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

December 2014 - part 2 <--- January 2015 - part 1 ---> January 2015 - part 2


January 14, 2015


Bunnahabhain bottled 2014,
vertically, part two

We're back after some pretty long (kind of) holidays. So let's go on with our little 'Bunnies'...

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (45.9%, Lord of the Drams, Corps Flaminea)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (45.9%, Lord of the Drams, Corps Flaminea) Four stars This one by another small Belgian bottler. It’s incredible how passionate about whisky some Belgians can be. Good people! Colour: white wine. Nose: another very orchardy one, that’s all I can say. Sweet apples, pears, gooseberries, plums, peaches, also a little honey, also hints of ripe bananas, also a little barley sugar, also drops of oranges. A few leaves and grass in the background, then a little antiseptic, as if this was an ex-peater cask. Mouth: spicier, but all the fruits are there. I won’t list them all again. Some fresh oak, white pepper, cinnamon, vanilla… Good body, good balance, alles in Ordnung. Finish: quite long, slightly more astringent, with some liquorice wood and green tea. A salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: impeccable Bunnahabhain, not always flabbergasting, but consistently… err, consistent. This is one of the better ones. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1988/2014 (50.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #4344, 193 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1988/2014 (50.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #4344, 193 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: styles aren’t dissimilar – an euphemism – but this one has got a little more of Bunnahabhain’s flowery honeyness, as well as a little more herbal teas (loud and clear lime blossom). With just a drop of water: a bit of humus and green tea. Chlorophyll? Mouth (neat): almost the same whisky as the 1989. Maybe a little more liquorice, maybe not. The saltiness is there as well. With water: all good. Green apples, then a growing feeling of honeydew (pine honey) and cough lozenges. Eucalyptus? Finish: good length, good grassiness and sappiness. More honeydew. Comments: I was rather having it at around 85 until I added water. I love honeydew, but this baby doesn’t take its mate’s crown. SGP:451 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (50.01%, Lady of the Glen, cask #2470)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (50.01%, Lady of the Glen, cask #2470) Four starsI’m serious, they really wrote ’50.01%’ on the label. How funny is that? Colour: straw. Nose: these are the limits of such an exercise, this wee Bunny is very close to its siblings yet again. Fresh garden fruits, light honey, herbal teas, tinned fruits, yellow flowers, mild grassiness, moderate earthiness, and all that. With water: same. Maybe a little menthol. Mouth (neat): almost the same whisky as the 1988, really, which was almost the same whisky as the 1989. With water: the whiskies are almost undistinguishable. Now I could try to sound smart and tell you that the 1988 rather had Red Delicious apples, while this one has Pink Lady apples (of course, the lady of the glen). How stupid would that be? Finish: medium length, fruity and grassy, with chlorophyll and other green stuff in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent again. The whiskies are great, but the set is a little boring. All my own fault of course. SGP:451 - 87 points.

And as a punishment…

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (51.1%, Highland Laird, Bartels Rawlings)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (51.1%, Highland Laird, Bartels Rawlings) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: same as above. I can’t find any differences, not even when trying to look smart. Same parcel of casks, if not the very same cask. With water: same. Or maybe is there a little more vanilla? Not too sure. Mouth (neat): same. Totally undistinguishable. With water: totally indeed. Finish: same. Once again, a grassier aftertaste. Comments: I’m feeling bad, this is great whisky, I did not want to mess it about. Great freshness, excellent fruits, perfect herbal and grassy side, good body, and balance is perfect. Very good. SGP:451 - 87 points.

I think we’ll go down to older vintages, it was about time…

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (44.7%, James MacArthur, bourbon and sherry, cask #87)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (44.7%, James MacArthur, bourbon and sherry, cask #87)Four stars and a half I remain a James MacArthur fan. Colour: gold. Nose: it certainly is more ‘tertiary’ than the others, with more polished wood, old furniture, cakes, light jams, kumquats, touches of tinned pineapples, Juicy Fruit… I also find an admirable fresh coastalness to this, not quite iodine or ‘old boats’ but yeah, a walk on the beach early on the morning. Great light and very elegant nose that reminds me of some officials that were distilled in the 1960s. No, not the heavily sherried ones, of course. Mouth: lovely old wood, like in an old Chambertin, no less. I even find black cherries, mind you. And kirsch, which is rougher, slivovitz, Swiss abricotine… so yeah, eaux-de-vie, and yet this isn’t spirity. It is oaky, but it’s great, fresh greenish oak. But watch the finish with those notes… Finish: indeed, the finish is a little tannic and drying, just like some strong unsweetened green tea, but I think that works, since it comes with notes of green bananas. Comments: lovely lovely lovely. There’s too much oak for 90, even 89, but that’ll be some big fat… SGP:551 - 88 points.

