(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2006 - Part 2
July 2006 - part 1 <--- July 2006 - part 2 ---> August 2006 - part 1 

July 31, 2006


Okay, the temperatures got more bearable here (27°C, a bit chilly I must say) so time to resume our little tasting sessions just like we interrupted them: with two Springbanks. But recent ones this time.

Springbank 37 yo (41.5%, Dun Bheagan for Park Avenue Liquors USA, cask #56, 96 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: it starts extremely fruity and aromatic, with lots of fresh pineapple underlined with some fine oaky tones (toasted bread and quite some vanilla). Goes on with something distinctively milky (sugared yoghurt, fromage blanc) but then we have a fruity explosion: ripe kiwis and gooseberries, strawberries, very ripe Williams pears… Amazingly youthful at such old age. Not the most complex old Springbank on the nose but it’s really playful. It reminds me of some very old Benriachs. Mouth: creamy, sweet, sort of light but certainly not weak. Lots of fruits again but also lots of tannins now, rather drying. Grape seeds, lemon zest… A certain lack of body after a while, with a rather weak middle. Quite some spices but other than that there’s not much left. The finish is a bit bolder, though, but maybe too oaky and drying – but we do have a little coconut. Too bad, as often with these old whiskies, the nose was fab but the palate doesn’t quite deliver. 84 points.
Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, 2006) A fairly new official expression. Colour: pale amber with green hues. Nose: this one’s much oakier, maltier and probably more complex right at first nosing. Quite some vanilla and caramel crème, toasted brioche, cornflakes, even maple syrup (eh, breakfast?), a few spices (a little nutmeg, white pepper, hints of dried ginger). It gets then rather fruitier, with quite some, overripe apples and pears, cooked apricots, strawberries… Notes of toffee as well and finally a little ginger ale and something slightly meaty (ham). Certainly not as complex and exciting as the older official 25 yo ’s but it’s good whisky on the nose, definitely. Mouth: much bolder than the 37 yo although it’s not precisely powerful. Lots of oak, lots of spices (cloves, ginger, nutmeg, pepper) and quite some crystallised citrus fruits (mainly orange zests). Kind of a ‘nice’ bitterness in the background. Gets woodier and woodier, also a little grassy (bitter salad like rocket – or do you say aragula?) The finish is rather long but again, drying and rather oaky, with just a little salt and notes of burnt cake plus something slightly metallic. And coconut? Yeah, yeah… Anyway, not a thrill but a rather good Springbank 85 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez


MUSICRecommended listening - Scotland's Arab strap doing their very good - I think - 1997 tune Hey! fever.mp3. Please buy these guys' music!


July 30, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez

MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with Eritrea's young soprano Awet Andemicael singing a refreshing Rejoice, rejoice greatly.mp3 (from Haendel's Messiah). Quite appropriate... Please go to Miss Andemicael's concerts and operas! (to our French friends, she'll be in Brittany very soon - to everyone, no, she's not Condi's younger sister).

WHISKY TASTING We'll resume our little sessions right tomorrow!


July 29, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez


MUSICRecommended listening - Our very own French girl Camille doing Tuxedomoon's In a manner of speaking.mp3 (in English, pleeezze - from a French TV show). Very delicate... Please buy Camille's music.


July 28, 2006

It is not the first time that I’m lucky enough to be able to get in touch with Mike Nicolson, retired Scottish distillery manager (think Lagavulin) and blues guitarist and singer extraordinaire (think of a “deep Gitane scarred gravel toned howl - a sort of Captain Beefheart meets Tom Waits” according to Whiskyfun’s famous ace concert reviewer – you can also read the earlier interview at Maltmaniacs) … We caught Mike at his home on Vancouver Island, while he was making a good recovery from some sort of motorcycle accident.

