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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2009 - Part 1
       

May 2009 - part 2 <--- June 2009 - part 1 ---> June 2009 - part 2

 

June 14, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
SONNY LANDRETH
The Borderline, London, May 12th 2009

It’s all about technique, really. About hours of relentless practice, remorselessly pushing oneself to the outer limits of endurance. Stretching every muscle, every tendon, every nerve in search of that ultimate goal. It’s something that amateurs and dilettantes never understand, never appreciate. It’s about having the technique. How else do you think anyone could survive three hours packed sardine-like into the Borderline on a warm Spring evening? The sweat is dripping off the walls, beer sticks to the floor.

Sonny Landreth
The audience, mostly over-weight men in their fifties [who exactly are you talking about Nick? Ed.] seems to have prepared for the evening by spending three days eating nothing but Chicken Chilli Masala laced with pickled onions (an inspired combination of two of Britain’s most traditional foods) , if the tepid and malodorous air – what little of it there is – is anything to go by. With no space to spare, it’s every man (or Photographer) for himself, trying to find a spot, perfectly balanced, where a not-too-craned neck will get you a clear view of Sonny Landreth. Because you just have to see him playing the guitar. Listening isn’t enough. It’s all about the technique, really.
In case you don’t know, Landreth, who hails from Louisiana, is a slide guitarist. Well, not quite. In most people’s eyes, he is the slide guitarist. A man who transforms rolling a piece of metal tube across six pieces of taught wire into an art learnt from the gods. He’s not what you would call well-known: most of his reputation rests on the work he’s done for other artists, notably John Hiatt. His last album, 2008’s From the Reach, a collaborative work with a host of blues luminaries, is currently ranked 22,861 in Amazon’s list of UK bestsellers. That puts him almost on a par with Bob the Builder, whose Never Mind the Breeze Blocks ranks at 19,735, way behind the soundtrack to Madagascar 3: Escape 2 Africa, out of sight of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and apparently in an entirely inferior league to the novelty-voiced Paisley (i.e. Scotland, and where the ties and dressing gowns come from) boy Paolo Nutini, whose new album is, after only a week on the market, listed as number one. Slide
Odd then that Rolex International Brand Ambassador and sometime blues guitarist Eric Clapton (did you know he has a watch collection, Serge? Who would do a thing like that?) should describe him as "probably the most underestimated musician on the planet, and also...probably one of the most advanced.". But it’s true, and to appreciate the point you have to endure any degree of physical discomfort to see him play. It’s all about the technique, really.
Sonny Landreth
No-one had told me, not even Mike who’s seen Landreth on many occasions, so when he started playing, I was simply flabbergasted. And the point is that it wasn’t just his left hand which, ably working the slide, killing unwanted strings behind but fingering others, made it look as though the slide was just a natural extension of his hand like some sort of X-Man. No, it was his right-hand technique that was truly remarkable. Of course, he led with a percussive thumb pick as most slide players do, but the way he used his remaining four fingers (or was it eight, or ten, or twelve?) was practically impossible to comprehend. He picked, he plucked, he strummed; his right-hand fingers danced the length of the fret-board, teasing sounds from the slide and strings that were simply wonderful. In fact, I cannot do it justice, I’m not that good a writer. You have to see him play.
And don’t get me wrong, or mismanage your expectations: the songs aren’t really great. His backing band are as precise as the atomic clock, but they’re never going to set the world on fire. And Landreth’s voice is pretty much like any other southern-accented American rock singer. That’s not the point. It’s the guitar playing: it sounds as devilishly complex as it looks, so that corpulent men and bowel and body odour notwithstanding, you could listen to it for hours. It’s all about the technique, really. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Sonny Landreth 3
Listen and watch Sonny Landreth solo:
 
 
Ledaig

TASTING – OLD AND NEW LEDAIG

Ledaig 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2009) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical peaty/soaky mashiness that’s also to be found in most young versions by G&M. Stale seawater (with crabs and seaweed ;-)), butter, grated ginger, ale, then tarry rope and a little tincture of iodine. And heavily peppered porridge. Certainly a bigger personality than older young OBs. It’s also rather cleaner even if we’re still far from what I would define as ‘clean’ whisky. Unusual. Mouth: it’s good! Good body, good peat, quite some salt, cough drops, other medicinal notes (antiseptic?), something leathery, tobacco… Slight dirtiness and something a tad dusty. Lemonade and ginger tonic. Not a classic. Finish: medium long, saltier. Anchovies? Comments: good and interesting whisky, maybe less oomphy than most Islayers but maybe also more complex and less wham-bam-in-you-face. Worth trying. SGP:236 - 82 points.
Ledaig 21 yo 1973/1995 (53.4%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection, small white Label) Ledaig is relatively unknown today but experimented maltsters know how great it could be around 1972-1974. Colour: pale gold. Nose: totally unusual! Almost repulsive at very first sniffing, with bold whiffs of old rusty engine, motor oil and damp papers and even cheap soda (Fanta and such) but becomes much straighter once you’ve passed that difficult stage. Rather beautiful peat combined with bitter oranges and leather, with something that reminds me of recent naked Longrows. Multifaceted, as they say. With water: porridge, porridge and porridge. Feinty? Yes, quite… Mouth (neat): ah yes, it’s good right upfront this time. Big pepper and very big resinous notes. Peppered cough syrup? Almost thick, oily, and more and more terpenic. Big peat too. With water: more lemon but also this dirtiness that’s back. Dust. Floorcloth? Finish: medium long, on something bizarre. Peppered orange juice with grated parmesan? Sorry if you’re about to have dinner ;-). Comments: totally whacky! Not the best Ledaig from the early 1970s. Sometimes very good, sometimes completely offbeat. I’d suggest adding water drop by drop and check what gives each time. SGP:335 - 81 points.
 

