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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2017 - Part 2

       

July 2017 - part 1 <--- July 2017 - part 2 ---> August 2017 - part 1

 

July 31, 2017


Whiskyfun

Deanston and Deanston

Yes we like to try the underdogs at WF Towers. They generate no likes on Facebook, no shares, no retweets and no hearts, and they’re actually traffic killers to bloggers, but I’m asking you, why would we care since you are reading this? (ooh that was lame and vulgar, S.!)

Deanston 10 yo 2006/2016 (46%, The Cooper's Choice, sherry finish, Cask #9702, 300 bottles)

Deanston 10 yo 2006/2016 (46%, The Cooper's Choice, sherry finish, Cask #9702, 300 bottles) Three stars and a half We’ve had other 2006s, they were of new make quality. I guess that’s why they’ve done a finishing on this one. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a tad buttery and custardy, but there are nice leathery raisins, some pleasant tobacco-ish caramel, and an enticing feeling of smoked fudge and toffee. Nothing bad to say so far… Mouth: goody good! Well done, it’s kept a rather big bready maltiness, while the sherry’s imparted rather lovely notes of raisins, fruit-flavoured herbal teas, and simply cherries. Some genepy and wormwood in the background. Finish: medium, malty and caramely, with a good fruitiness. Cold-dried fruit paste, ever heard about that? Comments: almost impressed. I wasn’t expecting much (like +/-78 points) but I was wrong. I’m often wrong. Says my dear wife. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Deanston 15 yo ‘Organic’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2017)

Deanston 15 yo ‘Organic’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2017) Four starsSome are claiming that this is the first organic malt whisky, but of course it isn’t. Now I would certainly understand, given what some dump into the fields, that some drinkers would prefer to go organic, especially heavy drinkers. While some other folks might think that since alcohol is a toxicant, coming up with some organic poison can’t make much sense. Colour: white wine. Nose: barley, barley, barley, and perhaps barley. Plus drops of golden syrup, a large spoonful of Golden Grahams, and a little honey. Gingerbread. I don’t know if that’s because this is organic, but we’re rarely this close to the barley. Or is it my mind at work? Mouth: super good, really. Fresh, rather citrusy, malty, with peaches and melons, vanilla, agave syrup… This is almost a blend of natural Arran and Bruichladdich. Goes down like that. Finish: medium, fresh, on sweet barley and yellow fruits. Some peppery oak in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not impossible that some newish American oak was at play here, but the end result just works a treat. Surprised, a little bit, but it seems that Deanston are on the way up. In my book, they certainly are. SGP:641 - 87 points.

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

 

Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2017

Favourite recent bottling:
Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary Tasting Session, bourbon hogshead) - WF 94

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s)- WF 92

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Vega 23 yo 1993/2017 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, blended malt, 400 bottles) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017) - WF 92

 

 

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July 30, 2017


Whiskyfun

All malternatives, new Foursquare
and good buddies

So, there is this new(ish) Foursquare everybody’s talking about. I could decide to put it on an easy pedestal by first trying the latest Zacapa, Don Papa or Diplomatico. Or I could try to find some fearless opponents, since ‘triumph without peril brings no glory’, as the good old Pierre Corneille used to say. Excuse me? Of course that’s what we’re going to do… Starting with Bacardi (I’m joking)…

Caroni 18 yo 1998/2017 (65.5%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Trinidad, 245 bottles)

Caroni 18 yo 1998/2017 (65.5%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Trinidad, 245 bottles) Four stars Honestly, it’s good that the label would tell us that this is ‘cask strength’, because with only 65.5% alc/vol. on the clock, I’m sure we wouldn’t have noticed. By the way, this very high strength is intriguing for a rum that probably didn’t spend its whole life the tropics. Colour: amber. Nose: starts with varnish, wood glue and pencil shavings - which is very normal with very high strength rums – before it starts to become more and more phenolic, congeneric, and simply tarry/salty, so very Caroni. Some dried pears too. Well, it’s actually not too huge so far, but water may change that… With water: not quite ‘very high esters’, its actually rather round(ish) for Caroni, but as we say in France, class talks. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, this is hot and brutal! A Titanic load of liquorice, and something such as burnt gingerbread. Perhaps. Once again, a concentration that rather hints at tropical aging. Not too sure… With water: it’s really almost all on liquorice, with a touch of salted caramel. Which gives it a ‘British Navy’ side. Finish: rather long, but not quite massive. Now it’s not Angostura either… More liquorice, and perhaps hints of baked eggplant. Comments: very excellent, naturally, just a tad mono-dimensional, perhaps. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Let’s find another Caroni…

Caroni 20 yo 1996/2016 (57.18%, Velier, ‘Heavy’, 3800 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1996/2016 (57.18%, Velier, ‘Heavy’, 3800 bottles) Four stars This large batch was aged in the tropics for sure, while the angel’s share was of more than 85% this time. This is well ‘heavy’ Caroni, so high-esters and probably with a very large proportion of pot still rum inside. Colour: red amber. Nose: hold on, this is a little lighter than the Kill Devil, for reasons I can’t explain. But it’s also more complex, with delicate (indeed) notes of earths and teas, as well as a floral side. Peonies and geranium (remember, flowers, not stems or leaves, that would be a flaw). A little coffee. With water: we’re very close to the Kill Devil now. Spoonfuls of that kind of very earthy coffee (the name escapes me). Mouth (neat): ah yes, this is heavy. Take tar, add liquorice, add more tar, and add more liquorice. Finish with a dollop of orange liqueur and one mint leaf. With water: perhaps does the oak feel a bit, and once again it’s perhaps not one of the widest (and wildest for that matter) Caronis. But it’s most excellent, as expected. Finish: long, with a touch of lemon and salt. Orange liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: I won’t decide both Caronis, both are extremely good, but perhaps not totally and utterly stellar. SGP:652 - 86 points.

Let’s move to Guyana…

Diamond 12 yo 2003/2016 (46%, Silver Seal, Guyana, cask #37, 255 bottles)

Diamond 12 yo 2003/2016 (46%, Silver Seal, Guyana, cask #37, 255 bottles) Four stars Lovely label, Silver Seal are always taking great care of their labels and presentations. Didn’t notice this was at only 46% vol. before I poured this little Demerara into my glass. Nothing to worry about… Colour: white wine. Nose: very singular, and rather on a blend of various tropical fruit juices with petrol and cane juice. Unexpected notes of elderberry flowers, celeriac, and beyond the tropical fruits, pears. Bags of williams pears. Mouth: extremely unusual. Salted bananas, pipe juice, cane juice yet again, pickled fruits, and only wee touches of liquorice and tar. Quite bizarrely, it partly reminds me of that lovely Brazilian rum that they aren’t making anymore, Epris. A little smoke as well. With water: no water needed. Finish: medium-long, still singular, with something bizarrely agricole. Did they also use cane juice at Diamond at some point? Great saltier aftertaste. Comments: quite embarrassingly, I’ll have to go with the same score yet again for this fresher than usual Demerara rum. SGP:651 - 86 points.

More Demerara…

Enmore 25 yo 1990/2015 (58%, Cave Guildive, bourbon)

Enmore 25 yo 1990/2015 (58%, Cave Guildive, bourbon) Four stars This one still from the original distillery, before their famous wooden pot still stopped fuming for good a few years later (but it’s in use again at Diamond, if I’m not mistaken). Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather gentle, and rather ashy/earthy at first, before several herbal teas start to come through, first chamomile and melissa, then fennel and even star anise. All that is covered with thin layers of liquorice and a softer tar. With water:  more earth and that mezcaly side that works well with some rums. Crushed guavas smoked and mixed with earth (what?) Mouth (neat): much bigger now. Even rather acrid, gritty, and really very herbal. Bags of lemon balm, some smoked/salted liquorice, and notes of green oak. Then ashes (eating the ashtray). With water: this baby really loses you. Sometimes fruity and easy, and then it starts to roar and gets much grassier and smokier… Finish: rather long, and with more citrus. Gets cleaner. Comments: what a ride, this one’s really difficult to follow. I’d even say that it plays with the taster. Nasty boy! SGP:562 - 87 points.

Good, all those rums were very different, and yet I scored them almost the same. I swear to both Alfred Barnard and Michael Jackson that I did not make this up. The VUMC of rum (very upper middle class). I think we’re ready to tackle the Foursquare…

Foursquare ‘Triptych’ (56%, OB/Velier, Barbados, 5,400 bottles, 2016)

Foursquare ‘Triptych’ (56%, OB/Velier, Barbados, 5,400 bottles, 2016) Five stars This is ‘Single Blended Rum’ upon the Gargano/Seale classification, so a blend of column and pot still rums from the same distillery. A bit like what Ben Nevis and Lochside used to make in the old days. Three vintages have been blended together (2004, 2005, 2007), from three kinds of cask (bourbon, Madeira, new oak). This combo must have been as tricky to adjust as the carburettors on an E-type! Colour: deep gold. Nose: what’s really nice is that this is a whole. There’s a little wood at first (new empty barrels in a wine storehouse plus fresh varnish) as well as some charcoal, and some rather muddy spices in the background. Yes mud’s an asset. I’m also finding notes of dried fish, old hunting jacket, and gun oil while we’re at it. Also touches of mustard and walnuts, maybe is that the Madeira. With water: olives! Another one that loves water.

Mouth (neat): right on the money. Brine, gherkins, olives, tar, ashes, lemon, and sage. As if the island of Barbados was drifting towards Jamaica, so towards the west. I was afraid the wood would be a little dominant, but I was wrong. With water: doesn’t change a lot. Perhaps a little more salt and a little more lemon? Finish: wonderful brine. I mean, rum. The aftertaste is a touch sweeter and fruitier. Guavas, perhaps. And just a wee oaky echo – I like them even better when you don’t feel the oak at all, but that’s just me. Comments: I just hate it that I like what’s just everyone’s favourite rum anyway these days. Quick, let’s find something bad to say… Right, the label. I know bad labels are screaming ‘it’s the content that counts’, but still, couldn’t we have a few parrots? Butterflies? Birds? Balloons? Surfers? Crocodiles? Girls? SGP:563 - 90 points.

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

 

 

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July 28, 2017


Whiskyfun

Three young brutes

We’re in the midst of summer in the northern hemisphere, so we may break our rules from time to time, not need to always be dead serious and try whiskies from the very same distilleries. As long as some kinds of rules remain, I’m fine… So today, three very young brutes from little-known distilleries… A 7, a 8 and a 9 years old. Makes sense? So let’s fasten our seat belts…

Fettercairn 7 yo 2009/2017 (60.5%, Bdram, Morrison & Makay, bourbon barrel, cask #1119, 270 bottles)

Fettercairn 7 yo 2009/2017 (60.5%, Bdram, Morrison & Makay, bourbon barrel, cask #1119, 270 bottles) Three stars Are you sure your seatbelt is fastened? Colour: straw. Nose: punches your face with raw kirsch and other eaux-de-vies, as well as this very peculiar sourness that’s so typically Fettercairn. Porridge, dairy cream, sour melons, and a dollop of slightly rancid butter cream. Very hate it or love it, and very Fettercairn indeed. I say it’s intriguing, and no I’m not being PC. With water: it likes water. Fern, cut grass, lavender cream, more sour cream, and some very discreet baby burp. Typical indeed. Mouth (neat): no, not kirsch, plum spirit! Damson plums all over the place! This is totally raw, brutal, and dare I say, un-whisky. Funny. Some easier, and nice notes of lemon curd. With water: it adores water, and gets lighter and fruitier, while remaining quite eau-de-vie-ish. Pears, shall I add ‘of course’. Finish: rather long, while the melons are back. Melon liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: raw, robust, very young, and sympathetic, especially given the fair price. I you ever want to taste the very essence of Fettercairn… Great that they have bottled this ruthless baby, I like it better than many and older official Fettercairn. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Glenallachie 8 yo 2008/2017 (58.3%, North Star Spirits, sherry butt, 326 bottles)

Glenallachie 8 yo 2008/2017 (58.3%, North Star Spirits, sherry butt, 326 bottles) Four stars A sherry butt would probably add 5 ‘felt years’ to a young whisky… And BTW, did you see that Pernod just sold Glenallachie Distillery to Billy Walker and friends? Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh bretzels straight from your oven! And toasted bread, slightly over-baked kougelhopf, raisins, dried dates, and light pipe tobacco. Good. With water: good earth and cakes early in the morning. Warm raisin bun. Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, citrusy. Lemon grass, vanilla fudge, Thai basil, and a bag of raisins. Everything is in order. With water: becomes very cake-y again. Orange cake, something leafy (strong earl grey)… Finish: long, rather spicier. Cinnamon rolls, perhaps. Comments: as good as some eight-years-old whisky with no huge personality (this is not Lagavulin) can get. Good sherry cask. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Craigellachie 9 yo 2007/2017 (64.4%, Sherwood’s, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask # 70900659, 302 bottles)

Craigellachie 9 yo 2007/2017 (64.4%, Sherwood’s, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask # 70900659, 302 bottles) Four stars A new label, pleasantly un-premiumised. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this baby’s got some traits of the funny Fettercairn, minus the wacky Fettercainness. Barley eau-de-vie, limoncello, greengages, and a distinct minerality. Very pure eau-de-vie de barley (by Yves St-Laure… perhaps not). With water: same, plus a little grass, as almost always when water’s been added. Mouth (neat): granted, it’s young, simple, even kind of narrow, but it’s the purity that’s very impressive here. As if the cask’s filtering job had been done to perfection, while it didn’t add any specific flavours to a pure distillate. The end result is refreshing and even quite sexy. More artisan limoncello. With water: oh very good! Really very good! Very very good! (couldn’t you be more specific, S.?) Finish: rather long, beautifully citrusy, fresh, very clean… Comments: I’m rather impressed. This goes done like that, even at 64.4%. But don’t tell anybody… SGP:651 - 86 points.