Mike Nicolson (right) with Mose Allison
Serge: Mike, please tell us briefly about what you do, music wise.
Mike Nicolson: Well, I confront disappointment.
That brief enough? What it means is, I look for blooze musicians, hang out with them and then attempt to galvanize them to common purpose, in an ensemble. Piece of cake, eh?
Serge:  So, which other musicians did you play with?
Mike:  That’s a very, very long list of people that you’ve never heard of. These folks have been quite remarkable, ranging from junkies, lushes and depressives to those with major psychological disorders, serious criminal records, significant comedic talent, musical passion and all with a need to do it and, be, live. What bound them together was the feeling that playing the blues, in bars, in Scotland, might be a good idea so, on that criteria alone, you can see that the only really suitably encompassing descriptive category would be, “disturbed”. These people are collectively responsible in enriching my life with experience available to few. A litany of adventures resulted, usually during the hours of darkness and, unaccountably, without serious criminal prosecution. With some of these folks I traveled to the equivalent of the musical g-spot which, is these seemingly nano seconds of musical intensity that once visited, musicians are forever doomed to attempt to recapture. If I could thank them all I would but, to do it here would be a bit silly and anyway, I wouldn’t be completely confident, at least in some cases, of their reading ability.
Serge:  Which are your favourite artistes?
Mike:   Here’s a abridged performance description by author Robert Palmer:- “ He had the hugest voice I had ever heard – it seemed to fill the hall and get right inside your ears, and when he hummed and moaned in falsetto, every hair on your neck cracked with electricity. The thirty minute set went by like an express train, with Wolf switching from harp to guitar and then leaping up to prowl the lip of the stage. He was the Mighty Wolf, no doubt about it. Finally, an impatient signal from the wings let him know that his portion of the show was over. Defiantly, Wolf counted off a bone crushing rocker, began singing rhythmically, feigned an exit, and suddenly made a flying leap for the curtain at the side of the stage. Holding the microphone under his beefy right arm and singing into it all the while, he began climbing up the curtain, going higher and higher until he was perched far above the stage, the thick curtain threatening to rip, the audience screaming with delight. Then he loosened his grip and, in a single easy motion, slid right back down the curtain, hit the stage, cut off the tune, and stalked away, to the most ecstatic cheers of the evening.
He was then fifty-five years old.”
Sounds like a good night huh?
To get a little more up to date Serge, if either of your readers play slide guitar, I would strongly recommend that if Sonny Landreth is ever performing in their neighbourhood they should go. Even if he’s not in their neighbourhood they should go. Hell, they should cross continents to catch him.
Serge:  Which are your current projects?
Mike:   Well, I’m glad you asked. Getting a band together is the answer. Having, as you know, relocated to Canada or, as I prefer to call it, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, I am experiencing some unexpected cultural difficulties. First of all, it’s so good here, that it’s actually pretty hard to find someone that actually has the blues. Secondly, there is the motivational thing. When I first thought about coming to British Columbia, I sort of knew that it was a pretty laid back, hippy, trippy, kinda place, which sounded ok., and it is, but, getting four or five musos to focus on anything for longer than it takes to roll a joint, is proving to be a bit of a problem. However, there’s nothing like a challenge so, watch this space.
Serge:  When did you start enjoying whisky?
Mike:   Late, late, late. Thirtysomething, which is a bit surprising really, given that it was a commodity of some significance to several generations of my family. I guess that my aversion, up to that point, was a result of too many “hot toddies” as a child. A “toddie” is an infusion of whisky, hot water and some other stuff that you really don’t want to know about, that was administered to a sickly child (bairn) by a parent (Maw) and, failure to consume this noxious liquid promptly, would result in immediate physical violence (skelp). This kind of behaviour may seem somewhat barbaric to an urbane sophisticate like you Serge but, you will have to remember that this was in fact so long ago that it was the only available medication in Scotland, well, if you discount bloodletting that is.
Serge:  So, what’s your most memorable whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Mike:   Tasting Lagavulin for the first time as the Manager was a moment of fairly vivid recollection and understanding. It was one thirty in the morning and I was on my own, an unusual set of circumstances for Islay I know but, I was new, remember? The only musical association would be that agitated rhythm that you get from fingernails on skin when scratching insect bites.
Serge:  Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Mike:   Yes. (Oooo you are naughty Serge, didn’t we do this somewhere before?)
Serge:  Oh well, I’m sorry but that one is part of our ‘pre-formatted’ flight of questions… And are there whiskies you don’t like?
Mike:   Yes. (You just don’t give up do you?)
Serge:  Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Mike:   Indeed, I’m rather fond of “Arrested for Drivin’ while Blind” by ZZ Top. It can be found on the album “Tejas” which, of course, was back in the days when they were “just a little Texas Blues Band”. For general ditties concerning carousel, then Ry Cooder’s “Drinkin’ Again” on his album “ The Slide Area”, gets my recommendation, if you can deal with the muddy production, which I don’t quite understand, unless of course, they were hammered. Highlighting one of my other weaknesses, “Tanqueray” by Johnnie Johnston is a suitably mellow hymn in praise of another of life’s essential liquids. Mr. Johnston , whom, I’m sure your reader will not require to be reminded, was Chuck Berry’s piano player, who got no credits for all those hits performed, mysteriously, in all those “ piano” keys. (Who was Chuck Berry, Grandad? … …… … … ….)
Serge:  Music and Whisky are often thought of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Mike:   Well, if I didn’t know better, I might suspect that some of these questions were set by someone looking to get me in trouble. That’s extremely thoughtful of you but, I can do that on my own.
Answer one :- If they can, they should.
If your Debbie Davis and can hold down a spot in Albert Collin’s Band and produce Albums like “Tales from the Austin Motel” then, you ain’t got nothin’ to prove to nobody. Bonnie Raitt? I rest my case. If you’d like me to express an opinion on the legion of talentless persons of the female persuasion who use it, rather like statistics, for support rather than illumination, I’d love to but, It’ll be dark soon.
Answer two:- Not only should they, they should be encouraged! Marketing, being the scurrilous, manipulative, unprincipled and contemptible discipline that it is, means, of course, that I find it rather attractive. I know some people that do it. One of these people, a successful, droll, sophisticated, normally rather intelligent person responded thus, when once I enquired of him why the Malt Whisky Industry made no visible attempt to market to wimmins. “ We don’t need to Mike, they’ll drink it because their menfolk do”. Now, forgive me but, that’s the kind of language that’s gonna get him stabbed, in a back alley some night, by a gang of biker dykes. Arithmetic was never my forte, in fact, I’m crap at it but, it occurs even to me that, globally speaking, there are quite a lot of them, women that is. Ignoring fifty percent of your potential customers doesn’t sound much like best business practice to me. Anyone who has significant experience in running serious whisky tasting events will tell you that, often, the people with the most talent and ability are the ones wearing skirts.
I don’t understand, they’re out there, interested, good at it, use real money just like men, why the fuck don’t we try to sell them some? It would need to be done kinda subtly though, big perfume bottles with lovely pastel labels ain’t gonna do it because, in addition to all of their other virtues, they’re smart and don’t dig being patronized.
Serge:  LOL! By the way, I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Mike:    You should tell his eminence that he should get a bit more up to date with his recreational drug use. Still, whisky in colours? ... .... .... .... ...... Wow! … …… … …… That’s far out! .... ..... .... .... .... .... Man.
Serge:  Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Mike:    Are you sitting comfortably? First of all, I’m not completely at ease with the word “great” in the question. Would you care to justify yourself?
Serge:  Okay Mike, let’s say ‘THE rock and roll whisky’ then…
Mike:    Their success in this field feels to me like it came about because they had,
(a) A plan.
(b) The will.
(c) That old “first mover advantage”.
(d) Marketers that were even less affected by matters of scruple than the rest of their deviant profession.
Before I was able to set my children on the true musical path that is the blues, they seemed to have unhealthy propensities for other genres. At about twelve or thirteen, Heavy Metal was the cat’s pyjamas and, at that time, piles of the attendant magazines could be found holding open doors, leveling the table with the short leg and, in one case, as bedding, chez Nicolson. Since you are aware of my ambivalence about matters marketing, you will be unsurprised how impressed I was, to find not so subliminal advertisements for the North American liquid, therein. There is something wholly admirable about an organization that will put in what must be the colossal effort involved in subverting copious Government legislation and, successfully shucking off any sense of social responsibility whatsoever, to sell booze to children. No matter how contemptible, these guys have focus with a capital “F”. They don’t mess about. No wonder they won.
Being now a boring old retired fart, living in the woods with a rusty pick up, thirteen cats, four broken chain saws, foodstuff stains on his dungarees and whose idea of gardening is to occasionally have some of the scrap cars removed, I feel free to moan about the declining standards in our lives. Take my previous employers for instance, the great and mighty Diageo. For years, decades in fact, they struggled manfully to retain the high ground by declining any association with their products and motoring. Heroic. What’s happening now? Not only has that policy been reversed but they now sponsor a community whose only goal is to drive cars as fast as it is possible to go. It’s a scream really. I just can’t help feeling though, that if the people who market the aforementioned North American liquid were in charge, Kimi Raikkonen would be walking around with an image of a man with a big hat and a stick tattooed on his face.
To your point Serge about why not Scotch? I’m buggered if I know. Giant lost opportunity. I suppose that you would need to overcome chronic lack of imagination, lack of plan and of will. There would be of course some conflict surrounding the core values of Scotch and the rock and roll fraternity, if in fact they have any, but, if the business can suddenly find itself so suddenly and dramatically at peace with the internal combustion engine at nineteen thousand revs then, how hard could it be?
Advertising could get interesting. We could have Lemmy in front of a backdrop of a trashed nightclub in the early stages of conflagration, drinking straight from the bottle and proclaiming that he liked this brand of Scotch because it was the only one loud enough for him. Watcha think? To be completely embraced by the rock and roll World might be asking for a bit much though, because, there is a bit of a problem.
It’s a liquid. It’s hard to snort liquid.
Maybe the boys down at R&D could do some work on that.
Serge:  Mmm… Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead, Scotch… Dammit, that’s clever! But let’s be a little posher now if you don’t mind, with our very last question: there is a famous passage in a book written in the 1930’s (Aneas MacDonald) where the author compares different styles of whisky to different sections of an orchestra – how would you see that working in a jazz or rock band, or in a classical orchestra?
Mike:    Ah yes, Aneas, I always think that he is the whisky business’s equivalent of Robert Johnston, cast a long shadow for a dead bloke.
Now, I thought I would leave till last, the most profound thing I can recall hearing about this whisky/music thing. I was in a bar one night, conversing with a saxophone player and good friend, a woman short of stature but large of attitude and, the subject of live performance came up.
“ You know Mike” says she, “ I’m not a real musician”
Knowing her proficiency to be pretty hot, I said, “what do you mean?”
“ Well” she said, “I can’t do it when I’m pissed”.

Thanks Mike, that was both interesting and entertaining. We all hope you’ll manage to gather a wonderful bunch of musicians over there on Vancouver Island and bring them all to Islay for the next Festival. Remember, it’s whisky AND music...
And here's ZZ Top with that La Grange.mp3 that jostled us all in 1973 (I think)...


July 27, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 Yeah, I know, easy...


MUSICRecommended listening - Time to pay tribute to the late Syd Barrett (picture) with Eric Metronome singing his excellent piece called Wined and dined.mp3.


July 26, 2006

HELL'S BELLS! - We ran short of tasting notes! I’m afraid the current heat wave over Europe doesn’t allow any proper whisky tasting session but we’ll resume all that as soon as weather permits. In the meantime, we’ll publish more Pete and Jack cartoons (the buggers are still in Saint-Tropez), music etc. Please accept our deepest apologies…
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez


MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening: well, yes, it's free jazz, and yes, it's not easy-easy but the piece's name is Etheric cleanse.mp3... Still life, if you prefer... Ah, yes, the forceful tenor sax, It's Jim Ryan from the Bay area. Please buy his music...


July 25, 2006


Springbank 1965/2001 ‘Local Barley’ (47.6%, OB, cask #1965/8) Colour: full amber. Nose: starts fresher than expected, on very ripe apples cooked in butter as well as eucalyptus syrup and whiffs of smoke and oak. Very lively.