June 12, 2009


Lochnagar

TASTING – TWO SLIGHTLY SULPHURY LOCHNAGAR

Lochnagar 12 yo 1993/2005 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Sherry, winter/winter, cask #2250) Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s the sherry that talks first, with an avalanche of coffee and chocolate plus quite some gunpowder and ‘clean’ rubber (bicycle inner tube). Goes on with notes of roasted chestnuts and hot brownies and a bit of shoe polish and stays on all that for a long time. Probably the closest to espresso malt whisky can go. Simple but quite brilliant in its own genre. Hints of orange blossom water after a while. Mouth: too bad the magic stops here, as these burnt notes are much less pleasant than on the nose. It’s now much more spirity, rough, a little burning and actually rather flavourless. Notes of bubblegum and even more burnt cake after that. Finish: medium long but still a little indefinite, with even more burnt cake and a bitterness in the aftertaste that’s not too enjoyable. Comments: a rather spectacular nose but a disappointing palate in our view. Ultra-dry. SGP:152 - 78 points.
Royal Lochnagar 22 yo 1986/2009 (56.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #942) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s interesting that we aren’t too far from the very ‘olorosoed’ 1993 here, with the same kind of heavy coffee and rubber notes. Develops on even more rubber, gunpowder, struck matches and even black truffles. Okay, the sulphur is huge here but it’s absolutely not of the ‘stinky’ kind! It’s only after a good ten minutes that some slightly porridgy and vanilled notes do come through, making the whole a little more balanced. Rather spectacular globally – if you like the style. With water: mega-huge notes of bicycle inner tube now. Exhaust pipe, coal. Mouth (neat): starts much fruitier and more assertive than the 1993 but the burning/bitter side is well here again. A lot of pepper, heavy cloves, unsugared coffee, cocoa powder… Once again, not too pleasant on the palate but maybe water will help. With water: indeed, that worked. The sulphur gets more discreet, letting more notes of apple juice come through. Finish: long, on something like smoked apple juice. Comments: another one that’s not easy-easy but it’s interesting whisky. SGP:242 - 82 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
The norwegian band Flunk doing Blue Monday
Please buy Flunk's music.

Flunk
 

June 11, 2009


SPEED TASTING – A WHOLE BUNCH OF HIGHLAND PARK from the 1990s
Highland Park
I think I’ve written tasting notes for much more than 200 different HPs so far, so let’s celebrate and add to the volume with eight more if you don’t mind.
Highland Park 7 yo 1997 (43%, Natural Color, France, 2005) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather expressive, with hints of wood smoke, lychees and lilac but also a lot of immature porridgy and feinty notes that make it rather ‘newmakish’. Mouth: sweet and almost sugary (sweets), with notes of burnt sugar/caramel and quite some apple juice and liquorice. Malt. Lacks complexity but drinkable, less youngish than on the nose. Finish: medium long, malty and a little more citrusy this time. Comments: not bad but not very inspiring. SGP:531 – 72 points.
Highland Park 1990/2007 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, recoopered hogshead) Colour: straw. Nose: a more mature version of a ‘naked’ HP, with the same pleasant smokiness but also whiffs of sea air and quite some vanilla, apricot pie, yellow flowers and just a faint soapiness in the background. Wet sawdust. Not unpleasant. Mouth: round yet nervous, with these notes of heather honey that are often to be found in HP. Surprisingly big. A little ginger from the wood. Finish: medium long, with more pepper and a bigger smokiness. Comments: a good smoky dram that offers an interesting variation wrt the OBs. SGP:442 – 82 points.
Highland Park 12 yo 1994/2006 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Whisky Galore, Portwood finish) Colour: straw with apricotty hues. Nose: less smoke and much more warm butter and caramel cream. A few winey notes (blackcurrant buds). A little porridge/muesli and whiffs of sea air again. I liked the 1990’s straightforwardness a little better. Mouth: big sweetness from the Port (strawberries and cassis jam, other cooked fruits) and then a slight bitterness (strong tea, herbal teas). A little salty. Finish: medium long, on a strawberry and malt combo. Comments: another one that’s not unpleasant at all but as you may know, we aren’t into these sorts of wine-doped young malts. SGP:531 - 77 points.
Highland Park 18 yo 1990/2008 (53.5%, Cadenhead, Bond Reserve, bourbon hogshead, 283 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: another very ‘naked’ HP but this one has a lot of oomph, with some pear juice, wood smoke, acacia honey (lightly aromatic honey), hints of wet stones and then plain apple juice. Little wood influence. Fruit drops. Cut grass, wet hay. With water: gets extremely farmy, milky and porridgy, even after having waited for a loooong time (it’s not just saponification that happens every time you add water to whisky – more or less.) Mouth (neat): extremely fruity and youthful. A playful HP that tastes much younger than it actually is but that’s very pleasant. Great freshness. A little salt and liquorice. Gets just a little lavenderish and soapy. With water: no more lavender but no further development. Finish: rather long, grassier and less fruity. Comments: a good HP. SGP:552 - 83 points.
Highland Park 17 yo 1990 (54.1%, Art of Whisky, cask #10230) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a silkier and more polished version, with also much more vanilla and even fudge, and less grassy and straight fruity notes. Honey. With water: not much development except for these farmy notes again that are often to be found in these indie HPs. Mouth (neat): very close to the Cadenhead’s, only a little fatter and without these notes of lavender. Spicier too (pepper). With water: very good now, very ‘natural’. Whatever that means. Liquorice, vanilla and pear drops. Finish: rather long, clean, balanced. Toasted/roasted notes. Comments: simply very good, with a little more oak than in the Cadenhead. SGP:552 - 85 points.
Highland Park 17 yo 1991/2009 (54.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #8089) Colour: pale gold. Nose: interesting, we’re somewhere between both 1990s here. Complex, fruity, grassy, smoky, honeyed, liquoricy HP. Hints of aniseed and bergamot. The most complex of them all so far. With water: superb! Beautiful oakiness and even more liquorice. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, much more complex once again. Soft fruits, spices, marzipan, orange blossom water, oranges, honey… Excellent. With water: complex, delicate and punchy at the same time. Beautiful notes of oriental pastries (that honeyness) and soft spices. Finish: medium long but beautifully liquoricy. Comments: one of these great 1991s, more complex than other ‘vintages’ or so it seems. Excellent value for money. SGP:532 - 90 points.
Highland Park 17 yo 1991/2009 (55.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #8088) From a sister cask, obviously. Colour: gold. Nose: amazing how this one is different from its sister (brother?) Much more austere, grassier and more spirity, without these wonderful spicy notes. Waxier and more mineral as well, which may bring compensation. Earthier and more maritime too. Imagine these two casks were filled one after the other! With water: we’re getting a little closer to cask #8089. Nicer. Mouth (neat): ah, now we’re in the same league as the sister cask. More or less the same whisky (err, obviously.) With water: ditto, even if this one is not quite as perfect. Finish: medium long. Liquorice allsorts. Comments: very good once again but globally less stellar as cask #8089 in my view. SGP:531 - 86 points.
Highland Park 1995/2006 (57.2%, G&M Cask, Refill sherry c#1326/1331/1333) Colour: gold. Nose: a very different profile, with much more wood and more peat as well. Orange marmalade, wet earth, heather, horse saddle, cooked butter… With water: got fresher and fruitier as well as more peppery and gingery. Mouth (neat): the sherry is much more obvious now, and so is the peat. Did they raise the peat level at HP around 1995? Strawberry drops, gingerbread, raspberry liqueur (from the sherry?) With water: excellent. ‘Good’ bubblegum and a lot of peat (relatively). Orange marmalade. Finish: rather long, with more orange marmalade, bitter oranges, pepper, peat. Comments: a Highland Park that hints at… Lagavulin. Well, sort of… SGP:543 - 88 points.
Highland Park And also, even more HPs… Highland Park 16 yo (75° proof, OB, mid-1960s) Nose: exceptional nose, with an amazing development on various herbs and the most delicate peat. That will do. Mouth: rich, elegant, complex, superb. Heather honey galore. Finish: wonderful and incredibly long, but that’s no surprise. Comments: enough said. SGP:665 – 94 points (merci Olivier).
Highland Park 19 yo (40.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.129, 53 bottles) Not much left in this cask, probably leaking hence the low ABV. Nose: plantain, mint, fir, Williams pear and caramel crème. Unexpected freshness. Smells more and more like mint liqueur (Get 27). Mouth: rich and phenolic. Bananas and coconut too. Surprise! Too bad it’s also a tad dusty. Plain barley. Comments: a very unusual HP, with something very ‘young’ (pears) and something very ‘old’ (mint). SGP:452 – 86 points (thank you Angus).

