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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2007 - Part 2
       
June 2007 - part 1 <--- June 2007 - part 2 ---> July 2007 - part 1
 

June 28, 2007


TASTING – FOUR RARE OLD GLEN GARIOCHS
Glen Garioch old
Glen Garioch 1966/1997 (43%, Samaroli, casks #1309-1299, 696 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: as wild (not only peaty) as any true old Highlander, with an immense complexity right at first sniffs. It all starts with quite some wax and metal polish (Old Clynelish anyone?) mixed with tangerines and bitter oranges, getting then temporarily very mineral (wet stones after a first rain). Then it’s a more classical peatiness with also a little farminess (wet hay, clean horses) and then all the complex aromas start to shine through more brightly: leather, cigar box, wax polish but also freshly cut radishes, maybe even turnips. In no way are the 43% a problem on the nose. A little OBE starting to appear. Mouth: excellent attack, both citrusy and minty, with again a slight waxiness and something pleasingly bitter (‘green’ spices). Quite some peat, chlorophyll, green tea, candied lemon zests… Then pepper. Some tannins but not too many. Keeps developing on different kinds of mint (drops, chewing gum, tea) and gains body and assertiveness, even if I wouldn’t say it does not get a little too tannic on the back of your tongue now. Finish: long – longer than expected -, frankly tannic now and minty again, with something funnily muscaty in the background. Less peat than expected on the palate but a truly excellent old Glen Garioch, even if it’s not quite in the same league as the excellent official 21 yo 1965’s. 88 points.
Glen Garioch 46 yo 1958 (43%, OB, 336 bottles, 2004) Colour: gold. Nose: much, much more wood at first nosing and more oomph. Huge notes of wax, thuja wood, camphor and incense pack (unlit), with also lots of spices (pepper, paprika, curry, cardamom – no cloves and nutmeg this time). It calms down quite quickly, though, getting beautifully vegetal and more freshly resinous. Moss, fern, pine needles… And then it’s the tangerines and bitter oranges, the whole getting closer to the 1966 but still more ‘nervous’, even if probably less peaty. Superb oakiness (milk chocolate), let’s hope the palate won’t be drying and tea-ish. Mouth: it’s waxier and more resinous than the 1966 again but never drying indeed. Beautiful notes of blood oranges and kumquats, ginger, green pepper, earl grey tea… Lots of presence and strictly no tiredness despite the old age and the 43%. Sure it gets more seriously tannic after a moment but, again, never really drying this time. Excellent long finish on chlorophyll, oranges and pepper, with also something slightly mustardy. I’d have loved to try this one at 20/25 years of age. 90 points. (and thanks, Iain)
Glen Garioch 37 yo 'Bicentenary' (43%, OB, 1997) A very rare version, probably distilled around 1959 and before. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re closer to the Samaroli now, although there’s less OBE despite the fact that it was bottled at the same time, roughly. We do have the tangerines and these whiffs of wet stones plus that slight farminess again, but it all gets more lemony, citrusy after a while. Probably the fruitiest of the three, and the least peaty and phenolic, even if we do have quite some thuja wood coming through after a moment. Mouth: very close to the 1958 but with a little more zing this time and a slightly thicker body. Maybe a little more bergamots and kumquats, even if you have to wait a bit before ‘the cavalry arrives’. More obvious peat after a moment but maybe still a little less complexity than in the 1958. Finish: rather long, oaky but not excessively tannic and quite resinous. Nice liquorice too. 87 points. (and thanks, Hubert)
Glen Garioch 20 yo 1957/1977 (80 Proof, Cadenhead's Black Label, 26 2/3 Fl ozs) Colour: straw. Nose: ah, this is clearly different now, starting on the same notes of metal polish as the 1966, only much bolder and even dominant. Something yoghurty as well for a while… Then it starts to smell just like over-grilled beef, with also a little mint and fresh parsley. Very unusual and maybe not too enjoyable I’m afraid, even if all that settles down after quite some time and gets more classical (quite some lemon). But there’s always these notes of metal polish, and even iron and motor oil (old car’s engine). Mouth: much better now, fruitier, more on fresh orange juice, peat and pepper. Loads of pepper actually… Even wasabi! Then it’s these slightly metallic notes that strike back, the whole getting a little cardboardy. Lots of oomph, though, more than with all previous ones, which proves that twist caps work beautifully. It gets better and better with time but not enough to compensate the rather weird nose. Finish: it’s the longest of the four and maybe the wildest (quite some salt in this one) but it’s a little harsh (and too metallic) again now. But it’s good and very interesting whisky. 85 points.The oldest won, it was probably the freshest, at 46yo! And this is very good news.
 
MUSICRecommended listening: this is very "wow", it's Andrew Bird and his Oh so insistent.mp3 (from his 1997 album 'Music of Hair'). Let's quote Mr Bird: 'It is sort of a relic from the time before I got my conceptual shit together'.”This guy's a genius, you should buy his music... Andrew Bird
 

June 27, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
GRINDERMAN, SUICIDE, SEASICK STEVE

The Forum, Kentish Town, London, June 20th 2007

The term ‘Special Guest’ is one that needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt when it comes to many gigs, but not, I have to say, tonight’s. Whether by design or coincidence we have two Mojo Awards winners on stage before the main event. Whiskyfun favourite Seasick Steve begins his set in typical style by strolling through the still half-empty stalls playing bottleneck on his bashed up acoustic guitar before climbing to the stage. It doesn’t feel like quite the venue for him but he makes a fair fist of enchanting those who are prepared to pull themselves away from the bar or noisy idle chatter. He’s won, by the way, ‘Breakthrough Act of the Year’, and well worthy of it he is.