Goes on with cheesecake and raisins, fresh pineapples soaked in rum, hints of passion fruit, white pepper, apricot jam. Keeps developing on cigar box, hints of nutmeg, getting even grassy and flowery (mainly lilies). Excellent but not thrilling. Will it improve on the palate? Mouth: starts rather peppery and quite dry, on apple juice and cinnamon (lots), a little coconut (yeah, yeah), white chocolate, white peaches… Lots of oak and maybe not enough roundness and sweetness, not to mention complexity. Gets even a tad bitter after a while. The finish is rather long but again, quite drying, with lots of cinnamon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent whisky (the nose was great) but it's probably not worth 800 euros. Now, there are many better Local Barleys I think.... 89 points.
Springbank 1966/2000 ‘Local Barley’ (55%, OB, cask #511) Colour: amber. Nose: very vibrant and aromatic at first nosing, with something that reminds me of the best old Highland Parks. Starts on lots of beeswax and honey, something resinous and also something maritime. Unusually fresh and very complex. Lots of plum jam, flower nectar, light pipe tobacco (early morning pipe), then fir honey and liqueur, eucalyptus and mint (Vicks), then hints of tar and turpentine… Fab, just fab. Goes on with fruitcake and then lots of sea elements (shells, kelp). A brilliant whisky with lots of presence and a perfect balance between the fruity/jammy notes and the resinous/coastal ones. Yes, just fab, even if not monstrously complex. Mouth: punchy and full of youth, with maybe just a little too much rubber at the attack, but then it gets very salty and jammy, together with quite some chlorophyll and resin. Maybe a tad rough in fact, but the overall profile is almost perfect. Gets quite spicy (cinnamon – lots -, curry, chilli) with more and more winey notes coming through. Lots of dried fruits as well (oranges, figs and dates). The finish is long, quite hot and maybe a tad bitter, mostly resinous and finally quite herbal (Jägermeister). Maybe not the best model of the genre because of its relative roughness but what a presence! 92 points.


MUSICRecommended listening - The great, great late Fela Anikulapo Kuti doing Colonial mentality.mp3 in 1984 (that was on 'Original sufferhead'). Please buy his music...


July 24, 2006


Bowmore 15 yo 1981/1996 (57.7%, Glenhaven, USA) Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather austere and spirity start on pear and pineapple juices but with a little coal smoke and butter coming through… Rather closed in fact. Hints of green bananas, apple skin… Gets more and more herbal, grassy, on newly cut grass and privet. Hints of paraffin and walnut skin, and finally quite some lemon juice and fresh almonds. Not too expressive but interesting.

Mouth: more peat now but it’s quite burning and a little bitter. Huge notes of over-infused tea and liquorice again… It becomes almost burning now, let’s try it with water (while the nose gets quite chocolaty but even grassier). It gets sweeter and a little rounder but not really more complex, except for a few added spicy notes (pepper). The finish is long, that is, nicely dry and lemony and getting hugely salty. Little peat and smokiness in this one but it isn’t unpleasant I think. 80 points. (I think it’s the first time I could taste a bottling by Glenhaven, thanks Tom).
Bowmore 14 yo 1991 (56.1%, Cadenhead, 294 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: much smokier and peatier this time, closer to a classic Bowmore. Whiffs of cow stable, seaweed, then quite some liquorice and apple juice, getting quite earthy (wet tealeaves). Very simple but very flawless. Mouth: playful and very peaty, almost in the same league as the southerners. Quite some gentian and liquorice, raspberries, notes of coffee… With water: not much difference except for something a little cardboardy, even soapy. The finish is long, classically peaty and maritime, with again lots of salt on the tongue (incredibly salty in fact). In short and again, it’s simple but good (if you like saltiness in your whisky), even if it tastes younger than 14 yo . 83 points.
And also Bowmore 15 yo 1990/2006 (53.1%, Spirit Safe & Cask, Hogshead #3351, 270 bottles) A very pleasant peatiness blended with notes of anise and fennel on the nose. The palate is very clean, quite smoky and liquoricy, with something pleasantly nutty (fresh hazelnuts and almonds). A classic, ultra-clean Bowmore. 87 points.


MUSICRecommended listening - Maybe a little Africa-inspired music would be welcome under these hot climates... Like the late Lizzy Mercier-Descloux doing Mais ou sont passées les gazelles.mp3 in 1984 ('but where did the gazelles go?') Please buy her music and peace to her soul...


July 23, 2006

Cardhu 8 yo (75° proof, OB, UK, 1970’s) Colour: gold – amber. Nose: very, very strange, starting on walnut liqueur and lots of smoked ham, sausages, Madeira, prunes… Very unusual. Develops on eucalyptus, a little mint again, tiger balm, a little kirsch… Notes of old wood (washbacks), smoked fish, hints of tequila, fino sherry… Very interesting to ‘follow’, this one. Mouth: sweet and interestingly winey, with again quite some walnut liqueur but also old Pomerol and rancio, nougat, all sorts of old liqueurs and also smoked fishes… Lots of fun and a rather short but interestingly smoky and honeyed finish. Worth trying if you can find one, there’s much more sherry in it than in the recent or current versions. 87 points.
Cardhu 12 yo (40%, OB, UK, early1980’s) Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, we have a typical old bottle effect here. Something slightly metallic and mineral, grapefruit juice and a little passion fruit, praline and caramel… Goes on with orange juice, lemon pie, pastries and then something minty and slightly resinous. Hints of smoked meat… Complex and pleasant. Mouth: simpler and more tea-ish, alas, but the mouth feel is good. Maybe a tad sugarish but other than that we have nice quince, oranges, cereals, cake… And a rather short but nicely minty finish. Good. 85 points.
Cardhu 12 yo (40%, OB, Simon Frères, pale cream label, late 1980’s) Colour: straw. Nose: starts enjoyably cereally and very, very flowery, almost like a Lowlander (Glenkinchie?) Hints of oak, fresh butter, vanilla. Goes on with orange juice and finally some huge notes of freshly cut apples. Very fresh and very clean, perfect in summer. Mouth: sweet and tannic attack, with lots of punch. Again quite some oak and vanilla but also something disturbingly drying. Quite some cinnamon and white pepper. Develops on dried ginger, caramel, tea… Much les fruity and clean than on the nose. The finish is surprisingly long but rather caramelly and sort of narrow. Well, the nose was great but the palate is too simple and lacks freshness. 78 points.
Cardhu 12 yo (40%, OB, Moët-Hennessy, dark cream label, early 1990’s) Colour: straw. Nose: very similar, maybe a tad more caramelly and also mashier but other than that we do have these bold notes of fresh apples, nice oak and also whiffs of incense. Mouth: more backbone now, much maltier. Quite some caramel, cake, plum jam, sugared cereals… I like this palate a little better than the older version’s, it’s rounder and better balanced – but the nose wasn’t as great. Let’s say 78 points again.
Cardhu 12 yo (40%, OB, Pure Malt, 2004) Colour: straw. Nose: certainly ‘from the same family’ but simpler and grainier, without these nice oaky tones we had in its older siblings. Apple skins, porridge, cereals, praline, vanilla crème… Something a little farmy in the background. Gentle but less complex, uncomplicated but enjoyable. Mouth: now it’s completely different, I guess the other distilleries start to show off. Something slightly waxy and smoky mixed with sweet toffee and notes of cappuccino at the attack, but the middle is sort of weak and curiously papery despite a certain oiliness. Yet, the finish is bolder again, more satisfying and rather coating, with something ‘funny’ persisting (olive oil? Hazelnut oil?) and finally a little fruit (figs). No winner but not worth the scandal either. We’ve had lots of worse singles. 76 points. By the way, I’ve seen that some crook already tried to sell this one for 75 euros on the Web – yes, professional sellers. I’m sorry, but I'd say f*ck ‘m!


MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical and Lebanese with Sister Marie Keyrouz singing the Maronite (Catholic Arab) traditional Ya umma-l-lah.mp3. No comment needed - except that you should buy her beautiful music.


