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

March 31, 2007


TASTING – TWO ST. MAGDALENES
St magdalene St Magdalene 24 yo 1982/2006 (58.3%, Murray McDavid Mission Gold, enhanced in Vintage Port casks, 446 bottles) From MMcD’s new Mission series, all ‘enhanced’ as far as the whisky’s concerned but bottled at cask strength in the regular bottles instead of the old taller ‘conical’ ones. Colour: apricot. Nose: very spirity, with quite some raw alcohol plus black pepper and smells of fruit jelly ‘floating’ over it, the whole getting hugely vinous. I’m not saying this isn’t nice but it really needs water.
So, once it got reduced to roughly 45%: good, it seems that we managed to tame the Port. It gets much nuttier, more on roasted nuts, toasted bread… Then ashes and stones, but still quite some blackcurrant jelly in the background, as well as strawberry jam. Typical winesky, even when diluted. Mouth (neat): just like if you ate a spoonful of icing sugar and gulped a few marshmallows on top of that. And of course lots of unreduced vodka. It’s quite interesting, actually, but I feel we’re quite far from malt whisky ‘as it used to be’, and the distillery’s character is rather absent here (if there was any in the ‘neat’ spirit, that is). But let’s not be utterly conservative, this is quite quaffable I must say, even when unreduced. With water now: oh no, that didn’t work at all this time. It got sort of chemical and too much on the fruity side (blackcurrant sweets and jelly). This one swims like a flat iron. Finish: long, more balanced now but still as fruity as blackcurrant jelly, even if the malt kicks back ‘at the end of the finish’. A little too late. Anyway, I really like the Laddie gang’s work a lot but if they really want to offer us variety – which is great – they should also go on with ‘un-enhanced’ whiskies like they did so brilliantly in the past, and not only ‘enhancings’. Please, please us… 78 points.
Linlithgow 26 yo 1975/2002 (59.3%, Blackadder, cask #30012, 328 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: just as strong but much rounder and more noseable, not spirity at all. Quite some paraffin and apple skin as well as fresh walnuts at first sniff, very clean, developing on more floral notes and green tea (really, it’s like when you put your nose over a freshly opened pack of green Yunnan). Lots of fresh oak as well. With water: now it got extremely cardboardy but in a very pleasant way (smells like an old bookshop), with the oak being even nicer. Even the strong notes of green tea get even more elegant. Really antique in fact, unlike any other distillery I know and not too far from the acclaimed (at least by the Maniacs) 19 yo 1979 Rare malts. Great hints of lemon liqueur. Mouth (neat): I like this attack, even if there’s a lot of wood and a heavy ‘greenness’ (chlorophyll, spearmint and something like exercise book paper – remember, at school?) It gets then waxy and then quite lemony and sort of leathery (not that I eat leather everyday). A lot of oakiness indeed. With water: well, this one isn’t a much better swimmer I’m afraid, it really got too cardboardy now. A tough choice: either you drink this one straight and it’ll probably burn your palate, or you drink it with water and it’s much poorer and dryer. Finish (watered down): long but cardboardy and too much on paraffin, although the spiciness from the wood is nice. Too bad. 85 points.
MUSICRecommended listening (pop-rock): New York City's Paul Damian Hogan The Third and his band 'Frances' play Lighthouse.mp3. Catchy and well crafted. Please buy Paul etc.'s music. Frances
 