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Julie Kelly
Title: Better Than Anything
Please buy Julie Kelly's music.

Julie Kelly
 

June 10, 2009


Germans

FUN TASTING – TWO GERMAN WHISKIES

Der Falckner (43%, OB, Falckenthal, East Germany, 1970s) This was one of the most famous whiskies made in the German Democratic Republic. No doubt the dreadful Volkspolizei used to drink plenty of this… Colour: white wine. Nose: believe it or not, this is quite nice, at least at first nosing. It’s a rather waxy/mineral profile, with whiffs of linseed oil, paraffin, motor oil, wet chalk and then loads of cut grass, with even something slightly maritime (seashells) and smoky. Something of Old Pulteney – honest! Alas, it falls apart a bit after a few minutes, getting more papery. Ha, good old bureaucrats! Mouth: sure it’s a little weakish but in no way repulsive. Pleasantly fruity (strawberries, Williams pears) and rather clean, lacking ageing for sure but the spirit is fair and balanced, with even a nice freshness despite a slight sugariness that gets a tad invading after a moment. Maybe this one was doped as well, after all… Finish: a little short but once again, it’s clean and rather straightforward. The aftertaste is a little liqueurish. Comments: nah, sure it’s no Brora ’72, but we’ve tried Scottish blends that were certainly worse in our view, including old ones. Plus, this one has an immaculate heritage, hasn’t it? SGP:530 - 70 points.
Coillmor 3 yo 2006 (43%, OB, Germany, American oak, 2009) This brand new whisky comes from Bavaria and was distilled in pot stills. Coillmor means ‘large forest’ in Gaelic… Wait, Bavaria, Gaelic? Bah, who cares! Colour: gold. Nose: very expressive, all on sour oak, vanilla, thick porridge and spices. It’s not unpleasant at all but we’re extremely far from Scotch whisky here. Hints of pears and hops coming through the heavy oakiness after a while, the whole reminding me more and more of ‘fleur de bière’ like they make here in Alsace (distilled beer). Mouth: rich and, to tell you the truth, more to my liking than on the nose even if the flavours are in the same vein, that is to say sweet and spicy. Chinese sweet and sour sauce, very ripe apples, pepper, nutmeg (a lot), cinnamon (a lot), Belgian beer (do you know Duvel?) and finally notes of gingerbread and speculoos (Belgian again). Finish: rather long, balanced, rich, just as spicy and sweet. Comments: I think this works, even if it cannot be compared to Scotch whisky. Carefully and honestly made for sure. SGP:640 - 74 points.
Update: our friend Günther over at thewhiskytrader tells us about the Coillmor and the Gaelic name: 'Well, not especially Gaelic but the Celts settled in soutern Germany and parts of Bavaria are Celtic homeland. The Celts moved westward as early as the arrival of the Romans and finaly fled before oncoming tribes that were one the move from the East shortly before and after the Roman Empire finally broke up. Thus there is no Celtic German tribe anymore but a Celtic heritage which is burried in the soil of Bavaria ans Suebia (Schwaben). One of the most famous burrials is the Celtic Prince of Hochdorf (Fürstengrab von Hochdorf) in Schwaben.
The Celts actually fled as far West as Cornwall and North to Scotland.'

What's better than knowledge in life?
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
With thanks to Jean Marie

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: ex-Moutain Leslie West
Title: Stormy Monday
Please buy Leslie West's music.

Leslie West
 

June 9, 2009


Cigar

WHISKY + CIGARS = ?

This article is submitted by Denis, who blogs about cigars at CigarInspector.com. Feel free to subscribe to the updates if you’re an aficionado! Thanks a lot, Denis.

I am often asked what drinks pair up best with a cigar. Luckily, there are many good combos available. My personal favorites include red wine, cognac and, of course, whisky. In this article I will try to give you some advice on how to pair your cigar with the right malt.

First of all, let us tackle the choice of the cigar. As whisky is usually a quite powerful drink with very expressive flavors, I would suggest selecting a strong, full-bodied cigar with a lot of pepper. A good example is a Cuban Montecristo No. 2 for those of you who live outside of the United States or an EO 601 Green Label and anything else from Don Pepin Garcia. On the other hand, milder cigars like Davidoffs will be completely overwhelmed by the drink and you won’t be able to distinguish the subtle flavors that they (some of them, rather) deploy.
As far as the whisky goes, my preferences are for the medium-priced single malts. My absolutely favorite is the Macallan 12 years, but you can also opt for a Glenlivet 12/18 years, the Talisker 10 years or a Lagavulin. The main rule here is not to sacrifice a premium bottle because it can be enjoyed on its own and not to use a cheap whisky as it will completely spoil the experience.
If you respect the above recommendations you will notice that both cigar’s and whisky’s flavors get changed. Some elements will be subdued whereas others will be highlighted. You really never know what you are about to discover and this is what makes the experience truly unique. - Denis.
 