Seasick Steve
Following him on stage are New York’s controversial synth and vocals duo Suicide, who’ve snatched the ‘Innovation in Sound’ award. Controversial? Well, not really. It’s just that they seem to have had a polarising effect on audiences ever since they started in 1970, and tonight is no exception. They are of course much admired and cited as inspirational by bands as diverse as the Chemical Brothers and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, but I guess that doesn’t mean that people have to like them. There is a kind of compulsion about the keyboard playing, Martin Rev finding bass notes lower than you might have thought existed. And to give him credit he does look as though he’s playing with his tongue at least half in his cheek (do you have this saying in French Serge?). Alan Vega’s echo driven vocals (more ranting than singing) are virtually unintelligible, and though he has forsaken his trademark chain wielding, he still goads and baits the audience. Once sinister, he now holds all the threat and menace of an arm-waving crazed old man at a wind-swept bus stop on a deserted South Shields sea-shore. But like the old man he does manage to piss almost everyone off big-time, which is perhaps the intention of this alienating stuff. It’s nasty, brutish, and not very short, but either way, the audience isn’t going anywhere. By now the pace is pretty rammed and no one wants to lose their spot. Oh yes – no chance of pictures as the Photographer has her hands pressed to her ears for the whole set.
Grinderman
Grinderman
We’re really here to see Nick Cave’s new band, Grinderman (who didn’t win a Mojo Award), a stripped down version of the Bad Seeds featuring Cave, Warren Ellis on violin and guitar, Martyn Casey on bass and the pink suited Jim Sclavunos on his pink drum kit. Now you might think that in these days of ‘unplugged’ and ‘acoustics sessions’ that this would mean a gentle and reflective version of the Bad Seeds, full of tender violin and piano. Not a bit of it – Grinderman is a brutal back-to basics distillation of Cave’s sound. You could almost think it’s a melody free zone (of course it’s not). Cave plays electric guitar on many of the songs, with only occasional forays to the keyboards. In some respects this is clearly inhibiting, certainly on his movement, but it also gives his vocals more immediacy, and less consideration. His playing is ‘primitive’ – fractured, spare and loud. Behind him is Ellis – switching between bouzouki, violin (mostly strummed and plucked, rarely bowed) and a small red guitar whose size belies the noise it generates (could this be the mysterious Fendocastor listed on the Grinderman album sleeve notes?). I’m not sure if he plays his Hohner Guitaret. He certainly never stops - with an array of percussive instruments at hand for idle moments. Casey and Sclavunos, as befits their garage style sound, provide the engine-power.
Grinderman ‘Grinderman’ is the opening song – a crotch hugging Cave, guitar slung behind his back, almost chanting the lyrics to a spare backing that like many of the songs is reminiscent of the Cave/Ellis soundtrack to the Cave written film The Proposition – particularly so ‘Electric Alice’ with its jarring loops. Ejaculating with sexual innuendo ‘Grinderman’, according to Sclavunos, also represents the way the band play – “we grind songs out” – hence the name of the album. And from Grinderman to the organ grinder’s monkey – the band’s nut clutching logo. Actually it’s a bit of a nut clutching collection of songs – many having a recurrent theme of the inadequacies and frailties of modern man. Listen to the Johnny Dowdesque ‘Go tell the women’ or ‘Love bomb’ (in which Cave manages a triumph of writing by getting both the BBC’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ and ‘Gardeners Question Time’ into the lyrics) and you’ll quickly get the point. The songs, said Cave, “are all deeply personal” – none more so, I would imagine, than the wonderful ‘Man in the moon” which dwells on childhood loss. This is a really enchanting piece that would not have been out of place on The Boatman’s Call, and is probably the nearest to a Bad Seeds piece. Otherwise it’s full on Grinderman, and when some one calls for a Bad Seeds song Cave is dismissive – “wrong band – that’s another band”.
The set comprises the album in a slightly reworked order. Cave is in captivating form – it’s hard to take your eyes off him, and the ears have no choice as the volume and intensity grows. It climaxes with the penultimate song – ‘No pussy blues’. “Nick” asked an interviewer, “Is there a deeper meaning to ‘No Pussy Blues’?”. “No, it’s about getting no fucking pussy”. And it’s hardly surprising as the miserable and misogynistic self-loving protagonist of the song works his way through a series of rebuffs to his advances – and I notice that it’s the ladies in the audience who cheer most loudly when Cave whispers the chorus line at the end of the song. But before that we’ve all had to endure the ear-splitting visceral instrumental sections between each verse – louder than the Bad Seeds I’d say, and I’d guess if you wanted to hear the influence of Suicide on Cave and his cohorts then it’s somewhere in here. They finish with the screaming ‘Love bomb’.
Grinderman
And then Cave dropped his own bombshell – “Thank you. We’ll be back in a few minutes with Suicide”. There was a visible rush to the door. The band remerged with Vega and Rev, the former sparring vocals with Cave, ‘though I have to say what they were singing about I couldn’t tell – the song, I believe, was ‘Harlem’. The audience dwindled in direct proportion to the noise, a shame really as the set had been so good. Cave eventually left the stage, exchanging grins and raised eyebrows with Casey as he did so, but Vega had to be persuaded off by his roadie about four minutes later, otherwise I suspect we might still be there. Suicide? Well it’s a deeply personal choice, but personally I wouldn’t. However I can commend Grinderman who delivered a five star high-nineties performance. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick. Ah, Suicide… Yes, I remember… We were listening to them and to Wyatt’s Rock Bottom alternatively and guess what, that heavy treatment used to put us in a good mood. Yes, youth must have its fling, I guess… Now, I agree the music line on Grindernman’s website is very Suicidesque (don’t open the page if you’re at work!) Also lots of music on these fellows’ myspace pages: Seasick Steve, Suicide (have a try at Martin Rev's Jaded) and Grinderman indeed. Bad, bad boys... Oh, and about that 'tongue in cheek' expression, no, we don't have it in French I'm afraid. It's just like 'French kiss', which we don't have either, although some chaps may think it's sort of the same thing. Isn't that ironic? - S.
 
THE FEIS ILE SESSIONS – FOUR 1972 ARDBEGS
Ardbeg 1972
Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (48.8%, DL OMC for Alambic Germany, 252 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely fruity, starting boldly on dried pears, apple liqueur (manzana) and crystallized tangerines. Then the peat arrives together with notes of oysters and fresh kelp, lemon juice and green apples. Rather brilliant I must say. Mouth: bold, powerful and archetypical. Candied lemons and green tea, fir honey, propolis… A beautiful ‘fruity’ peat (as opposed to the drier peat in some earlier Ardbegs dating from when they were using the distillery’s maltings). Lemon liqueur (slightly ‘easy’). Perfect balance and a long finish, candied and peaty. Extremely good. 92 points.
Ardbeg 29 yo 1972/2002 (50.4%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 235 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: punchy and lemony, with ‘the sea’ quickly coming to the front (kelp) and a superb peatiness (garden bonfire). We have also fresh almonds and walnuts, apple skin, cake, kumquats… Classic. Mouth: rich, peaty, candied, lemony… And bold. The rest is censored by the anti-maltoporn department. 95 points.
Ardbeg 18 yo 1972/1991 (58.9%, Signatory, cask #3444, 275 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a tad sharper, more mineral and also peatier and less rounded. All sorts of smoke (wood, coal, peat), lots of lemon, pine resin, black pepper, oysters… Quite rougher than the Platinum but maybe also more demonstrative. Really a ‘peat monster’. Mouth: extremely powerful, punchy, peaty, peppery and lemony. Extraordinary zing. Fabulous mouth – and fabulous finish. No need to say more. 94 points.
Ardbeg 1972/2004 (44.2%, OB, Belgium, cask #3038, 148 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather soft, starting on marzipan, maraschino and a slightly subdued peat. Notes of wet paper and wet earth. Lightly medicinal. Goes on on almond milk… Rather a whispering Ardbeg. Mouth: sweet, starting on smoked tea and mastic, with quite some tannins. Crystallised lemons, macaroons… Hints of stone fruits spirit. Stays quite tannic. Finish: medium long, on lemons and smoke (more smoke at the finish than before) as well as a little nutmeg and cinnamon. I feel oak starts to dominate this one but it’s still an excellent Ardbeg. 88 points.
 