July 22, 2006

Left, TV spot for Chanel Egoiste perfume, 1990 - Right, web video clip for Ardbeg 1965, 2006. Yes, did you see the movie for that new official Ardbeg 1965 yet? Please watch it (you'll need Flash) and then have a look at the 1990 French TV ad for Chanel. Amazing, isn't it? And no, Chanel does not belong to LVMH...


Dallas Dhu 23 yo 1979/2003 (60.8%, Cadenhead) Colour: straw. Nose: extremely spirity and inexpressive. Just raw alcohol and porridge, let’s drown it. Oh no, too bad, water doesn’t help. It gets extremely herbal and grainy as well as a little mineral (wet stones). Extremely austere. Hints of fresh butter.

Mouth (neat): very sweet, with lots of pineapple juice, liquorice, apple skins and, you got it, alcohol. Almost undrinkable like that, water needed. Well, that reveals the tannins and makes it also a little fruitier (apples). Some huge peppery notes do appear, cardboard, flour, nutmeg… Really harsh and raw, even at roughly 45%. Exactly the kind of malt that shouldn’t be poured to non-single malt drinking friends… No pleasure in there, I’m afraid. 65 points.
Dallas Dhu 24 yo 1979/2004 (61.4%, Cadenhead) Colour: straw (identical). Nose: just like the other one, it’s just overpowering alcohol with a few mashy notes. With water: nicer, a bit more on the farmy side but not frankly enjoyable either. Hints of chemicals, white chocolate, tequila… Mouth (neat): maybe better balanced than it’s sibling but other than that it’s not really easier to enjoy. Some pleasant oaky notes. With water: we’re exactly in the same territories as with the 23 yo . Hard and almost painful. 66 points.

And also Dallas Dhu 31 yo 1969/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 252 bottles) Not too bad but quite ‘average’, very malty, caramelly and grainy. Flawless but simple and probably a little too ‘uncontroversial’ (eh?) 80 points


MUSICRecommended listening - Another infectious riff in this Sunday Blues.mp3 by the Kentucky Headhunters (from their 1993 album That'll work)! Please buy these guys music...