Blai Athol

TASTING – TWO BLAIR ATHOL

Blair Athol 18 yo 1987/2005 (43%, Signatory, cask #5224, 389 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very fresh, very young and rather fruity, all on apple juice, with a ‘young Speyside’ character. Right, Blair Athol isn’t in Speyside. Hints of baker’s yeast, muesli, just a little smoke, maybe hints of lavender and not much else. Simple. Mouth: sugary and beerish, with a little bubblegum, strawberries, apple liqueur and just hints of pepper. Probably not the most ctive cask ever seen at Blair Athol. Finish: medium long, with a little caramel. Comments: there are some gems in this gently priced series but I wouldn’t say this one was one of them. Not much happening. SGP:430 - 70 points.
Blair Athol 19 yo 1989/2009 (53.7%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 274 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather powerful, with huge notes of vanilla and a little flour and sawdust. Light honey (acacia), more vanilla crème, peanuts… Gueuze beer, more apple juice, even more apple juice and then nothing but apple juice. Maybe cider ;-). Very simple whisky once again. With water: smells like plain beer. Mouth (neat): spirity, sugary and… That’s more or less all. Breadcrumbs. Lacks character. With water: a little liquorice and lemonade. Finish: shortish. Sugared chamomile tea. Comments: in the same vein as the 1987. We’ve had some much better Blair Athols. SGP: - 71 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Bob Schneider
Title: Long Way To Get
He's very good in my opinion. Please buy Bob Schneider's music.

Bob Schneider
 

June 8, 2009


   

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH
THE MALT MANIACS MALT MONITOR UPDATED!

The new Monitor now displays no less than 37,085 ratings for 12,107 different whiskies. You may download the PDF here (3.5MB).
Heartfelt thanks to MM's Luca for his tremendous work and to all the scoring Maniacs..

 
CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE SPECIALS

Brixton Academy
London
May 7th 2009

The Specials
It’s a wry, wonderfully well-thought-out, and strangely melancholic start for a set from a band noted for their high energy and upbeat performances, although let’s remember, that was around thirty years ago (when half of our party hadn’t been born).
The audience are in a high state of anticipation. And we’ve all been on the edge since last night’s opener of the five sold-out dates at the Brixton Academy was postponed at the very last minute (leaving punters arriving from all over the world, as we were told, in tears). It doesn’t matter that the reformed Specials have been touring the UK for a few weeks, gaining largely rave reviews in their wake. Those were just rehearsals; warm-ups for the main event. It’s London. And as those nice people at Ticketmaster eventually mailed to tell us (that must be what I’ve been paying all those huge booking fees for all these years), the gig is going ahead. So it’s worth the wait in the jostling queue outside, it’s worth a strange return to the hierarchy of the school playground as wimps like me stand aside to let the bovver-boy bullies get to the bar or push into the elongated line for the loos, it’s worth the frankly uninspiring support set from the Dub Pistols, and the simply tedious DJ set, increasingly reliant on calling for weary refrains of ‘Rude Boy’ from the audience to keep their interest. And I note from the forums, it was apparently even worth enduring the pickpocketing binge that sadly infected the crushed area at the front of the stage.
The Specials
The lights dim. The black curtain drops. And there, caught for a few seconds in silhouette behind a white screen, almost like a freeze-frame of Elvis’s famous ‘Jailhouse Rock’ dance sequence, are a group of slightly slumped middle-aged men, playing a mournful rendition, New Orleans funeral band tempo, of ‘Enjoy yourself’. Just for about twenty seconds – the first verse, and first chorus – “Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”. And then all havoc let loose as the screen rose and the Specials exploded into ‘Do the Dog’, at a pace which frankly seemed unsustainable for men of their years. But what they produced was a relentless high-energy show, even on the slow songs, which saw them work through a remarkable back catalogue of hits, which as you may recall, were generated in a very short period of time. There have been Specials revivals before but this was the real one, the most complete: the entire band with only one absentee being founder, inspiration and keyboard player extraordinaire, Jerry Dammers. Apparently the reunion was bankrolled by entrepreneur and football club owner Simon Jordon, whose long-standing efforts to bring them back together were frustrated by “Jerry Dammers being away with the fairies in Middle Earth spending the last 15 years remixing ‘Ghost Town’”. It’s not entirely clear what simmering resentments generated over years of infighting led to his exclusion, but it’s clearly the subject of much bitterness on both parts, leading some reviewers to condemn the whole exercise as a sham, nothing more than a nostalgic tribute band, as I read Dammers saying somewhere.
Well, if it is a tribute act then it has to be one of the best around. Frontmen Neville Staples and Lynval Golding threw back the years, and along with Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers on a better-than-I’d-ever-realised guitar, injected the songs with a real sense of energy. Drummer John Bradbury and bassist Horace Painter were tireless. There was no going through the motions. And the set was cleverly designed so that when they did tire, as all fifty-plus men must, the brass section was brought on to sustain and build on the initial drive. In the middle of it all was the lugubrious Terry Hall. Not perhaps quite as menacing as thirty years ago, but still bearing an air of perplexing detachment from it all. And more than anyone else it was Hall, with his deadpan and still angry delivery, who was able to lift some, if not all, of the songs above pastiche or self-parody to a real level of contemporary engagement. And let’s face it, songs like ‘Blank expression’, ‘Doesn’t make it alright’, ‘Too much too young’ and ‘Nite klub’ (where, as Hall spits out the words, “the beer tastes just like piss”) don’t lose their sense of relevance: they are timeless. ‘Ghost Town’, which ends the main set (before they return to finale with a breakneck rendition of ‘Enjoy yourself’) is both a historical document, recalling the bleak post-industrial landscape of Mrs Thatcher’s Britain, and serving as a prescient reminder of times that are not quite as past as we comfortably-off middle-classes might like to think.
Terry Hall
Terry Hall
Not that the audience cared a jot. Downstairs was a writhing throng of bodies of all ages and sizes, only a few of whom provoked the anger of Neville Staples (and the rest of the crowd) by beer-throwing and what might have been racial baiting. Upstairs the stewards were fighting a losing battle trying to stop the dancing and ‘skanking’, as my daughter colourfully described it, although it looked more like ‘Doing the exercise machine’ to me. On our way home, we earned a proud escort from a closely-tonsured and foul-mouthed faction of the Knights of St George, neatly summing up, in their stay-pressed way, the contradictions that always surrounded the Specials, their politics and their sometimes perplexingly diverse audiences. So, hugely enjoyable though this evening was, if I had to make the choice between the two (and it wouldn’t be a difficult one), I’d go and see Jerry Dammers’ Spatial Aka Orchestra any day before returning for another Specials reunion. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: The Specials on MySpace
 