June 26, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FOREST OF NO RETURN, MUSIC FROM THE FILMS OF WALT DISNEY

The Royal Festival Hall, London June 17th 2007

The Royal Festival Hall, fulcrum of the much-reviled Southbank Centre, the Festival of Britain’s gift to post-war London, has just re-opened following an extensive refurbishment. It’s a pity that this didn’t include air-conditioning in the public areas because as we wait for over an hour before a delayed entrance to the still-spectacular auditorium, the place heats up like an oven. Jarvis
We’re here for the second night of this year’s Meltdown – the Southbank's annual avant-garde musical bash, curated this year by Jarvis Cocker (“Cunts may be running the world, but a cock will be controlling the South Bank for one week in June” he declared), following in the footsteps of Patti Smith, Nick Cave, Morrissey and Scott Walker and suchlike. It’s a characteristically eclectic assembly including Motorhead, Melanie, John Barry, Iggy and the Stooges, Devo, Roky Erickson, Jerry Dammers, and of course Mr Cocker himself. But tonight we’re here for Forest of No Return, Music from the films of Walt Disney produced by Hal Willner (responsible for, among other things, last year’s marvellous sea shanty collection, Rogues’ Gallery) and for Jarvis.
Forest The audience are varied and restive. There are the hideously-dressed and cruelly self-obsessed and self-conscious fashionistas – Meltdown hardcore. Then we have the dreadfully loud chatteratti; over-privileged, over-educated, over-fed and over-opinionated. And, if I may observe, the first to start being rude to the attendants and bar staff as our long steamy wait continued. Not used to waiting I suppose. And of course we have the Mummies and Daddies with their Matts and Mollies. Already over-tired and over-excited the little fuckers darlings cause havoc playing with the lifts and running themselves into states of utter exhaustion. And with half of the audience getting quietly pissed in the evening sunshine, things look set for a lively evening. Oh - why are we waiting? Well, with a cast of hastily-assembled stars set up for the evening, including the likes of Pete Doherty and Shane MacGowan, you won’t be surprised to learn that they’re rehearsing until the very last minute (well, very last sixty minutes to be honest). We’re told that our patience means that we’ve been “part of the creative process”. Yeah – right.
Willner’s been here before – in 1988 he released Stay Awake, a collection of Disney songs featuring luminaries such as Tom Waits, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor.
But tonight’s affair is on a much grander scale, with 38 tunes and songs (‘though in the end several were cut as time ran out) with twenty guest performers and an orchestra, featuring amongst many others Chris Spedding on guitar, David Coulter on musical saw and Kate St. John on oboe and Cor anglais. She was responsible for the pretty ‘Little April showers’, sung by former Morcheeba vocalist Skye Edwards and Ed Harcourt, but the majority of arrangements are shared between composer and pianist Steve Weisberg, Steve Bernstein (who also plays trumpet and flugelhorn) and Jun Miyake, who each lead the band for their own pieces. On stage for much of the evening is pianist Terry Adams, sometimes of NRBQ, whose apparently casual playing adds both breadth and edge to many of the arrangements – his vocal contribution on ‘Whistle while you work’ suggests his career should remain firmly with the keyboards. Also frequently present is veteran Sun Ra Arkestra saxophonist Marshall Allen, whose lightning and jarring solos helped to paint a different perspective of many of these Disney classics. For with such heavyweights on stage this certainly wasn’t Disney lite – more like Disney dark, as the Glums in the row in front of us soon discovered,
Did I tell you about the Glums? Maw, Paw and the two weans – who spent most of the night (well until their early departure) feasting on a malodorous popcorn and peanut picnic and guzzling down gallons of the brown fizzy stuff. Quite what they had expected I don’t know. You could see their unease as David Thomas, bare-footed like a St Kildan, dragged his heavy black-clad bulk onto the stage and broke into ‘I’m late’, pausing only to fix the audience with a menacing Cheshire Cat grin. Maw Glum held her hands to her ears as Nick Cave sang a remarkably expletive-free ‘An actor’s life for me’, and I’m sure the wee girl was crying when Cave and Thomas dueted on a wonderful ‘Heigh ho’ (is it possible to have two such Grumpies?). Thomas singing ‘When I see an elephant fly’ followed by ‘Pink elephants on parade’ with Adams and Allen at full tilt was enough to see them pack their bags altogether, having I think only really enjoyed the wonderfully hammy rendition of ‘Feed the birds’ by veteran British comedic actress Fenella Fielding. Needless to say, they left all their rubbish littering the seats and floor.
David Thomas
David Thomas
I had anticipated (no – hoped) that Thomas would steal the show, but good though he was, there were others who were equally impressive. After Cocker, Cave, Doherty and MacGowan had howled their way through ‘Home sweet home’, Richard Strange took the stage. “Who could follow that – me!” he shouted, as he Boris Karloffed his way through ‘Headless Horseman’ from Disney’s take on Sleepy Hollow, the 1949 movie The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Equally impressive was Gavin Friday singing ‘Siamese cat song’ and ‘Castle in Spain’. And a surprisingly melancholic yet impressive Pete Doherty made a boyish chimney sweep as he strummed and sang his way through ‘Chim Chim Cheree’. Beth Orton was characteristically tuneful on ‘Baby mine’. ‘Stay awake’ and ‘Second star to the right’. Cocker, of course, was not to be upstaged on his own night, with ‘I wanna be like you’ and the show closer ‘When you wish upon a star’, but it was hard for anyone to compete against a glistening Grace Jones with her simmering ‘Trust in me’, or the uplifting Baaba Maal singing ‘Bare Necessities’.
Grace Jones
Grace Jones
Perfect it wasn’t, but entertaining it certainly was. I only had one real complaint (apart from the Glums). How can it be entertaining to watch someone with a chronic illness display the symptoms of their disease on a public stage? I’m sure a younger and sober Shane MacGowan would have been the perfect choice for a Pogue Mahone version of ‘Zip-a-dee Doo Dah’. But his shambolic and drunken careering around the stage should have been a source of embarrassment and concern, not of the shameful laughter that he got. Never mind – everyone has to make a living, and no doubt there are a few making a living out of Shane. Well here’s a final thought and a strange coincidence. Just count how many of the artistes performing here were involved with Willner’s piratical ‘Rogues’ Gallery’. Don’t you just sense a barnstorming double CD on the way? - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
We don’t thank you, Nick. Such an array of stars on one single stage! This is not fair, we’ve even considered not publishing the review… But here’s our spectacular revenge.mp3. Sorry, I didn’t have anything (even) crappier at hand. - S.
 