Could the Germans win again?... (don’t m… the w…)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (47.1%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill butt, 504 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (47.1%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill butt, 504 bottles) Four stars and a half Not too sure about the pink colour, but after Kilkerran’s latest, there’s pink and there’s more pink. You’re right, who cares? Colour: gold. Nose: shamelessly fragrant. Patchouli, old roses (really), pot-pourri, peonies, then old gamay (say a great old Brouilly that kept particularly well), oranges, strawberry jam, old quality barrels, mead… And yet this baby isn’t winey, but I’m starting to understand why the bottlers decided to paint it pink. Yes sherry is a white wine. Mouth: falls back into line a bit, it’s now very close to the James MacArthur. Same kind of pleasantly green oakiness, plum spirit, kirsch, fresh almonds and marzipan… Certainly stone fruits. Finish: quite long, tannic but not too tannic, maybe a little more on oranges. Quite some white pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I think these babies shouldn’t have been bottled any later, the oak really feels in the finish and the retro-olfaction’s a little problematic. But other than that, it’s all very fine. And the nose was great. Brouilly, he said… SGP:551 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Total beauty. Performer: Joseph Jarman & Marilyn Crispell. Track: John Coltrane's Dear Lord. Please visit their websites and buy their music...

January 8, 2015


The greatest rum for
Charlie Hebdo’s greatest pirates

I guess you’ve all heard the terrible news about the killing at Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday. Among the dead were four well-known cartoonists named Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski. In truth, those guys were freethinkers who were having no master and no god, an attitude that may sound a bit out of fashion these days, but which is bound to make a thundering return sooner or later if you ask me. In short, Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski were genuine fearless pirates (which killed them), that’s why I thought that instead of our usual whisky tastings or unlikely line-ups, we could toast to their memory with a genuine pirate’s drink, a very old rhum from Martinique.

Rhum des Plantations St James 1885 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s)

Rhum des Plantations St James 1885 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s) Five stars This is the first vintage rhum ever, and it’s a miracle that it survived the eruption of the Montagne Pelée in 1902, which destroyed both the city of Saint Pierre and a large part of the rhumerie Saint James. Amazingly, these bottles could still be bought at the rhumerie’s museum in the 1990s. Now I’m not sure the casks had been kept in Martinique from 1885 to the 1950s, neither do I know how old this superb baby exactly is. Colour: black coffee. Nose: utterly amazing. It’s prune juice blended with mocha, crème de cassis and cane juice at first nosing, but the cane keeps growing – so to speak – with whiffs of capers, brine, olives, lemon juice and this very special sourness that’s almost agavy. Let’s just add a little tar and liquorice and you’ve got a good picture of this beast, which remained as fresh as a daisy. Some wonderful aromas and a stunning heaviness on top of the freshness, a combination that is quite uncommon.

Mouth: hurray, no sugar! And yet this a big fat daddy, syrupy in a good way – so rather oily -, starting with a truckload of liquorice, some notes of chestnut purée, plenty of black tobacco and tea, and a touch of cassis again. Then the briny brigade comes back, with olives, agaves, some smoked ham German style, more olives, and even more olives… This dry and concentrated style is quite amazing, you just wouldn’t quaff 50cl in one go, because of the thickness. There is quite a lot of oak for sure, but everything’s under control. Amazing. Finish: long, with a little earth and salt, plus always bags and bags of liquorice. A drop of old chartreuse as the signature. Comments: here’s to you Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski, legendary pirates! And to the ship's boys who died with you. SGP:372 - 92 points.


(and grazzie mille, Luca)

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



Block Today: JAZZ for Charlie Hebdo. Performer: Norma Winstone. Track: Eulogy. Please visit her website and buy her music. And buy Charlie Hebdo if you can find it - and if they survive.

January 7, 2015


Bunnahabhain bottled 2014, vertically

It’s a fact, Bunnahabhain has become the malt that’s most bottled by the indies these days, while that rather used to be Caol Ila two or three years ago. I have to say it’s not easy to keep up, but let’s try… Oh and we’ll only have Bunnahabhain that was bottled in 2014.

Bunnahabhain 7 yo 2006/2014 (46%, Malts of Scotland, Gaja red wine hogshead, cask # MoS14010, 358 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 7 yo 2006/2014 (46%, Malts of Scotland, Gaja red wine hogshead, cask # MoS14010, 358 bottles) Three stars and a half Strange pedigree, I supposed that was a hogshead that was recoopered from some ex-Gaja barriques. Ex-Springbank? Certainly not first fill, the whisky would be much redder, especially if it was nebbiolo. Colour: salmony. Nose: it’s a peaty Bunny, and frankly, this time the red wine kind of works as far as I can tell. There are whiffs of rose-scented soap, then peonies and oranges, red peaches, and a little mulled wine, with the peat working as the spice combo. I rather like this! Mouth: funny and again, not bad at all, since balance has been found. It’s not very ‘whisky’ to tell you the truth, but I like this feeling of smoked marshmallows and oranges, as well as the ginger liqueur and the pepper that arises. Strange, but good! Finish: long, clean, still balanced, fruity and smoky, with something such as salted strawberries in the aftertaste. Comments: really a surprise, I had thought we’d start with a very ‘unlikely’ one. Seems like I rather failed. SGP:645 - 83 points.