Littlemill

TASTING – OLD AND NEW LITTLEMILL

Littlemill 16 yo 1992/2008 (46%, Hart Bros) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather expressive but spirity and rather feinty, with a lot of porridge, ale, malt and leaves. Grass. Gets then more lemony but also rather oddly sugary and a little cardboardy (wet cardboard). Gets also chalkier and more mineral, which isn’t bad news. Hard to say whether I like this little Littlemill or not… Let’s check the palate. Mouth: a mixture of overripe apples with notes of chewed paper and lemon-flavoured yoghurt, then Werther’s Originals, vanilla fudge and sweet spices. A tad milky/yeasty too but pretty sippable. A good, easy Littlemill. Finish: medium long, with more sweetened lemon juice, apples and a little liquorice. Comments: a rather pleasant Littlemill, less feinty than other ‘expressions’ of this lost distillery. SGP:351 - 80 points.
Littlemill 35 yo 1965/2001 (47.4%, Douglas Laing OMC, 198 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: quite incredibly, we aren’t too far from the 1992 as far as the profile is concerned but of course, this is more polished and elegant. Old high-end Italian lemon liqueur? Quite some linseed oil, even olive oil, ‘newspaper of the day’ (ink) and then all these resinous and varnishy notes that come with good quality old wood. Mint tea, cigar ash, marzipan, a little turpentine… Maybe not absolutely brilliant but very interesting and ‘different’. Not boring for sure. Mouth: this one sure doesn’t start like a 35yo whisky, it’s almost as fresh as the 1992 once again. Candied lemons and apple liqueur, then more spices (cardamom, sweet pepper), then more caramelised lemon (does that even exist?) and finally the same kind of resinous notes as on the nose, only toned down here. It’s also slightly medicinal (some herbal teas, cough syrup). Finish: long, with more lemony notes. Grog? Comments: it’s a good old Littlemill. This kind of whisky will soon be no more… sob, sob… SGP:551 – 87 points.
 

June 6, 2009


Deanston

TASTING – OLD AND RECENT DEANSTON

Deanston Mill 8 yo (40%, OB, Seiba, Italy, 75cl, 1970's) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely unusual and very interesting, starting on a mix of camphor, shoe polish and chamomile tea, getting then frankly medicinal (antiseptic) and beautifully lemony (lemon balm, lemon marmalade). There’s also quite some wet cardboard/old books, whiffs of old mouldy wine cellar… And then we’re back to cough syrup and old style leather polish. Very beautiful! Mouth: excellent once again, with quite some lemon and mint in the attack, then kiwi jam, coffee and smoked tea… Too bad it sort of fades away after the beautiful attack, leaving only very dry notes of coffee beans and maybe black tea. Finish: short and dry. Comments: very beautiful nose and attack on the palate, but it’s a little tired after that. No big deal after all these years! SGP:451 - 85 points.
Deanston 12 yo 'Malt' (40%, OB, White Label w. Golden Letters, 75cl, +/-1985) There was also a NAS and a 8yo version of this one, which I didn’t like too much (WF 75/70). Colour: gold. Nose: this one is completely different from the 8yo, as if there was much more sherry. Starts all on American coffee (as they say in Italy, depicting anything that’s not ristretto) and liquorice and develops on some very pleasant meaty notes but not of the gamy kind. Rather well cured ham and smoked beef. Gets then more herbal, with whiffs of newly mown lawn, fresh walnuts and green tea. A bit dusty in the background but the whole is most pleasant if not totally entrancing. Mouth: starts on coffee once again, marzipan, mocha, toffee, roasted almonds… It’s also very malty. Better mouth feel than with the 8yo, good body. Gets then a tad resinous, smoky and slightly dusty. Cigarette tobacco, liquorice wood. Finish: medium long, maybe just a tad soapy but other than that it’s enjoyable. Mint drops and liquorice. Comments: the nose wasn’t as stunning as the 8yo’s but it had more oomph on the palate. SGP:352 - 84 points.
Deanston 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2009) An unusual ABV and some funny claims on this label, such as ‘We put everything we are into everything we make, this is bottled bliss.’ Or better yet, ‘Nothing added but hard work and determination.’ Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much, much drier than the oldies, and probably much less complex at first nosing. Very dry, grassy and pretty oaky, with only a little liquorice and faint whiffs of menthol that often come with the wood. Gets then more toasted/smoky and malty but the huge notes of grass (and sawdust) are still there. The oak is quite big here. Mouth: well, this one isn’t easy, especially after the classy oldies. A lot of wood once again, as if this puppy had been reracked into uncharred new oak. Ginger, chewed pencil, tealeaves, nuts and lemon zests. Gets clearly grassier, bitter and tea-ish but the whole is still rather drinkable, provided you’re not against heavy grassy notes. Finish: medium long and more resinous, which may indicate some kind of wood treatment indeed. Comments: not the easiest kind of malt whisky in my view. Maybe we should have waited for twenty more years before trying it. SGP:261 - 74 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Sacramento's now disbanded Low Flying Owls
Title: What My Friends Say
Please buy the Low Flying Owls' music.

 

June 5, 2009


TASTING – FOUR GLENLOSSIE
Glenlossie
Glenlossie 14 yo 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, +/- 1982) Colour: amber orange (yup, it’s probably what you think). Nose: not exactly powerful but mucho aromatic and expressive, starting on all things orangey and going on with notes of vanilla and nutmeg. Marmalade, Indian korma sauce, cane sugar, cinnamon and burnt wood. Just a tad dusty (flour). Pretty classic. Mouth: ah yes, this is excellent, rounded, polished yet nervous and compact, with lots of crystallised oranges, marmalade, nougat and various roasted nuts. Also hints of chestnut purée, marrons glacés and a tiny-wee bit of Turkish delights. Delightful. Finish: medium long, more on honey, vanilla fudge and caramel. Comments: an excellent Glenlossie, fresh and fruitful, one for your youngest nephew. Joking. SGP:632 – 86 points.
Glenlossie 28 yo 1978/2006 (55.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 46.13, "Orange surprise") Colour: gold. Nose: this funny, it smells just like the older CC, only at cask strength, that is to say with more power and maybe something faintly spirity and rough. Oranges indeed, nutmeg, cinnamon and candy sugar. With water: as often, it’s the oak that comes out but this is classy oak, with a lot of cinnamon, cardamom and leather. Faint waxiness. Mouth (net): exactly like on the nose, this one tastes like the G&M at C/S. Oranges galore, then dried ginger, chestnuts and honey. With water: actually, it IS the 1968 when diluted down to +/-40%. Well, almost. Very good. Finish: long, compact, all on honey and fruits. Comments: excellent Glenlossie, maybe not immensely complex but very elegant. SGP:641 - 87 points.
Glenlossie-Glenlivet 1975/2002 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, 210 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re close to the SMWS but this one is a tad fruitier and sort of fresher. More orange juice than marmalade, then various other fruits (butter pears, guavas, ripe mangos). Fruit salad. Quite superb I must say, it’s funny how Cadenheads managed to gather a ‘style’ with this series, as far as old Speysiders are concerned. Almost all are superb! With water: yes, superb! Even more fruits and a lot of honey. Ripe apples and something of an Irishness in the background (bananas). Mouth (neat): excellent once again. Thousands of fruits, both fresh and cooked, coated with a blend of various honeys. It’s punchy stuff, that is… With water: unfolds very nicely, with the spices complementing the fruitiness. Cinnamon on top of cooked zwetschkes (purple plums). Finish: rather long, clean, fruity, spicy, fresh… Comments: warning, one could sip litres of this. SGP:632 - 90 points.
Glenlossie 1981/2008 (64.4%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 64.1%) Colour: white wine. Nose: almost overpowering, brutal, spirity and very perfumy. Cologne? Help, waaaater! With water: it got very grassy, mineral and waxy, without the beautiful fruitiness that we found in the others. Whiffs of warm milk. Nice but maybe not stellar. Mouth (neat): the extreme sweetness is very misleading, this one is a monster of a whisky when naked! Cough, cough! With water: we’re much closer to its very fruity siblings but this faint ‘porridginess’ is still there. Also more liquorice and even aniseed (or dill, fennel, celery… well, I’m sure you see what I mean.) Finish: nicer now, fruitier and fresher, more similar to the Cadenhead. Comments: another very good Glenlossie but it hasn’t got all of the other ones’ emphatic fruitiness in my opinion. Maybe a rather inactive cask is the culprit. SGP:441 - 85 points.
Glenlossie And also Glenlossie-Glenlivet 21 yo 1957/1978 (80° proof, Cadenhead, dumpy black label) Nose: quite some camphor and beeswax, developing more on motor oil and well-cured ham. A little mint. Mouth: powerful, meaty and spicy, with a very faint acridness. Hints of coriander and pine resin. Surprisingly powerful and very unusual but very good. A little dust in the finish, which often happens with these old bottles. Also hints of ginger and liquorice, and even some tangerine liqueur in the aftertaste (yes, that fruitiness). SGP:453 – 91 points (and thanks, Geert)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening: an old Brasilian anthem by one the most skilled and extravagant, yet true to the tradition singer/composers, Ney Matogrosso
Title: Homem com H
Please buy Ney Matogrosso's music!