Ardbeg

 

 

 

 

 

THE FEIS ILE SESSIONS – THREE VERY OLD ARDBEGS

Ardbeg 30 yo 1964/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for John Gross & Co, Baltimore, USA) A rare G&M CC bearing an age statement. Colour: deep amber. Nose: smooth, starting on wax polish and dried oranges, resin, old orange liqueur, cedar wood (very delicate here), cigar box, linseed oil, old turpentine, mint… Quite a symphony even if it’s more delicate than bold. Hints of smoked ham. Entrancing beauty. Mouth: just a tad dry at the attack, then we have quite some bitter chocolate and tea, mint drops, cough syrup, apple skin, old walnuts… Maybe less fresh than on the nose but still very entertaining and without any of the flaws usually associated with these old whiskies. A Boticelli. 96 points.
Ardbeg 13 yo 1965/1978 (80°proof, Cadenhead’s dumpy) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts rather fruitier than expected, on bananas and butter pears. Then we have a little wax and linseed oil, then tea (both black and green), then wet paper and cardboard. Also something like metal polish (obvious OBE). Nice mint in the background but the whole is a little tired. Slight soapiness. Mouth: dry and fruity at the same time (bananas again), quite tea-ish, gaining momentum with time but never getting totally satisfying. Finish: quite short, dry and woody. Little peat in this dry and rather tired Ardbeg. 81 points.
Ardbeg 17 yo (46%, Cadenhead's dumpy, Sutti Milano, circa 1985) Colour: white wine. Nose: much nicer, starting more on grapefruit, white pepper and wet stones as well as a little metal polish again. Wet hay. Another very dry version, cleaner and more elegant than the 13yo. Mouth: richer, creamier, starting on kumquats and developing on white pepper and a little mastic. Cough sweets, lemon marmalade, a little ginger… Very nice mix of peat and crystallised citrus fruits. Finish: medium long, more and more citrusy, slightly resinous and candied. A little icing sugar. Way better than the 13yo. 90 points.
 

June 25, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
Port Ellen

THE FEIS ILE SESSIONS – THREE 1982 PORT ELLENS + TWO

Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC for Fortnum & Mason, ref #1282, 305 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: lots of sherry in this one, but also quite some sulphur I’m afraid. Otherwise it’s cooked strawberries, blackcurrant buds and blackberry jam, the whole managing to dominate the peat. The sulphur gets a little more bearable after a moment, that is, but you really have to like H2S. Also quite nutty. Water makes it hugely tarry.

Mouth: much, much better! Round, creamy, with some great sherry mingling with the peat as well as quite some honey and caramel. Finish: very long, coating, honeyed and peppery. A big sherried Port Ellen, you just have to give it some time so that the heavy sulphur can vanish from the nose. 90 points. (and thanks, Hans)
Port Ellen 12 yo 1982/1995 (60.5%, Milroy’s) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is pure lemon juice, really. Also flints and kiwi. Ginger tonic, something chemical (scouring powder). Rather hard I must say – when undiluted, at least. With water: alas, it gets cardboardy and even more chemical. A bad swimmer, this one. Mouth (neat): more drinkable than expected, simple but very compact and nicely lemony and peaty. Enjoyable purity – but it’s hot. With water: it works better than on the nose, developing on lemon pie and lemon marmalade but it’s still quite simple. Finish: very long, lemony and candied, the peat being unexpectedly absent. Hot and simple but very interesting, there aren’t that many young Port Ellens around. Keyword: lemon. 85 points.
Port Ellen 22 yo 1982/2005 (61.7%, Jack Wieber, Auld Distillers, 228 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: an immense sherry but again a little sulphur, although much less than in the ‘Fortnum’. Loads of milk chocolate and blackberry jam, Chinese plum sauce, smoked ham and balsamic vinegar. Also a little parsley and lovage, roasted nuts, bananas flambéed, old rum, all kinds of raisins… The peat does give this one a beautiful structure and I must say it’s big and stunning whisky. What’s more, no water is needed. Mouth (neat): punchy, immensely fruity (very ripe bananas and litchis) with an unusually delicate peatiness (unless it’s buried deep under the heavy yet beautiful sherry). Loads of chocolate, prunes, orange marmalade, ripe strawberries, apricot jam… Blackberry
And also the spices, ginger, cinnamon, curry, nutmeg, cloves... What a thick beast! Finish: as long as it can get, chocolaty and peppery, with a bold tannic structure (never drying). Well, this a perfect example of a peat’n’sherry monster. Spectacular! 94 points. (oops, I even forgot to add water…) (... and thanks, Fred)
And also Port Ellen 23 yo 1982/2005 (50%, DL Old Malt Casl for The Islay Whisky Shop, 240 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather farmy, mashy and grainy. A little sour and milky. More lemon and peat after a moment also faint whiffs of chemicals (scouring powder). Mouth: bold, sweet and peppery, much cleaner than on the nose. Very good actually. Lots of grapefruit. Finish: long, maybe a tad youngish (spirit) but nicely clean. 85 points.
Port Ellen BBR Last minute - Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2469) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one seems to be a rather balanced, almost delicate Port Ellen. There’s really a little everything of what PE should be: tar (and brand new tyres), smoke, ashes, kelp, pepper, ‘clean wet dog’, grapefruits… Perfect! Nose: oh yes, it’s just the same, with maybe just added notes of crystallised oranges upfront. Dangerously drinkable – the strength is perfect. Finish: long, still very balanced, with a huge saltiness arising as a perfect signature. Top notch Port Ellen offering lots of pleasure at an ideal drinking strength (as they say). Watch the level if you buy a bottle, unless you never ever entertain guests (or have no problems with the other you). 92 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: get prepared to melt like vanilla ice cream under global warming with Sonya Kitchell singing I can't get you out of my mind.mp3 (from her CD Words came back). Please buy her music. Sonya Kitchell
 

June 24, 2007


Miltonfuff 10

TASTING - FOUR MILTONDUFF

Miltonduff 10 yo (43%, James MacArthur, 2005) Colour: straw. Nose: light but delicately flowery (wild flowers like buttercups, nectar, a little pollen), developing on fresh apples and pears as well as yellow melon. Hints of stones. Uncomplicated but very pleasant, fresh, clean. Mouth: very sweet but much more on caramel and cornflakes this time, orange cake… More and more caramel actually, caramel-coated peanuts, praline. Finish: rather long, still mostly on caramel, with notes of toasted brioche. Simply good, a perfect everyday dram. 82 points.

Miltonduff 36 yo 1967/2004 (40.1%, Duncan Taylor, cask #5418) Colour: gld. Nose: typical old ‘refill’ Speysider, with lots of bananas, tangerines, vanilla and soft spices from the wood. Lots of apricot jam as well, light caramel, hints of Sauternes wine, crystallised quinces… Very elegant, not too far from some very old Benriachs or Balvenies. Mouth: very good news, the wood does not have the leading part here – at the attack, at least. Again these vanilled and fruity notes (banana split, oranges) at the start, pollen, all-flowers honey… Then the oak does arrive, with quite some white pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and also a faint cardboardiness. Very nice pepper but the whole starts to get a little drying after all these years. Finish: not too long but pleasantly orangey and oaky, gingery. Still a bit drying but nothing excessive. Another good old whisky that’s still got all his teeth. 87 points. Miltonfuff 1967
Miltonfuff 17 Miltonduff-Glenlivet 17 yo 1984 (57.9%, Cadenhead) Colour: pale gold. Nose: shy, dry, austere at first nosing, getting hugely vegetal, grassy (newly cut grass, cut cactus)… Quite sharp now, water needed I guess. With water: it got nicer indeed, with some pleasant notes of coconuts and vanilla crème, but it’s still no total winner on the nose. Mouth (neat): very strong, very sweet (sort of sugary), hot, almost burning. Not meant to be drunk without water I guess. With water: the tannins are coming through now, the whole getting quite drying. Lots of cinnamon. Rather long finish but a little indefinite, although very tannic. Just a little mint. 76 points.
Miltonduff 12 yo 1993/2005 (61.8%, G&M Cask, sherry butt, cask #9400) Colour: gold. Nose: starts similarly but it gets then mashier, milkier, closer to raw spirit. The development is much nicer, though, with touches of sherry, very ripe strawberries, a nice sourness from the wood, yoghurt, apple skin… And then lots of toasted peanuts and coffee. Really playful at that strength but let’s try it with water: a little ‘nice’ sulphur now but also an interesting development on rosehip and hawthorn teas, coffee, gooseberries… Mouth (neat): much rounder, creamier and more drinkable than the Cadenhead when neat. The sherry’s even more obvious, with also lots of lemon marmalade and pepper from the wood. With water: it’s the spices that wake up now as well as a little liquorice and quite some honey. Dried ginger, cloves… Very nice, long finish, rich, honeyed and nutty. An excellent dram, nice wood and clean distillation (or reversely). 86 points. Miltonfuff 12
MUSICRecommended listening: let's have more 'avant-garde' today with WF favourite Meredith Monk, this time doing her beautiful Core chant.mp3. You should really buy Meredith's music. Meredith Monk
 