 

 

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July 27, 2017


Whiskyfun
  We’re fifteen, let’s celebrate with the truly rare!

Today whiskyfun.com is 15! In truth I have been wondering which whisky we should have to celebrate this little event that happens only once in any blog’s life (err, obviously). A recent batch of Talisker Port Ruighe? Revisit Loch Dhu 10? Another go at Laphroaig Select or Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve? Bowmore Dawn? Speyburn Bradan Orach? Or an extremely rare single malt from a distillery that closed even before World War II? Well, after very long hesitation, and after having flipped many coins, I decided to go for the latter. Don’t ask.

So, it’s going to be an official Glamis, a single malt from Glenfyne Distillery, which was located in Ardrishaig on the banks of the Crinan Canal, on Loch Fyne, Argyll. That’s almost right in the middle of a triangle that would go from Oban, to Arran, to Islay. The distillery was built in 1831 as Glenfyne, was rechristened Glendarroch around the 1870s, and became Glenfyne again around 1890. It operated until 1937 and was closed for good in that year, then gradually demolished until around 1990. Alfred Barnard had been very enthusiastic when he visited Glenfyne (well, Glendarroch) in 1885, while it was sheltering one large wash still (4,700 gallons) and two small spirit stills (only 500 gallons each).

map

The output was around 80,000 gallons when Barnard visited, but I suspect production was cranked up later on.

Glenfyne

View of Glendarroch/Glenfyne Distillery in Alfred Barnard's book 'The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom' (around 1885)

The distillery’s main brand name had been Glamis until the stocks were exhausted, but just like ‘Old Orkney’ and others, that name has then been used for blended whiskies, or ‘bastard’ malts that had nothing to do with Glenfyne Distillery, some related to Glamis Castle. It’s also to be noted that there was also some official ‘Glen Fyne’, and that the distillery also had its own brands of blends, such as ‘Sandy Tamson’ or ‘Glen Crinan’, which had survived the distillery itself for several decades.

But enough History, let’s taste that intriguing Glenfyne…

Glamis

Glamis (Glenfyne) 10 yo (86 US proof, OB, unblended pot still malt, for Greig, Lawrence & Hoyt, New York, 4/5 quart, 1930s) Four stars and a half Definitely Glenfyne’s Highland malt, and another single malt brand that used to be exported to remote countries even before WWII, after Clynelish, Laphroaig and several others that we have also tasted (while the ‘official’ line is that one famous pioneering brand and distillery started it all in the 1960… ahem…) Colour: greenish amber. Not green enough to suggest metal contamination. Nose: does it make any sense to call this ‘the old Highlands style’? What’s sure is that it’s rather coastal, but less so than some similarly old Clynelishes, Stromnesses or Highland Parks we could try. Not to mention Laphroaig or Lagavulin of course. Some kind of menthol cake, perhaps?...

... Old balsams, autumn leaves, a little chocolate (thin mints), old leather jackets in that old wardrobe in that old attic in that old country house… And gravel after the first rain, touches of old liquorice and tar liqueurs, those famous old copper coins… In any case, this is a lovely nose, and if I had to summarize it all, I’d say ‘an abandoned antique shop in the middle of nowhere’.

Mouth: it’s funny that it would rather start on citrus and dried figs, very old bottles being usually a little dry. Then we find cigarette tobacco, then all these herbal and mentholated herbs and oils than abound in many a very old whisky, whether it’s ‘cask old’ or ‘bottle old’, or both. What’s sure is that it’s absolutely not dead, and so still pretty much alive and kicking. Tends to become a little bitter though (artichokes), with notes of caraway in the background. Our beloved old walnuts (sprinkled with lemon juice) are locking up the rear. As for the mouth feel, the 86 US proof/43% were more than enough to secure a full body all along. Finish: medium long, still herbal and rather lemony. It’s actually got the finish of some excellent dry white wine. Comments: I’m starting to have the feeling that very old bottles of malt keep better than very old bottle of blend. What’s sure is that this old Glenfyne, while less impressive than very old northerners, remained excellent and it packed much more oiliness than any current malt whiskies. As if modern malts have become thinner altogether (we all know they have, don’t we). SGP:372 - 88 points (I’m not feeling too comfortable scoring such a prestigious old glory – would one score a Tintoretto?)

(With thanks to Pit for the logistics and to The Distillery Trail for some of the pictures)

Glamis

 

Other than that, what’s new at WF Towers and elsewhere?...

Well, in brief and very higgledy-piggledy…

Our readership kept growing, albeit at a rather slower pace, see above. Even if you always have to separate the weed from the chaff with these kinds of figures, it seems that we got around 3.5Mio visits in the last twelve months, and between 9,000 and 10,000 visits per day, although I’m really not sure all of them are/were ‘serious’.

No, we still don’t take any advertising money I’m afraid, or any other kinds of monies.

We've hired a skilled guest taster from Scotland, Angus MacRaild. We share the same tastes, otherwise that wouldn't work. Apparently, Angus is content with a glass of Alsatian riesling every six months. As wages.

Doesn’t whisky get a little boring? What’s sure is that there hasn’t been much interesting new stuff happening or coming out in the last twelve months. Some seem to believe that they’re ‘innovating’ but they’re all having the same ‘innovations’. Some slightly unusual cask combos (hey let’s finish an NAS in some Liechtensteiner new oak! Hey let’s season some casks with some IPA!), more ‘retro’ packaging here and there, a few bicentenaries, and certainly more attention given to Asia, with special bottlings or even the odd single cask sold to China for twice the price that the same whiskies would fetch in Europe. Money has no smell.

Apparently, Whiskyfun is blocked on Qatar Airways.

The best truly craft distillers are selling themselves to the large corporations. Aaargh.

Some excellent bloggers have thrown in the towel last year, for example our friend Sku. Others have become much quieter, posting a few things every once in a while. On the other hand, there are some new bloggers too, but quite a few are actually industry-fuelled (read sponsored) efforts. So not exactly bloggers, rather edvertorialists or ‘content writers’. What, lifestyle blogs? Don’t get me started… Gladly, the Whisky Sponge is still with us.

Halle

The general press is publishing more and more junk about whisky, ridden with errors and unlikely ‘ten best’ lists. Check who’s #1 and #3, you’ll see who paid for it. Mostly written by the same ‘content writers’ by the way, all experts in telling you about the differences between ‘whisky’ and ‘whiskey’. Run away! But we do thank The New York Times for adding the word ‘paidpost’ to their URLs each and every time they’re publishing such a thing, that’s the good way. Oh and some general articles are pretty good, not to forget that video of Halle Berry downing, in real life, a large glass of Old Forrester (more or less a paid gig, apparenty).

More malt distilleries have become or are becoming brands rather than whiskymakers. Building brands is cool, improving quality at the same time is even better. Some seem to be doing the latter by the way, which is great. Had a superb official Deanston, for example. Deanston! Sadly, some others don’t, I guess they’re too busy working on brand experience. And say adios to education, and hello to brainwashing. So much for the post-advertising era! What you have to do to sell a bottle of distilled barley…

Springbank and Lagavulin remain extremely good. Just saying. Others too.

Some independent bottlers are managing to keep the category afloat. The splendidly revived W.M. Cadenhead for example (it was a good idea to hire that guy), or some cool new bottlers in other countries, who were passionate about whisky before they started doing all this. Passion before money, always better like that. I also like Douglas Laing's refreshingly funny blended malts. Now I’ve always heard IBs complaining about the fact that it was getting harder to find good casks, but they seem to manage to keep doing it. Kudos to them. Even if a 5 years old Craigellachie is maybe not everyone's grail...

I think that within the last year, whisky’s become totally ‘world’, even if the big whisky countries keep churning out the vast majority of what’s consumed, not counting the oceans of molasses-based 'whisky' made in India. What's sure is that my friends don't blink an eye anymore when trying some whisky from even the most unlikely countries. Next, 'would you have some Outer Mongolian single malt for us to try, Serge?'

To see only value growth while volumes decline might not be a perfect situation. I would work on consumer trust – which doesn’t only consists in doing more content marketing.

I can't think of any Scotch distillery or brand that's not become 'premium'. Bother! They have to start all over again.

Quality rum’s still in its infancy, and I’d wager that 95% of what’s sold as rum is junk. It’s like when Scotch was all about Bell’s or Vat 69, you see. The real ‘single malts’ of rum are still to come, even if the IBs (thanks to them, once more!) already have/had a few. And of course a few distilleries in Barbados, Jamaica, or Martinique/Guadeloupe. In the mean time, we spirit lovers just have to avoid ex-multi-column and doctored stuff (often the same), and the numerous lying labels.

Many whisky lovers are also turning to Cognac and Armagnac, but a word of caution, focus on own-estate, natural strengths, or the few IBs that usually have some of the best. Avoid boiséed stuff like the plague.

Some keep claiming that whisky’s all about wood.  Well, since they all use more or less the same wood and store the vast majority of their whiskies more or less in the same parts of Scotland, all distilleries should taste more or less the same in that case. No? Unless that explains while Joe Public believes that 'whiskies all taste the same'.

Age statements are returning here and there. Loud applause (but not when the price of a new 10 is the double of what it used to be before, eh!)

Gin. Who's not making gin?

Pace e salute!

July 2017 - part 1 <--- July 2017 - part 2 ---> Current entries

 
 

July 26, 2017


Whiskyfun

Some middle-aged undisclosed ones

As we often do, a bag of whiskies that can be excellent, but you don’t know what’s inside, whether they’re single malts or blended ones. Wait, isn’t that the definition of blind tasting? Well, perhaps not exactly…

Vega 23 yo 1993/2017 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, blended malt, 400 bottles)

Vega 23 yo 1993/2017 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, blended malt, 400 bottles) Four stars A very small batch, so perhaps some teaspooned single malt? Pure speculation… Colour: gold. Nose: let’s not play the guessing game. What’ sure is that this is a lovely combination that would involve panettone, baked raisins, brioche, apricot marmalade, and roasted malt. Some orange juice too, which keeps it very fresh. With water: more raw barley, some hay, a little earth… Mouth (neat): starts citrusy and spicy, with cloves, milk chocolate, oranges, and touches of pomegranate, and would rather get cake-ier again, with some orange cake and more brioche. Some spicy honey. With water: takes water like a champ. Awesome spicy oranges and praline. Finish: long, fruity, with the oranges winning it in the end. Comments: very Speyside-y, in the best possible way. A slightly cognacqy way. I hope I won’t shock anyone if I write that it reminds me of Glenfarclas 25. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Speyside 18 yo 1998/2017 (52.7%, Archives, butt, cask #1034, 239 bottles)

Speyside 18 yo 1998/2017 (52.7%, Archives, butt, cask #1034, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half This is a single. On the label, some Australian Echinoderm. Do they have such animals around Scotland? After that existential question… Colour: full gold. Nose: rather grassier than the Vega, a bit rougher, with more tree bark, leaves, green nuts, liquorice wood… And in the background, a few raspberry bonbons. Are they lost? With water: hay and stone dust, then orange blossom. Mouth (neat): we’re much closer to the North Star, much much closer. Same fruity arrival, same freshness, same young-cognac-ness, same honeys and oranges… With water: it loves water. Many tinier herbal and fruity notes appear, figs first, then sweet agave syrup, honeys… Wins two or three points here. Finish: long, with  touch of ginger and Aperol. Ha, Aperol… Comments: for good people who drink their whiskies. Excellent. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Speyside 15 yo (43%, Chieftain’s, single malt, butts, 8400 bottles, 2015)

Speyside 15 yo (43%, Chieftain’s, single malt, butts, 8400 bottles, 2015) Four stars A rather large batch at a moderate strength. Colour: full gold. Nose: easy, rounded, honeyed, orange-y, going towards Grand-Marnier, but with a very nice maltiness. Apricot and mirabelle jams. Mouth: very good, better than most OBs at similar ages, that is to say fuller and brighter. Liquid Jaffa cake, honey, and toasted brioche. Shall we call this one breakfasty? Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, and I’d even swear I’ve found a slice of preserved pineapple. Comments: this one’s very fairly priced, and very good. It’s even got a wee Highland-Parky side, which wouldn’t make any sense since this is fully a Speysider. A crowd-pleaser and a crowd’s not always wrong. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Red Snake ‘Redneck RC02’ (61.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, first fill bourbon, 248 bottles, 2016)

Red Snake ‘Redneck RC02’ (61.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, first fill bourbon, 248 bottles, 2016) Three stars and a half Not much to be seen on the label, it’s all about snakes. Let’s see if it’s venomous… But it’s well a single malt (one does not preclude the other). Colour: white wine. Nose: some young, raw, flinty, chalky, and moderately fruity malt whisky. Apples, chalk, grass, a little menthol. With water: sweeter, more barleyish. London croissants (not from a French bakery). Mouth (neat): young fruity malt whisky. Apples, pears, grass juice, oranges. With water: rather blood oranges. We’ve know cocktails… Finish: medium, citrusy. Nice tangerines with a gingery edge. Comments: there is nothing bad to be said about this little snake. Possibly a young whisky from Speyside. SGP:551 - 83 points.