Ney Matogrosso
 

June 4, 2009


Tomatin

TASTING – OFFICIAL AND INDIE TOMATINS

Tomatin 1980/2008 (47.4%, OB, cask #994, 172 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts on whiffs of vanilla and damp wood, with more kirsch and plum spirit after that. Notes of sour cream, beer and fermenting grass. Actually nicer than it sounds, but there isn’t any fresh bold fruitiness this time. More vanilla and porridge coming through then, and maybe faint whiffs of crushed bananas. Gets rather fruitier after a good fifteen minutes (pineapples and pears). Mouth: sweet and fruity, fresh, with a lot of fruit salad, fudge and cappuccino in the attack. Good maltiness. Hints of bubblegum and liquorice allsorts as well as a little coriander and even hints of rhum agricole (sugar cane). A rather complex dram, most enjoyable. Finish: medium long, more caramelised. Speculoos, honey and gingerbread. Comments: a very, very good Tomatin, candied, rich and highly sippable. Flawless. SGP:541 - 87 points.
Tomatin 1976/2008 (47.2%, OB, cask #19090, 107 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is much fruitier than the 1980, with much more bananas, vanilla and very ripe strawberries. Whiffs of fermenting fruits and even sangria, warm butter, crème brûlée. Gets then a tad farmier. Apple pie, burnt cake, hot bread straight from the oven and even more vanilla… A very lively middle-aged Tomatin. Mouth: very rich, invadingly fruity and kind of luscious, on loads of fruit jams, fudge, light toffee and, once again, hints of rum. Gets kirschier after a moment. Maraschino. Finish: long, with more wood and a faint bitterness coming thereof. Nougat. Comments: a lot of pleasure in this rich, yet very elegant dram. Another flawless Tomatin. SGP:551 – 89 points. (and thank you, Carsten)
Tomatin 30 yo 1976/2007 (49.3%, OB, 1,500 bottles) This one was finished for three years in ex-oloroso casks. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re rather close to the 1976 but this one has more sherry (obviously) although I wouldn’t say it’s ‘sherried whisky’. Rather big ‘kirschiness’ that reminds me of the 1980, overripe pears and sultanas, vanilla, very ripe oranges, some thyme in the background. Candy sugar. Very nice nose, the re-racking in sherry worked well. Mouth: very good attack, rather rich, but there’s something a little sourish from the butts, with notes of artichokes and a heavy liquorice. A lot of caramel too, praline, strong honey, strawberry jam… Not sure the finishing improved this one. Finish: rather long, with more pepper and maybe touches of salt. Comments: very good but I liked the two single casks better. SGP:551 - 85 points.
Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 (48.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: wonderful! a good three steps further as far as fruitiness is concerned, starting with whiffs of flambéed pineapples and bananas with hints of wood and coal smoke. Shoe polish. The wood kicks in after that, with notes of wax polish, cinnamon, tea and even a little menthol. A lot of menthol actually! Also bergamots and kumquats. Superb nose! Mouth: sweet and round at first sip and with more oak after that, but it never gets ‘woody’ as such. A lot of dried fruits (pears, bananas, figs), notes of ripe strawberries, tropical fruits, soft spices (white pepper, cardamom) and a little mead. Excellent. Finish: long, maybe just a tiny-wee bit drying now (tea tannins). Crystallised oranges. Comments: another tireless 1965 Tomatin. Very expressive! These old Tomatins may well be the best bargains nowadays. SGP:651 - 91 points.
Tomatin 20 yo 1988/2009 (55.4% A.D. Rattray, cask #1087, 203 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this profile is completely different. Not only is it ‘younger’, but there’s also much more toasted oak, wood varnish, liquorice and vanilla bonbons, Hints of Parma violets, salmiak, cigar box… A rather unusual Tomatin, earthy and leafy, less ‘light’ than usual. With water: gets even grassier. Green cigars, green bananas, then a lot of sugar cane. Notes of very ripe mangos. Mouth (neat): we’re much closer to the OBs, especially to the 1980, with the same kind of profile plus the extra-kick from the higher abv. Fudge, mocha, rum, bananas and roasted malt. With water: much more ginger and oak, big notes of nutmeg. Finish: rather long, much more on oranges with always a lot of nutmeg. Grapes. Comments: simply another excellent Tomatin. Classy fruity spirit in high quality oak. Now, all these fruity Tomatins are dangerous whiskies, you can down them like orange juice. SGP:551 - 88 points.
 
Loch Dhu THEY DID IT! A website where you can learn about and buy only Loch Dhu. The owners are 'the largest single stock holder of Loch Dhu in the world' but I doubt they're Diageo, are they?

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: The very ‘cult’ Margo Guryan
Title: Sun
From: her only album, Take A Picture (1968)
Please buy Margo Guryan's music.