June 22, 2007


TASTING – THREE GLENFIDDICHS
Glenfiddich
Glenfiddich 32 yo 1972/2005 ‘Bond Reserve’ (46.9%, Cadenhead’s, circa 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s starts all on old bourbon, varnish and vanilla. Freshly sawn oak? Gets then grassier and liquoricy, with hints of ham. It’s actually quite complex old whisky, with also probably more oomph than most old OB’s. Nice hints of mint. It looses balance after a while, getting heavily oaky (and the ham got bolder too). Mouth: a bold mouth full, starting dry, on dried grated coconut and quite some cinnamon. Then it’s the roasted coffee beans, then sultanas and finally a little salt from the cask. Finish: medium long (it lost power), toasted and on quite some bitter caramel. It’s a good dry Glenfiddich, an interesting alternative to the OB’s, not worn out at all but maybe lacking a little extra-charisma. 84 points.
Glenfiddich 1982 ‘Private Vintage’ (58.7%, OB for the Craigellachie Hotel, cask #3672) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on full porridgy mode, grains, with also lots of mashed potatoes and beer. Extremely punchy. One of the most porridgy malts I ever had, as far as I can remember. Gets then spicier (white pepper, nutmeg). Quite some breadcrumb as well. Incredibly young! Mouth: the attack is very sweet and very peppery at the same time (heavy oak). Then it’s all on pear spirit… And pepper again. Some lovers of the genre should, well, love this but it’s not my style. Goes on with notes of green tea. Finish: long but getting too bitter, with always these extreme porridgy notes. On grains and oak all the way. 80 points.
Glenfiddich 37 yo 1964/2001 (58.7%, Ian McLeod & Co, cask #10791, 200 bottles) Colour: amber – mahogany. Nose: starts on spoonfuls of strawberry jam and buckets of wax polish as well as quite some pineapple flambéed. The sherry wood is rally dominating here, which is unusual with Glenfiddich. Goes on with quince jelly, guignolet (cherry liqueur), then espresso… It doesn’t lack elegance in fact but not much remains from the distillery character. Mouth: the attack is on a very waxy and very resinous woodiness, with a nice bitterness. Alas, the tannins are starting to strike after a while. Lots of bitter almonds and raw quince (I now, that’s hard to eat). Finish: long, even more bitter and concentrated, with quite some amaretto and walnut liqueur. This one grew bolder and bolder with time – again, unusual for a Glenfiddich. 88 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: another WF favourite, simply Bela Fleck and the Flecktones playing Acoustic Brew.mp3. Victor Wooten, best bass since Jaco? (discuss...) Please buy the Flecktones' music. Flecktones
 

June 21, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
ALLEN TOUSSAINT AND THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND

The Barbican, London, June 4th 2007
Preservaton Hall
Fact: January 14th is Allen Toussaint day in New Orleans. It’s also his birthday, in 1938. He is one of the giants of New Orleans rhythm and blues, as writer, performer, producer and arranger. And he’s in London at the Barbican, on its huge stage, shrunk to a more intimate feel by shrouds and clever and pretty lighting (“you want to see what it looks like from up here”). Actually I thought he was top of the bill (maybe should have been as it turned out) but apparently not. The tickets were largely booked as a result of the Photographer’s enthusiasm for his contributions to the Katrina benefit album Our New Orleans (which surely every Whiskyfun reader has a copy of?), and even more so his impressive 2006 album with Elvis Costello, The River in Reverse. He’s at the Barbican’s Steinway, which is so miked up it looks like a patient in intensive care. But he makes good use of it. Here is a pianist who learnt at the feet of the great Professor Longhair, but who mixes hard New Orleans syncopation (this is the man who produced the Meter’s syncopated masterpiece ‘Cissy strut’, so believe me he’s a master of the art) with a flowing lyricism that gives him a quite unique style. And he’s written for, played with and produced a who’s who of twentieth century music.
His set reads like an autobiography as he talks and jokes us through his career with his own compositions like ‘Fortune teller’ (covered by the Rolling Stones – “I love the Rolling Stones, they showed me the way to the bank for the first time”), Lee Dorsey’s massive hit ‘Working in a coal mine’ and ‘Mother in law’ and ‘A certain girl’, both hits for ‘Emperor of the World’ Ernie K-Doe. It’s charmingly self-depreciating: “This is a song I wrote for myself, it sold five copies, then the Pointer Sisters recorded it and they sold lots of copies” – he’s talking about ‘Happiness’. By the way, the Pointer Sisters’ first hit was ‘Yes I can can’, which you can hear Toussaint singing wonderfully on My New Orleans.
Costello Toussaint
Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
He plays his instrumental from that album, ‘Tipitina and me’, which is a must have for any New Orleans piano enthusiast. He tells us about Frankie Miller “one of the most soulful people I’ve ever met – but dyaknow, he always used to carry warm beers ‘round in that valise of his” before singing ‘Brickyard blues’ which famously rhymes ‘mellow’ with ‘Jell-O’ – nice. Mr Toussaint ended up in serous reminiscence mode, first singing Prince Partridge’s ‘Lazy Man’ – “I remember I used to listen to that at home on the radio” – and then (as the sound desk waved frantically at him to stop) a long narrative (with melodious keyboards) of childhood visits to relatives in the country, and sultry evenings on the porch, which slowly turned into ‘Southern Nights’, from the 1975 album of the same name. Despite, or perhaps because of, its laid-back fashion this is a thoroughly engrossing hour, during which it would be easy to miss the remarkable yet understated keyboard playing. It certainly didn’t deserve the gratuitously racist remark made by one rather fat (and I may say rather ugly) south Londoner who was sitting nearby. He should have been thrown out.
New Orleans Street   I assume he’d come to see the ‘main’ act, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, although I’m sure they would have found his remark equally offensive. Maybe they’d heard it and that was why they chose to delay their arrival on stage by ten minutes or so while they played a poorly made film on the history of the Hall and the band, or maybe it was just bad judgement. Either way, it quickly had the audience wriggling in their seats (they were suffering from a severe dose of tedium tremens) and pretty much killed a nice atmosphere. To make it worse I would have to observe that when the band did slowly take the stage they didn’t look particularly pleased to be there – they were smiling by the end, but it did take some time. As for the music, well its predictability - tradition and predictability are not the same thing – its predictability confirmed that I’ve been right not to visit the Hall when in New Orleans.
It’s one of the must-see tourist venues, and whilst everyone would endorse its mission to educate children in the City’s musical heritage, no one really needs to endure a rather turgid and formulaic work-through of old favourites such as ‘If I had my life to be over’, ‘Down to New Orleans’, ‘Shake that thing’ and the like. Nope, it really didn’t press my buttons, or at least not until Toussaint joined them for a splendidly soulful ‘Closer walk with thee’. And then it ended with an unsurprising encore as the band marched round the Barbican gathering a desultory following of badly-coordinated exhibitionists who all ended up strutting their stuff (London style I should add) on the stage.
Such a shame. Toussaint could have carried the show on his own and frankly the Preservation Hall Jazz Band did little other than steal an hour and a half of my fairly busy life. But you take the rough with the smooth, something we should remember when we consider that most of these guys lived through Hurricane Katrina and in their own ways are trying to rebuild the city of their birth. For that they should all enjoy our support. - Nick Morgan (concert and city photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick. We’ve found a nice tune by The Meters, produced by Allen Toussaint (who, I’ve seen, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998). It’s Talking about New Orleans.mp3 (from their 1975 album ‘Fire on the bayou’). – S.
 