July 21, 2006

Longmorn 9 yo (40%, MacMalt, , 26 bottles, circa 2005) Lots of positive buzz about old Longmorns these days but let’s try these youngsters today, starting with this small German bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: starts extremely sweet and rounded, not unlike a Balvenie. Lots of flowers and nectar, light honey, apricot jam, orange cake… Goes on with very ripe plums, mullein flowers, maple syrup… As sweet and it can get. Mouth: again, sweet and rounded and certainly not weak despite the 40%. Less fresh than on the nose but we do have nice notes of honey and cake, all kinds of ‘yellow’ jams, caramel, nougat… Not too complicated but very pleasant. Quite malty too, with a rather long, caramelly finish with hints of fruitcake. Very mature considering its age! Lots of pleasure… 86 points.
Longmorn 14 yo 1988/2003 (43%, Coopers Choice) Colour: dark straw. Nose: pretty much the same kind of profile with maybe although it’s a tad rougher but maybe that’s the three extra-degrees. Slightly more buttery as well, maybe a tad more on pastries and less flowery. But it’s nice! Mouth: it’s even closer to the MacMalt now, with just more cake and hints of cappuccino plus a longer and bolder finish. More body, more oomph but a little less elegance: 85 points.
Longmorn 10 yo (43%, OB, late 60’s, France) Colour: straw. Nose: oh, an obvious old bottle effect here, of the metallic kind this time. Huge notes of metal polish, coal oven, coins, lamp oil, motor oil… And not much else. It’s the first time I get it to this point. Very hard to know what to think… I’m kind of lost here! Mouth: well, now it’s clear, this one got sort of corrupted. Is it just the twist cap? Too bad because after you get used to these metallic tastes there’s lots of creaminess and fruitiness with what could be praline, nougat, mocha, marmalade… But all that’s hidden behind these bizarre notes of iron. Yes, too bad. Rating: 65 points but another bottle could be much better – if it’s an ‘old bottle’’ problem indeed.
And also Longmorn 1969 (62%, G&M – Jas. Gordon, Cask series, late 1980’s) Unusually smoky, with a rather resinous nose plus lots of beeswax and propolis. The palate is even more resinous, with lots of eucalyptus and tangerines. Very special, I love it. 92 points.
Left to right: Simon, Tonis, Cosimo and Yonatan
Today we have The Whiskey Bards from Tucson, Arizona. Sure these guys have a great name as well as a wonderful sense of humour, they even have a CD entitled ‘Women, Whiskey & War!’ But they also sound absolutely great... More than enough for us to decide to interview them. All of them…
Serge: Bards, please tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise.
The Whiskey Bards: We’re a 4-part a cappella group singing pub songs, sea songs, stuff with an older or medieval flair, and generally anything that gets people to enjoy themselves when they’ve had a bad day.
Serge: Which musicians are you playing with?
The Whiskey Bards: The Whiskey Bards started out as a trio of Simon (Chris Lyon), Tonis (Steve Hoogerwerf), and Daithi (Sean Reddy). We added Cosimo (Nevin Phull) for a well rounded quartet. When Daithi moved out of town, we realized that as a trio we lost some of the rich sound we had, so we pulled in Yonatan (Jonathan Hopf) to round us back out. So the current incarnation is: Cosimo, Simon, Tonis, and Yonatan. In the past, we’ve shared the stage with several accomplished artists including: Heather Dale & Ben Deschamps, Siler & Clark, Heather Alexander, and several other artists.
Serge: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Simon: I’m partial to Celtic groups, such as Battlefield Band and Silly Wizard. I’ll also listen to various consorts, P.D.Q. Bach, Rush, Queensryche, E.L.O., Planet P Project, The Blues Brothers, Rockapella, Da Vinci’s Notebook, The Jolly Rogers, Ralph Vaughn Williams, John Williams, Howard Shore… Okay, if it’s music, and it’s done well, I’ll listen.
Tonis: Styx has been my favourite since I was about 12. Much like Simon I will listen to anything that is done well. Some of my top choices for various moods are: Styx, Damn Yankees, Alanis Morrissette (just something about a girl that isn’t afraid to say exactly what she believes and feels), Heather Dale, Rockapella, Acappella (Christian group I grew up with), Michael Kelly…
Cosimo: My biggest musical influences are Rockapella, Oingo Boingo, Pink Floyd and Dream Theatre.
Yonatan: I listen to all styles of music and pretty much every genre from current day back to when records (you know, those round flat black things??) First hit the schenes. My Main loves are Jazz, Folk (Americana and Celtic), and Blues.
Serge: Which are your current projects?
The Whiskey Bards: We’re currently working on performing at a variety of renaissance fairs and at the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Pennsic War in August. We’re also busy recording bawdy songs for our next album, tentatively titled “Bottoms Up,” due in February 2007.
Yonatan: I am also working on a duet album with my wife Llora.
Serge: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Simon: Enjoying whisky? For me, that really didn’t start until the early 90s. Everything up to that point had been tastes of blends that I really didn’t care much for. The musical memories at that moment don’t stand out, but I was often listening to Battlefield Band: Anthem for the Common Man. As “Yew Tree” tends to run through my head with a glass of Cardhu, it’s likely that it was playing in the background.
Tonis: Whiskey was something I didn’t really appreciate much until after the beginning of the Whiskey Bards. Two gentlemen here in Tucson (one being Cosimo) introduced me to Tullamore Dew and, for the first time, I found I actually liked a whiskey. My musical memories of whiskey really all revolve around the Whiskey Bards and drinking at parties with a group known as Keg’s End. We have sung for them on many occasion and shared a fair amount of whiskey (and other “adult frosty beverages” as well).
Cosimo: I was actually clean as a whistle from all types of drugs until 1996 when a friend convinced me to try a beer. I thought I was pure shite, so I convinced him to spend more money on real beer. Since them we have tried to out-do each other with alcohol snobbishness. My first dive into Whiskey was actually the Irish Whiskey Bushmills, and shortly after a Talisker. I really started enjoying them, however, when I discovered Tullamore Dew (Irish) and both the Dalmore and the Balvenie Doublewood. The Balvenie is still one of my standby favourites. I remember clearly listening to a group called the Finest Kind for the Balvenie – I believe that fits.
Yonatan: Being German I have always preferred beer (preferably German) and (like Tonis) had little exposure to Whiskey beyond Jack Daniels. Being asked to join the Whiskey Bards certainly did broaden my exposure, so at this point I would say I prefer Bushmills is my preference when it comes to whiskey.
Serge: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Simon: 2 stand out. The first one sold me on single malts (early 90s again.) I was in a store on my birthday, and saw a bottle of 12 year old Cardhu for an obscenely low price (something like $15.00). My guess is that it was mismarked, but I picked it up thinking, “Why not?” It turned out to be a good decision, and from that point on I’ve thought of Cardhu as birthday scotch. Come to think of it, they modernized their distilleries the same year I was born… Loch Dhu was a later, very memorable find. Yes, I’m one of the folks that actually liked the stuff. It was… different. The level of difference is one of the things that got me trying various whiskies rather than sticking with just one brand.
Tonis: I will drink several although, I have to admit, I need to be in the mood for it to really enjoy it. As I tend to prefer mixed drinks I have become partial to sours so a good whiskey sour does well for me. Tully Dew is certainly my most memorable, however, as it was my first…that’s partly why I wrote the song.
Cosimo: Like Simon, 2 stand out. 1 good, one bad bad bad. The good: I purchased a bottle of the Glenrothes – 1979 I believe (I thought it was a 1968, but I cannot find that vintage – and the bottle and box are long gone – so 1979 seems to me what I probably bought) while in Germany to celebrate a friends “promotion”. We shared the bottle and that particular Scotch was the smoothest, sweetest, warmest finish scotch I had ever tasted. That bottle successfully converted 3 non-scotch drinkers TO scotch whiskey – and they haven’t looked back since. The Bad – Laphroaig. It socks you in the mouth up front, makes you remember it and the last piss you did for a few moments after. After 12 shots in a row (don’t ask) I count myself lucky for keeping my lunch down.
Yonatan: Fortunately, under the tutelage of Simon, Tonis and Cosimo I have enjoyed all my experiences with whiskey but I rarely drink a lot so have little to say on this matter.
Serge: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Simon: I favour single malts. Usually Cardhu and Speyburn, and I liked Loch Dhu while it was around so you can guess I’ve a preference for the Speyside malts. Glenmorangie is another good whisky – either the regular or aged in a Madeira cask (the Port and Sherry casks while good, come across sweeter than I like). Occasionally I’ll go for Laphroaig or Talisker, but I’ve got to be in the right mood for them. I’ve also developed a fondness for Tullamore Dew, especially if I’ve a glass of Pear Cider handy.
Tonis: Tullamore Dew is my favourite. Jameson is pretty good. I’m not the connoisseur that Simon is although he’s been slowly introducing me to Scotch’s. I once went to a Scotch tasting party in California and made the mistake of trying some Southern California 2-year Scotch that wasn’t fit for toxic waste…for some reason, I’ve had difficulty getting into Scotch ever since then.
Cosimo: I love to try many. I have developed a love for Cardhu, Balvenie, Glenrothes, and Loch Dhu. From the Irish side, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Midleton.
Serge: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Simon: It’s a rare blend that catches my attention. While there are times that I’m pleasantly surprised, in most cases I catch a flavour that I want more of but can’t get to, or taste something that I’d rather have as a more background flavour. Frustrating.
Tonis: Yes…whatever that was that I tasted in Southern California…I hope I never learn the name of it, though…it was just bad!
Cosimo: See above. Laphroaig. Too much of a not good thing (15 hits in less than 90 minutes).
Yonatan: Fortunately, under the tutelage of Simon, Tonis and Cosimo I have enjoyed all my experiences with whiskey but I rarely drink a lot so have little to say on this matter as well.
Serge: ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Simon: “The steeple was down, but the kirk was still standin’, they begat a lum where the bell used to hang, a still-pot they got and they brewed hieland whisky, on Sundays they drank it and ranted and sang.” -Parrish of Dunkeld.
Hey, they had to have someplace to hold the party, and nobody was using the church after they hung the minister for sayin, “No ceilidhs, no dancin’, no brewin’ or drinkin’ of strong drink!”
Tonis: Sorry, have to plug it… “As fresh as the morning, we called her Tully Dew.”
Cosimo: Try as I might – I can’t come up with anything better than “Whiskey is the Life of Man.” Its just so true…. (From Whiskey-O, sea shanty)
Yonatan: Now Charlie saw The Devil a’coming ‘cross the Lee - And Charlie said “hey Devil……you do not frighten me!” The Song said “whiskey You’re the devil” so then whiskey you MUST be! And >>>POOOOF<<< The Devil turned into a flask of sweet whiskey! From the song Pass the Bottle – Yonatan C 2004.
Serge: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Simon: Yes and yes. I’d never deny someone the joy of expressing themselves musically, and guitar is a wonderful instrument. Likewise, good whisky (and good whiskey) is a treasure. Live, laugh, love, drink, enjoy.
Tonis: Most certainly. There are incredible female musicians out there on any given instrument. Music is one arena where parity has really been achieved amongst the sexes and for good reason. Besides, no matter how good the Rolling Stones might be, who would you rather watch play guitar…Keith Richards or Sheryl Crow? As to drinking whiskey, gotta respect a woman who can hold her whiskey. Remember the scene in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark where the female lead drinks some guy under the table with strong shots???...yeah, she caught my attention.
Cosimo: Yes and yes. I think it should especially be done with Men around. No offense, mates, I love you all, but she is WAY cuter than you.
Yonatan: Is this a trick question….. ;-) my answer is absolutely.
Serge: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way? Care to comment?
Simon: I would counter that tasting a whisky is similar to enjoying art, be it music, painting, acting, or a good story. Someone put time and their passions into its creation. That shows in the final product as much as the ingredients.
Tonis: I’ll leave this one to the whiskey connoisseurs in the group.
Cosimo: I actually fully believe that – and in a very classical sense. As I taste a fine drink or food, I typically have the same reactions in emotions to that of good and compelling music of the classical variety. Examples – Glenlivet 12 year, Theme from a Summer place. Laphroaig, Night on Bald Mountain.
Yonatan: I would agree – whiskey has different flavours based on age and brewing methods. So, I apply the same philosophy to all alcohols, taste all until you find those you like and always be willing to try when offered.
The Whiskey Bards' CD's: Women Whiskey & War and The Recruiter
Serge: I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Simon: Sometimes, but it would be more accurate to say that I taste whiskey according to my mood. Sometimes that hits musically, sometimes visually, and sometimes conceptually (again, like a story where you get a foreshadow of things to come, or a denouement that wraps everything up.)
Tonis: Not really, I taste whiskey in colours of friendship. My fondest whiskey memories have to deal with enjoying the company of friends so that is how I taste it.
Cosimo: For me it depends on my focus. I tend to throw my focus into one or two areas at a time and I tend to relate anything of value into those areas. In most cases, its music, but in the past when I was not performing I related those feelings to sword fighting.
Yonatan: Nope, I hear whiskey in music - jigs, reels and practically any Irish or Scottish music has that underlying sound. Come to think of it Bluegrass also has that sound as well.
Serge: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Simon: Probably a Celtic piece (go figure). Slightly sad, slightly sweet, at times defiant, at others romantic. Always a story involved. Bagpipes would cover a lot of ground there, but the mellower Scotches would be more harp. Fiddle would cover pretty much everything. Toss in some penny whistle for sparkles in the livelier ones.
Tonis: A good Celtic Rock fusion song. Hard on the surface but thoughtful and surprisingly smooth underneath.
Cosimo: Great question. Some form of steady romantic piece, although I don’t have a good example. The swells would have to be consistent and positive. If it were an instrument, I would have to call it a Tenor Saxophone. Can be melancholy, but mostly its sweet.
Yonatan: HMMMMMMM – see my previous answer, but I would say Chanters, Tin Whistle, Mandolin, or Bodhran.
Serge: There is a famous passage in a book written in the 1930s (Aneas Macdonald) where the author compares different styles of whisky to different sections of an orchestra – how would you see that working in a jazz or rock band, or in a classical orchestra?
Simon: To me, it would be more the types of whiskey being types of bands. Maybe you’d see scotch as an orchestra, bourbon as a jazz group, etc. Within those classes you get some that are heavier on the brass, some that up the keyboards or percussion. I’ll avoid trying to figure out a good whiskey for the mosh pit.
Tonis: Continuing on Simon’s theme, moonshine is definitely the “Dukes of Hazard” set in my mind.
Cosimo: Mosh Pit would be anything over 130 proof.
Yonatan: - the whiskey is the winds section – Breath required, leaves a heady feeling.
Serge: Do you have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Simon: Currently? For a while it’s been a soundtrack. Hans Zimmer, “Pirate of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.” It covers a lot of different themes, and as a soundtrack it accents the show rather than being the show.
Tonis: Not particularly. I’d have to say anything that has energy and brings to mind good friends.
Cosimo: This is sick, but I really prefer listening to our genre of music. Our own CD’s or Scottish, Irish or even English folk music.
Yonatan: I will drink whiskey in any situation with any music – so long as my friends are there to share their company.
Serge: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Simon: I think there’s a psychological influence at work here. Rock is all youth and passion, rebellion and excitement, fire and chrome. Scotch has a little more history to work with, and the images a good scotch conjures up deal with older times, and the fires are likely to be peat rather than magnesium. Nothing says it couldn’t be though. Just that it’s got that image to overcome.
Tonis: Rock & Roll has really become more cosmopolitan so I could see a shift some day that direction but, honestly, in the U.S.A., no matter how big Seattle or other cities become in the rock scene, the heartland of rock & roll is still the South and I just can’t picture a group rocking out to “Sweet Home Alabama” while passing around the Glenfiddich.
Cosimo: Jack Daniels is a Bourbon though – not really a whiskey. Even George Thorogood got that – 1 bourbon, 1 scotch, 1 beeeeeerrrrrrr…. Scotch seems to be more refined and relaxing – not the kind of slamming and high energy drink that a Jack and Coke would be. Frankly I prefer it that way – too much of modern rock and roll has become cheap beer instead of any high grade drink.
Yonatan: I am not versed well enough in whiskey to answer this question but I will say that I was first introduced to hard rock at right around the same time as I was introduced to Jack Daniels.
Serge: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Simon: When it was available, Loch Dhu would have hit the mark perfectly. Some folks love it, some folks hate it. The old world image was pushed aside in favour of a rebellious, dark and sinister image. Much more of an “in your face” kind of whisky (for good or for ill). A little too pricey now though. You really want something you can get by the case at a reasonable price.
Tonis: Agreed with Simon. Chivas is probably a likely candidate as it’s easily recognizable and probably a bit less pricey than Loch Dhu (and most of the others Simon drinks, come to think of it).
Cosimo: Laphroaig. Just Kidding ;-)
Yonatan: Again I will bow out on this question claiming ignorance.
Many thanks, Bards, for the very extensive and interesting answers!
Links of interest:
The Whiskey Bards' official website
Streaming mp3's at Milehighmusic

July 20, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
Highland Park 21 yo 1984/2005 ‘Ambassador’s Cask’ (56.1%, OB, UK, cask #43, 270 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: quite powerful, starting on notes of cooked apples and lots of latex. Quite some peat, mastic, Greek retsina wine, very unusual. Develops on cooked strawberries and very ripe oranges, pecan pie, and gets then quite meaty after a few minutes. Very assertive. Mouth: really powerful and sweet, with quite some peat and latex again, hints of violet sweets, lots of roasted nuts, with something a little ‘antiquated’. Goes on with caramel-topped fruits and marzipan… It’s almost rough considering its age, in fact, but gets rounder with time, with quite some honey and black nougats. Gets also more and more liquoricy and sort of cleaner, the rubber having now vanished… and also herbal (earl grey tea, flvoured with that small kind of orange called bergamot). A long and creamy finish on liquorice and nougat again… Very good! 90 points.
Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, rotation 1980, Italy) One of the first dumpy 12 yo ’s, please note the “decorated H” (as opposed to the more recent “plain H” at the right). Colour: amber – gold. Nose: starts extremely aromatic, almost exuberant, with lots of honey, the trademark heathery notes and old sweet wine (Sauternes). Quite some Grand Marnier as well, tons of mirabelle plum jam, dried apricots, baklava, butter croissants. What’s more, some very fine oaky tones give it an enjoyable structure. Hints of old books and antiques shop as well as orange zests (sangria?) that give it added complexity. Classy, very classy. Mouth: lots of power and presence at such ‘low’ strength, starting on quite some rubber and pepper mixed with orange marmalade plus something slightly metallic. Burnt cake. Certainly wilder and rawer than on the nose. Notes of kirsch, brandy, caramel, quite some cinnamon and cloves… Kind of a dirtiness that, oddly, make it interesting. The finish is very long but maybe a tad drying and, again, a little ‘dirty’, with a little salt and maybe traces of peat. But the nose was that great that it’s impossible to give this one less than 90 points. More body and more oomph that in the current versions (and thanks Olivier).
And also Highland Park 23 yo 1982/2006 (57.9%, OB for Whisky Magazine and Park Avenue Liquor, cask 443, US) Nose: much peatier than usual, quite violent and rough, almost brutal. Mouth: much better now, rounder and very fruity (orange drops) but the whole lacks a little subtlety and complexity for my tastes. One for big boys. 85 points.
MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening: very percussive blind Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu does Body and soul.mp3 in his very own, almost aggressive way - I like it very much, wow! That was on his 1974 album Catalonian Fire...  Too bad Tete left us in 1997 - but please buy his music.

July 19, 2006

Four new expressions by France’s Celtic Whisky Compagnie, all double-matured: first in Scotland and then in wine (or sometimes spirit) casks laid down in Brittany, very close to the ocean.
Highlands 1993/2006 ‘Monbazillac’ (46%, Celtique Connexion, 365 bottles) Further matured in a Monbazillac cask for two years – Monbazillac is a sweet white wine from the southwest of France. Colour: pink gold. Nose: very nicely integrated at first nosing, not too far from a very good ‘full sherry’ malt. Lots of very ripe plums then notes of wild mushrooms and hints of menthol as well as smoked tea (lapsang souchong) and orange juice. Really complex, with something that reminds me of some old Highland Parks – but it’s not Highland Park. Hints of resin. Mouth: quite nervous and powerful, very coherent. The whisky and the wine integrate perfectly here, thanks to the two years I guess. Notes of very ripe kiwi, crystallised citron and salted butter caramel with a nice oakiness. Maybe a tad wilder than on the nose. Rather long finish on Werther’s and hints of marc eau-de-vie. Beautiful integration, far from just whisky plus wine. 89 points.
Highlands 1992/2005 ‘Vin de Paille du Jura’ (43%, Celtique Connexion, 390 bottles) Vin de paille (straw wine) is made in the French Jura region, where they let ripe grapes (no noble rot here) further dry after the harvest but before pressing. They used to do that by spreading grapes over straw beds in the attic. Colour: gold. Nose: sweet and very fruity, with quite some banana, pineapple and fresh pear juice. Hints of hay and dried flowers… Not too complicated but elegant and refreshing. Mouth: a sweet, rounded and fruity start with quite some liquorice and crystallised fruits, developing on pineapple drops. Again, uncomplicated but very drinkable. 82 points.
Single Malt 1994/2006 ‘Quart de Chaume’ (46%, Celtique Connexion) Quart de Chaume is a sweet white wine from the Loire valley (made out of chenin). Colour: straw. Nose: quite nervous, with a little rubber at the start but which is quick to vanish. Roasted peanuts, tea, whiffs of spearmint, hints of freshly cut pineapples… Playful, very pleasant. Mouth: sweet and fruity, with quite some roasted nuts again and something slightly phenolic, smoky. Botrytis? (noble rot). Not sweetish at all. Goes on with crystallised oranges and quince… Mellow, really enjoyable. 85 points.
Speyside 1991/2006 ‘Sauternes’ (50%, Celtique Connexion, 297 bottles) Colour: reddish amber. Nose: more complex than both the Vin de Paille and the Quart de Chaume. Lots of very ripe pineapple, overripe apples, funny hints of seawater… A perfect integration here, the whole blends very well. Whiffs of menthol and eucalyptus, slightly toasted. Something musky and animal. Quite some oak (carpenter’s workshop) that gives the whole a rather perfect structure, hints of earl grey tea (bergamot flavoured)… Really great. Mouth: muscular, sweet, with a faint pungency (maybe the tannins) that counterbalances the mellowness. Lots of ripe bananas, a little pink grapefruit, strong tea (the tannins again)… Very good. The finish is medium long, on caramelised nuts and nougat… Just as excellent as the ‘Monbazillac’, maybe a tad more complex in fact. 90 points.
MUSICRecommended listening - More French (and French sounding) music for Summer with Helena Noguerra doing M'en aller.mp3 in 2001. Please buy Helena's music, I've heard she's just got a new album out.

July 18, 2006

THE BERMONDSEY EVENT: Joe Brown, the Blockheads, Nine Below Zero, Albert Lee and Hogan’s Heroes

Southwark Park, Rotherhithe, London, July 8th 2006
“Buy the Bermondsey Beat T-shirt. Only five pounds. Buy the Bermondsey T-shirt and you can wear it in Benidorm and scare Northerners ….” We’re in South London, to be honest more Rotherhithe than Bermondsey, and it’s fucking ‘ard. Everyone seems to bristle with latent aggression – the tattooed men, the tattooed women, even the shaven-headed children. The de-rigueur accessory is some sort of slavering pit-bull terrier straining at the leash – they’re everywhere, adding to the sense of resentful antagonism that suffuses the atmosphere. This is largely white working class Millwall territory – “everyone hates us and we don’t care”. Fuck off.
Luckily this is Jozzer’s patch. His Manor. His gaff is round the corner from the park, and being in his presence is the equivalent of being in a war zone with a few battalions of the UN’s Blue Bereted best around you. So as they spot Jozz, sitting in his chair alternately snarling and sneering as the debris of discarded beer bottles builds around him, people break into smiles, wish us civil ‘how do you fucking dos’, and promise us that we’re in for a real treat. Which by and large we are – the deep seated violence only kicks off towards the end of the night, when the main area in front of the stage empties quicker than a school playground as a rammy breaks out behind the fairground. “It’s West ‘Am” shouts a youth, heading for the action; “You comin’ or wot?”.

Anyway it’s the annual Bermondsey ‘Event’ in Southwark Park, almost “the largest community music event in London” says the website. It’s a day in the Park really, with beer tent, fairground, solar powered French Circus, a few food stalls (mostly it’s picnic time) and, not surprisingly, a dog show. The reason for being here is the remarkable little line up of bands, including some of Whiskyfun’s favourites. Bizarrely the afternoon session is introduced by local boy, “disgraced comedian” Michael Barrymore (“If the council have paid him then I want my rates back” mumbles Jozzer), much to the bemusement of first act Albert Lee and Hogan’s Heroes. Lee of course, is the UK’s leading Country guitarist who was born in the wilds of Herefordshire. They ran through their stuff, featuring some tunes from Lee’s new album Road Runner, and ending with Lee’s signature tune, ‘Country Boy’. But to be frank it wasn’t too easy to make out what was being played as the sound was decidedly inferior unless (as we discovered later) you were right in front of the stage, and the pleasing breeze seemed to be blowing much of what there was (sound, that is) down the river. And Jozzer was still eating his lunch, a prodigious plateful of Bermondsey’s best bangers, and toying with a frisky Rioja, so we weren’t going anywhere without the UN. Which meant that we didn’t get the full benefit of Nine Below Zero, fronted by two of Bermondsey’s favourite blues-boys, ace guitarist Dennis Greaves and harmonica genius Mark Feltham. Jozzer still remembers when they used to play “daan the Apple and Pears”, a famous Bermondsey boozer which he, and many R & B fans used to frequent way back in the 1970’s. Here, once the sound was sorted, they played at a breakneck speed for over an hour, by which time the bangers, and the Rioja, were spent (as was the coke that we spotted two guys snorting behind the Portaloos in full view of the Old Bill). Anyway don’t turn down a chance to see Nine Below Zero, they’re tight and top quality, “still the business”, and are playing all over Europe at Festivals throughout the summer.
We needed to get closer for the Blockheads - not South London geezers of course, and what with all that Essex tosh, and two band members from Newcastle it was potentially a dangerous place to be. But as Jozzer led the lost tribe the crowds parted ‘till, uncannily, we were right at the front of the stage.

I wasn’t sure about the Blockheads as a festival band, but that close up they were simply brilliant. With or without the much missed Ian Dury their sophisticated and complex take on rock and roll is simply still best in class – driven by Norman Watt-Roy’s sublime Fender bass playing, Micky G on Hammond and Chaz J and keyboards and Fender guitar, and Dylan Howe’s cool groove drumming the performance was sublime. An increasingly ‘emotional’ (as they used to say) John Turnbull fronted with vocals shared with Derek the Draw, mixing Blockhead classics with new material from Where’s the Party?
It was as they ended that the fighting started, and as mayhem had its day the stage was quietly prepared for the headline act, London rock and roll veteran Joe Brown, devoid, after all of these years, of his Bruvvers. Joe, you may recall, had a string of not quite number one hits at the start of the sixties, and then resigned himself to being a nation’s favourite chirpy cockney. “What”, I slurred to Jozzer, “wash hish big hit?” “Who knowsh?”. Well Joe, looking as sprightly as he had when I last saw him in the late 1960s, wowed us with some well chosen bluesy rockabilly, an a cappella tune or two, and some notable playing on the mandolin. All surprisingly very classy – and indicating serious talent and technical abilities not, of course, suggested by the novelty act reputation – in fact Joe and his accomplished band went down a storm at Glastonbury a couple of years ago, always the key to musical rehabilitation. He has a new album out later this summer which might well be worth a serious listen. In the meantime Jozzer said “whasht wash it?” just as Joe broke into ‘I’m Henry the Eighth I am” – never a hit, but the song for which he will always be remembered – no doubt much to his chagrin. Then it all went wrong.
With the show running well over time the firework chaps decide to trigger the fuse, Joe was trying to play an encore (“fucking disgraceful I call it, said the DJ as we left for digestifs chez Jozz, “letting off fireworks when Joe wuz still playing”) but the sound men were cued for ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. So we got fireworks, Joe, Elgar, fireworks, no Joe, no fireworks, and finally the remnants of Elgar sadly playing out as, under the watchful eye of the mass congregation of the local Old Bill, we gathered the remnants of our day back onto Jozzer’s old dad’s costermonger’s cart and pushed it back home.
And looking back in retrospect what had we learnt? Well, you don’t have to pay £40 or more for a good day out in the park. And that once disarmed of prejudice (and music is a great disarmer) you can have a good old knees up with gawd blimey heavens knows who you like. That the Blockheads really do remain the benchmark in funk soul rock and roll, relaxed exemplars for all to follow. That you don’t need a burger king sponsor to spoil a good party. And that Jozzer’s doll Trizza makes a mean sausage bap. Ah yes Serge, we may have been knocked out of the World’s Cup, but we’re back here in Blighty, and we’re doing very well. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick, that was amazing. Maybe a bit scary as well, especially because my daughter is currently in London… I mean, is it always like that? Now, she could always find refuge in that ‘solar powered French Circus’. But what was it? What is a French circus, diplomacy and football apart? And what is a ‘croissant neuf’? Do you collect old croissants? Did the College of Pataphysics strike again? Er...


Longrow 9 yo 1990/1999 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 206) Nose: very fresh and very farmy at the same time, very pure, with notes of linseed oil, apples and wet hay… Very elegant and without any offbeat notes, contrarily to what happens with many more recent expressions I think (see below). Also something buttery, mashy (bear), yoghurt, mashed potatoes… A clean one.

Mouth: quite oily with lots of almonds, bitter oranges, grain, smoke, oyster juice. It’s really maritime and most nicely balanced. Nice sweetness and again a little marzipan that give it a pleasant body. A rather long finish with a pinch of pepper. In short, it’s not too complicated, not unforgettable but hugely enjoyable despite its young age. 88 points.
Longrow 11 yo 1994 (58%, Cadenhead for Whiskyplus Berlin, 288 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: starts quite hot and very milky, cardboardy and mashy like most recent OB’s. Lots of fresh butter but also wet chalk, cod oil, aspirin and rubbed orange zest, the whole getting frankly ‘chemical’ after a while. Notes of canned pineapple… Very little peat left after a moment but something like fisherman’s nest, motor oil. Hints of overripe fruits (kiwis?) and camphor. Highly unusual indeed, a nose unlike any other malts’. Mouth: a very funny attack that really makes me think of Hazelburn, with its weird but interesting profile. A little salt, Alka-Seltzer, concentrated lemon juice, rosehip tea, hints of salmiak and even kippers… It goes in many directions but always off the beaten track, which makes it sort of lovable (although I don’t ‘like’ it). The finish is long but a little chemical again, with notes of ‘artificial’ orange juice and something a little soapy. Well, I think this one is really unconventional, hence well worth trying, that’s for sure. 77 points.

July 17, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
Caol Ila 1995 (58.3%, Jack Wieber’s Prenzlow Collection) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: powerful, peaty, smoky, maritime and almondy. Rather raw but very clean and very fresh, with something earthy in the background and maybe a slight soapiness. Nothing special but no flaws either.
With water: hints of varnish at the start but then it gets hugely farmy (horse sweat and dung, manure) but in all elegance. Funny how the fresh pear comes out as well. Very pleasant and with lots of backbone. Mouth (neat): sweet and fruity with lots of backbone. Huge notes of apple skins, lemon zests and, quite simply, peat. Easily drinkable just like that but let’s try it with water. Right, it gets much earthier and more liquoricy, with also notes of smoked tea, smoked oysters… And a long, very liquoricy and quite salty finish. Very good, young Coal Ila... 87 points.
Caol Ila 9 yo 1995/2005 (60%, Acorn, Japan) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: very similar of course, maybe a tad more chocolaty but also slightly less expressive. Probably more delicate as well. With water: this one gets a little more coastal rather than farmy (seaweed), but they are still very close. Very pure, these Acorn. Mouth (neat): it’s almost the same malt now, with maybe just a little more sweetness (yeah, splitting hairs). With water: again it’s almost the same, maybe with a little more cardboard at the finish. 86 points.
Caol Ila 11 yo 1995 (60.5%, Cadenhead, Cask #12406 330 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: again very similar, a little more spirity this time and a tad more almondy but it’s again a tad less expressive than both the JWWW and the Acorn. With water: Closer to the Prenzlow, i.e. farmier but with maybe more ‘minerality’ now (wet stones). Mouth (neat): same malt would I say. Almost. With water: yeah, almost. This one is maybe just a tad rougher and also saltier. 86 points.
All these three Caol Ilas were perfectly distilled, no doubt and I can’t wait to taste these batches when they’re 20 or 30 years old. An interesting case where the distillery seems to be much more important than the wood and the warehouses…


MUSIC Recommended listening - More French music, I mean French music that sounds really French (after Air, Daft Punk, Stereolab, Katerine et. all.) - it's Louis Philippe doing L'hiver te va bien.mp3 in 1995 (produced by Bertrand Burgalat). Please buy these guys' music!


July 16, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
Auchroisk 12 yo 1978/1990 (59.3%, Cadenhead, dumpy black label, 75cl) Colour: straw. Nose: rather closed at first nosing, with just notes of hay and wet stones as well as salt and Fanta. A bit hard I must say and somewhat chemical. Let’s give it some time… Well, there’s also some ginger tonic coming through after a moment, old cardboard… And then it gets much cleaner, finally, mostly on newly cut apples. With water: oh yes, what a pull-up! It got much, much cleaner, nicely herbal and citrusy, with also quite some vanilla crème and whiffs of fresh mint. Amazing what water does to this one.
Mouth (neat): punchy, aggressive, very bitter and very lemony. Ouch! Quick, water: it improves again but in lesser proportions. It’s still very lemony and quite bitter but we have also a little tea, tangerines, cake… Much more tannins as well and a finish that’s rather long but a little dry and sort of indefinite. But what a miracle on the nose! 80 points.
Auchroisk 15 yo 1989 (59.5%, Cadenhead) Colour: straw. Nose: much more sherry but other than that it’s again a little weird at first nosing, with notes of vase water, ‘old’ oranges, ‘old’ meat… Also quite some rubber and even new plastic. Yet, we do have some nice whiffs of freshly cut herbs (chive?) Let’s add a little water now: gosh, now it’s almost pure rubber! Brand new bicycle inner tube, rubber bands and all that… A rubber monster? I guess some would like it – I don’t. Mouth (neat): certainly creamier than its older sibling but also more rubbery, with lots of burnt fruits and a little salt… Rather hard again. With water: no real improvement I’m afraid, always these huge rubbery notes until the end of the finish… Not my style I’m afraid. 68 points.


MUSICHighly recommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical (sort of) with an excellent piece by Terry Riley called 15/16.mp3, solo piano recorded live at the Festival dos Capuchos, Lisbon, in July 1995. Bl**dy excellent and not minimalist at all, eh! Please buy all of Mr Riley's music...


July 15, 2006

Glenury Royal 1964/1977 (80° proof, Cadenhead, dumpy) Colour: straw. Nose: hey, isn’t this an old Clynelish? Huge waxiness and oiliness, with notes of rubbed orange zest, tin can, candles, paraffin, newly printed book (fresh ink and paper), old wardrobe, attic, hints of mothballs… Quite some peat in there… Also hints of anchovies, the whole getting more and more maritime with time (dried fish)… Superb but you have to like this kind of profile.
Mouth: punchy, kind of sweet, sour and salty, with again these fishy notes right from the start, mixed with rosemary, orange zest, paraffin, fir honey and mastic, developing on cough syrup and Smyrna raisins as well as a little mint. Excellent, and the finish is rather long, nicely and ‘sweetly’ resinous, like a great old liqueur. A whisky that keeps talking to you for a long time (but sorry, we’re in a rush). 92 points.
Glenury Royal 1966/1979 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy) Colour: straw. Nose: this is completely different, although both were very much alike at very first nosing. Much more resinous (fir honey, a little camphor and eucalyptus) and also both rounder and more compact. Pine needles, dired oranges, lemongrass, grapefruit, and again a great waxines. This one is probably a little sexier and easier but not less interesting, that’s for sure. Mouth: the palates are closer to each other now, this one being just a little bolder and more nervous, but maybe a tad simpler at the attack. A little fruitier (dried fruits, oranges, kumquats…) but less resinous. Hints of rose sweets, Turkish delights, getting a little spicy (faint hints of nutmeg and cinnamon). Lots of body and a very satisfying finish, candied, citrusy and peppery at the same time, maybe a little drying. Tie: 92 points.


MUSICJAZZ - Highly recommended listening - the great Ella Mae Morse aka the Dynamite Texas Diva does George Handy's beautiful Rip Van Winkle.mp3 (yes) in 1945.

July 2006 - part 1 <--- July 2006 - part 2 ---> August 2006 - part 1

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

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

Glenury Royal 1964/1977 (80° proof, Cadenhead, dumpy)

Glenury Royal 1966/1979 (46%, Cadenhead, dumpy)

Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, rotation 1980, Italy)

Highland Park 21 yo 1984/2005 ‘Ambassador’s Cask’ (56.1%, OB, UK, cask #43, 270 bottles)

Longmorn 1969 (62%, G&M – Jas. Gordon, Cask series, late 1980’s)

Speyside 1991/2006 ‘Sauternes’ (50%, Celtique Connexion, 297 bottles)

Springbank 1966/2000 ‘Local Barley’ (55%, OB, cask #511)