Margo Guryan
 

June 3, 2009


Glenallachie

TASTING – TWO GLENALLACHIE

Glenallachie 11 yo 1995/2006 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #Z06/06088, 441 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts a little bizarre, with whiffs of plastic (brand new ‘spritzed’ car) and oat, paraffin and cut grass, getting a little rounder (vanilla, apple juice) but also more mineral. Wet stones, chalk, metal, apple peeling, fresh walnuts, Schweppes, cinchona, bitter oranges… Not an easy profile for sure. Keeps developing towards lager beer, hops and ink. Maybe just faint whiffs of honey and ‘yellow’ flowers (buttercups, dandelions). More and more hops. Mouth: amazing, it’s beer at cask strength! Huge notes of bitter beer, even Guinness (a lot of caramel, liquorice and coffee liqueur), gingerbread, something like old rancioed wine, ratafia and finally walnut wine (which is a liqueur). A very, very unusual palate and I must say I like it (partly because it’s so… unusual.) Finish: long, on white beer spirit like they make here in Alsace, ginger wine and bitter oranges. Comments: I wouldn’t say the nose was much to my liking but the palate is quite spectacular. Which kind of sherry was it? SGP:451 – 85 points.
Glenallachie 18 yo 1989/2008 (57.1%, OB, Cask Strength Edition, batch #GA18 005, 50cl) A rather low-key series by Chivas sheltering interesting, but usually expensive whiskies. Colour: deep amber. Nose: classic dry sherry, expressive yet a tad austere. A lot of sulphur of the gunpowder kind as well as faint whiffs of H2S (I’m afraid!) Burnt matches, blood oranges, burnt caramel, then strawberry jam and blackcurrant leaves… Starts to smell more and more of orange squash and old walnuts, with also whiffs of pipe tobacco, both lit and unlit. Interesting that Chivas’ blenders chose to bottle this one as a single malt, it’s anything but an easy going whisky. Mouth: very rich and heavy sherry, extremely nutty and pretty dry, all on walnuts, something leathery (not that I eat leather too often), almonds, slightly acidic jam (redcurrants), oranges and lemon drops. A very citrusy kind of sherry! Water isn’t needed here but let’s see what gives… With water (while there’s even more gunpowder on the nose, but no H2S anymore): simply more of the same. Very good now. Finish: long, candied, orangey and caramelised. Quite some clove in the aftertaste. Comments: a spectacular kind of sherry monster. Whether the original spirit has much to say here is… uncertain but it’s a truly excellent dram. SGP:452 - 87 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: the legendary and 'seminal' Roscoe Mitchell Sextet
Title: The Little Suite (some superbly funny and very entertaining free jazz!)
From: Sound, 1966
Please buy Roscoe Mitchell's music.

Roscoe Mitchell
 

June 2, 2009


SPEED TASTING – NO LESS THAN EIGHT CRAGGANMORE
Cragganmore
Cragganmore 12 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a blend of marmalade with roasted nuts and caramel plus whiffs of wood smoke and a touch of honey. Simple as that. No, wait, also whiffs of Provence herbs, rosemary and a little cooked butter. Mouth: rather punchy and a little grassier than on the nose, with an obvious maltiness and hints of roasted nuts and orange cake. Well composed. Finish: a little short but clean, more on toffee and chocolate. Comments: a good malt whisky that should please all whisky lovers who come from the blend category. In other words, a perfect access category malt whisky. SGP:431 - 80 points.
Cragganmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-1987, 75cl) Colour: gold (slightly darker than the newer version.) Nose: certainly more complex and more polished, with more honey, smoke, new leather and these rather wonderful floral notes (and pollen plus nectar). Not sure about what comes from bottle ageing but this older version is of higher quality in my view. Mouth: excellent, very honeyed, spicy and even meaty, really full-bodied. Reminds me of the best meads. Notes of cappuccino and quinces. Yes, a drop of quince eau-de-vie in a good coffee. Finish: fairly long, rounded but not dull at all. Honey, coffee, orange liqueur and liquorice. Comments: an excellent dram but once again, whether this superior quality comes from the 20 years of bottle ageing or not is hard to tell. SGP:532 - 86 points.
Cragganmore 13 yo 1989/2002 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Oak Cask #962, 375 Bottles) Colour: white wine, almost white. Nose: we’re close to the old 12 in style, only with a little more fruits (ripe pears) and a little less flowers. Nice hints of thyme. Gets then a tad rougher than the old 12. Mouth: indeed, this one reminds me of the old 12 but it’s certainly sharper here, less polished, more on fresh fruits (apples and pears, gooseberries, greengages.) A little spirity. Finish: rather long, fruity, with added notes of violet sweets and maybe even lavender sweets. Comments: pleasant, nervous Cragganmore. SGP:541 - 82 points.
Cragganmore 15 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is a tad milkier and grassier, with less of these very nice whiffs of flowers from the fields. Cut grass and a little paraffin. Not much dimension. Mouth: very similar to the 1989, with a little more bubblegum and strawberries. Pear drops. Finish: rather long but in the same vein. Not very mature. Comments: honest, flawless malt whisky. Would go well in summer cocktails I’d say. Other malts in the same series were much more impressive! SGP:521 - 77 points.
Cragganmore 1976/1991 (55.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK, cask #3583-3584) Colour: full gold. Nose: rough and spirity, punchy, raw, fruity (baked apples). Hints of beeswax. Cut grass. This is raw! With water: oh, it got so much nicer! Lots of various honeys, cooked fruits, ripe bananas, smoked tea, camphor, shoe polish and a little soot. Great nose! Mouth (neat): liquid honey at first sipping but it’s soon to turn bitter and extremely grassy. Uncooked vegetables? Varnish? A rather bizarre dram at this stage… With water: oh yes, that worked once again. Superb notes of caramelised bananas and quinces. There’s something slightly bitterish left (over-infused tea) but no big deal. Finish: long, honeyed yet firm. Comments: an ode to water in your whisky. SGP:442 – 89 points.
Cragganmore 12 yo 1989/2002 (59.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, oak hogshead, cask #1966) No bits of wood in this one, we’re about to complain! ;-) Colour: straw. Nose: we aren’t far from the 1976. Almost as raw and ‘simple’, only a tad grassier and waxier. With water: gets grassier, but rather nicely so. Too bad there’s also a little soap (shampoo actually). Oak. Mouth (neat): raw spirit, raw oak. With water: once again, it improved but without getting as appealing as the 1976. Apple peeling and fresh walnuts. Finish: long, hesitating between fruits and grass. Comments: we won’t remember this one forever but once again, it’s honest malt whisky. SGP:351 - 79 points.
Cragganmore 1978/1995 (61.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK, cask #4957) Colour: gold. Nose: rather overpowering of course but curiously smoother and more ‘civilised’ than its compadres. Very nice whiffs of metal polish (we like that!) and coal smoke. With water: not as magnificent as the 1976 when diluted but it did improve, getting even more mineral and sooty/ashy. Mouth (neat): extremely strong but once again, sort of sippable when neat. I mean, drop by drop… Hints of strawberries. With water: water worked once again, even if these added notes of bubblegum and banana skin are a little ‘too much’. Finish: long, maybe a little spirity once again, even when diluted down to +/-40%. Comments: very nice dram that swims well, but lacks the 1976’s rather stunning development with water. What’s sure is that Cragganmore seems to take water perfectly well. SGP:341 - 83 points.
Secret Stills 1966/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2.2, casks #1204 + 1449 + 1452, 600 bottles) Not sure this one was Cragganmore, but many say so (but once again, as Coluche said, it’s not because many are wrong that they’re right ;-))… Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s true that the same kind of ‘honeyed fruitiness’ as in the other Cragganmores is to be found in this oldie that’s incredibly fresh and lively. Indeed, we aren’t too far from the old official 12 and from the 1976 by G&M in style, with tons of honey, Seville oranges, beeswax and this wonderful ‘quinciness’ that we enjoy so much. No, nothing to do with Quincy Jones. Superb oakiness and the most delicate spices. Almonds and old furniture. Wonderful old malt! Mouth: rolls out the red carpet! Sure there’s quite some oak (cinnamon) but also some wonderful other spices (I get star anise and hints of caraway). A little mocha, maybe drops of almonds, argan oil, halva… Certainly something oriental. Finish: medium long but wonderfully orangey, with a lightness that calls for… more! Moreish indeed. Comments: luscious! And indeed, nothing that tells us that it cannot be Cragganmore. SGP:541 - 93 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: One of my all-time favourite pianists, the immense Don Pullen
Title: Remember?
From: Don’t Lose Control, Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet, 1991
Please buy Don Pullen's music.