Tomatins

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING - THREE TOMATINS + ONE

Tomatin 1984/2006 (43%, Daily Dram) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts extremely fruity, like some much older versions from the 1960’s. We have mostly bananas, guavas and papayas. Then it’s the wood that plays its part (wet branches, a little moss, fern… hints of soft mustard) and then it’s back to fruit (more oranges this time). Not exactly complex but a joy to nose this expressive Tomatin. Mouth: just as fruity (bananas again, oranges) but also spicier (nutmeg, cloves, pepper). Really full bodied despite the low strength. Notes of orange peel. Gets woodier with time but it’s more structure than dryness. Finish: surprisingly long, fruity and delicately tannic. Well, this proves, once more, that the huge Tomatin distillery should not be overlooked. 86 points.
Tomatin 30yo 1977/2007 (48.6%, The Whisky Fair, 223 bottles) Colour: pale gold. more discrete, more shy than the 1984 at first nosing, with maybe faint whiffs of rubber, but then it’s the same kind of fruity cavalry that assaults your nostrils (maybe more citrus fruits, blood oranges, grapefruits). Hints of yoghourt, vanilla custard… Quite some fresh parsley as well, chives… The rubber makes a comeback after a while. Mouth: very interesting! Extremely expressive, with a whole bunch of dried fruits (first citrus and then figs and dates) and something like fresh pomegranates. Also fruit-flavoured yoghurts, fruit sweets (do you know Sugus?)… This is pure pleasure but beware, one could swallow a pint of it just like that. Okay, half. Finish: rather long, still as fruity, a little more on kiwis, blackcurrants and icing sugar. Excellent on the palate – nicer than on the nose. Same comment about Tomatin in general. 88 points.
Tomatin 17 yo 1989/2006 (56.4%, Cadenhead) Colour: pale straw. Nose: unusually smoky at first nosing, with bold whiffs of bonfire, ashes, a little incense… Incredible, it gets even smokier with time! I mean, smokier than any of the Islayers form the south shore. It’s not exactly peat but truly wood. Not much else, that is, except notes of mashed potatoes and grains. Very surprising. Mouth: again there’s a rather huge smokiness here, mingling with wet grains and pear spirit. Less extreme than on the nose. Gets grainier after a moment, porridgy, a little orangey… The finish is very long, more balanced now, sweet and malty, with also a little apple juice. Really a surprise on the nose, the palate being more mundane. But there’s always something happening with Tomatin it seems! 82 points.
And also Tomatin 14 yo 1989/2004 (57.7%, Norse Cask, Hogshead #8383, 257 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is more on porridge and wine sauce, with a rather heady sourness. Did they use sherry staves? Goes on with lots of milk chocolate and roasted nuts but the sourness is still there (‘light’ baby vomit – I know, I know…) Also lots of fermenting fruits, getting somewhat acetic. Not my cup of malt I must say but maybe the palate will be nicer. Mouth: really better now. Bold, punchy, extremely close to the Cadenhead in fact, with just an added layer of ‘something like sherry’. Finish: very long, fruitier now (fruit spirit). Slightly rubbery. Oh well, we’ve had Tomatins that we liked better – and certainly much better malts by the gents at Norse Cask’s. 76 points. Now, it seems that Tomatin lost its extreme fruitiness after 1985 or thereabouts.
 

June 20, 2007


TASTING - FOUR ALLT A BHAINNES
Allt A Bhainne
Allt A Bhainne 10 yo 1989 (43%, Dun Bheagan) 1989 is the year when Allt A Bhainne was expanded by Chivas but I don’t know if this one is pre or post-expansion. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very grainy and very cereally, with a little sherry in the background (refill) and hints of wet earth and fresh mushrooms. Quite musty indeed. Also notes of cooked butter, freshly baed croissants… Mouth: rather oily mouth feel. Starts on hints of caramel and gets then very malty and, again, cereally (cornflakes). Notes of toasted bread, something slightly burnt. Something of a blend – I’m not saying Chivas. Finish: medium long, still very caramelly and malty. Not bad at all I must say. 78 points.
Allt A Bhainne 12 yo (43%, The Still Man Selection, ‘500 years of distilling’ 1994) A sub-brand by James MacArhur it seems. Colour: pale straw. Nose: a little hotter, just as grainy but getting more on fruits and porridge. Less cask influence, obviously. Faint whiffs of cologne. Mouth: quite unpleasant at the attack, cardboardy and sort of chemical (rotting orange). Gets bitter with time, with quite some pepper. Doesn’t deliver. Finish: quite long but still very bitter and sort of chemically ‘deviant’. A poor version I think, to keep as a commemorative bottle indeed. 64 points.
Allt A Bhaine 1979/1994 (56.1%, Graf Beissel von Gymnich, cask #26332, 247 bottles) No typo, it’s well ‘Bhaine’ on the label. Colour: straw. Nose: much, much better although we’re well on these grainy and malty notes again. Goes through hints of kirsch (and any plum spirit) to caramel and butter (apple tart). Also hints of violets and cranberry juice. Not exactly interesting but pleasant. Mouth: creamy, thick (one could use a spoon), rather hot and much fruitier now. Really like tutti-frutti spirit with a little caramel and quite some pepper. Finish: long, getting more and more peppery. There’s even chilli! Well, the Earl used to be a thrill-seeker! 78 points.
Allt A’ Bhainne 14 yo 1992/2007 (58.3%, C&S Dram Collection, hogshead #27) A new series by German bottler Caminneci and Schrauth. Colour: straw. Nose: again a very grainy version, getting quite mashy and porridgy with time. Interesting notes of apricot spirit (it’s usually forbidden to distil apricot because of the prussic acid that’s in the stones but one can find some in Switzerland – it’s often very good). Again, quite pleasant even if not a kick-ass malt. Quite raw. Mouth: extremely close to the ‘Graf’ version, even hotter, quite spicy and very fruity. Develops on honey, kirsch, apple juice, notes of baklavas… Always quite hot but water isn’t really needed her. Finish: long, more on kirsch now as well as plum spirit. Just a little rubber in the aftertaste. In short, a punchy, simple but pleasant malt, a bit raw at the edges but pleasantly straightforward. 79 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: they call this background music and Serbia's Alexander Blu sure is good at it, as his piece After all.mp3 will testify. Well, I guess it all depends on what's in the foreground... Anyway, please buy Mr. Blu's music. qlxander Blu
 

June 18, 2007


Port Ellen 1976

THE FEIS ILE SESSIONS – PORT ELLEN, A 1976-1981 VERTICALE

Port Ellen 25 yo 1976/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 522 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a fresh, powerful, clean and buttery attack on the nose. Apple juice and vanilla, white pepper, hints of chives… Then it’s more on cocoa, malt, milk, mashed potatoes… Hints of lavender. Slightly porridgy.

Mouth: a very sweet attack, almost sugary. A lot of vanilla, orange marmalade, sugared apple compote, marzipan and nougat, all that backed with a nice bold peat. The whole is unusually sweet, that is. Little tar or rubber this time. Finish: long, sweet, fruity and peaty, actually better at this stage. Nice compactness. 89 points.
Port Ellen 23 yo 1976/1999 (55.6%, Signatory, cask #4797, 296 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: even fresher, starting with less vanilla but more pea t, sea air and hints of diesel oil, wet stones and gunflints. Also grassier. A little mint, fresh apple juice and skins. Gets more phenolic and slightly medicinal (mercurochrome). Very elegant. Mouth: just as sweet as the DL but with a better backbone. More pepper, more peat, more lemon. It’s also a little rougher but that brings to the whole here. Hints of kumquats and crystallised oranges – it’s also quite tarry this time. A more classic Port Ellen. Finish: very long, very peppery, peaty, almost wild, with notes of liquorice sticks. Very good. 91 points.
Port Ellen 1977/1999 (52.5%, Scott's Selection) Colour: straw. Nose: an ultra-clean, pure version, sharp like a blade, ultra-flinty and ultra-lemony. That’s all I can say. Mouth: it’s all on crystallised lemons and lemon marmalade with quite some peat and lemon skin but that’s pretty all. Finish: ditto. Very good but simple, simple but very good. 87 points. Port Ellen 1977
Port Ellen 25 yo 1978/2004 (61.1%, Douglas Laing OMC for Alambic Classique, advanced sample, cask REF655, Refill butt) Colour: straw. Nose: a very interesting attack on all kinds of herbs, mostly parsley but also lovage and rosemary. Gets then rootier (liquorice sticks) and a little more candied and fruity (ripe plums). Quite beautiful I must say. It’s also quite medicinal ala Laphroaig (bandages, iodine, creosote)...
Port Ellen 1978 Maybe more complex than usual. Great news. With water: more diesel oil, flints, apple skin, wet clay… Superb. Mouth: creamy, rooty, earthy, punchy but drinkable at such high strength (should I start to worry?) Lemon pie, kumquats, ginger, notes of rhubarb, blood oranges… The peat is of the highest quality and we have no tar, no rubber and no sulphur. Let’s try to add a few drops of water again: that doesn’t bring anything new this time, it just got even more drinkable.
Finish: long, sweet and peaty, compact… A great version that’s got everything except the distillery’s trademark tarry and nicely rubbery notes. 92 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1978/2002 2nd Annual Release (59.35%, OB, 12000 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: austere, stony, flinty and grassy. Cold ashes. A little difficult without water. With water: the tar comes out a little, a little paraffin, fusel oil, butter, smoked tea. Classic austerity. Mouth (neat): sweeter but still a little aggressive. Candied oranges, dried pears, sugared lemon juice… With water: nice farmy notes, dried apples and pears. Unusual notes of figs. Finish: long, rather sweet, peaty… Not the very best Annual Release I think bit still an excellent peaty Islayer. 90 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1979/2004 (43%, Signatory, Sherry butt, cask #6771, 572 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: unusually fruity at first sniffs, with quite some bananas, tangerines and then fresh butter. There’s also a pleasant oakiness (newly sawn oak), quite some vanilla, notes of chardonnay (amusing)… Then we have a little smokiness, sea air and the faintest hints of tar. A gentle Port Ellen, quite lively. Mouth: sweet, fruity and easy going. Pear juice, apricot juice, quite some nutmeg, a little liquorice… The peat is subtle and so is the tar again… Goes on with sweetened almond milk and a little marzipan. Certainly not bold but one of the most drinkable Port Ellens I could come across and the finish is quite long, balanced, delicately peppery and candied. Full of pleasure. 89 points. Port Ellen 1979
Port Ellen 1980 Port Ellen 16 yo 1980/1997 (59%, Signatory, cask #89-589-19, 352 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: powerful, with a green, vegetal peat. Extremely grassy in fact, not very enjoyable when neat. With water: no changes except that it got a little mashier. Very little peat. Mouth (neat): pure alcohol, with the associated sweetness. With water: sweeter, rounder, saltier but still very simple. Gets a little cardboardy. Well, it’s not bad whisky actually but it’s very simple. 78 points.
Port Ellen 1980/1995 (64.7%, G&M, Cask, casks #5088+5089+5091-5093) Colour: pale straw. Nose: same as the 16yo, just even more burning – please see above. With water: a little chocolate and vanilla come through but there’s little peat. Pear juice. Mouth (neat): ouch. With water: sweet and rounded but a little indefinite. Maybe a little lemon. Little peat again – did they make very lightly peated batches in 1980? 81 points.
Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (43%, DL Provenance, Winter-Spring) Colour: amber – orangey. Nose: lots of sherry in this one but also a little rubber and sulphur (not excessive here). Otherwise it’s all on plum jam, orange marmalade, cloves and nutmeg, cinnamon, parsley… Also quite some gunflint and burnt coal. Typical of many sherried Port Ellens. Mouth: rather soft, candied and nicely organic (mushrooms). Then we have quite some tannins, cocoa, orange marmalade. Very pleasant and not as overpowering as many other versions. Finish: medium long, slightly meaty now, peaty, chocolaty… A very drinkable version. 88 points. Port Ellen 1981
Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (52.7%, DL OMC for Alambic Germany, 210 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: the profile is similar but it’s more powerful, obviously. The rubber and sulphur grow bolder with time, together with notes of burnt wood, matchsticks and coal again. Quite some chocolate as well. Ham. Now, it gets much cleaner with water, less sulphury. Mouth: rubbery and slightly dirty, very sulphury and very dry. Notes of cherry liqueur (guignolet), burnt bread, burnt caramel… Not bad at all but a little hard, and you have to like this profile. Finish: long but mostly on bitter cocoa, very drying. Water didn’t work too much on the palate. 83 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: this mad guy called Jello Biafra (ex-Dead Kennedys) does Are you drinkin' with me Jesus.mp3 with that other mad guy maned Mojo Nixon. Please buy these crazy people's music. Jello Biafra
 

June 17, 2007


TASTING – TWO DIFFICULT 15 yo LONGMORNS
Longmorn Longmorn 15 yo 1991/2006 (56%, JWWW Scottish Castles, cask #12851) Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather spirity, coffeeish start, developing on apples and pears with quite some rubber and a little sulphur as well as wet hay. Hard to enjoy, maybe water will do it some good. So, with water: it got farmier but that’s all. This one is aromatically handicapped, I’d say. Mouth (neat): punchy and very spirity, grainy, rough and raw. With water: right, it got a little fruitier (bitter oranges) but it got also quite dirty, curiously oily, fat… And bitter. Finish: long but rough, grassy and pearish at the same time. Well… 71 points.
Longmorn 15 yo 1989/2004 (57.3%, Signatory, cask #15910, 276 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: even more spirity, really like fruit spirit like they make in the mountains over here (they would distil just anything and are even more yield-obsessed than our friends the Scots.) With water: this one got grainier and a little more coffeeish – but less farmy than the ‘Jack’. Strange notes of good old tinned sardines. This one isn’t any nicer than the 1991 but at least it’s funny. Mouth (neat): punchy and very spirity, grainy, rough and raw (rings a bell). Marginally fruitier than Jack Wieber’s. With water: roughly the same evolution than with the Jack, maybe just a tad cleaner and fruitier. But the finish is rough, spirity and pearish again. Longmorn can be ultra-great, especially the old ones, but it can also be a little pain in the hat when it’s immature – and coming from rather inactive casks. 72 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening: It’s Sunday, we go classical with Megumi Fujita playing Nikolai Rubinstein’s very charming Morceau de Concert, Op. 15.mp3. Please buy Miss Fujita’s music (and the Fujita Piano Trio’s)

Mugumi Fujita
 

June 16, 2007


TASTING - TWO GLENKINCHIES
glenkinchie Glenkinchie 17 yo 1987/2005 (57% , Signatory, cask #2834, 237 bottles) I’ll spare you boring comments like ‘but why didn’t they choose Rosebank as the Lowlander within the Classic Malts’ (still, but why did they?…) but I must say Glenkinchie never put me in high spirits… Colour: white wine. Nose: quite powerful, with something funnily coastal at very first sniffing but it’s soon to get austere, grainy, developing mostly on green apple and newly cut grass. Lacks roundness and expressiveness. Faint hints of sulphur and green tannins. Let’s try it with a little water: the green tannins are more obvious now, the whole getting even mashier (mashed potatoes, mashed turnips).
Mouth (neat): powerful, with a rather nice fruitiness (ripe apples) but also a little sulphur and rubber. Sharp and not the cleanest. Low shelf kirsch? With water: better now, rounder, sweeter, toffeeish… Not bad actually. Finish: rather long, simple, liquoricy, grassy but quite sweet. Not the most interesting malt I’d say, but it’s not too bad actually. An indie Glenkinchie is something interesting anyway, for it’s quite rare – but don’t forget to add water. 78 points.
Glenkinchie 10 yo (43%, OB, circa 2004) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more malty, toasted and even smoky than I remembered at first nosing. More powerful as well. Other than that we have a faint soapiness and quite some cereals, oatcake, newly cut grass and something slightly flowery (not too fragrant flowers – daisies?) It gets then rather buttery, with hints of mashed potatoes. Not especially interesting I must say but less ‘harmless’ (okay, bland) than anticipated. Mouth: sweet and malty, really on cornflakes and apple juice, light honey, orange drops and brioche with a little caramel. There’s also a little salt, candied ginger and hints of bubblegum. The whole is rather lively… There’s also these toasted notes and quite some candy sugar as well as hints of lavender sweets. Finish: medium long, maybe more spirity now, caramelised, with a signature on caramel-coated cornflakes. Perfectly drinkable and certainly not just innocuous. 78 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: British kings of mashup and music robbers in chief The Kleptones 'play' a part of their Night at the Hip Hopera.mp3. Please buy... err, the artistes' music. Kleptones
 

June 15, 2007


THE FEIS ILE SESSIONS – ONE PORT ELLEN (bottled at two strengths)
Port Ellen Best Casks Port Ellen 1983/2006 (46%, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry) Colour: straw. Nose: starts very fresh and clean, with little sherry influence that I can get. Notes of fresh almonds, freshly peeled apples and fresh butter. Keyword: fresh (I case you didn’t notice). There is some tar and a little ‘clean’ rubber but all that is quite discreet. Gets slightly fizzy after a moment (gin fizz, lemonade). Faint hints of orange marmalade, probably from the cask.
Mouth: sweeter, more candied, with a little more pepper and a pinch of salt. Other than that it’s all crystallised lemons, oranges, tangerines… And a rather bold and clean peat, of the spicy kind. Finish: long, fruity and peaty. Not the most complex Port Ellen ever but I like this cleanliness. What’s more, it’s highly drinkable whisky. 88 points.
Port Ellen 1983/2006 (55%, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry) The same cask bottled at cask strength this time. Colour: straw, slightly darker. Nose: a little hotter, with the tar and the rubber being more noticeable. Also more spirity, obviously, as well as more orangey. I must say I like the ‘46’s’ freshness a little better. Mouth: really closer to the ‘46’ on the palate even if there are more tannins and more pepper, as well as something a little rubbery again in the background. The finish is very long, punchy, peppery and orangey… And also quite ashy. Again, I liked the first one’s freshness better. Rule water! 86 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening: we've got a request for more old French chanson. Right, right... Like, Juliette Greco singing Paname.mp3? Please buy Mademoiselle Greco's music, she's still around and doing great.

Greco
June 2007 - part 1 <--- June 2007 - part 2 ---> July 2007 - part 1


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

Ardbeg 17 yo (46%, Cadenhead's dumpy, Sutti Milano, circa 1985)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1972/1991 (58.9%, Signatory, cask #3444, 275 bottles)

Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (48.8%, DL OMC for Alambic Germany, 252 bottles)

Ardbeg 29 yo 1972/2002 (50.4%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 235 bottles)

Ardbeg 30 yo 1964/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for John Gross & Co, Baltimore, USA)

Glen Garioch 46 yo 1958 (43%, OB, 336 bottles, 2004)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC for Fortnum & Mason, ref #1282, 305 bottles)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1982/2005 (61.7%, Jack Wieber, Auld Distillers, 228 bottles)

Port Ellen 23yo 1976/1999 (55.6%, Signatory, cask #4797, 296 bottles)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1978/2002 2nd Annual Release (59.35%, OB, 12000 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1978/2004 (61.1%, Douglas Laing OMC for Alambic Classique, advanced sample, cask REF655, Refill butt)

Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2469)