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2003/2014 (58.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #4, sherry butt, cask #1149, 579 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2003/2014 (58.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #4, sherry butt, cask #1149, 579 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: raisins and oranges! It’s the fresh fruitiness that first comes out, then some rather unusual spicy cigars, cloves, something like these Indonesian clove cigarettes (gudang garang), then quince and pomegranates for sure, a drop of muscatel… And then massive amounts of vanilla fudge and butterscotch. I have to say I find this superb, and certainly unusual. With water: patchouli and tobacco. Turns as cloudy as milk on a bad Beijing day. Mouth (neat): extremely rich yet kind of light, certainly bubblegumy, and very grassy. Haribo’s strawberry sweets, Turkish delights, pink peppercorns, then some peat coming out, as well as a little salt. Really unusual, what kind of sherry was that? With water: spicy chocolate and raspberry jam, plus a drop of brine. Was the sherry butt sourced in… Oporto? Finish: quite long, rather on crème de cassis, ginger, chocolate and smoke. More walnuts on the aftertaste. Comments: as unusual as the 2006, and of similar quality, I’d say. I’m not sure it really likes water. SGP:653 - 83 points.

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.4%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 170 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.4%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 170 bottles) Four stars Ah, this should be more ‘natural’… And peaty. Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, it’s one of these slightly simple, yet fruity whistle-clean peaters from northern Islay. Peaches, beach sand, sea air, seashells, iodine, hay and pears. With water: quite perfect, clean peat, hay, seaweed and lemon. Mouth (neat): sweet peat, zesty, lemony, clean and concise. Very simple and very good. More peaty pepper after a few minutes – does that exist? A blade. With water: perfect balance between the lemon, the smoke, the brine and… well, that’s all but that’s already more than enough. Finish: quite long, very clean, on the same notes. Comments: gotta love this. These 1997 ‘moines’ are starting to bear the right age – and a resemblance to their closest neighbour C.I. SGP:456 - 87 points.

Another sixteen please…

Bunnahabhain 16 yo (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2014)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2014) Four stars and a half This un-vintaged baby might well be another 1997… Colour: straw. Nose: right-o, it’s the 1997, only with much more vanilla, fudge, butterscotch and white chocolate. The cask was much more active, obviously, or it’s even seen some newish US oak pretty recently. I think this works extremely well, because you’ve got both the cleanliness and the sexier vanilla. With water: the spirit wins, the vanilla’s been brought down, hurray! I even find wee hints of freshly cooked langoustines. Not kidding. Mouth (neat): impeccable zesty sharpy lemony sweet vanilla-ed peatiness. Not much to add, this is perfect, just a little, cough, cough, strong (S., you sissy!) With water: hi-def peater. Simple yet total pleasures. Finish: long zesty clean lemony briny peat. Comments: it seems that these ‘moines’ are currently losing their slightly ‘dull’ pearish fruitiness. It was worth the wait. SGP:456 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 1991/2014 'Oysters with Lemon Pearls' (46%, Wemyss malts, hogshead, 265 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1991/2014 'Oysters with Lemon Pearls' (46%, Wemyss malts, hogshead, 265 bottles) Four stars Another Bunny by Wemyss… Colour: straw. Nose: a little older, a little smoother, with a little more fruits (pineapple and oranges), a touch of coconut and barley water, then some clean grapefruits and apples, and a milder, easier, slightly more complex peatiness. A discreeter peatiness, that is. As for the oysters, I protest, that’s rather whelks. Jo-king. Mouth: so good, so clean, so quaffable, so pure, so easy… And they were right, that would be oysters with lemon pearls. And a dash of black pepper. Finish: long, even more lemony. Zing! Comments: there, you have your muscadet at high strength to drink with your oysters! Seriously, this works extremely well, it’s in the same league as that ‘Seaweeds on the Rocks’ by Wemyss that we tried last year. Same batch, same purity. SGP:352 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1990/2014 (48.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 190 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1990/2014 (48.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 190 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this is completely different. Very little peat this time, and rather a very delicate and complex flowery side, some acacia honey, plus aniseed, fennel and wormwood, plus damp earth and beach sand after a heavy shower. On Islay. Beautiful and kind of feminine. I’m sorry, ladies… Mouth: there certainly is a little smoke, and perhaps a little too much caramel/fudge (the feeling of Werther’s Originals is a bit too big for my taste), but other than that, we have a typical honeyed and orchardy Bunnahabhain, the style that’s the closest to that of most OBs. Not talking about the NAS oak-doped ones of course. Bakes apples, poached apples, honey and caramel sauce. A faint bitterness in the background, but that’s all right. Finish: of medium length, a little more tea-ish and green. Loses points now. Comments: very good, in my opinion, but the finish has got a little too much bitter oak. On the other hand, the spot was tricky after the peaters, so, kudos. SGP:541 - 85 points.

Break! But we’ll have more tomorrow…

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the Mingus Big Band. Track: a joyful and powerful Moanin'. Please visit their website and buy their music...

January 6, 2015


A hotchpotch of Glen Grant

A few Glen Grants can’t do any harm. Let’s start with a little aperitif, as we often do…

Glen Grant 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1980)

Glen Grant 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1980) It’s one the old square bottles. Colour: pale gold. Nose: dry and light, with a little cardboard and burnt wood, then overripe apples aplenty. Something slightly metallic, maybe something musty as well… And very faint whiffs of stale turpentine, or something like that. Largely uninspiring. Mouth: a little flat again, starting with quite some mint and other spicy herbs, some dried tea, a little leather, and that’s more or less all. Not much development I’m afraid, we’re far from a glorious old bottle. Weak body. Finish: short and flat. Comments: either it’s partly gone, or it was like this when it was bottled, which I doubt. Some parts remain ‘okay’. SGP:341 - 65 points.

While we’re having old ones…

Glen Grant 10 yo (70° proof, OB, Moray Bonding, 1950s)

Glen Grant 10 yo (70° proof, OB, Moray Bonding, 1950s) Three stars A genuine antique, as this tall round baby had been bought in 1957 according to a handwritten mention on the label. A beautiful bottle! Colour: gold. Nose: the good side of Old Bottle Effect. I mean, its greatest side. Plenty of old waxes and oils, old books and other papers, old leather jacket, then rather beeswax, wax polish, hints of overripe bananas, quince juice, a whole bag of figs… The exact opposite of the 12 years old, I’m afraid. More old-style cough syrup after ten minutes, a touch of plasticine… Mouth: a wee bit drier, so a little less sexy than on the nose, and perhaps a little drying (pepper and black tea), but other than that the waxy and raisiny fruitiness is lovely. It’s all revolving around dried raisins, figs and dates. Good body after eighty years in glass. Finish: a little too drying, with some sawdust and more pepper. Some other parts remain lovely, such as notes of tarte tatin and quinces again. Comments: often the same story with very old bottles, a great nose and a palate that got a little too dry and flat. Flattish. It’s all time-barred anyway. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (44%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3496, 143 bottles)

Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (44%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3496, 143 bottles) Four stars and a half We’ve already tried a good dozen 1970s by Duncan Taylor, those used to be very fairly priced and pretty excellent. Not great, but excellent.  Colour: gold. Nose: typical slightly mouldy beehivy notes, with some warm pinewood, beeswax, honey, pollen and all that, plus overripe apples, croissants and other buttery pastries, then rather fresh oranges. It’s perfect fresh and complex nose, an ode to ageing. Mouth: excellent again, with a mild spiciness (cinnamon, white pepper), then plenty of oranges, both regular and bitter, honey sauce, lemon balm, then more liquorice, grass and hay. Finish: quite long but a little drying again. A lot of cinnamon, black tea and nutmeg. Pinesap in the aftertaste. Comments: those used to be bargains, you could buy them for a song and a dance. They’ve multiplied the prices by ten since back then. SGP:451 - 88 points.

Let’s try a stronger one…

Glen Grant 22 yo 1992/2014 (57.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #35936, 222 bottles)

Glen Grant 22 yo 1992/2014 (57.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #35936, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical modern Glen Grant with bags and bags of apples and a few pears, then gooseberries, then peaches, all that being covered with a little barley water and sugarcane syrup. Very average malt whisky, in the best sense of the word ‘average’. With water: more of all that with an added freshness. How could anyone be against this? Whiffs of dough and flowers. Mouth (neat): sweet, big, very orchardy again, and punchy as well. Young calvados plus apple and pear juice, some barley syrup and some honey. It's simple, but it's perfect. Maybe a hint of Irishness, pure pot still style. With water: perfect sweet maltiness. Some cask! Finish: not too long but clean, fruity, sweet, and perfectly balanced. Comments: a tad more complexity could have made this baby fetch 90 in my little book. Great spirit. SGP:541 - 88 points.

Glen Grant 40 yo 1972/2012 (51.6%, Maltbarn, sherry)

Glen Grant 40 yo 1972/2012 (51.6%, Maltbarn, sherry) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: there, this is it. This series is famous for its perfect honeyed notes, the very elegant dried fruits and the marvellous floral side. Mead, acacia honey, figs, dandelions, wax polish, mirabelles, apricots, bergamottes de Nancy (lovely bergamot flavoured sweets), then rather cinnamon cake and custard, zwetschke pie... How superb! With water: more of all that, with something slightly resinous/sappy. Hashish? Mouth (neat): perfect fresh and 'nervous' fruits, apples, oranges, quinces, plums... Then some crystallised angelica, more bergamots, raisins, and of course, a lot of honey. Some white pepper and cinnamon from the oak start to make it a little bitterer after one minute, but that's an asset. Also rosehip and honeysuckle teas. With water: little change. Not that we needed any. Finish: quite long, maybe a little drier and more cardboardy, and a wee tad too earthy and tannic, but hey, it's 40 years old. Comments: it lost one or two points during the finish, but it remains a great, very typical 1972 Glen Grant. SGP:551 - 91 points.

(Thanks a bunch Konstantin, Phil and Simon)

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Don Byron. Track: Fencewalk. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 5, 2015


Time Warp Session,
Balmenach 44 years later

These sessions are always fun to do, and sometimes quite revealing in spite of the fact that bottle ageing, for example, may have altered the older one – in a good or in a bad way.

Balmenach 8 yo 2006/2014 (55%, Single Cask Collection, rum finish)

Balmenach 8 yo 2006/2014 (55%, Single Cask Collection, rum finish) Three stars Crikey, I hadn’t noticed that this youngster is a rum finish. Not sure this session still makes much sense, but while we’re at it… Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is pretty raw, and extremely eau-de-vie-ish. Not too sure about what came from the rum cask, but this is actually almost plum spirit – or slivovitz so far. With water: oh nicer, rounder, with some fresh mint. A kind of Scottish mojito? Mouth (neat): Fanta and kirsch! It’s extremely strong, almost brutal. The kind of concentrate they use to make Fanta? Yeah, plus kirsch straight from the still? With water: once again, this is much nicer, fresher and rounder, with plenty of orange cake. Keyword orange! Finish: quite long, relatively tart, citrusy and fresh. Comments: water is totally obligatory here. Like in a mojito, am I not right? SGP:641 - 82 points.

Balmenach-Glenlivet 1962/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai’s and Corti Brothers, USA)

Balmenach-Glenlivet 1962/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai’s and Corti Brothers, USA) Five stars This should be interesting. As the label reminds us, Balmenach’s under the Haig & Haig flag. Colour: gold. Nose: this old baby’s rather delicate, with mellow tones of overripe apples, fresh walnuts and orange blossom honey. After just ten seconds, it’s more papayas and mangos that come out, giving it a wee tropical side that’s far from being unpleasant. I’d even dare saying that it’s a little Benriachy. Mouth: superb! It’s akin to some old fruit bombs from the 1960s, Benriach indeed, Balblair, Lochside… Having said that there’s also quite some grass that keeps it sharp and vivid, this is not just some fruit salad, mind you. Ah yes, the fruits, I’d say blood oranges and pink grapefruits, papayas, passion fruits and more western gooseberries. Excellent body at a perfect strength. Finish: quite long, citrusy, with notes of zests. Comments: these people knew how to select whisky. By the way, I’ve heard that Corti’s about to launch new whiskies again, after so many years. Maybe did our – and others’ - wee writings give them ideas? SGP:651 - 91 points.

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


Music Awards

The results of the coveted Whiskyfun Music Awards have been published! Check them out.

January 4, 2015


Another bag of rums, since this is Sunday

We’re going on with our little exploration of the world of rum, rhum and ron from a malt lover’s point of view. Let’s hope we won’t come across too much plain sugar…

New Grove ‘Oak Aged Rum’ (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2013)

New Grove ‘Oak Aged Rum’ (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2013) Three stars We’ve had the 8 back in November last year, and it really was to my liking (WF 82). I guess this one’s younger. It’s molasses-based rum. Colour: gold. Nose: a lovable fresh fruitiness, with mainly ripe pineapples and bananas as well as guavas, without any dullness, then more cane-y notes, including bits of olives and a touch of sea water. I find this impeccably fresh, with good presence, and even hints of cognac – not only from the wood. Mouth: same profile, fresh and fruity, with more raisins this time, as almost always, as well as the expected pineapples and bananas, while a mild spiciness (ginger, gingerbread) complements them. Really, it’s easy-yet-not-dull rum. Finish: medium length. Same notes, with more liquorice in the aftertaste. Again, as almost always. Comments: very fine. I’d say it’s on the same level as the 8. SGP:631 - 82 points.

While we’re in Mauritius…

Blue Mauritius 'Gold' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Blue Mauritius 'Gold' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013) Two stars Love this on the brand’s website: ‘Why travel to Mauritius when Mauritius can come to you. How to drink? Replace the cognac, over pass the whisky and most importantly, like no other rums, can be enjoyed straight with no ice!’ Sounds… err… Colour: orange amber. Nose: wood varnish and pineapple sweets at first nosing, then quite a lot of coconut. Smells a bit like some old-style suntan lotion – and holidays. Actually, there’s more coconut than in coconut. Where’s Kid Creole? (Serge!) Mouth: more to my liking than expected, but this really is oak-aged Malibu. Not too much sugar, which isn’t bad news, but it is sweet rum indeed. Finish: quite short, and all on, guess what, coconuts. Comments: tastes more like a liqueur, and it’s got nothing to do with some traditional oak-aged spirit, but one could really quaff this on a lot of ice. Near a swimming pool. Not bad at all! SGP:720 - 72 points.

Oh, and maybe we could give Zacapa another chance…

Zacapa 'Centenario XO Premio Platino' (40%, OB, Guatemala, decanter, +/-2004)

Zacapa 'Centenario XO Premio Platino' (40%, OB, Guatemala, decanter, +/-2004) Two stars An older ‘plus plus plus’ version of the famous Zacapa, let’s see if it’s less sweet than newer expressions. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: ah yes, it’s rather toasted bread and cake that we find at first nosing, then rather espresso and black raisins, with whiffs of menthol. It’s not a very talkative rum, and I don’t seem to manage to find much sugarcane character, but I find this nose fine and balanced. Mouth: nah, it’s got this sweetness that I always find embarrassing (feeling of coffee liqueur), which is quite a pity because I seem to detect finer notes of sugarcane, marmalade, banana compote and liquorice rolls (right, or sticks) in the background. A wee earthy dustiness as well. Are you allowed to write ‘wee’ for rum? Finish: short, all on sweet liquorice. Comments: oh, I just don’t manage to get used to this style, but I’m sure it’s ‘high quality rum’. SGP:730 - 75 points.

We’ll stay in Guatemala, but time to tackle higher strengths… ;-)

Malteco 20 anos (41%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2013)

Malteco 20 anos (41%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2013) Two stars You see, this is the ‘reserva del fundador’, but I doubt it’s really 20 years of age despite what it says on the label. Or am I too sceptical? Colour: amber. Nose: wait, this is quite nice! It’s pretty close to the Zacapa but it’s also got a kind of woody smokiness and very pleasant notes of chocolate à l’eau-de-vie. Evolves more towards orange liqueur after a few seconds, then flowers (orange blossom water) and overripe pears. This baby’s got nothing to be ashamed of so far. Mouth: very, very Zacapa-ish, that is to say extremely sweet and even sugary. Cocoa liqueur, marshmallows, sugarcane syrup, Kalhua and ‘stuff’. It’s almost sticky. Finish: not too short, and it’s not only because this is the finish that I find it a little more to my liking. More toasted bread, beyond the thick  sugary coating. Comments: let’s not be too harsh, it’s all a matter of taste, isn’t it. Sam league as Zacapa, I’d say. SGP:730 - 75 points.

I think we’ve had enough syrupy ones, let’s move to another country…

Panama 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2010)

Panama 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2010) Two stars and a half It doesn’t say so but this baby should come from the Valera Hermanos Distillery, like other indie Panamanians. Colour: gold. Nose: well, I guess you can’t have it both ways. This one hasn’t been ‘doped up’, or so it seems, but then it’s also a little shy. Not-too-ripe bananas, grass and peel, then a few raisins and some cane juice. And roses. A bit of dough as well, you could think it’s malt whisky at times. Mouth: ah, this is stronger! It’s got this typical South American sweetness but it’s got some grass as well, a handful of fruit drops, a little vanilla, then this feeling of Fanta that’s often to be found in these rons in my my opinion. Finish: medium length, with a little more coconut and vanilla from the oak. Comments: very fair and loyal South American rum. Not my favourite style (I know, I’m always wittering on about the same old things), but yeah, I find it very honest. Liked the roses in the nose. SGP:640 - 78 points.

Okay, how many do we have? Five? Let’s try to make it to eight then…

Don José 19 yo 1995/2014 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill barrel, 269 bottles)

Don José 19 yo 1995/2014 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill barrel, 269 bottles) Three stars and a half It seems that Don José Distillery is operated by Valera Hermanos, so this might be the same make as the Cadenhead’s. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s funny that we’re finding these whiffs of roses again. Or rather a whole rose garden this time. Other than that, there are bananas, warm pastries, overripe apples and indeed, quite some grass again. Also a little moss and fern, which I find cool in rum. No wham-bam rum so far, but I find quite some elegance to it. Mouth: a much, much punchier version of the Cadenhead, and beyond the plain sweetness, I now find various tropical fruits, such as mangos, as well as an unexpected briny side. Oh and a curious medicinal side as well, has this baby seen a Laphroaig cask or something? It’s also rather piny. Finish: long, candied and sappy. Grandma’s Kario (a kind of herbal liqueur that cures just anything, except alcoholism.) Comments: a funny baby, shaky at times, but fun. And fun is worth a few more points in my book. SGP:661 - 84 points.

Panama: done…

Bellevue 16 yo 1998/2014 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Guadeloupe, cask #G51, 300 bottles)

Bellevue 16 yo 1998/2014 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Guadeloupe, cask #G51, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half This will be fast, if I’m not mistaken, all Bellevues I could try have gone from good to great. Colour: deep gold. Nose: yes. Soot, petrol, brine, black olives, plasticine, cane juice, then mangos and overripe bananas. Simply my kind. I told you this was going to be quick… Mouth: oh perfect. Crystallised oranges, peat smoke (yup), olives, salt, liquorice, camphor pills, maybe a wee bit of lavender (sweets)… It’s only 43% but the spirit’s fat enough to make it feel more like 45 or 46. For the same price! Finish: long, liquoricy and mentholy. Notes of tinned litchis. Salty aftertaste. Salmiak. Comments: this is a perfect malternative. Islay fans ahoy! SGP:552 - 89 points.

While we’re in the French West Indies, let’s take a boat to Matinik. I mean, Martinique.

Clément 6 yo (44%, OB, Martinique, +/-1980)

Clément 6 yo (44%, OB, Martinique, +/-1980) Four stars Old rhum agricole, this should be interesting. But we had the current 6 yo by Clément last year and found it ‘flabby’. Let’s see… Colour: mahogany. Is that natural? Nose: oh this smells kind of precious! Old humidor, polished wood, certainly a lot of sugarcane, many overripe – and I mean really over – fruits, bananas flambéed, something very molassy given it’s an agricole, faint whiffs of carbolinium, then more and more mulled wine, aniseed, cloves, red wine and so on. Eruptive, so to speak. Lots going on. Mouth: it’s the son of some Christmas cake and some gingerbread. Ripe bananas, liquorice, cloves, aniseed, cinnamon, rancio (bottle ageing?), prunes, raisins, pepper, tar… It’s amazingly fat and heavy in style. I liked the Bellevue better, but I have to say this one’s pretty impressive as well. Finish: very long, liquoricy, slightly smoky, jammy, candied, raisiny, tarry, oaky… Comments: fat and massive agricole. It’s to be wondered if glass maturing doesn’t work even better than with whisky. We may try more old bottles of rum in 2015, so stay tuned if that’s of any interest to you. SGP:651 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: 'MOODY' JAZZ. Beware, this will get you. Performer: John Surman. Track: really, don't listen if you're not fully ready. It's called Piperspool. Please visit John Surman's website and buy his music...

January 3, 2015

Whiskyfun fav of the month

December 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
St. Magdalene 32 yo 1982/2014 (58.1%, Cadenhead) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, 1950s) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Laphroaig 7 yo (54.9%, Jack Wiebers, Passenger Liners, 2013) - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
L'Esprit de Tiffon (40%, OB for Wealth Solutions, 150 decanters, 2014) - WF 92


January 2, 2015


Allt-A-Bhainne and compadre

Crikey, WF’s procedures don’t always work, as I’m having this newish Allt-A-Bhainne in front of me, while I don’t seem to find any other yet-untasted Allt-A-Bhainne in my library at this very moment. And yet I do not want to wait until another one rings at my door bell, that could take months. Well, perhaps I’ve got an idea…

Allt-A-Bhainne 18 yo 1995/2014 (59.2%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #166300, 264 bottles)

Allt-A-Bhainne 18 yo 1995/2014 (59.2%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #166300, 264 bottles) Three stars Chapter 7 are a relatively new Swiss bottler that’s using a pretty lovely minimal design. Let’s only hope the name isn’t related to Chapter 7 of the Title 11 in the US Code ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: it is a little hot and burning at first nosing, but that may be the very high strength. What’s sure is that there seems to be a rather lovely fruitiness mingled with some vanilla and butter cream in the background, let’s try to seek confirmation… With water: it’s funny how it became a traditional fruity unsherried Speysider, full of fresh and tinned fruits. Mainly apricots and mirabelles. Mouth (neat): its quite hot again, and a little acrid as well. Grass juice and butterscotch? Water seems to be obligatory. With water: and it works very well. An average – in a good way – Speysider with fruits, cakes and a little grass. Medium body. Finish: medium length, with some liquorice on top of the fruits and grass. Comments: I think this is pretty good and classic, it just needs water. Certainly one of the better middle-aged Allt-A-Bhainnes in my book, most never made it to… SGP:451 - 81 points.

So, the sparring partner. Wouldn’t a little Braeval/Braes of Glenlivet make sense?

Braeval 1991/2013 (52,9%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #95119, 228 bottles)

Braeval 1991/2013 (52,9%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #95119, 228 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: super-grassy and quite dusty at first sniffs, with some chalk, quinine, then rather dried mushrooms. All that tends to become better civilised after just one minutes, with now notes of orange cake and raspberry jam. Hints of old wine cellar as well, before more and more tinned pineapples start to come out. Then tobacco and leather! This baby changes a lot within minutes, which is very entertaining. With water: it’s really funny to see that this Braes comes very close to the Allt-A-Bhainne when reduced. A very similar fruity style, with ripe plums and apricots. Mouth (neat): a very rich fruitiness plus many spices, this is rather Christmassy (how convenient) and yet it’s not really heavy. Some natural vanilla plus peach jam, apricot jam and quite some gingerbread and pepper. With water: good, with rather more body than the Allt-A-Bhainne. Similar style yet again. Finish: quite long, grassier, spicier. Good fruity and almondy signature. Comments: very honest and loyal. SGP:451 - 82 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jason Robinson (not the rugby player!) Track: Elbow Grease (really, not the rugby player!) Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 1, 2015






New Year tasting,
Clynelish plus special guest

I had resisted having Clynelish for Christmas, but I just couldn’t rerepeat that achievement this time. We’ll try to find a very special one as ‘the signature’.

Clynelish 15 yo 1995/2011 (46%, L'Esprit, first fill sherry butt, cask #8657)

Clynelish 15 yo 1995/2011 (46%, L'Esprit, first fill sherry butt, cask #8657) Four stars and a half This by the excellent Whisky & Rhum shop in Rennes, Brittany. Colour: full gold. Nose: I've already tried a few sister casks that have been good-but-not-great, but this one seems to be rather earthier, while retaining a bit of the distillery's trademark waxiness. Other than that, there are massive notes of truffles and dried porcinis, tobacco, pu-erh tea and acidic coffee, luwak-style. I find this spectacularly earthy, and the sherry and the distillery's character do not clash at all. Mouth: maybe we aren't as much up there now, but the dry sherry works well again, with the very same notes of coffee, the earthiness, bitter chocolate, pepper, tobacco... It's about to lose a part of the Clynelishness after two minutes, which is obviously a shame, but it remains excellent. We're more and more on salted bitter chocolate! Finish: long, very chocolaty, wonderfully un-sweet, and pretty spicy. Amusing smoky, salty and tobacco-ed aftertaste. Comments: this is chocolate sauce! Mexican mole sauce? SGP:552 - 88 points.

Let's have a more 'natural' Clynelish if you don't mind...

Clynelish 19 yo 1995/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, hogshead, 295 bottles)

Clynelish 19 yo 1995/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, hogshead, 295 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the opposite. A crystal-clean, ultra-pure, perfectly chiselled Clynelish, with nothing but plain and pure Clynelishness. Plasticine, lemon marmalade, damp chalk, that's all. With water: wet limestone, aspirin tablets, damp earth and clay, even mud... Mouth (neat): pure, mineral, lemony, grassy, young. Green apples. Perhaps a bit less waxy than other Clynelishes on the palate, maybe was the receiver just cleaned up. Try to get your minds round that one! With water: thee wax is back, but it isn't big. Rather plasticine, in fact. Finish: good length. Very mineral and kind of muddy. Comments: maybe a little too dry and austere for Clynelish, but this is neither 1972, nor 1983, nor 1997. SGP:452 - 85 points.