Don Pullen
 

June 1, 2009


TASTING – FOUR MALTS (SOME STRANGE), PROBABLY FROM THAT FAMOUS, SLIGHTLY UNDERSTATED BUT VERY ELEGANT AND MUCH RESPECTED ISLAY DISTILLERY WHERE THE SCALLOPS ARE EXCELLENT AND NOT ALL WORKERS TALL
Laga
Undercover No.1 14 yo 1994/2008 (53.1%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 196 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: sharp, peaty, mineral and more austere than the whiskies that usually come out of that distillery, except some versions of their 12 years old cask strength. Whiffs of both ‘the farmyard after the rain’ and ‘a walk on a kelp-covered beach early in the morning’. Excuse me. Fresh almonds. With water: more ‘coastal freshness’ (whiffs of seashells, iodine) and fresh almonds but it’s still quite austere. Mouth (neat): now comes the sweetness and fruitiness (green apples) as well as a sharp and very ‘invading’ bitterness (capsicum, lime zest, concentrated liquorice, wasabi…) Rather extreme in fact, let’s wee what water will do to this unusual profile. With water: a rather huge saltiness comes through while the bitterness fades away. More lemon as well. Finish: rather long, salty and lemony. Comments: for lovers of the genre – I’m one of them. Classy, elegant, sharp and… austere. SGP:257 - 88 points.
Lagarubin 5.5 yo (56.5%, Whisky Spirits, F.M.W.A., Tempranillo cask) Some kind of finishing in a small cask having contained Spanish tempranillo has been done on this one. Colour: crushed strawberries. Nose: big whiffs of raspberries and strawberries, then an unusual combination of milk chocolate and sweet cherry-flavoured beer (Kriek), all that on top of quite some peat and sweet pepper. Faint bubblegumminess. Not unpleasant! With water: it’s the oak that comes through now, with whiffs of varnish and a little turpentine. Burning pinewood. Interesting and nice. Mouth (neat): once again, it’s the wine’s sweetness that talks first, with notes of blackcurrants and cherries, but the spirit is soon to take control. Big peat and a lot of pepper. With water: the same resinous notes as on the nose but also big tannins, both from the wood and quite possibly from the tempranillo. Finish: long, a little rough, tannic and bitter but it’s ‘a style’. Comments: a funny whisky that swings from a big fruitiness to the sharpest bitterness. Interesting and certainly not bad in my opinion. SGP:567 - 82 points.
Springnavulin 6 yo (57%, Whiskykanzler, Germany) Malt whisky from that distillery has been further matured in an ex-Springbank cask. Colour: straw. Nose: classic malt whisky from that distillery, in the same vein as the Undercover No.1, only a little rounder and more polished, with added notes of vanilla and pepper-flavoured chocolate. With water: lemon pie and ginger. Mouth (neat): big, big malt, very expressive, with a superb sharpness and not much of Springbank (that we can get). Big peatiness and a lot of pepper once again. With water: great! Balance is almost perfect, the big peat and notes of tangerines and orange squash blending well. A little nutmeg and maybe cardamom. Finish: long, with added notes of apple peeling and fresh walnuts. Also lemon. Comments: a very good experiment and, once again, a perfect balance! SGP:447 - 87 points.
Jack's Pirate Whisky 11 yo (59.5%, Jack Wieber, Old Teresa Part VI, cask #3289, 303 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: the most austere of the three, very sharp and mineral, with huge grassy and herbal notes (sage?) and a lot of pepper. Quite wild. With water: not much development. Wet wool? A little soot, ashes. Mouth (neat): the most classical at this stage. Big peat, big pepper and a lot of green apples and lemons. Hot stuff! With water: a new dimension arises, with notes of roots (gentian), cider apples, kiwi sherbet (or something like that) and a little aniseed? Coriander. Finish: long, grassier and even peatier and more peppery. A lot of lemon too. Comments: this one is the ‘closest to Nature’ but it really needs water. A ‘peat monster’. SGP:358 - 85 points.
AND NOW, WERE ELSE DO YOU GET THIS? Some fitting music with a super-deluxe bonus: Mike Nicolson, the distillery’s ex-manager, playing (and singing) his own composition Prisoner of love live at the distillery back in 1998 with the band Ninety Five Proof. They were good, weren’t they? Mike Nicolson

May 2009 - part 2 <--- June 2009 - part 1 ---> June 2009 - part 2


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

 

 

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

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 21 yo 1957/1978 (80° proof, Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 1975/2002 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, 210 bottles)

Highland Park 16 yo (75° proof, OB, mid-1960s)

Highland Park 17 yo 1991/2009 (54.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #8089)

Secret Stills 1966/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2.2, casks #1204 + 1449 + 1452, 600 bottles)

Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 (48.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles)