finish: very long, peppery, dry, maybe just a tad drying but nothing serious, it’s even something that sort of cleans your palate. Comments: the bad side of this is that there isn’t much surprise. It’s brilliant old whisky. SGP:371 - 91 points.

Karuizawa 31 yo 1977/2009 'Wait La Mazurka' (62.7%, The Nectar, Daily Dram) Five stars The name of this crazy bottling is simply an anagram of ‘Karuizawa Malt’. After extensive researches, it seems that Chopin never tried Karuizawa and that he used to prefer Slivovitz anyway. Colour: amber. Nose: less extreme than cask #4592 but there’s a lot of gunpowder again, some leather, peach and cherry leaves, flints, ink… Some meat as well, pemmican, bacon… Starts to resemble cask #4592 after a moment, though, becoming almost identical despite the very different colours (so, it can’t be the same cask, can it!) With water: same development as with its sibling, only a tad more inky and metallic. Also a tad more chocolaty. Very same very high quality in any case. Mouth (neat): extremely close to cask #4592, maybe just a tad creamier and jammier… but severely hot and powerful. So, with water: yes, very similar. Maybe a little more oranges? Finish: ditto. Comments: ditto. SGP:471 - 91 points.

Karuizawa 1975/2010 (61.8%, OB for LMDW, cask #6736, Imported by LMDW) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: the very same family again but this seems to be rounder and smoother, with less gunpowder this time, less leather and less meat. Instead, we have more figs and dates, apricot jam, chocolate, kirsch… And yeah, more gunpowder coming through after a few seconds albeit not in such great amounts. With water: yes, it’s probably the Scotchest of them all. Dried fruits, figs, kumquats, jams, bergamots, orange cake, sandalwood, spearmint and just touches of parsley and old balsamic vinegar. Beautiful. Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling as with the nose, this is a tad less powerful and much creamier and fruitier than the 1977s but don’t get me wrong, it’s still a powerful monster (a kaiju?) that needs water. With water: ah yes, this extra-fruitiness makes it a tad sexier than the 1977s and probably a little easier too. Marmalade, pepper, mango chutney and bags of cinnamon. Finish: extremely long, mostly on fresh green pepper, which comes as a surprise. But I must confess I love green pepper! Comments: fab. Japanese(I hope that isn't plain stupid or offensive!) SGP:561 - 92 points.


Okay, tasting old Karuizawas is one thing, but how do they compare with more recent ones, especially young ones that were distilled not long before the distillery’s closure? Let’s see (although I know it’s always best to try younger whiskies before the old ones, but this is spontaneous and bizarrely, Karuizawa’s strengths aren’t getting any lower when they age…)

Karuizawa 13 yo 1997/2010 (60.2%, OB, Spirit Safe, Whisky Mag Japan and OXFAM, cask #3312) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: guess what, this isn’t that different from the oldies and the huge notes of gunpowder and leather are here yet again, together with quite some almond oil and barley water. Also a lot of graphite oil and grass. Once again, the high strength may block it, let’s add water right away. With water: much more depth and a huge farminess, even after fifteen minutes (no simple saponification). Many herbs and grasses, hay, grains, roots and a little fresh mint. Very fresh. Mouth (neat): big fruitiness, a lot of vanilla, ginger and honey and a creaminess that reminds me of some youngish Yamazakis at cask strength. It’s a rich dram. With water: excellent modern-style whisky, sweet and softly spicy. Corn syrup, ginger, marzipan and vanilla. Finish: long, becoming more peppery. Acacia honey and paprika? Comments: interestingly, I think this young Karuizawa is much more in line with the popular unpeated malts by Suntory and Nikka than the older Karuizawas. Technically perfect. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Karuizawa 19 yo 1991/2010 (60.8%, OB, Spirit Safe, Whisky Mag Japan and OXFAM, cask #3206) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: a sherryness that’s quite vivid but there’s the same flintiness in the background. Some pepper, lamp oil, whiffs of pencil shavings, leather, gunpowder, grass and a faint farminess. Seems to be very nice but again, only water will determine the outcome at such high strength. With water: quite beautiful and kind of oriental ala mizunara cask. Some sandalwood and incense then more custard and notes of dairy cream. Some ginger and flints as well. The sherryness is gone, maybe I was dreaming. Mouth (neat): very rich, very big, very oily and very ‘modern’ profile. Barley sugar, vanilla, honey and ginger. With water: we aren’t very far from the 1997 but this is more complex, spicier and even slightly peaty/peppery, but I’m not sure there’s peat in there. Probably not. Ayway, this is much to my liking. Finish: long, creamy, sweet and spicy somewhat like a Thai dish, or is it my mind wandering off again? Comments: another one that’s technically perfect in my opinion. I don’t know if both casks were representative of Karuizawa’s recent output or if they’re simply carefully selected one-off casks, but what appears to me is that the distillery’s owners were really caring about the wood they were using. In short, Japanese quality. SGP:551 - 87 points.

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David Murray

January 27, 2011



Tasting another two 1981 Lochside

There’s a sudden burst of new 1981 Lochsides since one or two years and that’s very great news of course. The Springbank of the East is sadly missed these days…

Lochside 22 yo 1981/2003 (59%, Cadenhead, sherry hogshead, 276 bottles) Five stars I already tried this one and loved it – but never took any notes. Now’s the time. Colour: straw. Nose: oh yes, it’s one of these citrusy Lochsides, all on grapefruits and tangerines. A crisp, crystal-clean profile without any obvious sherry influence, which is great news in this context. Very faintly cardboardy as well but that should vanish with water… And some paraffin. With water: same profile, just less powerful. Perfect citrusy combo. Mouth (neat): exactly. Lemon and orange liqueur with touches of ginger and cinchona. Perfectly Lochside but also a tad too hot for this taster. Cough, cough... With water: perfect. Lemon and orange juices plus touches of mango and lemon balm and a little pepper and ginger. A kind of tropical cocktail? Finish: long, precise, citrusy, nervous… A white Sancerre? Comments: okay, maybe it’s not the most complex malt whisky ever but the profile is perfect. Maybe we should enquire about the yeasts they were using at Lochside at the time. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (58.8%, Whisky-Doris, fino sherry butt, cask #960) Five stars A fino cask, that should be interesting! Colour: gold. Nose: very different from the Cadenhead’s, much farmier, vegetal and rather leathery. Touches of sulphur (close to truffles here, also a little gas), cooked asparagus and roasted chestnuts. Quite some menthol in the background as well as a little grapefruit that reminds us that this is Lochside. What’s quite amazing is how it gets then much crisper and more lemony while the sulphur disappears - completely. Was I dreaming? With water: I was dreaming. Typical Lochside now, well in the style of the Cadenhead’s, with a very, very discreet fino character (walnuts). Mouth (neat): perfect ‘Lochsideness’ in a thin gangue of honey and smoky praline – or something like that. Very powerful, needs water or it’ll burn your throat. With water: again, we’re extremely close to the Cadenhead’s even if this is a tad richer. Probably the seven extra-years of maturation. Finish: long, citrusy, with a sudden saltiness in the aftertaste. Notes of ginger and orangettes (strip of crystallised orange zest covered with chocolate – that’s good!) Comments: quite a rollercoaster, this Lochside! Excellent and entertaining. SGP:551 - 90 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some excellent classic British folk with Pentangle's John Renbourn and his Buffalo skinners (from Will the Circle Be Unbroken, 1995). Please buy John Renbourn's music!

John Renbourn

January 26, 2011



Tasting three 1998 Laphroaig plus three modified ones

Laphroaig 1998/2010 (46%, Berry Bros, Boisdale, Hogshead, cask #700217, 380 bottles) Our 201st Laphroaig tasted on WF. Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: textbook young Laphroaig, fresh and coastal, with a rather intense peatiness. Oysters, almond oil, seaweed, soot and peat smoke. Mouth: sweet attack, ashy, with some fresh walnuts, brine and lemon. Becomes saltier after that, really briny, with touches and candy sugar and cider apples. Big smoke. Finish: long, ashy and salty. Comments: all the markers are near the max despite the relatively low strength. Simple but much to my liking. SGP:358 - 86 points.

Laphroaig 12 yo 1998/2010 (57.4%, Riverstown for The Vintage House London, Refill Hog, 69 bottles, cask #7139) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: austere, grassier than the Boisdale. Lamp oil, rocks, iodine, lemon peel and touches of camphor. With water: some cane sugar coming out, more soot, more ashes and more tar. Mouth (neat): sweeter than others, lemony, rooty. Green apples and lime. Quite sharp and ‘pointed’. Very medicinal as well. With water: easier, fruity, slightly bubblegummy. Finish: long, saltier. Very ashy aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s simple but very good. SGP:268 - 85 points.

Laphroaig 12 yo 1998/2010 (59,4%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, cask #700295) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, classic Laphroaig, this one being a tad more buttery and ‘fat’ on the nose. Touches of diesel oil. With water: same. Nice fattiness an a slightly higher complexity. A little closer to the barley as well, porridge… Mouth (neat): once again, as lightly sweeter and fruitier version. Lemon pie. A little curry and mustard as well. Salt. With water: sweeter and rounder. Finish: long, peaty, sweet. Comments: a young Laphroaig that’s a tad more ‘Ardbeg’ in my opinion. We haven’t anything against that. SGP:457 - 86 points.

Frankly, all these young Laphroaigs are great. Some are a little sweeter and some are a little ashier but the big peatiness may erase the nuances a bit in my opinion and unless one comes across a sherried version, they’re all in the same league...

Laphroaig Diego

... Or maybe some kind of ‘modification’ (read finishing) will create more diversity? Like our friend Diego Sandrin’s latest experiments? Time to try them, as last year’s ‘Raboso’ version was more than great in my book (WF93). They’re all based on the official 10yo CS ‘red stripe’...

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Carmenere’ (55.7%, Diego Sandrin, private, 1 year Carmenere finish, 25 bottles) Four stars and a half Carmenere used to be part of Bordeaux’ grape varieties but the Pylloxera destroyed all vines. There’s a lot of carmenere in Chile these days, as well as in the north of Italy (where people used to think it was cabernet franc until quite recently, according to Wikipedia.) Colour: amber. Nose: it’s as if the finishing added some farmy notes to the spirit, making it less ‘coastal’ and rather smokier as well. Think a blend of heavily smoked lapsang souchong with cherry stem tea. Interesting! With water: nice! Some leather emerging, tobacco, flints, pitch, seaweed and apple peeling. Water tamed it. Mouth (neat): exactly what one would expect from a red-wine finished Laphroaig. It’s not berry-ish at all, nor overly vinous, but there are notes of cherries and blackcurrants that are just a tad over the top in my opinion. Just a tad… With water: we’re back on tracks. Liquorice, ashes, bitter apples and a little brine. Hints of olive oil (Italian? ;-)) Finish: long, clean, with touches of green pepper in the aftertaste. Agaves. Comments: not ‘always’ of the highest order in my opinion because of the wine’s sudden apparitions but quality is high. SGP:367 - 88 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Lancellotta’ (55.7%, Diego Sandrin, private, 1 year Lancellotta finish, 25 bottles) Five stars Lancellotta is a rare old variety, typically Italian. It’s said to be rich and deep but I must confess I never tried pure Lancellotta. Tell me a bout a wine lover. Colour: amber. Nose: this one is very different, much more on cake and vanilla, also with more medicinal notes. Kind of more civilised, so to speak. Nice notes of green tea as well, wormwood... With water: more mint, faint mouldiness, banana skin… Very interesting. Mouth (neat): ho-ho! This is more complex than the carmenere, earthier and more herbal, with many tiny notes of aniseed, mint, gentian… And wormwood again. Also quite some orange marmalade. This one works very well! With water: in the same vein. Really excellent. Finish: long and nervous, playful. Bitter oranges and various herbal teas. A pleasant sourness in the aftertaste. Comments: surprisingly good and really entertaining. SGP:468 - 92 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Raboso 2’ (55.7%, Diego Sandrin, private, 1 year Raboso finish, 25 bottles) Five stars Raboso is a typical Venetian grape variety. As I wrote, last year’s experiment was fab so we have deep hopes here… Colour: amber. Nose: this one is a tad less expressive than the other ones but also a little more elegant, in a certain way. It’s also the one that’s closest to the original 10yo CS. Great notes of bitter oranges and something such as… woodruff? With water: water almost erased the finishing here, which is very funny. We’re close to the original Laphroaig 10 CS. Mouth (neat): we’re more or less in the same style as the Lancellotta even if this one’s a tad rougher this time, and more vinous. A little spicier as well (pepper). With water: same comments although this one improved with water. I think should have tried it before the very excellent Lancellotta. Finish: long, quite grassy and faintly acrid, which is no problem here. Ashy aftertaste. Comments: excellent, but my votes go to the Lancellotta! Now I have to find some pure Lancellotta wine… SGP:368 - 90 points.

All three were excellent and I really like both the idea and the results of these ‘modifications’ of a classic malt whisky (which I think isn’t quite the same thing as what the Scots do with their own ‘official’ finishings). Diego reminds me of these small Swiss watchmakers who buy well-known high-quality works and add one or two complications to them. Very short series, high praise!

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: close your eyes, relax and listen to Iraqian oud player Rahim AlHaj's fascinating Second Baghdad (that's on his Oud & Sadaga Quartet record). Please buy Rahim AlHaj's music!

Rahim AlHaj

January 25, 2011


Tasting two Highland Park au naturel

There’s a new official HP for travel retail, a no-age-statement version named ‘Leif Eriksson’, all from ex-American oak (bourbon and sherry). We haven’t got any pictures yet but let’s try this new generation of NAS ‘branded’ HP…


Highland Park 'Leif Eriksson' (40%, OB, travel retail, 2011) Three stars and a half Price: €60. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re rather more in Speyside than on Orkney at this point, with notes of blood oranges, orange blossom water and fresh garden fruits (mostly pears and gooseberries). Develops more on marshmallows (newly opened pack) and ripe peaches, with only whiffs of wood smoke and a very, very distant smokiness. And, maybe, a little sea air – or maybe not. Some porridge. Rather lighter than the usual HP, reminding me more or something such as, say a blend of young Imperial and Miltonduff (and why not?). Mouth: sweet, soft, light and rather delicate, almost whispering, which is really unusual with HP. Some barley sugar, cornflakes, apple juice, touches of honey and vanilla and then a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Takes off after quite a few seconds, becoming pleasantly citrusy and honeyed at the same time. Faint smokiness. Finish: medium long, rather malty. Candy sugar and vanilla. Comments: we aren’t used to official HPs that do not display the faintest notes of sherry, but there is something of the regular 12 here indeed. The whole works pretty well despite the low strength in my opinion. SGP:442 - 84 points.

It’s not easy to find a sparring partner that may be sort of similar. I’ve got plenty of sherried HPs on my shelves but those won’t work I guess… Wait, why not this unusual baby?


Highland Park 17 yo 1974/1991 (54.4%, Turatello) Four stars and a half This was bottled by G&M for Turatello in Italy. The colour is even lighter than the Eriksson’s. Colour: white wine. Nose: bingo! We aren’t too far from the Eriksson here, although this has more presence, more wax, more minerality and more smoke. The rest is quite similar, especially the notes of garden fruits, pears, gooseberries… Great greenness as well (lime, grass). With water: as if we had lit a garden bonfire. Burning hay, grass, leaves and hints of motor oil on top of all that. A phenolic ‘naked’ HP.

Mouth (neat): punchy and very citrusy, with also quite some kirsch and orange marmalade. Same kind of mineral notes as in the nose, lemon, oils, pepper… Touches of chilli. Very nice sharpness. With water: more sweetness, candy sugar, even some sultanas. Some liquorice as well, herbal sweets (Ricola!) and just touches of aniseed. Finish: long, lemony and peppery, with a half-sweet, half-peppery/smoky aftertaste. The peat is quite obvious now. Comments: a very excellent ‘natural’ HP, with no more sherry than in the Eriksson. More oomph for sure – not sure the new Eriksson wouldn’t have fetched a similar score, had it been bottled at 46%+. SGP:453 - 88 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: simply Jorma Kaukonen's wonderful I am the light of this world (Rev. Gary Davis, from the legendary 1974 album Quah). Please buy Jorma Kaukonen's music.


January 24, 2011

New Whiskyfun’s Conjugal Whisky Translator
More than 30 years of experience brought to you – guaranteed without one single joke about Brad Peat. Works with males and females.
Not many marriages survive a passion for whisky, that’s why we’re working on a brand new app for the iPhone that’ll both translate anything your better half will tell you about whisky and help you decode any claims or answers in a flash so that you can take action (or not).
This app, called ‘The Conjugal Whisky Translator’, will be launched in April and priced at a very reasonable €149.99. Juts to give you an idea of it’s usefulness, this fully working dummy will teach you how to decipher 15 of the most crucial marital whisky situations… before it’s too late! (and many thanks for your help, Davin!)
Conjugal translator


Tasting two 1966 Tomintoul

My favourite Tomintoul ever was a 1966 by Douglas Laing (Platinum, 201 bottles, WF93) so I have deep expectations and hopes here.

Tomintoul 1966/2007 (41.5%, MacKillop's Choice, sherry) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a fresh and fruity old Tomintoul, with quite some vanilla, tea, ripe bananas, pineapples, tangerines and then more putty and marzipan, even a little pine sap. As often with these very old whiskies, there’s also some mint and touches of camphor and eucalyptus soon to arise, also a little varnish and wax polish (like in some oldish rums). Finally whiffs of green tea and a little shoe polish, let’s only hope this baby won’t be too dry and oaky on the palate… Mouth: a rather amazing punch at 40yo and 41% ABV, to the point where I’m wondering if the ABV wasn’t misprinted. Great fruitiness too (oranges, bananas, grapefruits) and a development on sweets, jellybeans and marshmallows – at 40yo! Quite a surprise. Too bad there’s also something slightly sour and stale at the same time in the background… Industrial white beer? Also a ‘funny’ fruitiness, hard to describe. Burnt fruits? Tamarind? A bit weird but not ‘bad’, just unusual. Finish: medium long, a little cooked. Fruitcake. Herbs in the aftertaste (thyme?) and something metallic. Comments: very nice nose and very nice attack on the palate but it all gets a little strange after that. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Tomintoul 44 yo 1966/2010 (49.1%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, sherry cask #5261) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s a very chocolaty and flinty kind of sherry monster at first nosing, with quite some leather and struck matches as well as the same whiffs of menthol and eucalyptus as in the MacKillop. Goes on with more leather, mushrooms, soot, cast iron (brand new casserole), ashes (as if there was a little peat), smoked tea and herbal liqueurs (close to menthol in fact). The struck matches have disappeared after only ten seconds. A great nose but the palate will tell us more… (while the nose got more on prunes and Corinthian raisins). Mouth: heavy, heavy sherry but with a certain lightness – does that make any sense? Some kirsch, prunes in Armagnac, more prunes, coffee liqueur, more prunes, raisins and then more prunes. In the background, notes of orange squash that keep the whole relatively elegant if not subtle. Wee notes of raki/ouzo. Did I mention prunes? Good mouth feel, not too heavy. No gamey and/or sulphury notes. Finish: long, with a little more chocolate on top of the… prunes. Comments: a very excellent sherry monster that cannot not make us think of some old Glenfarclas in my opinion. Oops, forgot to try it with water. SGP:562 - 92 points. (and thank you Herbert)

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: sadly, I don't know exactly where and when the magical couple Carla and Steve recorded this live version of Lawns but as expected, it's 'achingly beautiful'. Please buy all of Carla Bley and Steve Swallow's music.

Bley Swallow

January 23, 2011


Glen Elgin 12

Tasting old and recent 12yo Glen Elgin

Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB, +/- 1985) Three stars and a half With the White Horse on the label. Colour: gold. Nose: wonderful at first nosing, phenolic and resinous, with also some meaty notes and quite some soot and a little metal polish. Very old style. Becomes more mushroomy after a while, slightly mouldy and certainly earthy. Some smoked tea, camphor, hessian, wax polish… It’s all very complex and quite close to earlier versions from the 1970s as far as I can remember (right, I have my old notes). Mouth: excellent attack, really big, very peppery, smoky and much drier than expected. Some tar and liquorice wood, soft chilli, something like mustard, bitter caramel, very dry herbal teas (thyme) and even something that I almost never get in whisky: garlic. Not kidding (no I haven’t been eating garlic for days). Finish: rather long, dry, smoky… Also ashes and wax. It’s only in the aftertaste that something sweeter appears. Apple juice? Oranges? Comments: huge personality. Maybe it’s not ‘classically good’ but very interesting it is. SGP:272 – 83 points.

Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: some parts are similar to the older version (green tea and a slight earthiness) whilst some others are more modern. Maltier and rather more on coffee, nuts, brioche and vanilla cake. Starts to converge more and more, with more smoked ham, mushrooms, moss, soot… And unexpected hints of capsicum and bitter almonds. Let’s see if the palates are in line or not. Mouth: much sweeter than the oldie, closer to the grain as well and maybe a tad papery. Notes of coffee beans, white bread, caramel (Guinness), malt… gets then drier again. Green coffee? Finish: medium long, dry, slightly acrid, with some dry pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s a very honest but rather difficult whisky, very dry. The recent 16yo at cask strength is much more to my liking. SGP:371 - 78 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: guess what's Elevator music according to the rather Ornettian and very great German blower Silke Eberhard... Please buy Silke Eberhard's music!

Silke Eberhard

January 21, 2011


Old bag tasting, six old young malts and one miracle

As you know, I prefer to compare similar whiskies within a single session but sometimes I like to ‘kill’ a few old samples as well before they get too old. Not that sample bottles are fragile, mind you, they’re often much more airtight than ‘big’ bottles provided the caps are well in place and the samples aren’t exposed to light but still, I prefer not to keep them for years. This will be an unlikely hotchpotch, gathering only old versions of ‘light’ whiskies at 40 or 43%. Why not!

Glen Flagler

Glen Flagler (70 Pr., OB, Black & red shield label, 1970's, 1 2/3 Fl. Oz.) Two stars This is an ‘all-malt’ Scotch so probably not a single malt from the ultra-rare Glen Flagler distillery but I’m not 100% sure. Sometimes some retailers manage to sell some bottles for big money but… ahem… Colour: straw. Nose: rather raw, spirity, grainy and kind of roasted. It’s got a presence but it’s not very ‘defined’. Hints of raw pear spirit and a little rubber. Mouth: a little better, with more malt and more fruitiness, apples, oranges… Also something slightly burnt and grainy at the same time. The mouth feel is okay, it isn’t weak whisky at all. Finish: medium long, malty, with just hints of stewed fruits. Strawberries? Comments: pretty mundane, the kind of malt that used to poach on blended territories. We’ve tasted worse but I think that absolutely all malt whiskies that are issued these days are better made. SGP:331 - 72 points.


Drumguish (40%, OB, +/-1995) one star and a half This humble drink is/was made at the Speyside Distillery. It is a single malt, said to be around five years of age. There were a beige and a green versions, this is the older ‘beige’ one. Colour: straw. Nose: not too bad! Sweetened porridge and vanilla-flavoured yogurt but it gets then much waxier, in a bad way for once. It’s paraffin, actually. A lot of grass and wood alcohol (white spirit?) in the background. Mouth: okayish, pleasantly malty in the attack but gets then cardboardy and sugary, with also too much burnt bread. Finish: short and a little bitter. Caramel and honey. Comments: it’s not awful and I’m sure it would work in some cocktails if you need a little more backbone than with blends. But the Glen Flagler had more personality in my opinion. SGP:341 - 68 points.


Drumguish (40%, OB, +/-2005) This ‘green’ one is more recent, let’s see whether it improved or not. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s more ‘organic’ and farmy, closer to soaked grains and farmyard. More pear as well. Globally rougher but also a tad more ‘vigorous’ as far as aromas are concerned. It’s not unpleasant at all if you ask me. Mouth: we’re closer to the older version. Malt, candy sugar, a little rum, toast… Things get worse after a few seconds, with something such as… burnt cardboard? Finish: not short (okay, medium) but a little dirtier and even more ‘burnt’. Also spirity (and same notes of raw pear spirit). Comments: we’re in strange territories here, especially according to today’s standards. It’s not repulsive but it’s really lower shelf stuff in my opinion. SGP: 341 - 63 points.


Tobermory 8 yo (40%, OB, silkscreen, +/-1990) Four stars The old no-age-statement and the old 10 were more ‘famous’ than the 8, which I never tried before. I never quite liked those old ones, the current 10 is so much more to my liking! But let’s try this 8… Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey, this is much more to my liking than the previous ones. Much more mineral, flinty, austere, then with delicate notes of tropical fruits coming to the surface, tangerines, mangos… I can’t believe my nostrils! Oranges, wet gravel, candle wax… Did they pour some 1972 Ledaig into this vatting? That’s almost impossible but who knows? Mouth: you know what? This is so peaty that there must be some Ledaig. Too bad it’s a tad weak because of the 40% but other than that, it’s very excellent, smoky, mineral, waxy and with many citrus fruits. Oranges, grapefruits… Even a pinch of salt. Finish: medium long, more coastal, on oysters and brine. Something slightly burnt in the aftertaste, too bad. Comments: all I can say is that this is a huge surprise. Probably one of these Tobermory-labelled Ledaigs. SGP:356 - 87 points.


Tamdhu 8 yo (40%, G&M MacPhail's Collection, 1997) Two stars and a half How do I know that this was bottled in 1997? Because the code behind the label starts with ‘IG’. We had the newer version of this one in December and really liked it (WF83). Oh, another way of differentiating these 8s: the older ones mention ‘single Highland malt’ while the new ones mention ‘Speyside single malt’. Changes the world, doesn’t it? Colour: straw. Nose: unexpectedly dry and austere but with a ‘noble’ profile (wot?), both earthy and yeasty, then more mineral and slightly leathery. Same whiffs of shoe polish that I already found in the 2010 version. Globally drier. Mouth: very good attack, malty, on notes of bitter oranges, ginger tonic and Ovaltine. Becomes weaker after that, leaving more grassy and slightly cardboardy notes on your palate. Finish: rather long but very grassy and quite bitter. Comments: it had its moments but there’s absolutely no doubt about the fact that the 2010 version is much better. No, I didn’t write ‘more to my liking’. SGP:361 - 77 points.


Tormore 10yo (43%, OB, oval line on label, 70's) Five stars There were many different labels for the old Tormore 10s, this one is one of the rarest, I think it came out right after the famous white ones (Dreher and such). Let’s see if it’s as good as that one… Colour: full gold. Nose: miraculous! A fantabulous combination of rocks, waxes, soot, citrus fruits and rooty spices/herbs. Horseradish? Wasabi? Seriously, this is wonderful, assertive, sexy yet elegant and very big. Develops more on plum jam, apricots, honey… How complex! Mouth: creamy, jammy yet nervous, waxy, phenolic… Then herbs, chives, mint, liquorice, honeydew, bitter oranges… It’s amazing how big this is, at just 43% abv. Finish: very long, more on pinesap, cough syrup and just a little cane sugar. Touches of mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: ah, the old days, when 10yo whiskies were as ‘wide’ as thirty-year-olds! But this was probably much more than 10 years of age at time of bottling. SGP:553 - 90 points.

Dllasz Dhu

Dallas Dhu 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, IF, 1996) Two stars I already tried the 10 from that era but never took proper tasting notes for the 12. This one was coded ‘IF’, which should mean it was bottled in 1996. Colour: gold. Nose: typical Dallas Dhu in my opinion, that is to say waxy, grassy and sooty, with quite some lamp oil, motor oil and paraffin. Also quite some grass, tequila, green tea and green pepper. Not the most alluring malt ever but this rectitude is very interesting now that so many modern malts reek of vanilla. Exactly the opposite! Mouth: a bigger fruitiness but it isn’t very fruity malt whisky. Notes of oranges and baklava (orange blossom) but also something a tad dusty/cardboardy. Goes on with unexpected notes of cheap sweets, concentrated fruit juice, cranberry juice… Looses focus a bit. Grenadine, liquorice… Much interesting but really unusual. Finish: long for the 40%, maybe a tad indefinite, with always this strange fruitiness and even something slightly chemical. Orange powder? Comments: whacky, really whacky and totally un-modern. Probably the very last distillations as 1996-12=1984 (I’m good!) or rather 1983 (not so good) as Dallas Dhu was closed in 1983. SGP:441 - 72 points.

Seven old malts, that’s just enough – and it for today. The Tormore was a miracle and the Tobermory was close.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it's not that it's the greatest rock and roll song ever but, well, first we don't have much rock and roll on WF, then it's the legendary Pink Fairies and third it's what happens when you've had too much whisky: Seeing double. Please buy the Pink Fairies' music.

Pink Fairies

January 20, 2011




Remember we managed to get hold of the secret archives of the sadly brankrupt distillery The GlenWonka? Our latest find is this amazing project for a dazzling bottling called 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?', that was to be launched in 2011.
In an embargoed press release, famous whisky expert Angus W. Apfelstrudel had written: "After some Mongolian deep divers had discovered a very old bottle of world-famous Scotch whisky The GlenWonka on the bottom of Lake Victoria in Tanzania, we managed to get hold of 0.005cl for due analysis using both my own nasal appendix and a mass spectrometer. The rare bottle was probably owned by Dr. Livingstone and rumour has it that the famous Scottish explorer threw it into the large lake in 1871 while shouting “You won’t have this one!” after having met with Henry Stanley. According to some witnesses, the latter had asked: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume? Do you have Scotch?” Exactly 140 years later, we’re delighted to be able to celebrate this historic moment with a brand new Commemorative vatting that we carefully composed after the original sample. We believe this highly exciting new replica bottling will be a huge success among the most discerning whisky enthusiasts and the lovers of African History alike. The GlenWonka ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’ is the quintessence of everything The GlenWonka stands for, which is making the single malt scotch whiskies of tomorrow with our (glorious!) past in mind.”

The GlenWonka ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’, replica bottling limited to 16,550 bottles, 40.1% ABV, 50cl, suggested retail price: £499.99.  Early bird: the first 50 buyers will win a free mp3 of famous Tanzanian Swahili rap artist Abbas Maunda.
Tasting notes: The nose displays magnificent notes of rare alga and noble mud while the palate is delicately fishy, with only touches of fresh water shrimps and decomposed papyrus.


Glenfarclas 10

Tasting three 10yo Glenfarclas

In the ‘let’s taste more entry-level malt whiskies’ series, here are three official 10yo Glenfarclas spanning a few years.

Glenfarclas 10yo (40%, OB, +/- 2002) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: nice malty nose with hints of sherry and touches of shoe polish. Something slightly mineral in the background (wet gravel) as well as a little olive oil, coffee and candle wax. Also hints of rum and candy sugar. Very pleasant nose. Mouth: less complex and probably a little light as far the body is concerned (which is a little surprising) but the overall profile is pleasant, toffeeish and malty. Less sherry, more café latte and dried fruits. Dates and walnuts. Finish: medium long, nutty and malty, with a slight bitterness in the aftertaste – maybe caramel? Comments: a very fine nutty and malty dram, typical 80 points whisky in my book. I liked the nose rather better than the palate. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Glenfarclas 10yo (40%, OB, +/- 2007) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: rather louder on the sherry, with more winey notes, strawberry jam, fruitcake and suddenly huge whiffs of syrah. Amazing, I never found syrah in whisky (except in Hermitage finishes ;-)). Blackcurrants and something slightly metallic. Globally less delicate and complex than the older version but otherwise quite spectacular. Mouth: almost the same palate as its older brother. Maybe a little more fruit jam and honey? Finish: ditto. Comments: it’s mainly in the nose that differences are obvious but quality is very consistent in my opinion. SGP:541 - 80 points.

Glenfarclas 10yo (40%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars Colour: gold (a little darker). Nose: extremely close to the ‘+/-2007’. Same grapiness, loud and clear, plus quite some fruitcake and maybe these touches of olive oil that we already found in the ‘+/-2002’. Distant whiffs of horsesweat. Mouth: almost the same whisky as the two other ones once again. Finish: ditto. Comments: funny how the noses can be relatively different while the palates are so similar. No reason to come up with different scores, the packaging changed much more than the spirit and we don’t score packaging, do we? SGP:541 - 80 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: time for a little more Moroccan 'fusion' gnawa music with Hamid El Gnawi doing Laylaha Lla Lah (it was on his 1999 CD 'Saha Koyo'). Good Gnawa music always fuels little whiskyfun. Please, please buy Hamid El Gnawi's music...

Hamid El Gnawi

January 19, 2011



Tasting two Glenlossie

These two Glenlossie are of similar ages but other than that, they couldn’t be more different. Not the same era and not the same treatment at all (ABV, caramel, filtration…)

Glenlossie 17 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, CC, old brown label, +/-1985) Three starsThere was also a 14yo that I really liked (WF86). Colour: amber. Nose: starts rich and very cognacky, with notes of roasted nuts, quite some honey, marrons glacés (glazed chestnuts), fresh walnuts and a little leather. Leaves cognac territories after a moment and becomes more… rummy and candied. Some maple syrup too and quite some orange marmalade. Globally very aromatic and very, very ‘digestive’. Superb. Mouth: the harder they fall! The nose was truly superb but this palate is tea-ish and cardboardy, very simple, a tad bitter for a while, then a little fruitier. Hints of blood oranges but that’s pretty all. A shame because you can ‘feel’ that this baby had much to say, even after 25 years in glass. Finish: short but the hints of tangerine liqueur are very, very pleasant. Comments: we won’t argue about such an old bottling, that would be totally pointless, but I cannot not think of a missed opportunity, coz what a nose! SGP:431 - 81 points.

Glenlossie 15 yo 1993/2008 (52.6%, Exclusive Malts for GEO, cask #184, 320 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: les wham-bam than the 1968, less aromatic and much grassier, waxier and leafier, then rootier and earthier. It’s a very engaging profile if you like… err, nature. Also reminds me of some high-end green oolong tea. With water: a fruitiness comes through with some white cherries and cider apples. Also some muesli and just hints of tangerines once again. Mouth (neat): punchy and very citrusy at first sips, almost a little acidic but in a nice way. Quite some grapefruits and something like Limoncello. Lemon balm, lime juice. Crystal-cut, as they say. With water: more of the same. Finish: fairly long, fresh, citrusy and slightly grassy, with some fructose. Comments: a very fresh youngish Glenlossie, very well ‘chiselled’. Melikes. SGP:661 - 85 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: is this trance, dance, worldbeat, house, melting soul or, well, Township Funk? What's sure is that Johannesburg's Culoe De Song knows how to do it (if repetition doesn't bother you). Let's listen to his Webaba and then buy his music.

Culoe de song

January 18, 2011

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

Rum, armagnac and other aged spirits, only malternatives or more fun?

More and more single malt aficionados are starting to talk about aged rum, armagnac and even tequila, not only as occasional diversions from our good old single malts, but also as their first choice when buying a new bottle. I think this trend is here to stay and that it will rise, for three main reasons.

First, because the prices for single malt scotch are now too high. More than 70 euros for an eight-year-old single cask is too much, even when the whisky’s good. Remember that bubbles look perfectly fine just before they burst. After all, whisky’s only distilled cereal that has been matured in second-hand casks. An armagnac of equivalent age and quality will cost you less than half that money even though grapes are a lot more expensive than grain.

Second, because we need more fun, but the way single malt Scotch is marketed is generally everything but fun, unless, of course, you’re deeply into second-degree. Almost all brands use more or less the same triggers and the ‘news’ is usually as boring as an old Hongkongese karate movie. ‘We’re about to launch a precious 13 years old - we’re very excited because it’s our first 13yo ever!’ Yawn – and I’ll spare you all the ‘Our own Dr. McSchmitz pioneered the use of Liechtensteiner Sangiovese casks – or of triple-charred Ozark oak.’ Re-yawn, the Scots are beginning to talk way too much about wood in my opinion and not enough about their distillates. Making Scotch is almost becoming an oak-recycling industry! Even the furniture industry talks less about wood these days.


Third, because many whisky commentators (this very one included, most probably) are as boring as the makers. It’s not that chill filtering, the use of central warehouses, E150, sulphur, the sizes of the companies, or whether old is better than young (or conversely) aren’t important matters, but frankly, it’s all getting extremely old, boring, and terribly un-fun (guilty as charged!) Even Lady Gaga on acid would fall asleep; believe me or not, I find Dostoïewski’s complete works more gripping than some of these earnest pontifications. The commentators that are really fun are the ones who talk much more about themselves than about whisky. Man, they can be funny and it’s great news that there are quite a few of them so in love with the sound of their own voices.

I remember last year there was a debate at Whisky Live Paris between a famous master distiller (or was it blender?) and a no-less-famous spirits journalist, both comparing rum and malt whisky. It was all going smoothly until the Scottish distiller suddenly pulled a large sheet of paper out of his bag and showed us some kind of coloured graphics that were supposed to prove that Scotch was more complex than rum. The trick was so depressingly awkward that the audience could barely resist booing despite the fact that we were all whisky lovers in the room. I’m sure the majority of the audience suddenly felt a serious thirst for… rum. I, for one, went straight to Velier’s tables where some stupendous old Demeraras were available for tasting without all the affected gravity that was de rigueur at many of the official Scottish stands (the indies are usually much cooler!)

So, maybe rum is less complex (no it’s not), but rum is also more fun and certainly less pretentious. Perhaps that’s why the ‘seminal’ market for single malt whisky, Italy, –  where people used to have the choice of dozens and dozens of different official and independent single malts from 5 to 50 years of age, way before the rest of Europe including the UK had even heard of Glenfiddich –  has almost dumped malt whisky and is now gulping rum as if there was no tomorrow. Watch the Italians, they’re always ahead of their time with what they put into their mouths ;-)…

Rum Italy
Sure entry-level rums (too sweet, too cloying) and entry-level armagnacs (too grapey, too caramelised or vanilla-ed) aren’t any better than most cheapo Scotch whiskies but believe me, there are single casks or small batches out there that would put many GlenWonkas to shame.

And that’s not to mention the many superb North American whiskies (when they’re not oak infusions as well, as I may have written before,) the tequilas, brandies from Jerez, aged mescals, aged marcs or, yes, ‘serious’ small batch cognacs.

So please, Scotland, maybe it's time to consider a bit of preemptive reconquest? I think we need more fun, and perhaps a little more humility... (and no, using more second-hand rum barrels won’t do the trick). - Serge

ps: more bagpipes won’t work either.

pps: neither will more girls. Well, on second thought...



Tasting two old Banff

I’ve heard some distinguished colleagues from the MMs claiming that the 1971 by the Dead Whisky Company was their best Banff ever, which couldn’t not lead me to tasting it as soon as possible as well, as I had a sample in my library. We’ll oppose it to a marvellous Banff by AD Rattray that only won silver at the MMA 2010 but that, in my own opinion, deserved gold. You cannot always agree with your friends on everything, can you!

Banff 34 yo 1975/2010 (44.1%, A.D. Rattray, cask #3354, 250 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: a wonderful waxy and phenolic nose with many secondary and tertiary aromas. Some leather, motor grease, dried mushrooms (our beloved morels), Havana cigar, a faint gaminess, hints of flor (nose of ‘yellow’, neo-oxidative), walnuts, old papers, shoe polish, mint, Vicks… It’s all very aromatic, very rich but elegant and very complex, with something of a very old amontillado. Mouth: fantastic attack, which often happens with old malts with relatively low natural ABVs. It’s all very coherent with the nose, with quite a lot of walnut liqueur, tobacco, mushrooms, cloves, bitter oranges and green tea. Gets then more mentholated and herbal, with also a little aniseed and liquorice. Perfect mouth feel and body, rich but not assaulting. Finish: maybe less long than expected but perfectly ‘walnutty’, always with this obvious ‘taste of yellow’. Comments: it’s not one of these mustardy/spicy Banffs, maybe because the casks was very active and hid the distillate’s usual character but who cares, the end result is perfect. SGP:472 - 91 points.

Banff 37 yo 1971/2008 (53.3%, Dead Whisky Company, cask #633, 565 bottles) Five stars The gentleman who came up with the name of this series is a genius, isn’t he! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a rather rounder and fruitier version of an old Banff, smoother, with hints of old tequila and rhum agricole (a very peculiar grassiness) and an unexpected smokiness. Then we have many notes that we already had in the 1975, such as mushrooms, tobacco and eucalyptus/mint (Vicks). More and more vanilla coming through after a moment, as if this was re-racked in first fill bourbon. With water: the Banfiness (?) really comes out now. Spices, cough syrup and ‘farmyard after the rain’. I must say I find this quite perfect. Mouth (neat): sweet, rich and sharp at the same time, with bags of vanilla, lemon cream and wasabi (OK, tiny bags of wasabi). Very oily mouth feel. Notes of orange blossom honey, capsicum, a little cumin, bitter oranges, ginger liqueur… Again, it seems that some new or first fill oak has been involved at some point here. With water: perfect, creamy, fruity, grassy and spicy. In other words, it’s got almost everything. Finish: long, mentholated, peppery and honeyed. No obvious oakiness. Nice lemony notes in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m not hundred percent for these rather heavy notes of fresh American oak (but I may be dreaming here as 565 bottles from one single cask suggest a butt) and that’s why I won’t go above 90 points, but it’s a very, very solid 90. And I easily understand why some distinguished MMs would love this very special concoction. SGP:562 - 90 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a rather spectacular piece that's very '1970s revisited' by Polish jazz vocalist Urszula Dudziak. It's called Roxanna and it seems to quote everybody, from Chick to Herbie and from Jaco to Stanley. Well done, luv it! Please buy Ursula Dudziak's music.

Urszula Dudziak

January 17, 2011


Tasting two Longmorns from the 1960s. Sure bet?


As I wrote several times before, it’s always a huge dilemma for me (right, I do exaggerate) to chose between new bottlings that are more ‘useful’ but that can be a tad ‘mundane’ and not too funny to try, and old glories that can be stupendous but that are nearly impossible to find. So, the arrival of a ‘new old’ malt is always great news because that makes for a good excuse to taste a rare older bottling as a ‘sparring partner’ as will be the case today…

Longmorn 44 yo 1966/2010 (46.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for Japanese Import System, cask #612, 278 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: the colour suggests a heavy sherry monster but it isn’t at all, it’s rather an elegant and very fresh Longmorn that, indeed, displays a ‘sherryness’ but that’s otherwise all on stewed fruits, flowers and honey. Granted, there are notes of dried figs and dates as well as a little milk chocolate but again, it’s rather ethereal and beautifully so. Becomes more and more complex with a little breathing, with touches of leather, chestnuts, raspberry jam, roasted nuts, coffee and ripe blood oranges. A delicate old Longmorn. Mouth: more oomph now and an attack all on a mixture of chocolate and fruit jams. Ganache and Christmas truffles, definitely. Quite bizarrely, it’s less complex than on the nose and maybe even a little monodimensional. The oranges are back as well, that is, and the chocolaty notes never stop getting bigger. Good mouth feel, not ‘thick’ but with good presence. Finish: medium long, on jams, jams and jelly. Raspberry jam rules it. Comments: a palate that’s excellent but maybe a tad monolithic for my tastes, even with water, but a nose that’s very complex and most elegant. As often with old malts, you get two whiskies in one! SGP:741 - 87 points.

Longmorn 30 yo 1964/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #324, 150 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: what’s comparatively striking with this one is its ‘resinousness’, with whiffs of fresh putty, lamp oil, ink and waxed paper that suggest OBE arising. Also hints of lemon and grapefruit peel, a little metal polish, some camphor, maybe a little antiseptic ala old Islay and notes of wet cloth (no dogs). A little ham after a few minutes as well as smoked salmon and touches of butter. Not exactly ‘old Longmorn’ in style because of these resinous and mineral notes but still beautiful. Mouth: same feeling on the palate, with also something slightly rancid (butter?) but not repulsive at all, quite the opposite. I find the mouth feel surprisingly big and thanks to this waxiness, I could have mistaken it for an old Clynelish but this is more resinous, mineral and ‘inky’. Develops on lemon marmalade, marzipan, almond oil, lemon balm and a few wee spices such as cumin and cinnamon (just a little). As far as fruits are concerned, there are tangerines and lemons plus maybe hints of fresh hazelnuts. Too bad it tends to loose steam and drop after the rather big attack. Finish: medium long, more citrusy, with notes of high-end oolong in the aftertaste. Comments: I think this is quite a beauty but one cannot not regret that it wasn’t bottled at a higher strength back in 1994, it would have been sure 92/93-fodder, especially since its total lack of sherry flavours make it very interesting as an old Longmorn. SGP:552 - 90 points.
(thanks you Bert, thank you Angus).

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another fab guitarist, Robin Nolan, doing the standard You must believe in spring with his excellent trio. Some gipsy inspirations (it was recorded live in at Samois) but not only that... Please buy Robin Nolan's music!

Robin Nolan

January 16, 2011


Glen Scotia

Tasting one old Glen Scotia plus one
Glen Scotia 33 yo 1977/2010 (57%, A.D. Rattray, sherry hogshead, cask #985, 195 bottles) Four stars and a half This one impressed most MMs during the MM Awards 2010, and pulled almost only very high scores (88-92). Only one MM scored it a little lower (80). Colour: amber. Nose: classic fruity sherry, with an avalanche of figs, crystallised quince and dates, then touches of mint and new leather, then a little ham and guignolet or cherry brandy and finally something slightly mouldy (wet newspaper?) that’s not unusual in Glen Scotia in my opinion. With water: becomes vinous and very faintly sour. Vinagre de Jerez but also superbly camphory. Perfect rancio.

Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, fruity and spicy, with loads of dried fruits and liqueurs as well as notes of old rum. Demerara, eh! Also a drop of liquid liquorice, roasted chestnuts. With water: even more liquorice, which goes well along the fruity sherry. Finish: long, thick yet elegant, all on Christmas cake. Comments: excellent thick yet clean sherry monster, with something unexpectedly Glenfarclassy. I went for 89 when I first tried it and will stick to that, but 90 or even 91 would do as well. One of the very best Scotias I ever tried. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Another new Glen Scotia just arrived, let’s taste it as well (not alongside the DR). There are no micro-distillers in Scotch whisky as a minimum of 1,800 litre stills are obligatory to make Scotch (Loch Ewe is an exception) but there are more and more micro-bottlers. These wee octave casks come handy…


Glen Scotia 1991/2010 (51.4%, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #710416, 72 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: an interesting toasted and fairly winey nose that really resembles a wine cask. I mean, when you sniff through a bung hole (say, chardonnay in Burgundy). It’s unusual but it’s pleasant. Behind all that, notes of apples, gooseberries, bubblegum and yeast/fresh bread. Mouth: a fight between a youngish and pearish - albeit flawless – malt and some toasted wood plus vanilla and several ‘wood spices’ (cinnamon, white pepper, soft ginger). The whole isn’t really mingled together but this two-headed profile is interesting and works quite well, it’s almost as if you had just done some kind of vatting. Finish: rather long, with a faint saltiness on top of some bubblegum, which sometimes happen with Glen Scotia. A little lime and blackcurrant tea (leaves) as well. Comments: it’s got something crafty and it’s pleasant. SGP:641 - 82 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a luscious Opus In Pastels by master of precision Stan Kenton and his 18-piece orchestra. That was on Kenton's 1959 Viva Kenton LP. Please buy Stan Kenton's music.

Stan Kenton

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

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



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

Banff 34 yo 1975/2010 (44.1%, A.D. Rattray, cask #3354, 250 bottles)

Banff 37 yo 1971/2008 (53.3%, Dead Whisky Company, cask #633, 565 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB)

Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1968/2008 (41.2%, Adelphi, cask #12401/3, 719 bottles, misprint - actually bottled 2010)

Karuizawa 32 yo 1977/2010 'Noh' (60.7%, Number One Drinks, cask #4592, Sherry Butt, 190 bottles)

Karuizawa 31 yo 1977/2009 'Wait La Mazurka' (62.7%, The Nectar, Daily Dram)

Karuizawa 1975/2010 (61.8%, OB for LMDW, cask #6736, Imported by LMDW)

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Lancellotta’ (55.7%, Diego Sandrin, private, 1 year Lancellotta finish, 25 bottles)

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Raboso 2’ (55.7%, Diego Sandrin, private, 1 year Raboso finish, 25 bottles)

Lochside 22 yo 1981/2003 (59%, Cadenhead, sherry hogshead, 276 bottles)

Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (58.8%, Whisky-Doris, fino sherry butt, cask #960)

Longmorn 30 yo 1964/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #324, 150 bottles)

Tomintoul 44 yo 1966/2010 (49.1%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, sherry cask #5261)

Tormore 10yo (43%, OB, oval line on label, 70's)