Speyside 20 yo 1995/2015 (53.6%, Chieftain’s, single malt, first fill sherry butt, cask # 1378, 645 bottles)

Speyside 20 yo 1995/2015 (53.6%, Chieftain’s, single malt, first fill sherry butt, cask # 1378, 645 bottles) Three stars In theory, this is very good. In practice, let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: walnuts and gunpowder, a well-known song. And bitter oranges, pipe tobacco, and roasted pecans. Chestnut honey. With water: truffles and cooked cabbage are coming out, but in moderate measures. Mouth (neat): so very classic, once again an OB by Chieftain’s that tastes more official than the officials. Perhaps is this one a tad too grassy, I’m wondering if I didn’t like the 15 yo a little better, for it was so easy and good. Bitter oranges are running the show here. With water: carful, too much water will kind of dismember it. Walnut water. Finish: medium, on walnut wine and chocolate. Guinness. Comments: very good, just not quite my preferred combo this time. Go for the much cheaper 15 @ 43%! SGP:462 - 81 points.

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

 

 

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July 25, 2017


Whiskyfun

Littlemill, the sequel tasting

No we weren’t done with little Littlemill. Remember, this is Whiskyfun.

Littlemill 26 yo 1990/2017 (53.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #32, 267 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1990/2017 (53.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #32, 267 bottles) Five stars It’s true that I wouldn’t mind a little explanation about the relations between Littlemill and green crabs. Ha-ha. Colour: pale gold. Nose: same vein as that of the Whisky-Doris that we tried yesterday. Perfect fruit salad sprinkled with honey and liquid caramel. Werther’s Originals, praline, Jaffa cake, ripe melons, fresh bark. I have to say this baby sits right between some ex-bourbon Balblair and Bruichladdich. With water: gets straighter, with wonderful grasses. Fresh mint. Mouth (neat): brilliant arrival, fresh, fruity, yet firm, absolutely not vulgar (some ueber-fruiters can get a little vulgar in my book), with this tropical side that we love so much. It’s even got an Irish side, mind you (indie Bushmills anyone?) With water: yeah… Oranges mangos, tangerines, maracujas, white cherries… Finish: same, for quite a long time. Comments: so utterly and totally good! But watch it, it’s another one that’s very dangerously drinkable. Consult a doctor before buying a case. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (54.9%, The Whisky Cask, 1st fill sherry butt)

Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (54.9%, The Whisky Cask, 1st fill sherry butt) Five stars Full sherry this time again. Remember the brilliant Hart Bros.? Colour: full amber. Nose: chocolate and butterscotch tangoing to perfection, with ganache-y notes in the background, as well as a little mocha, maduro cigars, and black tea. And yet, there is a lightness to this, which I enjoy mucho. Totally not heady sherry, quite the opposite. With water: old copper coins, ‘dry’ coffee beans, earth, geranium flowers, earl grey, cocoa…  There's not a throwaway in the bunch! Mouth (neat): so totally very good! Blood oranges, chocolate, rum, parsley, a drop of soy sauce, lovage… How good is this? As some friend sometimes says, I want to marry this whisky (he’s a still a bachelor). With water: blood oranges all the way. Finish: long, both wide and even kind of fat, and yet fresh and citrusy. Comments: the finishes are always the trickiest parts (as Carl Lewis would have said). This time, the finish was perfect too. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Littlemill 24 yo 1992/2016 (52.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1992/2016 (52.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles) Four stars It’s going to get tougher, in my book 1992 was not the best vintage at Littlemill. Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed, its much less expressive than the 1988-1990s, less fruity, and rather more porridge-y. Cereals, oatcakes, a little plasticine, a little cardboard. More ‘official’ than ‘indie’, whatever that means. With water: a few tropical fruits coming out, but it’s no fruit bomb. Let’s call this a light tropicalness. Mouth (neat): nah, it’s very pleasant, it’s got these zesty tropical notes, it’s got cider apples, it’s got mangos, and it’s got blood oranges. This is funny, this lovely palate does quite go with the more mundane nose. With water: same, plus a little sweet white wine, I’m thinking of sweet Jurançon. Do you know Jurançon? Try it if you can find some! Finish: medium, fruity, and quite tropical. It’s not quite got the expressiveness of earlier vintages, but we’re getting there once water’s been added. Comments: super fine, especially in this very tricky context. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Banff 40 yo 1976/2017 (51.2%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, hogshead, 192 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1991/2017 (52.6%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 180 bottles) Five stars I have to say the Convalmore in this series was very impressive. But Littlemill is not Convalmore, although you could always find similarities (that grassy, lime-y side, for example). Colour: straw. Nose: first comments, 1991 is not 1992 (thank you Einstein). And second, this is the most mineral of them all, as we’re finding limestone, flints, clay, chalk, and some kind of concrete dust. There’s a mineral freshness to it, beyond the usual fruits that are only whispering here, from oranges to mangos. A medicinal touch, perhaps, tincture of iodine? In Littlemill? With water: no, it’s totally mandariny. Skins and flesh and those white parts. Mouth (neat): whispering fruits? Were you joking, S.? There’s more fruits in this than at Fortnum & Mason’s Fruit Department, especially mangos, pink bananas, papayas, and pomelos. There. Also litchis and rosewater, as in a well-aged, glorious gewürz (with a private nod to Sequoia Grove). With water: tiny herbs coming out, as often happens. Lemongrass. Finish: medium, clean, very fruity, almost bonbony. More mandarins. Comments: the missing link between the distillery’s very last years and its most glorious vintages? Perhaps… SGP:651 - 90 points.

Good, eight Littlemills altogether, that’s quite enough, don’t you agree?

(Gracias again, Tomislav)

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

 

 

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July 24, 2017


Whiskyfun

Fruit. I mean, Littlemill

Littlemill’s a distillery that got its fairly high reputation only very recently, thanks to a handful of independent bottlers who could put their hands on some very lovely and very fruity casks. While it was active, and perhaps because of some rather weak official bottlings, the name had remained very, well, rather modest. Now, quite sadly, the remaining casks are becoming scarcer, but a few indies or brokers still seem to have a few of them. Let’s hope this isn’t the swan’s song…

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (48.2%, Scotland and Malts, Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4044)

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (48.2%, Scotland and Malts, Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4044) Three stars I haven’t tried many malts from this distinguished bottler. Well, not sure I’ve tried any. Colour: pale gold. Nose: let’s call it a moderate Littlemill’. Indeed it doesn’t quite burst with tropical fruits, although I wouldn’t say there aren’t any. Lemon rinds and touches of banana milk are well there, and there is a little mango sherbet as well. But there’s also a little porridge and muesli. Oh well, it’s fine. Mouth: good but a tad bizarre. Saponin, lactones, vanilla, a touch of lavender (sweets), wholegrain bread, aniseed… This combo is a wee tad wobbly, I’m not quite finding the typical ultra-clean fruitiness. A very peculiar vanillaness seems to have taken control, now don’t get me wrong, we’re still way above any kind of average. Finish: medium, a little milky, with some coconut water. White pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a rather bizarre Littlemill which has got something of both the recent fruity indies and from the earlier rather mundane officials. SGP:541 - 81 points.

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (54.6%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, 150 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (54.6%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, 150 bottles) Four stars One that I had ‘forgotten’. Shame on me and apologies. Colour: straw. Nose: this one too is a little ‘different’, this time wilder and kind of metallic. Although that metallic side would lead to mangos, which, in turn, would lead to tangerines and papayas. Which, indeed, is very ‘indie Littlemill’. Some hay and a farmy side as well. With water: I just can’t find the name of that small plant that gives out rather soapy notes when you rub it between your hand. It’s close to paraffin, and rather an asset in this context. Mouth (neat): pineapples, mangos, grapefruits, that’s more like it. Ultra-zesty and citrusy arrival, extremely ‘Littlemill’ this time, and just ravishing, especially since one can also find dill and verbena in the background. With water: a fruit salad with drops of Bénédictine or even absinth. Finish: long, citrusy, with rather more orange blossom honey this time. Comments: this baby changes rather a lot when you add water, drop after drop. Very good Littlemill. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Let’s try sherry…

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (52.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, first filled sherry butt)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (52.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, first filled sherry butt) Five stars Will the sherry have offset Littlemill’s fruitiness? Let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: not! This is totally a fruit ganache. That would be soft chocolate intricately mingled with puréed fruits, in case you don’t know – which I doubt. This is actually very perfect, and I love these whiffs of incense, cedar wood, coal, and just plain earth (after a first summer rain). With water: superb earthiness, mushroom, the wildest Cuban cigars, pu-erh tea… all that. Unquestionably superb indeed (hold your horses, S.). Mouth (neat): oh yes, super good! Oranges everywhere, tobacco as well, herbal teas aplenty, toasted pastries, more oranges, gingerbread, chestnut honey… I was very afraid, I’m feeling totally reassured. With water: a stunning duet, oranges vs. tobacco. Is there some orange-flavoured pipe tobacco being made somewhere? Finish: quite long, perfectly balanced. Orange cake covered with honey and little herbs. Comments: impressive. This time, the sherry made wonders. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Littlemill 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.7%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #32, 357 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.7%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #32, 357 bottles) Five stars No bad whisky by Whisky-Doris that I can remember of… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a pure and clean one this time, totally on a large fruit salad, with bananas, sliced pears, grapes, oranges, papayas, and mirabelles. What we call an ueber-fruity one. With water: more of that. Some alcohol-free cocktail made out of dozens of local fruits, somewhere in Bali. Or elsewhere. Mouth (neat): yes, it’s one the best of those batches. Very fruity Californian IPA (did they distil Lagunitas?) plus blood oranges, melons, papayas, tangerines, mangos, and longans. Immaculately Littlemill, those are the batches we prefer. Like everybody else ;-). With water: bananas, mangos and grapefruits mixed together. Finish: medium, clean, totally fruity. Comments: totally the counterbalance to the Hart Bros. and yet, scores will be the same. High! SGP:751 - 90 points.

Good, four’s a deal, but we may have more Littlemill very soon. Perhaps tomorrow…

(Gracias, Tomislav)

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

 

 

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July 23, 2017


Whiskyfun

Another bag of mezcal

We’re going on with our remote exploration of Mexico’s most celebrated spirit, starting with a variant… But remember, we're always doing all this from the POV of a malt enthusiast favouring distillate-driven spirits.

Maguey
'No agave, no mezcal'. Artisan Mezcal producers keep asking for support to fight the industrial tequila producers from Jalisco that are plundering the agaves in Oaxaca. >>>

La Venenosa ‘Sierra Occidental de Jalisco’ (42%, OB, Raicilla, +/-2015)

La Venenosa ‘Sierra Occidental de Jalisco’ (42%, OB, Raicilla, +/-2015) Two stars Raicilla is a specialty from Jalisco, in this case cultivated agave distilled in some small ‘Arabo-Philippine-style’ wooden still. In a way, it’s to mezcal what moonshine is to bourbon, or aguardiente to rum. So it’s more ‘artisan’… Colour: white. Nose: wood alcohol, earth, gherkins, old olives, damp magazines, dried seaweed… This is certainly rough, but it’s got a very charming side, perhaps a feeling of illegality? Mouth: weird. Sour lemons and apples, a side that reminds me of some piscos, crushed olives, white sangria, various leaves, cardboard… We’re somewhere between a mezcal and a clairin, I’d say. Finish: medium, really dirty, and quite fermentary. Crushed olives and raisins in porridge. Indeed, weird. Comments: I’m a bit lost. In theory, I should love it, but I think it’s lacking a backbone. And it’s a little too sour and dirty – and some know I’m not afraid of dirt in my spirits. SGP:462 - 75 points.

Once more please…

La Venenosa ‘Costa de Jalisco’ (45.5%, OB, Raicilla, +/-2015)

La Venenosa ‘Costa de Jalisco’ (45.5%, OB, Raicilla, +/-2015) Four stars Another raicilla, the main difference here being that they’re different agaves that grow near the ocean. Colour: white. Nose: wait, this is extremely different! Burning fir cones, pine sap, thuja wood, sauna oils, tar liqueur… This is one of the most balsamic drinks I’ve ever encountered. Bags of fern, some iodine, a little smoked ham… Brilliant! Mouth: brilliant indeed. Imagine some smoked ham with layers of lapsang souchong tea, cured in pine liqueur and then coated with coal tar… This is a first, we’re actually far from mezcal (my bad, apologies). Finish: long with, there, olives, both black and green! Bags of ashes in the aftertaste, with some lemon and a drop of vinegar. Comments: I think you should try to try this thing, really. SGP:364 - 86 points.

Alipus ‘San Baltazar’ (47.4%, OB, mezcal, blanco, 1150 bottles, +/-2015)

Alipus ‘San Baltazar’ (47.4%, OB, mezcal, blanco, 1150 bottles, +/-2015) I think this is espadin. Former bottlings of San Baltazar didn’t quite convince me, I thought they were very sweet… Colour: white. Nose: no no no. Raw, spirity, and without much agave-iness. This could be cherries, or apples, or plums. Struggling a lot after the latest raicilla. Which, agree, is very bizarre, let’s check the palate… Mouth: a feeling of sugar, some soft fruits, papayas, bananas… It’s really lacking definition and resolution, which is extremely surprising given the very high reputation of Alipus. Weird notes of crème de menthe, rather out of context. Finish: medium, raw, sugary. Comments: not sure what happened here. Too sweet for mezcal (and for me). Reminds me of white Havana Club, which is the last straw. SGP:642 - 65 points.

Marca Negra ‘Espadin’ (50.3%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015)

Marca Negra ‘Espadin’ (50.3%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015) Three stars This should be excellent and it is a lovely bottle. Remember, espadin is the main cultivated kind of agave in Mexico. Colour: white. Nose: this is not quite an olive-y mezcal either, and I do find it sweet and rounded again, but I do enjoy these guavas and this feeling of smoked seawater poured over burnt cake. With water: olive brine up, sweetness down, all fine. Mouth (neat): all set up, all good. Aquavit, brine, some gin (I know everybody on this planet is making gin these days, but gin remains largely unknown at WF towers), a little earth, a little cough syrup, and a little liquorice. With water: some syrup? Agave, I’d wager. Finish: medium, a tad thick and oily (I’m dead sure they wouldn’t have added glycerin, this is not latino rum). Comments: largely very good, if a little wee bit sweetish for me. SGP:542 - 80 points.

Why not an aged one?

Eterno ‘Añejo No.1’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2016)

Eterno ‘Añejo No.1’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Espadin agaves from Oaxaca, aged for two years in bourbon wood. Sadly, it’s said to be ‘super-premium’, words that rather stink and kill in these days of rampant overpackaging. But let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: fine. Lemon, earth, olives, brine, and only a little vanilla. Nice green grassy smoke, this is better than ‘super-premium’ so far. Mouth: it’s fine, really, it’s just that coffee/vanilla and agave/olive don’t tango too well in my opinion. An unnatural alliance in my book, just as unnatural as, say peat and nebbiolo. There. Finish: medium, fine, with a little caramel, vanilla, and coffee. Comments: could have been much worse. Nah, forget about the mezcals añejos, the whites/jovens rule… SGP:552 - 78 points.

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

 

 

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July 22, 2017


Whiskyfun

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Eight Caol Ila: A Wee Birthday Session        
It was my birthday the other day, so that seems like a suitable excuse to taste a load of rather promising Caol Ila. There’s isn’t too much to say about Caol Ila that hasn’t already been declared many times over. Often lauded as one of Scotland’s most consistent malts across the official and independent spectrums.

 

I can’t disagree with that sentiment, it’s a distillery I love and come back to frequently and it remains one of the few Islay whiskies that you can still find fairly priced, aged examples of. But for how much longer...? I should also say that I am joined in this tasting session by my co-pilot and good friend Fergus, he’ll be bringing his own brand of whisky expertise to bear throughout the session. Let’s go backwards by vintage... 

 

 

Caol Ila 23 yo 1992 (53.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.225, ‘Comfortably Smoky’, refill hogshead, 254 bottles)

Caol Ila 23 yo 1992 (53.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.225, ‘Comfortably Smoky’, refill hogshead, 254 bottles) Colour: Light amber (Fergus says he is reminded of the amber from Jurassic Park). Nose:  A little prickly at first. Pepper, iodine and wet rocks with sea salt. (Fergus says ‘ooft’ and ‘fresh!’) Unripe green apples and various other tart fruitiness. Feels a little closed at first. Some light wood ashiness and a touch of melon. Feels like it needs water... with water: more towards coal hearths and beach bonfires now. Also quite a rich antiseptic seam emerges with water. Mouth: Woosh! A big, fat, syrupy Caol Ila. Feels mature even beyond its 23 years. Tar, old rope, hugely coastal (Fergus says it reminds him of Euthymol toothpaste - Google it). Herbal, soft smokiness and an easygoing, gentle peatiness throughout. With water: a perfect balance of herbs, ash, peat smoke, citrus and various oils. Finish: Long, coastal, invigorating. Textbook Caol Ila. Comments: Classical and pitch perfect, pin-sharp Caol Ila. (Very nice as Fergus rightly says). The kind of dram that you can quaff with great merriment on Port Askaig peer with good friends. This session begins well. SGP:438 - 90 points. (Fergus: 88 points - he’s a hard task master.)

 

 

Caol Ila 25 yo 1991/2016 (50.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Caol Ila 25 yo 1991/2016 (50.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Colour: Pale straw (almost kind of piss-coloured Fergus contributes). Nose: Lighter. More lemony and much more mineral than the SMWS. (Ohh! That’s nice! says Fergus, an ‘inviting smokiness, it’s not really going up my nose harshly’). A more austere style with soft, medicinal peatiness and lots of gravel and wet pebbles. Quite a green peatiness with notes of brine and fresh lemon juice (‘Stony’ Fergus says). With water: Some touches of heather and sea greens, maybe some castor oil and camphor as well. Not too much development though. Mouth: Dry, ashy, a bit of a blade in its simplicity and not overly complex (Fergus is unimpressed). There are some nice notes of dried seaweed and more gravely mineral notes. But overall it feels quite a bit younger than its stated age. Quite peppery as well with further rather brutal citrus notes. With water: interestingly enough water seems to develop the texture quite nicely and build on the oilier aspects of the distillate. Some notes of squid ink pasta and grilled scallops. Still quite dry and singular though. Finish: Medium-long, ashy, mineral and drying in a rather austere fashion. Comments: A decent Caol Ila, not the equal of the lovely SMWS and does benefit from water. But a solid fireside dram all the same. Fergus finds it a little mono-dimensional but says ‘nice enough’. High praise indeed. SGP:237 - 84 points (Fergus says ‘What’s harsh? 82!’) 

 

 

Caol Ila 32 yo 1984/2016 (49.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Caol Ila 32 yo 1984/2016 (49.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Colour: Pale white wine. (‘Almost looks like bleach!’ according to Fergus). Nose: Extremely elegant and delicate combination of rock salt, a whole coastline of pebbles and minerals, green tea and a whiff of medicine. Fergus is loving this one, he gets: creosote, garden sheds, spa shops (???) and white fruits. I can’t say I disagree with him - except perhaps the bit about the spa shop. A beautifully inviting and elegant nose that is really the epitome of Caol Ila at this age. With water: a little eau sharpens the nose and gives the whole a more chiseled feel. More citrus fruit, more earth, some gentian root and maybe some graphite and ink. Mouth: Surprisingly fat and oily with a kind of greasy, industrial smokiness, quite a departure from the elegance of the nose. Some dried herbs, dried fish, kippers, chewy peatiness and some lapsang souchong tea. With water: we’re reached a perfect balance between the elegance of the nose and the weightiness of the palate. It’s still quite fat, oily and visceral but there’s a lighter coastal freshness and a ripe green fruitiness about it now which is quite beautiful (‘Filth!’ as Fergus says, he’s clearly impressed by this one). Finish: Long with a really delicate ashiness and brimming with little flourished of white and green fruits, a little pepperiness and a briny coastal zing. Comments: Quite excellent. As it to be expected with these vintages and ages of Caol Ila. SGP:447 - 91 points. (Fergus says ‘solid 91!’)

 

 

Caol Ila 31 yo 1984/2016 (52.1%, Cadenhead Caol Ila 31 yo 1984/2016 (52.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 2 bourbon hogsheads, 432 bottles) Vattings of more than one cask always have potential to be superior to single counterparts, lets see if that’s the case here... Colour: Chardonnay (Lightly oaked white wine Fergus says). Nose: This one is quite a bit fruitier at first nosing (Fergus is ‘feeling the kiwi fruit vibe’) Little touches of gooseberry tartness but also little winks of pineapple and passion fruit (Fergus says ‘Gorse’, which I cannot disagree with). There is some smoky bacon sizzling away underneath that fruity exterior as well. Perhaps some cereal notes such as muesli and hay as well. (‘White pepper springs to mind’ says Fergus). With water: More gorse, coconut and a slightly more drying mineral aspect as well. Green peppercorns in brine. Mouth: Rich, sweet and creamy with a lovely sheen of aged peat, like an old tarpaulin of resinous peat drawn across the palate. (‘Like the flavour of really good, dry sparking water...or is that just a load of shite?’ Fergus is getting philosophical now). Some nice natural vanilla and cream soda with a rooty, gential style earthiness and notes of tar liqueur and old chartreuse. Very syrupy this one. (Fergus thinks the nose is more interesting than the palate.) However, I am really enjoying this one. With water: simmering peat, olive oil, freshly cut grass, seaweed, maybe some caraway. Totally great. Finish: Long and elegantly sweet with peppery notes of watercress, sandalwood and various coastal aspects. Comments: Another belter of a Caol Ila. SGP:548 - 91 points. (Fergus: 87, or, as he says ‘Brutal!’ - I’m clearly too generous)  

 

Caol Ila 29 yo 1982/2012 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, hogshead, cask #6482, 223 bottles) Caol Ila 29 yo 1982/2012 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, hogshead, cask #6482, 223 bottles) Colour: Light gold. (‘It’s like the colour of Goldschlager’ says Fergus). Nose: (‘Ooft! That’s qutie a feisty nose on this one! according to Fergus). It’s funny how the profile of the Signatory bottlings is quite different to the early 80s bottlings from Cadenheads. Much to be said for different parcels of stock. This is a little closed at first but it’s a potent mix of boiler sheds, diesel, crushed black pepper, lime zest and carbon paper. Develops further with graphite, ink and smoked cereals. Feels peatier than the previous ones as well with a bigger, bolder earthiness. With water: Fruiter, softer, more cereals, more oils and something like turpentine and various hospital medical aromas. Mouth: A mix of medical tinctures, peat oils, tar, liquorice and some green fruit. (‘It’s quite smooth, the barrel has done its job!’ declares Fergus.) Some honeyed notes like mead as well, an elegant sweetness and you really don’t feel the strength too much. Nevertheless...with water: we’re aligning more with the Cadenhead bottlings now with these green fruit notes and various tea qualities. Touches of juniper, green peat, bonfires and BBQ sauce. Finish: Lengthy, oily and peaty with a lovely lingering sweetness. Comments: One of many excellent old Caol Ilas by Signatory. These are still solid value for money at retail and in auction if you ask me. The sort of bottle to keep for the future and be knocked out by in years to come. SGP:428 - 90 points. (Fergus agrees: ‘solid 90’ he says before abandoning this session to drink beer in the kitchen)  

 

Back to Cadenheads...

 

 

Caol Ila 34 yo 1982:2016 (50.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch for Bresser & Timmer, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles) Caol Ila 34 yo 1982/2016 (50.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch for Bresser & Timmer, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles) Colour: Gold. Nose: Ooft! These extra few years really make a difference. This one is leafier with a really gentle and delicate smokiness. Earth, dried mushrooms, a little waxiness, notes of various dried herbs and green tea. A little mint. This one is really going more towards the style of the 1979s. Some notes of pollen and honeysuckle along with various other wild flowers. A beguiling and beautiful nose! With water: more saline and blatantly coastal now with a glorious freshness. Mouth: Hugely rich and medicinal. Notes of aged mead, sourdough bread, wild flowers, lamp oil, hessian. A muscular but well-poised peatiness with a plush and ripe green fruitiness throughout the whole thing which becomes tropical towards the finish. Quite stunning really. With water: a touch of wood but its perfectly integrated and controlled. More mead, natural tar, some smoked fish and some oysters and lemon juice. Finish: super-long. Complex with all kinds of smoke and oil notes along with menthol, medicine and a slowly undulating peatiness. Glorious. Comments: We’re really entering another level here. Caol Ila seems to be that rare thing, a heavily peated malt that ages particularly well. These casks are really hitting perfection at this age. SGP:537 - 92 points.  

 

Caol Ila 34 yo 1982/2016 (51.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead,180 bottles) Caol Ila 34 yo 1982/2016 (51.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead,180 bottles) Colour: Light gold. Nose: A little sharper than the Bresser & Timmer, more citrus qualities such as fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and a saline, preserved lemon note as well. Candied fruit peel, orange liqueur and, with a little breathing, a lovely medicinal note emerges. Bandages, germoline, tar and white pepper. Some touches of leather, old books and dried mint as well. Beach pebbles and dried kelp as well. With water: darjeeling tea, coal dust, smoked meats and dried seaweed. Mouth: This one is bigger, punchier, wears its age more lightly and has a more voluptuous medical profile. More iodine, tcp, mercurochrome and natural tar. An earthy gentian quality along with a sweet peatiness that permeates everything. Some green fruit and citrus as well in the background. With water: lemon oil, fresh thyme, white fish and brine. A leaner yet still well-balanced profile, more towards citrus, peat and coastal qualities. Finish: Another lengthy one, full of peat oil and little duets of green and citrus fruits. Comments: Boringly great. Not quite a spectacular as the previous one but still pretty dazzling. SGP:438 - 91 points.  

 

Let’s have one final one for the road...

 

 

Caol Ila 21 yo 1974/1995 (58.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Caol Ila 21 yo 1974/1995 (58.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) I believe this one was bottled for the French market and is quite rare these days. As ever, Cadenheads reassure us it was ‘matured in an oak cask’. Colour: White wine. Nose: A blade! This is a swoosh of grizzly peat, olive oil, cut grass and a whole seashore of minerals and coastal qualities. This will be quick. Tar, brine, shell fish, medicine, a basket of Sicilian lemons, gravel, ash, bonfires etc... only with the volume turned up to 11 on all of them. With water: fish sauce, sea weed, anchovies, coal hearths, amazing intensity and precision of aroma. Mouth: S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G! A hospital heated with peat fires. On an island. In a hurricane. A huge, gravelly, mineral-laden, fat, ripplingly muscled dram - the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Islay. With water: best call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: the kind of whisky you can swallow and just close your eyes and forget about the woes of the world for a good half hour. Comments: Many of these 74 Caol Ilas are still overlooked in my opinion. This one would easily hold its own against its contemporaries from Port Ellen or Brora. Totally majestic stuff! SGP:449 - 94 points.

 

 

 

July 21, 2017


Whiskyfun

Whisky from the GDR!

After all those crazy Kavalans, this is going to be a solo session, as I haven’t found anything ‘smart’ enough to stack up against this strange, intriguing whisky…

Whisky of GDR 24 yo before 1989/2013 (59.8%, Regensburger Whisky Club, single cask, 85 bottles)

Whisky of GDR 24 yo before 1989/2013 (59.8%, Regensburger Whisky Club, single cask, 85 bottles) Four stars and a half The exact year when this whisky from the German Democratic Republic was distilled is unknown, but history tells us that that couldn’t have been after 1989. If I understand everything it probably stemmed from a long forgotten cask from the Falckenthal Söhne Distillery, where they used to make Der Falckner, an East-German brand that I’ve already tasted in the past (it was not horrible at all, WF 70). Colour: full amber. Nose: hey, this is surprisingly nice! Starts with peonies, ripe raspberries, marmalade and Vicks’ best, goes on with more vanilla, brioche and butterscotch, and goes more towards a blend of lighter grain whisky (maize) with sweet rum. Very nice tarry/honeyed background, behind more and more buttered popcorn.

With water: lovely, really lovely. More buttered popcorn, kugelhopf, Macadamia nuts, halva… They must have used a very good cask. Mouth (neat): very strong, a bit harsh. Kirschenwasser and more popcorn, with a few raisins and something varnishy/bitter in the back. But it’s still surprisingly good… With water: much better. Excellent tobacco notes, thyme tea, gritty liquorice, and old walnuts. A little bitter oak as well, but that’s fine. Also very dried raisins.

Finish: long, rather more tea-ish, and that’s the oak speaking out. Earthier and rootier aftertaste, while the raisins are back. Comments: exactly not a Trabant of the whisky world. I’m very surprised, and thoroughly impressed. But I guess this very rare bottling has become ‘unfindable’, Donnerwetter! SGP:462 - 88 points.

(And danke schön, Phil!)

TRabant

 

 

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July 20, 2017


Whiskyfun

Kavalan to the very max

It’s not that we’re trying to break any kind of records, it’s just that there are many of them and that I’ve left them pile up in the last two years. Mea culpa…

Kavalan 2008/2012 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, bourbon cask, cask #B080904064, 164 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2012 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, bourbon cask, cask #B080904064, 164 bottles) Four stars Remember the bourbon cask we had two days ago? That one hasn’t been tremendously good in my book… Colour: gold. Nose: not a bubblegum bomb this time, rather a classic, pretty Arrany malt, fresh, vanilla-ed, barley-y, and mainly on various cakes. Sponge cake, vanilla cake, orange cake… Perhaps a little gianduja too. Call that Nutella if you like. With water: American oak galore. Vanilla first, a touch of ale… Mouth (neat): easy, creamy, with good oranges, good vanilla, and good barleyness. Some kind of earthy pepper on top of that, muesli, macaroons... With water: more towards jelly beans. We had expected that would happen. Finish: medium, rather more on citrus, which is just good news. A little ginger in the aftertaste, as usual. Comments: a bit simple, yet very, very fine. SGP:541 – 85 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, Port cask, cask #O090617023A, 175 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, Port cask, cask #O090617023A, 175 bottles) Five stars Port again, obrigado. Colour: bright amber. Nose: it’s not impossible that Kavalan would be the distillers that are making the best use of Port wood. Indeed, this is pretty perfect, all on marmalade, quince jelly, late harvest pinot gris, biscuits, and peach syrup. Like this a lot. With water: no scandal if someone had said this was ex-bourbon. Creamy vanilla, marzipan, gingerbread, and two Danishes. We’re talking pastry. Mouth (neat): excellent! Big creamy arrival, with more quinces, a feeling of rosewater, then rather ginger liqueur (not the vile commercial ones), mirabelle liqueur, bergamots, white pepper… This one worked a treat! With water: swims extremely well. The Ian Thorpe of whisky, but it’s clean. Finish: medium to long, creamy, vanilled, and delicately jammy. More mirabelle jam, honeysuckle tea, elderberries… Comments: white Port, by any chance? Most impressed. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102042, 511 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102042, 511 bottles) Five stars I think this one did extremely well at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2016. Colour: dark amber. Nose: you have to enjoy rubber and your new Pirellis, and not be afraid of gunpowder, but then you’ll love this. It’s full of cigars, parsley, umami sauce, soy sauce, beef soup, old oloroso, walnut wine… You see. With water: tah-dah, black olives and plasticine! Mouth (neat): textbook hyper-sherried ultra-peppery and cigary whisky, very gamey, with some burnt caramel and some perfect cold-brew coffee. Perfect indeed. With water: some mint sauce, some liquorice, more coffee. Finish: very long, spicy, marmalade-y, and always quite meaty. Sublime all-minerals aftertaste. Comments: pretty immense. Not many new sherried bottlings can match this beyond Hadrian’s Wall, if you ask me. Cheers Dr. Swan! SGP:462 - 92 points.

Isn’t this becoming interesting? After twenty-five other Kavalans? Let’s go on, we may have hit the mother lode…

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for HNWS, sherry cask, cask #S090608021A, 524 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for HNWS, sherry cask, cask #S090608021A, 524 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep amber/cognac. Nose: all right, leather and cigars, apricotine, engine oil, Kikkoman sauce, tar, liquorice, damp earth, mushrooms, and a wee bit of cured ham (your preferred provenance). With water: an amazing box of cigars, plus grandpa’s old gun, Castrol’s bestest, and just a whole bag of dried porcinis. Mouth (neat): incredible whisky. Please call the Taiwanese anti-maltoporn brigade, the number is +886-(0)2-23… … No, please don’t! With water: how you could do this in just seven years, or perhaps only six, I don’t quite know. I’m not sure I’ll totally buy the whole ‘hot climate = accelerated aging’ thing, there must be something else. A.I.? Finish: long, rather more leathery and spicy and tobacco-ish. Seville oranges and bitter chocolate as the signature. Comments: this one had everything, even great gunpowdery sulphur. Shan’t we call it a top gun? Double cheers Dr. Swan! SGP:462 - 93 points.

Agreed, we should stop now. It’s just that the word ‘stop’ is truly absent from WF’s official vocabulary… So…

Kavalan 2010/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon cask, cask #B100723021A, 199 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon cask, cask #B100723021A, 199 bottles) Three stars Some young bourbon, should we expect marshmallows?... Colour: gold. Nose: we’ve mentioned Arran before, and we’ll mention it again. Cool, simple, easy cakes, pastries, vanilla, and an obvious barleyness. Dried pears as well. Does the job! With water: a bit more wood, a little more earth, a pack of banana bonbons. Mouth (neat): Haribo’s best selection, pear crocodiles, and pineapple babies. Plus vanilla, barley syrup, and a drop of limoncello. Millimetric. With water: swims very well, becomes fresher and more tropical. Papayas and guavas, but not quite mangos. Very easy! Finish: medium,  very fruity, very easy. Some creamy vanilla, a little ginger, a little lemongrass. Comments: one of the easiest Solists. Triangle? (;-)) SGP:641 - 82 points.

Kavalan 2007/2015 ‘Distillery Reserve’ (54%, OB, Taiwan, for Whisky Live Paris 2015, peaty cask, cask #R070507001, 114 bottles)

Kavalan 2007/2015 ‘Distillery Reserve’ (54%, OB, Taiwan, for Whisky Live Paris 2015, peaty cask, cask #R070507001, 114 bottles) Three stars Another ex-peater cask. Remember we had found another one rather Laphroaiggy… Colour: deep gold. Nose: seriously, these babies are actually blended malts. In this case, I’d say there’s around 10% ex-Islay whisky, and the end result just works a treat. As expected, the peater is very dominant, and comes with a lovely earthiness, some gauze, iodine, and burning candles. A little concrete dust as well. With water: spearmint and tincture of iodine. Mouth (neat): peated pears! This reminds me of that young peated Benriach, you know, Birnie Moss… Smoked bananas, more pears, plums… A nice green tea in the background. With water: shall we call this ‘a simple peat’? Rather mainland than islands, as far as Scotland is concerned. Finish: medium, with a little pepper. Mint gum in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine, but doesn’t swim too well. Gets a little simple when reduced, I’d say. SGP:551 - 81 points.

Kavallan 2008/2015 (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for WhiskyLuxe, sherry cask, cask #S081229026, 527 bottles)

Kavallan 2008/2015 (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for WhiskyLuxe, sherry cask, cask #S081229026, 527 bottles) Four stars This one won something great at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2015, best sherry cask in the Premium category – while everything’s premium anyway these days. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s a coffee-ish one this time, so a relatively dry one, with some black earth, coffee beans, dark chocolate, old walnuts, and a spoonful of the driest peppered marmalade. With water: gets earthier, always a pleasant development. Old musty wine cellar. Mouth: sweeter than expected, a bit gunpowdery, with a grassy dry sherry and notes of kirsch over that. Cherry-and-walnut-flavoured mustard, I’d say. With water: gets rather sweeter, with prunes and raisins. As if we went from oloroso to PX. Finish: rather long, with a little green pepper over raisins and dried pears. Comments: another sherried one that’s just excellent. Just not as excellent as other sherried Kavalans, IMHO… SGP:551 - 87 points.

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S081229018, 522 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S081229018, 522 bottles) Three stars and a half A fine Association, as we already could find out. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this one’s more floral, most certainly. I’m finding peonies, orange blossom, honeysuckle… I’m also finding many cool jams, marmalade, plums, a little mango chutney, and then some kind of raisiny cigars. Tobacco that noses sweeter. A metallic touch as well (old copper kettle). With water: some rubber coming out, grassy essential oils, dried dates… Mouth (neat): very rich, starting all on concentrated jams, and going on spicier and spikier. Pepper, a touch of horseradish… And there’s this metallic touch again, which I rather like. With water: gets waaay fruitier. Figs, dates, pears, bananas, all dried. Another funny feeling of some oloroso having gone PX-y. Sort of. Or did they find stocks of dulce? Finish: rather long, a tad mustardy, with a little rubber again. Black tea in the aftertaste. Comments: I think I’m starting to run out of gas, I’ll need some kind of remedy… SGP:551 - 84 points.

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S060904024, 551 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S060904024, 551 bottles) Five stars This is the one that became Supreme Champion at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2015. Colour: coffee. Nose: indeed. This is much more elegant, starting drier, with notes of very old Cognac, some rancio, a pack of prunes, candied cherries, as well as a lovely floral side, mainly on roses or, there, Turkish delights. A nod to the most ‘spiritual’ gewürzes. With water: a little oak coming out, pencil shavings, cedar wood… Mouth (neat): it is great. Preserved mirabelles, dried spiced figs, more mirabelles, even more mirabelles, mirabelle cake, mirabelle tarte, mirabelle jam… And in the background, some strong black tea. With water: liquid ‘yellow’ jam. May I mention mirabelles again? Finish: rather long, rather smooth, on, guess it, mirabelle jam. Comments: I didn’t know that they were having this many mirabelle trees over there in Taiwan. Ha! Another very excellent Kavalan for sure. SGP:641 - 90 points.

I’m not sure it would be safe to go on… Oh well, why not…

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081229019, 522 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081229019, 522 bottles) Four stars and a half Aren’t these good folks at the Asia Palate Association as mad as us? Colour: red coffee, or something like that. Nose: peonies, cherry jam, orange cake straight from the oven, Mars bar, espresso, and Van Houten’s driest cocoa. Very clean, totally not gamey this time. With water: walnut wine and dried figs. Love walnut wine, love dried figs. Mouth (neat): ah, some rum! We had found some the day before yesterday – or was it the day before that day - and indeed, this is akin to the driest old unsweetened Port Mourant ever. A lot of coffee, to say the least. With water: yet I wouldn’t call this baby ‘mollassy’, I’m rather finding chestnut purée and a little dry caramel. A Mars bar again. Finish: long, well balanced, not too sweet, not too dry. Shall we mention fruitcakes? Coffee? Comments: we’re flying high now (figuratively, eh!) SGP:651 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081229020, 526 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081229020, 526 bottles) Five stars Yup it’s a sister cask, almost a twin cask. Colour: dark amber. Nose: rounder and cakier. We’ll mention dried bananas, dried figs, dried dates, pear cake, cappuccino, and puréed chestnuts. The best puréed chestnuts come from Ardèche, south of France. Did you know that? (hope the cheque’s in the mail, dear Comité Départemental du Tourisme de l'Ardèche). With water: superb! Earthy tea, cigar oil, leather polish… This was some cask. No pencil shavings this time, all for the better. Mouth (neat): totally rum! Really! And rather agricole this time, this is excellent. So sugar cane, obviously, dried bananas, and a few drops of coffee liqueur. And even, perhaps, drops of pineapple liqueur. I said ‘perhaps’. With water: swims extremely well, and gets lighter and even fruitier. Passion fruits and mangos, you couldn’t do better. Finish: medium to long, fresh and fruity, and certainly tropical. Comments: an impressive fruitiness in this one. Perhaps the most exotic of all the Kavalans we’ve tried these days. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Good, one for the road, and we’re done. This has lasted too long…

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S081229025, 511 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S081229025, 511 bottles) Four stars and a half A bottling for Taiwan, and obviously a sister cask of the previous one that was a sister cask of the one before. Family affairs… Colour: dark red amber. Nose: armagnac, cognac, even brandy de Jerez… This is totally brandy-like, with loads of raisins and quite some marmalade. Some pencil shavings yet again, and the faintest wood smoke. With water: raisins and eucalyptus honey. Perhaps retsina? Mouth (neat): superb! Meats and vegetables, plus raisins and fermented sauces, Chinese-style. Peking duck sauce, mainly. Totally love that, I could have it without any duck, just with a piece of bread. Just, the oak’s a tad loud (ginger and cinnamon) but that’s more than all right. With water: all sorted out, this is some kind of raisin-and-citrus-dominated fruitcake. Finish: long, rather drier, with more cinnamon, more ginger, and more pine oil. The aftertaste’s just a little dying (grape pips, ginger, cinnamon). Comments: a little hesitating at times, but that makes it rather, well, multifaceted. OH well, just another excellent one. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Phew, 35 different Kavalans within 4 days, that’s what we used to do with Ardbeg (and the MMs) around twelve years ago… But to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t do that every week, not anymore. So, tomorrow, we’ll try two ex-refill Glenkinchies! I may be joking…

PS: I think we’ll have the Nantous on another day.

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

 

 

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July 19, 2017


Whiskyfun

Extreme Kavalan part drei

Because we weren’t done, while I’m sure we’ll never manage to try all the Kavalans that are washing up on our shores these days… Let’s see how far we’ll manage to go, randomly yet again…

Kavalan ‘Solist PX Sherry Cask’ (55.6%, OB, +/-2016)

Kavalan ‘Solist PX Sherry Cask’ (55.6%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars PX! But don’t be scared, PX is not always dull… BTW this is ‘single cask strength’. I’m completely baffled. Colour: dark amber. Nose: pencil shavings, figs, gewürztraminer (roses, litchis), muscat (really, a muscaty PX), and Cadbury’s milk chocolate. I agree, that’s not really chocolate. With water: gingerbread and Ovaltine.  Mouth (neat): good, sweet, with soft spices (ginger and friends) and raisins. A tad sweet. With water: gets thick and oily. Cranberry juice, gingerbread, speculoos, and strawberry liqueur. Not 100% sure. Finish: medium, sweet, slightly liqueury. Comments: I find this one rather ‘too much’. A little too sweet and liqueury, for starters. Not a fan of this one that’s unusually sweet. SGP:631 - 75 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S090306002, 495 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S090306002, 495 bottles) Four stars Very dark, so probably quite heavy since Kavalan aren’t using any caramel. Colour: indeed, that would be ‘espresso’. Nose: on full prune mode, with whiffs of pencil shavings yet again, cedar wood, touches of blood oranges, tamarind jam, and really a load of fruit ganache and dark chocolate. Ideas of walnut stain as well, but that feeling may be induced by the colour. With water: some heavy chocolaty and coffee-ish oak, and some pine needles in the background. Extremely extractive. Mouth (neat): hyper-rich, spicy, oaky, and almost totally on bitter chocolate and strong black tea, Russian-style. Not an easy baby, and actually quite a monster. A good monster. With water: fruits and Provence herbs. Barbecued apricots with some thyme and rosemary, perhaps. More pine needles as well (crunching some, which I guess we’ve all tried when we were kids). Finish: long, very ‘dark’, boldly chocolaty and dry. Raisins and cinnamon in the aftertaste, with a feeling of modern armagnac. Comments: a spectacular beast, full of solids. Warning, may wreck your tasting glass. SGP:362 - 85 points.

Kavalan 2006/2014 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S060904039, 518 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2014 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S060904039, 518 bottles) Four stars Another very dark one, let’s proceed with caution… Colour: coffee. Nose: no, this one’s much fruitier, and so rather on prunes, oranges, raisins, and peaches. Once again a feeling of cognac rather than malt whisky, while we haven’t got anything against that. I remember well some old hyper-sherried Glen Grants from Italy that were a bit like this. Nice chocolate, hints of blue-green tea. Taiwanese wulong, perhaps? With water: ah it swims very well. Oak oils, orange liqueur, caraway, a little aquavit, Unicum… All that from the oak, most probably. Mouth (neat): my this is thick and brutal! Oranges and chocolate, bourbon (wood, varnish), cinnamon mints, and certainly bitter oranges. The ones that naïve tourists harvest in Andalucia and that will burn their gums. With water: flavourful, spicy, and Christmassy. Spice bread, cloves, marmalade, pomegranate jelly. An unexpected fruity almost-lightness. Finish: long, rather all on oranges and caraway. Comments: a very good one. They should ship these with small bottles of Taiwanese water. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask, cask #S060821056, 496 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask, cask #S060821056, 496 bottles) Four stars Let’s see what my compatriots had selected. Colour: coffee/walnut stain. Nose: this one’s plainly and totally on black chocolate and mocha, before more liquorice manages to make it through the chocolate. Some pleasant dustiness (old books in the attic). With water: a bit more oak-forward, a common trait amongst all these heavily oloroso-ed Kavalans. Mouth (neat): crushed oranges and raspberries mixed with tons of chocolate, and covered with the strictest ristretto (the ones that wouldn’t even come out of your cup). With water: cloves and caraway, plus juniper berries and blood oranges. Almost forgot to mention the obligatory chocolate. Finish: long, the raspberries being back. Raspberry eau-de-vie in your cup of coffee, like our old uncles used to do when their dear wives weren’t watching. Comments: not unlike the other olorosos, it’s a very big one that managed not to get cloying. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Perhaps this sister cask?...

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Selection’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for La Maison du Whisky and The Nectar, Sherry cask, cask #S060821055, 491 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Selection’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for La Maison du Whisky and The Nectar, Sherry cask, cask #S060821055, 491 bottles) Four stars and a half So a Franco-Belgian bottlings this time. Colour: coffee. Nose: a slightly heavier and jammier version, with rather less coffee and chocolate, and rather more tamarind jam, prunes, mint liquorice, and cedar wood. Perhaps even a little incense? With water: yeah yeah yeah, some earthy old Pu-erh tea! And cigars… Mouth (neat): extremely rich this time, and very fruity. Crush all fruits, let them macerate in kirsch, add a cup of coffee, and spread some cloves, pepper, caraway, and juniper. And then please crunch some very dark chocolate, like 90% cocoa. With water: water does not make it tannic, greatest of news. Blood oranges, chocolate… Finish: long, with this earthiness again. It would be an utter scandal to blend Pu-erh with coffee, but this is what you would get, more or less. Comments: I think we’re bordering perfection this time. What a little earth can do! SGP:562 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102026, 513 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102026, 513 bottles) Five stars A Malt whisky paradise? I’m asking you, who could be against that? Colour: dark amber. Nose: gunpowder, dried parsley, and smoked tea are back. Maduro cigars, roasted chestnuts, mole sauce, a little game, proper wine sauce, wood fire, coal tar… This is not a fruity one, and I like this quite a lot. With water: old wine cellar, must, old apples, tar, menthol, natural rubber… This one really rocks! Mouth (neat): there, we may have found our 90 or more! This is rich ‘of course’, but it’s got these complex old sweet wines, Madeiras, Ports… And more cigars, roasted nuts, various herbal teas, a wee touch of mustard, walnuts… In short, some perfect dry sherry that’s not ridden with either chocolate or coffee. With water: perfect. Clove biscuits and pumpernickel, plus ripe peaches. Love this one. Finish: long, exactly where it must be between the fruits and the spices. That’s called balance, I suppose. Perfect walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: hurray! (expurgated comments). SGP:662 - 91 points.

We’re in!

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S090606010A, 521 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S090606010A, 521 bottles) Four stars Sherry sherry sherry (bravo, S.)… Colour: brown amber. Nose: a sweeter and rounder one again, rather on jams and compotes. Peaches playing first fiddles, a bit of rubber on the big drums, jars of marmalade, bags of raisins… It’s an easier, pretty simpler one, it seems. With water: Jaffa cakes all the way. Mouth (neat): very good, sweet sherry (PX?), with some peppered honey, more peach jam, and always bags and bags of raisins. Easy-peasy. With water: one of the smoothest Kavalan we tried these days. Liqueurs and a moderate spiciness, around ginger and pink pepper. Citrusy hops. Finish: medium, easy, compote-y, and rather honeyed. Comments: sherry from Sauternes? Only half joking… Another very good one. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Perhaps change wines?...

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, Port cask, cask #O090619037A, 187 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, Port cask, cask #O090619037A, 187 bottles) Four stars Port is back. Colour: amber. Nose: a little rubber at first sniffs, then a wheelbarrow of oranges of various sorts. Which would include tangerines and mandarins. Then a feeling of old chardonnay, with this buttery side and many roasted nuts. Very nice. With water: nice and clean. Marzipan and plum jam. Mouth (neat): it’s not the first time we’re noticing that Kavalan’s Port Casks do not taste of Port wine. In this case, we’re rather having oranges, soft pepper, and perhaps quinces. Mirabelles for sure. With water: cinnamon rolls and other fine patisseries. Perhaps baklavas. Finish: medium, rather on halva while in the middle-east (as far as flavours are concerned), and marmalade. Comments: a very good, very easy one. Much easier than the darker olorosos. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Hold on, it seems that we’ve had eight of them today. So time to call this a tasting session, see you tomorrow…

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

 

 

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July 18, 2017


Whiskyfun

Extreme Kavalan session part deux

Didn’t we say we’d have more Kavalan? One should keep to one's word, come hell or high water… And of course we’ll have them at total random… And…

Kavalan 2008/2016 'Solist' (54%, OB, Taiwan, for YKE Taiwan, bourbon cask, cask #B080825038, 160 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 'Solist' (54%, OB, Taiwan, for YKE Taiwan, bourbon cask, cask #B080825038, 160 bottles) Two stars Ah, a regular little bourbon barrel, it will be sort of a vacation after the very good but heavy wine bombs… Colour: full gold. Nose: bomb! Vanilla and sucrose, Haribo’s best, marshmallows, and litres of custard. With water: sweet planks (are made of this, who am I to disagree… oops excuse me…) Mouth (neat): between bourbon, Ireland, and Auchentoshan. Coconut balls, vanilla aplenty, wine gums, marshmallows… I’d call this ‘elementary’. Certainly quite lactone-y. With water: they recreated Haig Club, only at cask strength. They should make David B. fly in… Finish: medium, sweet, vanilla-ed, and really a bit narrow and too sweetish for me. Comments: not quite for me, there’s way too much American oak. Tuffnellian. SGP:631 - 76 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 'Solist' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for 3rd Taiwan, Port cask, cask #O090615011A, 182 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 'Solist' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for 3rd Taiwan, Port cask, cask #O090615011A, 182 bottles) Three stars I guess ‘O’ stands for Oporto. Colour: mahogany. Nose: lovely. Tree bark, coffee, cigars, chocolate, gunpowder (not that much), black tea and dried porcinis. Nothing bad to say against this. With water: some pencil shavings coming out, also some rosehip tea, which is obviously nicer. Garden earth. Mouth (neat): raspberries, blood oranges and green vegetables, on a bed of sulphur and black pepper. Less terrible than it sounds, by far. With water: nice bouillony touches, black tobacco, tea, chocolate, and a drop of brine. This was very dry Port, apparently. Finish: long, rather spicier. Chives and lovage, cloves, and dried beef meat. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: a cool Kavalan that’s quite intriguing and, well, a little challenging. Taking off slowly… SGP:462 - 82 points.

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Drink Fun, sherry cask, cask #S081229028, 511 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Drink Fun, sherry cask, cask #S081229028, 511 bottles) Four stars Drink Fun? How could we be against that? Colour: coffee. Nose: back to normal heavy sherriness, with prunes, chocolate, black raisins, and the faintest whiffs of menthol. A touch of earth and tobacco, and almost no sulphur this time. Classic. With water: tends to become a little shier, which is a little unusual. Christmas cake and black earth. Mouth (neat): very good, easy despite the high strength, with bags of raisins and wheelbarrows of prunes. In short, another one that’s quite armagnacqy. Like these notes of dried pears, any alpinist’s preferred food. With water: touches of mineral sulphur coming through, quinine, bitter oranges, Ricola (and, yeah, indeed, ruccola)… Finish: long, and rather more leathery. Raisins, ruccola indeed, and leather. Comments: by all means, it’s a good one. But starting to wonder if it was good idea to have this many Kavalans… SGP:461 - 85 points.

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081217016, 518 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081217016, 518 bottles) Three stars and a half Bored? Why would we get bored? Colour: dark amber. Nose: ah nice! Bénédictine and Cointreau, with touches of Chartreuse and middle-eastern fig-based arrak. We’re somewhere between bourbon and sherry, with raisins, vanilla, and a good glass of good Sauternes. With water: straw wine and other easy sweet wines of good quality. Even Canadian ice wine. Mouth (neat): ah, good, sweet, raisiny, with a nice pepper/ginger mixture, and a feeling of good PX (as in real PX that can be found in a proper bottle of old PX). With water: really sweet, rounded, raisiny, with touches of pecans and maple syrup. Finish: medium to long, with a little more spices. Mulled wine. Comments: that sherry, wasn’t it PX? A good, easy, uncomplicatedly sweet dram. SGP:641 - 83 points.

This little session has a bit of trouble taking off… Let’s try harder…

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Sherry Whiskies Fans Soc., sherry cask, cask #S090306015, 519 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Sherry Whiskies Fans Soc., sherry cask, cask #S090306015, 519 bottles) Four stars That the (most certainly) very honourable Sherry Whiskies Fans Society would select a sherry cask doesn’t quite surprise us, does it? Colour: coffee. Nose: ah there, these Glenfarclassy smells… Or wouldn’t this be Aberlour? Classic sherry with prunes, raisins, peonies, and bits of violet-flavoured liquorice (that’s very nice, check the brand ‘Zan’ if you can find it). With water: ouch, pencil shavings and sawn pinewood. New wood? Wee whiffs of turpentine, which I do enjoy. Oil paint as well. Mouth (neat): mega-good sweet sherry, with walnuts, raisins, touches of curry, prunes, and raspberry ganache. Cloves and black pepper all around that, but softly so. With water: some good Demerara rum, some sweet molasses, and some oranges. Finish: rather long, on orange zests dipped into chocolate and fir honey. Comments: a good and pretty easy one, quite sweet and uncomplicated. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2006/2012 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Red On Tree 4th Anniversary, sherry cask, cask #S060904050, 519 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2012 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Red On Tree 4th Anniversary, sherry cask, cask #S060904050, 519 bottles) Four stars I’m sure Red On Tree is a gathering of great people – and I’m sure you’ll have noticed that this is an older bottling. Colour: almost espresso. Nose: with litres of molasses and drops of pine liqueur, that’s how it starts. Then there are more prunes than in a bag of prunes, and as many rose petals as on a rose (are you proud about that one, S.?) This is almost liqueury, while even a blend of Zacapa and Diplomatico would be less liqueury. With water: a touch of concrete, and perhaps leather. Other than that, it remains very molasse-y. Mouth (neat): rum, cognac, and pineau des Charentes. Some are good, really! Totally prune-y and raisiny, with some excellent notes of liquorice and a few drops of orange liqueur. Luscious and decadent, as thy say in brochures. Chestnut honey in the aftertaste (try chestnut honey if you haven’t!) With water: almost a liqueur. Where does all this sugar come from? Finish: medium to long, on coffee and orange liqueurs. Comments: perhaps a little too sweet for my tooth, but quality’s very high. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Kavalan 2006/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Drink Fun, sherry cask, cask #S060821035, 512 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Drink Fun, sherry cask, cask #S060821035, 512 bottles) Four stars There, our good friends at Drink Fun are at it again. But when you’ve got this many solists, it all starts to feel a little philharmonic, doesn’t it? Colour: coffee/mahogany. Nose: prunes, roasted chestnuts, black Corinthian raisins, and a spoonful of strawberry jam, plus whiffs of newly sawn oak (but we remain way below the limits). With water: oranges, chocolate, oranges, chocolate, oranges, chocolate… Mouth (neat): excellently Speyside-y. A blend of A’bunadh and GF 105, plus a drop of Cointreau. Caramelised apples and orange zests, covered with chocolate sauce. With water: yep. Getting tired. A wee bit. Less oak than in others. Finish: medium, chocolaty, and, well, rather Dalmore-y (with apologies to Whyte & Mackay and dear Richard). Comments: forgot to mention prunes. Now not sure anyone’s expected to try this many sherried Kavalans in a row. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Good, they were all very good, but not sure any of them really stood out this time. We may have to try even harder in the (very) near future, stay tuned…

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July 17, 2017


Whiskyfun

An extreme Kavalan session

There aren’t that many distilleries that are doing hundreds of  official single casks, probably because it’s a chore to do that. But the ones that did or do have proven highly successful, for example Glendronach/Benriach, the Japanese, and of course Kavalan over there in Taiwan. It’s true that we haven’t tried Kavalan since many moons – we’ve been a bit lazy - so today is their day at WF Towers. And for even more fun, we’ll do that randomly, since tasting, say five ex-PX casks at CS in a row can get a little tiring… So, really totally at random and with no net…

Kavalan 2009/2016 (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, CC Balance, Port cask, cask #O090908012A, 191 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, CC Balance, Port cask, cask #O090908012A, 191 bottles) Four stars Distilled in 2009 and bottled in November of 2016, so technically seven years old, I wager. I think it is not a quick finishing, the whisky spent all its life in a Port cask. Colour: dark amber. Nose: I like my ex-Port whisky when it’s not ridden with clashing raspberries and assorted other red berries, and that’s not the case at all here. It’s a rather earthy one, with notes of black pipe tobacco, prunes, an old cake of Pu-erh tea, a little tar, and quite some old Armagnac. No straight Port notes, that’s cool (and yes I’m fond of Port wine). With water: raisins and raisin cakes, currant buns, sesame seed loaves, a little hay… Mouth (neat): rich, very powerful, and this time there are bags of raspberries, crème de cassis, black raisins, and in the background, quite a lot of cracked black pepper and cloves. Works well but it’s a little aggressive so far. Nothing abnormal. With water: still not totally polished (by time) and a wee bit ‘PX-y’, but certainly very good. Remind me of many a youngish Glendronach. Finish: long and spicier. More black pepper, cinnamon, Seville oranges, bitter herbs… Comments: given that I usually like the ex-sherry ones much better, this ex-Port is doing very well in my book. May need a little breathing, I just opened the bottle. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Kavalan 2010/2016 'Solist' (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #S100623022A, 180 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2016 'Solist' (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #S100623022A, 180 bottles) Four stars With muscat/moscatel, some extreme sweetness should be expected, let’s see… Colour: golden amber. Nose: indeed this noses sweeter and more floral, with rose petals, overripe pears, perhaps dried longans and rambutans, but some main traits remain consistent, fresh cake, plum tarte, eucalyptus honey, and our beloved dried figs and dates. This is absolutely not what I had feared, unbalanced. With water: it’s true that it’s more ‘sherry’ than ‘moscatel’. Fig cake and pepper, plus this lovely earthy side that comes out after water’s been added. Mouth (neat): sweet and spicy, with the same slightly aggressive side that I had found in the ex-Port. Prickly pears, raisins, pepper, ginger, bitter oranges… With water: a creamier texture. Plum jam, green pepper, pomelos jam, candied ginger… Finish: long and almost as always, spicier. Caraway, cloves, pepper… A very, very discreet touch of rubber in the aftertaste, perhaps. Comments: very good whisky and perhaps one of the easiest Kavalans among the ‘Solists’. SGP:561 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2006/2015 (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Whisky Nerds, peated cask, cask #R061106107, 99 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2015 (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Whisky Nerds, peated cask, cask #R061106107, 99 bottles) Four stars and a half Bear in mind that the cask was peated here (so it used to shelter peated whisky previously), while the new spirit wasn’t. A bit like Balvenie’s controversial Islay Cask, remember? Colour: bronze-y gold. Nose: ah! This is much rounder, smoother, easier, sexier, and not quite very peaty I have to say. Nectar, honey, plum juice, then indeed a wee medicinal smokiness (Laphroaig?) that goes totally well with this. Camphor and ripe plums, sounds unlikely. It’s not. With water: some oceanic whispers. Perhaps. Sea spray, empty seashells… Mouth (neat): more peat this time, there must have been quite a few litres remaining in the cask. Okay, in the wood. Some kind of spicy chutney, with some lemon grass, smoked marmalade, the wildest guavas, and a feeling of sucking an unlit menthol cigarette. Really unusual, but it works. With water: excellent, if unlikely. Smoked Seville oranges and quite some leather. Finish: long, both candied and spicy/peaty. Comments: a bit between two worlds, but I think it is very coherent – and very good - dram. SGP:563 - 88 points.

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, CC Choice, sherry cask, cask #S081229033, 468 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, CC Choice, sherry cask, cask #S081229033, 468 bottles) Four stars and a half Not too sure about which kind of sherry they’ve used here. BTW, its always reassuring that you have to break some kind of seal to open a bottle (hint, hint). Colour: light coffee. Nose: gunpowder, walnuts, chocolate, that’s very oloroso. Then soy sauce, beef stock, leather, and cigars, which is even more oloroso. There’s some sulphur for sure, but it’s the kind of unobtrusive sulphur that I rather enjoy. Ala Benrinnes, if you will. With water: gunpowder up! I’m sure the NRA would happily endorse this little bottle. Mouth (neat): wonderful! Liquorice, tar, marmalade, pepper, ginger, turmeric, prunes, raisins… This time we’re rather heading towards Glenfarclas. Hyper-sherried Glenfarclas, that is. With water: segmenting for sure. Ginger, rubber, truffles, marmalade… No eggs and no cooked cabbage, having said that. Finish: long and very dry, with much more cocoa powder, crunching coffee beans, dry walnut wine... Comments: these bottlings cannot not be controversial. I for one sometimes like them a lot when the sulphur is clean, as it is here. SGP:372 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2010/2016 (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, The Whisky Exchange, sherry cask, cask #S100125026A, 526 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2016 (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, The Whisky Exchange, sherry cask, cask #S100125026A, 526 bottles) Four stars and a halfI don’t quite know why they would call some single casks ‘Solists’ while some others, such as this one, are just ‘Selections’. Is there any logic behind that? I agree, not the most seminal question ever. Colour: office coffee. Nose: no gunpowder this time, rather tropical fruits macerated in walnut liqueur, cognac, and Demerara rum. Works greatly, That’s all I’ll say. With water: we’ve known cognacs… Mouth (neat): listen, this is cognac at cask strength. Quite. And it’s totally excellent, with these ripe peaches and juicy golden raisins. With water: what’s this spell? Rather Petite Champagne, I’d say… Finish: long, very peachy, with drops of Cointreau and the expected walnut wine in the aftertaste. Leafier aftertaste. Comments: completely different from the previous one, but in my book, of the very same high quality. Watch how the ‘SGP’ changes (if you’re so inclined). SGP:651 - 89 points.

Kavalan ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask’ (56.7%, OB, decanter, 2015)

Kavalan ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask’ (56.7%, OB, decanter, 2015) Four stars and a half Part of a set done for La Maison du Whisky back in 2015. There was an amontillado as well, we’ll see if we can find that one in the Library… You do remember what Manzanilla is, don’t you! Yes, Fino matured on the coast, at Sanlucar. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather exceptional nose, much more refined and ‘millimetric’ than the others (those were bombs, really), with some melon ala Bruichladdich and some citrus ala Rosebank. Plus mirabelles and ripe white currants, as well as the faintest vanilla. With water: warm praline and vanilla cake. We’re talking high-end natural vanilla. Perhaps one small ripe banana. Mouth (neat): oh perfect. Citrus, orchard fruits, custard, lemon grass, spearmint, acacia honey, and quite some verbena. This baby’s much fresher and cleaner than the others. With water: little Manzanilla impact to be honest, but it’s a great drop, zesty and fruity, with perfect vanilla-ed coating. Finish: there, perhaps, a touch of mustard and a touch of salt. Comments: extremely good and certainly the most drinkable of them all. Piece of cake. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2010/2016 'Solist' (54%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #MO100623025A, 496 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2016 'Solist' (54%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #MO100623025A, 496 bottles) Four stars and a half Some Taiwanese whisky bottled for a Taiwanese association, what could go wrong? Colour: amber, that is to say darker than the other Moscatel. Nose: more restrained than that one, a notch grassier, and perhaps a touch more elegant. Cigarettes, orange blossom water, milk chocolate, and not many roses/litchis. Earl grey tea. Nothing bad to say this far. With water: superb! Some chalky notes coming out, beach sand, lemon oil, longans and rambutans again, orange blossom water… Mouth (neat): really very good, all on citrus this time, tangerines, papayas (I know, not citrus), oranges… I’m rather thinking of naked Dalmore this time. Love naked Dalmore and love this. With water: high-precision fruity/citrusy whisky. Finish: rather long, and a tad narrower, perhaps. Orange juice and hibiscus tea. Clear muscat in the aftertaste and ‘afternose’. Comments: I usually think that moscatel is a little vulgar. Well, this represents the best use of moscatel, ever. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Well, this is becoming a little mad. Perhaps one more, and we’ll have the other Kavalans (not to mention all the Nantous) we’ve got on the table later on, if you don’t disagree…

Kavalan 2008/2016 'Solist' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081219022, 491 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 'Solist' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081219022, 491 bottles) Four stars and a half Ah, the same Taiwanese association, I guess nothing could go wrong either. Having said that, this one’s very very dark… Colour: coffee. Nose: but who’s the Einstein that stencilled an old cask of Port Mourant as Kavalan? An avalanche of Demerara sugar and stuff, plus tar and hot brake pads. Almost forgot to mention gunpowder. With water: garden peat, pipe tar, rubber bands, new tyres, dark caramel. Mouth (neat): not Port Mourant, rather Glenfarclas again. So, who’s the Einstein that stencilled one of Glenfarclas’ old Family Casks as Kavalan? I hope I won’t start a new whisky war… ;-). With water: a drop of Campari over dried fruits and a slightly sulphury maltiness. Finish: long, with ginger and cinchona up. More Campariness. Comments: another rather beastly one. You gotta love the beasts, for they’re so entertaining and economical (as you just cannot have more than two or four few cls at any given time). SGP:561 - 89 points.

Next time we’ll try to find a 90+…

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

 

 

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July 16, 2017


Whiskyfun

Malternative Sundays, five white mezcals

… As we usually do every once in a while in summer. There are rumours that agaves are in short supply these days, especially high-end or even wild varieties. It’s true that these agaves are not common materials that you could import from any countries, such as grain elsewhere and, in many cases, molasses or cane honeys…


Cultivated agave Espadin in Mexico >>

agave

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Guerrero’ (45%, OB, blanco, +/-2016)

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Guerrero’ (45%, OB, blanco, +/-2016) Three stars Mezcales de Leyenda are specialising in selecting mezcals from various regions of Mexico, in this case Guerrero in the Sierra Madre del Sur. It’s certified Fair Trade, the agave is an organic wild ‘ancho’ (agave cupreata) from the high mountains (1900m), and it was double distilled in small copper pot stills. Colour: white Nose: it’s a very earthy mezcal, not especially smoky, with touches of lavender perfume and chocolate. Slightly eau-de-toilette-y if I may, but that style goes well in mezcal, as long as it’s only apparent in the nose. Hints of burnt olives and even eucalyptus trees as well. Mouth: it’s definitely sweet and fruity, although I do find some wood ashes as well. Touches of lemon liqueur, lemon-filled chocolate, hints of cranberries, and always these ashes. Not much brine/olives this time, I’d say it’s a relatively light style of mezcal. Finish: medium, slightly sweet, with more green smoke. Comments: extremely good, just not one of these terrific malternative-y mezcals that are tearing you apart. Kind of. SGP:643 - 82 points.

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Durango’ (47%, OB, blanco, +/-2016)

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Durango’ (47%, OB, blanco, +/-2016) Four stars This time this is wild agave ‘cenizo’ distilled in the state of Durango. Colour: white. Nose: warmer, more buttery, with more overripe fruits and more earthy/peppery notes, clearly some ink (old magazines, carbon paper), Cuban cigars, and indeed, olives, candied citrons, mango chutney... A harsher style, going more towards ‘Islay’. Also a touch of acetone and various varnishes. Mouth: indeed, this one is earthier, rougher, more ‘artisan’, more ‘immediate’, with some ham, olives, mustard sauce, and roasted guavas. Touches of juniper and lavender, which is completely normal. Finish: very long, always as earthy, with a feeling of peppers, chillies, and mustard. The overripe guavas are back in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, and the strength is right. SGP:554 - 85 points.

Del Maguey ‘Santo Domingo Albarradas’ (48%, OB, blanco, 2016)

Del Maguey ‘Santo Domingo Albarradas’ (48%, OB, blanco, 2016) Four stars One of my favourite houses, but rather sadly and just like some of my favourite new whisky distilleries (Hautes-Glaces, Westland…), they’ve been acquired by a large French company (Pernod-Ricard this time). Always the same excuses, ‘increased opportunities’, ‘securing the workers’ future’, 'access to a better distribution network', yada yada yada. Startup mentality. Anyway, this is espadin, so usually cultivated agave. Colour: extremely pale white wine. Nose: this is the very olive-y style that I like so much. This baby’s perhaps a little less complex and subtle than the Leyendas, but it’s got this raw lemon/earth/smoke/olives combination that’s so hard to resist. Mouth: indeed, it’s drier, much earthier, I’d even say ‘dirty’, with many fermenting fruits, oranges, guavas, mangos… Goes towards lime and pine needles after a wee while. Finish: long and very earthy indeed. Love this dirtiness. Fresh ginger. Something pleasantly rotten in the aftertaste… Old apples? Comments: some restless artisan mezcal and a style that’s very different. Shall we call it rustico?  SGP:554 - 85 points.

Bruxo No.3 (46%, OB, mezcal, blanco, +/-2015)

Bruxo No.3 (46%, OB, mezcal, blanco, +/-2015) Three stars The No.1 had been very good, but not outstanding in my book (WF 76). This No.3 was made out of wild ‘barril’ agaves and distilled in San Agustin Amatengo, Oaxaca. Colour: wild. Nose: it’s much shier than all the other ones, more restrained, and while there’s some coal smoke and even some wild mushrooms, I’m not finding it particularly characterful, it’s not quite bearing comparison with the much oomphier Del Maguey. A little caraway and aniseed, fennel… Mouth: there’s more happening now, such as a feeling of smoked rotting fruits, mangos, cooked agaves, perhaps a little muesli? But it remains a little self-restrained all along. Good smokiness, though. Finish: medium, with more ashes, hay… Some green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: well, the others had better resolutions, I’d say, but this Bruxo is a very good mezcal for sure.  SGP:443 - 80 points.

Let’s try another Bruxo…

Bruxo No.4 (46%, OB, mezcal, blanco, +/-2016)

Bruxo No.4 (46%, OB, mezcal, blanco, +/-2016) Three stars This one’s a blend of various varieties, namely espadin, cuiche, and barril. It comes from Las Salinas, Oaxaca. Colour: white. Nose: the fruitiest, the most delicate, and the easiest of them all. Fir bark, agave syrup, honey, lemon liqueur, and a wee chalky side. Fresh concrete, perhaps, while little whiffs of coal smoke start to appear after a minute or two. Mouth: fruity and bonbony, with a style that’s rather closer to that of some tequila. Lemongrass, lemon curd, hay fire, a touch of grenadine, and then more vanilla, even if this baby’s never seen any oak. A little gentian as well, which is obviously nice. Finish: medium, lemony, clean, fresh, zesty. That’s nice. Comments: really a delicate and complex mezcal, liked the freshness a lot, even if it wasn’t totally impressive. No olives, sob, sob… SGP:542 - 82 points.

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

 

 

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July 15, 2017


Whiskyfun

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
A Pair of
1972 Glen Grant
Who doesn't love 1972 Glen Grant, it's always nice to have an excuse to taste some. Like if it's a sunny day - or a rainy one. Or even if it's just daylight, or sometimes at night too. Or, in your case Serge, if there's an old episode of Inspector Derrick on TV...

 

Glen Grant 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Private bottling for The Angel Inn, sherry butt, cask #1965) Glen Grant 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Private bottling for The Angel Inn, sherry butt, cask #1965) The Angel Inn is a pub in Yorkshire that was luck enough to have its own bottling of Glen Grant at one point. Never seen this one before so I suspect it remains quite rare. Also, interestingly, the label describes the cask as a 'sherried butt', make of that what you will... Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Pow! We've struck honey! Totally classical early 1970s Glen Grant, a whole beehive full of beeswax, pollen, honeysuckle, other wild flowers, some exotic hardwoods and various furniture oils and resins. Beautiful notes of freshly baked apple pie with butter, camphor, some raisins and perhaps a little eucalyptus and wormwood. Develops more fresh fruits with time, mostly green and garden varieties.  

 

Mouth: Honey again, only this time with more waxes, wood oils, walnut skins, dried dark fruits, Guinness cake and some sunflower oil. Quite fat and spicy, plenty of bite from the wood but it's never overpowering, more it acts as a foil for the honey and fruit components very nicely. Notes of freshly brewed green tea, some citrus rind and orange bitters. Towards the end it gets kind of peppery as well. Finish: Long! Savoury brown bread with notes of various seeds and a scraping of honey and fresh butter. A lingering oiliness. Comments: Grade A, textbook 1972 Glen Grant. Not the most complex but total pleasure to drink and perfect integration between fruit and wood. SGP: 642 - 90 points.  

 

Glen Grant 26 yo 1972/1999 (56.1%, Hart Brothers, rum wood)

Glen Grant 26 yo 1972/1999 (56.1%, Hart Brothers, rum wood) Apparently this one has had some ex-rum casks involved at some point, whether as a finish or a full maturation I'm not sure but it may be slightly more 'unlikely' than the previous one... Colour: Rosewood. Nose: This is indeed a different animal. More syrupy at first - although that can be the higher strength playing tricks - notes of treacle, tar and wood spice. There clearly is quite a bit of rum influence at play here, this nice mix of bandages and brown sugar is very 'rumesque'. However, there are still some more classical Glen Grant honey notes poking through and the integration overall feels quite nice. With a little breathing it becomes very spicy and peppery - green and black peppercorns. Notes of mineral oil, shoe polish, cured meats, old leather furniture.

 

 

There's some dense fruity notes coming as well now, fresh green fruits with more stodgy notes of raisins, dates and sultanas underneath. Perhaps even something tropical as well. With water: A dunder pit. Banana skins, ginger bread, wet earth. It's a tropical feel without any overly excessive tropical fruit aromas. Mouth: Big, juicy arrival. Surprisingly well balanced between the wood and fruit again. But the strength makes it a more syrupy and visceral kind of experience. More dark fruits, more notes of date and prune alongside dark chocolate, a little rancio, pipe tobacco, olive oil, more subtle tarry notes and a hit of molasses. If this is a finish it's been done with an extremely deft touch. Some big earthy, dunnage notes as well, camphor, resin, some waxy notes, stewed fruits. Maybe even a touch of Buckfast (I kid you not). With water: more chocolate and more earth with notes of back tea, berry fruits compote, more ginger bread and some light wood spice and gentle tannin. Finish: Long, slightly drying, spicy, more deft tannins, more chocolate and a some nice Demerara notes. Comments: Quite different from the Angel Inn bottling, but you can feel the distillery identity sloshing about underneath. I have to say, I'm not normally a fan of rum and whisky together but here the integration was pretty much spot on and made for a big and pretty uncompromising dram. Snap! SGP: 743 - 90 points.  

 


July 2017 - part 1 <--- July 2017 - part 2 ---> August 2017 - part 1


 

 

Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102026, 513 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2015 ‘Solist’ (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081229020, 526 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2015 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, cask #S060904024, 551 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (58.6%, OB, Taiwan, Port cask, cask #O090617023A, 175 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for Malt Whisky Paradise, sherry cask, cask #S090102042, 511 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, for HNWS, sherry cask, cask #S090608021A, 524 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.7%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #32, 357 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2015 (52.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, first filled sherry butt)

Littlemill 26 yo 1991/2017 (52.6%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 180 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (54.9%, The Whisky Cask, 1st fill sherry butt)

Littlemill 26 yo 1990/2017 (53.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #32, 267 bottles)

Foursquare ‘Triptych’ (56%, OB/Velier, Barbados, 5,400 bottles, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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