Clynelish 24 yo 1990/2014 (47.5%, Cadenhead, London Exclusive, 228 bottles)

Clynelish 24 yo 1990/2014 (47.5%, Cadenhead, London Exclusive, 228 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: there's something pretty peculiar, which you can experience in Corsica while on holidays, and which is nosing a glass of citron liqueur (which they call cédrat). It typically Clynelish as well, but you won't find it in all Clynelishes. Other than that, there's candle wax and there's a little earth and hay. Farmyard. This is perfect. With water: more farmyardy notes. Mouth (neat): the arrival is quite excellent. I don't know if that's because I just mentioned Corsica, but I'm finding a little myrtle liqueur this time, certainly bay leaves and pink pepper, then a rather dry wax, then a touch of smoke. All that works in sync, mind you! With water: same. Plus a dry lemon. Finish: long, pleasantly austere, waxy, grassy, mineral, with bitter zests in the aftertaste. Comments: well, no instant pleasure here, I'd say it's rather a Clynelish for Clynelish lovers, but this style is rather close to that of 'old' Clynelish. Or to 'stuff' they make in Campbeltown. Speaking of which... SGP:362 - 87 points.

Yeah, why not add an odd one to this little line-up? After all, styles are more important than regions, aren't they...

Kilkerran 10 yo 2004/2014 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #6)

Kilkerran 10 yo 2004/2014 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #6) Five stars Work in progress? Aren't ten years enough already? Anyway, batch #5 blew me away last year (WF 91), so we have high hopes now... Colour: straw. Nose: bread dough and mud and ink plus soot, bicycle inner tube and fresh walnuts. I'm asking you, what's not to like? Mouth: exceptional dryness, earthiness and 'green' smoke. Takes you tongue hostage, in a way, but that's a pleasure. Lemons, grapefruits, earth, green coffee, tar, greases, waxes, oils... It's all extremely old-school, and right up my alley. Don't get me wrong, I like modern stuff too, but I think this is unbeatable. All you can do when trying to add 'innovations' to perfection is going downhill - and make people laugh up their sleeves. Perfection is perfection, said Monsieur Jacques de Chabannes de La Palice. Finish: long, magnificent, greasy, oily, sooty, fat, and slightly lemony in the end. The aftertaste is fresh and clean, which is always a blessing. Comments: thank you Fabien, they did it again. I wouldn't swear this is better than last year's batch #5, though. But WIP, really? As far as styles are concerned, we aren't very far from Old Clynelish. Well, there's only one way to find out... SGP:452 - 91 points.

Indeed, this is the last day of 2014, so we have to celebrate accordingly, in true WF fashion. Not that we haven't already had some great, great ones, but how about this little baby?...

Clynelish 24 yo (49.4%, Cadenhead, Sestante, Italy, +/-1989)

Clynelish 24 yo (49.4%, Cadenhead, Sestante, Italy, +/-1989) Five stars No vintage on this very rare 'cream label' version, but it's either 1965 or 1966, so 'old' Clynelish a.k.a. Brora. In short, my thing. No nattering, no jabbering, no useless prattling, let's simply try it. Colour: dark amber. So, sherry. Nose: take an old tin box, preferably a rusty one. Fill with used engine oil (ex-good old 8 or 12-cylindre would be perfect). Throw a handful of old copper coins. Add a little grated chocolate (avoid crappy vegetal oil). Heat up and then pour some quality shoe polish. Throw in five stock cubes. Stir. Add parsley and sage. Add lamp oil. Add linseed oil. Add half a glass of walnut wine. Add sunbath oil. Pour drops of pitch and one spoonful of lard. Mix and nose. Aaaahhhh... Mouth: immense and powerful. Zeussian, I'd say. Thick, heavy, very oily, extremely tertiary, we're in old wine territories, telling you about what's not in this whisky would be faster. All nuts, all waxes, all dried citrus, all saps and oils, all tobaccos, teas and leathers, all spices, all minerals, all things briny (it's very coastal and salty)... It simply is meta-malt whisky. The Beethoven of whisky. What are you doing? All right, I think I'll call the anti-maltoporn brigade myself. Finish: oh drat, I had thought I could go to 99 points for the very first time, but there, in the finish, there is a very discreet, almost unnoticeable touch of something that's slightly too sour and 'sweaty'. I couldn't tell you what this is. Other than that, this old Clynelish is another utter masterpiece made in Brora, Sutherland, Scotland. I've never encountered any other spirit that could beat this, only a worthy handful of equals. As always, in my humble opinion, but after 10,000 whiskies, I think I may start to have the vaguest idea of the landscape. Comments: Happy New Year, lasses and lads! SGP:563 - 98 points.

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



Block Today: 'SMOOTH' JAZZ. Something light and easy for the new year. Performer: the Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope. Track: Like The Wind. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 2014 - part 2 <--- January 2015 - part 1 ---> January 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Balmenach-Glenlivet 1962/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai’s and Corti Brothers, USA)

Clynelish 24 yo (49.4%, Cadenhead, Sestante, Italy, +/-1989)

Glen Grant 40 yo 1972/2012 (51.6%, Maltbarn, sherry)

Kilkerran 10 yo 2004/2014 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #6)

Rhum des Plantations St James 1885 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s)