March 30, 2007


TASTING – FOUR RECENT YOUNG MACALLANS + AN INDIE
Macallan
Macallan 8 yo ‘Fine Oak’ (40%, OB, circa 2006) A version exclusive to Italy – theoretically. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not shy at all, starting on lots of apple juice and cider, with hints of mint and getting then much grainier and mashier (porridge, oatcakes, mashed potatoes), with quite some liquorice to spice the whole up. Certainly pleasant as an everyday malt under Italian climates. Mouth: the attack is pretty nice (nice caramel and toasted brioche) but it’s then very weak and almost falls apart after just two or three seconds, leaving room for some tannins and not much else. No middle and a very short finish, with just these tannins. I don’t know whether that’s a flaw but it’s extremely harmless to say the least. 70 points.
Macallan 'Distiller's Choice’ (40%, OB, circa 2004) This version was for Japan. Colour: pale gold, just a tad darker than the 8yo. Nose: very similar, just a little less mashy but a tad oakier, with a little more vanilla and warm butter. Slightly rounder and more caramelised – and civilized. No comments on Japanese climate I’m afraid but I like this better than the 8 yo on the nose. Mouth: the same happens on the palate, the attack is quite nice, caramelized, nutty and vanilled but it all falls apart after that, with just these tannins remaining, as well as a little cardboard and a little salt plus hints of liquorice. The finish isn’t quite as nonexistent as the 8yo’s but frankly, there isn’t much happening here. Certainly not a samurai: 72 points. Now, the good news is that you don’t even need to rinse your glass before you pour yourself another whisky.
Macallan ‘Whisky Maker's Selection' (42.8%, OB, circa 2006) A new version for duty free outlets. Colour: gold. Nose: a little more oomph here but also a different profile. Grassier, more austere, oakier, more ‘Highlands’ than the two other youngsters. Quite some spices (nutmeg and cloves, white pepper), butter and green bananas, newly cut grass, liquorice, green apples… Much less round and soft than both the 8 and the Distiller’s Choice. Very ‘natural’ – quality spirit, no doubt. Mouth: yes, this is clearly more substantial. The attack is very pleasant, liquoricy and candied, with quite some apple compote, praline, caramelised nuts (pecan pie) and vanilla crème. The liquorice gets more and more dominant after a moment, and I like liquorice – it’s almost pure liquorice after a while. Finish: medium-long, caramelised, liquoricy, minty and very clean, with a very enjoyable oakiness. I like this Macallan that’s got lots of presence. One of the best recent Macs in my books. 86 points.
Macallan '1851 Inspiration' (41.3%, OB, 2006) This is not the older version for Taiwan but a new version, packaged in a simpler way (for Europe I believe). Funny that an ‘inspiration’ whisky should be cheaper than a ‘replica’ (£75 vs £99). £24 for one simple word? Colour: gold. Nose: again, it’s close but maybe a little wilder, with a little more tannins than the WMS and faint traces of what could be peat – or something phenolic, at least. It’s also a tad more floral (dandelions) and a little more honeyed for a while, but it gets just as grassy as the WMS after that, with also a little parsley. Very ‘1851’, I agree (pfff…). Mouth: extremely close to the WMS now, it’s almost the same whisky on my palate. Maybe the same, in fact, so please read above. 86 points. (Why not do a Cerrutti-sponsored bottling and call it ‘1881’ next time?)
Macallan Exclusive Macallan 8 yo 1998 (54.7%, Exclusive Malts, cask #816, 261 bottles, 2007) Colour: straw. Nose: this is a fresher and even grassier version of Macallan but the link with the ones we had before is very obvious. Again, it’s quality spirit, even if young. Malty and minty, with hints of violets and beeswax… Maybe a little shy, I’d bet water will make it more talkative. So, with water (amazing how it got hugely soapy just after I added water – which is normal, always wait for one or two minutes after having added water to your whisky) we get a nice wax a la Clynelish, even more violets, apples, quinces, cranberry juice… It’s quite talkative, after all!
Mouth (neat): it’s just like a ‘1851’ at cask strength, which is amazing. It seems that Macallan’s spirit got hugely consistent since a few years – not that it wasn’t before, of course, but maybe the sherry did sort of hide that consistency. Excellent liquorice, vanilla and caramel, mint, crystallized apples… Extremely good at such young age, but let’s try it with water again: yes, it’s perfect, very, very compact, superbly liquoricy just like the OB’s, with a perfect oakiness and excellent ‘natural’ vanilla. And the finish is just like the OB’s, quite perfect – at just 8yo! Congrats Mr Stirk for having sourced this. 87 points.
Hans Che Weiss

 

MUSICRecommended listening: a little gypsy jazz again, this time with the German wing and Lulu Reinhardt (although Lulu is Alsatian, not German) and Hans'che Weiss doing Lulu swing.mp3. Plain excellent again, sehr gut guys. Please buy their music!

 

March 29, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 (with thanks to Nick)
Ladyburn

TASTING – TWO LADYBURNS (well, one, actually)

Ladyburn 8 yo (40%, OB, circa 2000) This was made by The Ladyburn Distilling Company, a subsidiary of William Grant & Sons, former owner of the actual distillery. It’s believed not to be genuine Ladyburn but rather a vatting of various undisclosed malts – NOT including Ladyburn.

This bottle has already been highly misleading at auctions, like the ‘Ben Wyvis’ by Invergordon at McTears just was. McTears sold one right yesterday for no less than £360 + 15% fees + VAT whilst it’s barely worth the 19.90 Euros they were still asking for in Holland a few months ago (and it’s not even good!). Bad move if you ask me (and imagine McTears estimated this ‘official fake’ at between £400 and £600!) Anyway, there’s more about that on Johannes’ Malt Madness log (yeah, it’s alive and kicking again, hurray!), so back to our ‘Ladyburn’. Colour: gold. Nose: very grainy, very malty and very caramelly, even slightly flowery, vanilled and minty but that’s all. Not too bad I must say but totally uninspired and uninspiring. Mouth: weak, grainy and caramelly. No middle and almost no finish, which means it can’t be ‘bad’ whisky, but it’s really bland. 50 points.
Rare Ayrshire 31 yo 1975/2007 (47.5%, Signatory, cask #554, 165 bottles) This is Ladyburn! Strange that a genuine one – albeit independent - cannot use the name (legal issues with William Grant I guess) whilst a ‘faked’ one – albeit official - can. Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite demonstrative at first sniff but we get mainly oak. Interestingly, it gets then quite hugely lemony, smelling just like limoncello. Add to that a little fresh mint and an interesting sourness from the wood (it’s also a bit yoghurty), then notes of heated wood (like when you drill a whole)… A very clean spirit where the heavy oakiness is quite an asset. Mouth: impressively creamy and thick, just as oaky and lemony as on the nose. Little development, that is, rather the oak growing bolder and bolder but never drying. Finish: medium long, oaky but not excessively tannic, leaving your mouth quite fresh – just like when you had lemon drops? Maybe more legendary than truly palatable but it’s not flawed malt at all – especially the nose is very nice. 78 points.
MUSIC - BLUES - Recommended listening - Geanie Stout sings Prescription for the blues.mp3 with husband Kip Maercklein on bass. Raw but full of energy (imagine Bessie, Billie and Janis meeting in a small crappy bar with an old detuned piano...) Please buy Geanie Stout's music! (via talking blues)
 

March 28, 2007


Bowmore 25

TASTING – THREE BOWMORES

 

Prestonfield House Malt 10 yo (43%, Prestonfield, late 1980’s) Produced and bottled by Morrison’s Bowmore Distillers. Colour: straw. Nose: rather milky and a little porridgy at first sniffs but some lemony and peaty smells are soon to arise from the glass. Notes of oyster plate, fisherman’s net, hints of diesel oil, then lots of grapefruits rubbed lemon skin… Very pure and sharp, it reminds me of the old Bowmore 12 in its brown dumpy bottle, but also of the very good brand new one in its broad-shouldered (and controversial) new bottle. Mouth: we’re on full-citrusy mode now, with lemons in all states (candied, juice etc.), then peat, smoked tea, black pepper, grapefruit again… and a little salt as expected. Finish: not too long but very clean, coastal, salty and lemony. An excellent young Bowmore, clean and fresh like we like it. 88 points (and thanks, Fabrice).
Bowmore 25 yo (43%, OB, 2007) After the Legend/12/15/18 that we had a few days ago, here’s the brand new 25 with its shiny unphotographable label. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s incredible how close to the 10 yo it is, except for some added sherry notes. Very, very maritime and lemony, with something quite wild (rather wet hay in fact and of course peat smoke). Goes on with very ripe oranges, wet dog (a clean one), a little mint, oysters, hints of vanilla fudge, iodine… And a rather superb freshness. Top class as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: oily, thick like syrup, peppery and ultra-candied (peppered liquid caramel?) Lots of bitter oranges, quite some nutmeg, apricot juice, tangerine liqueur… We do have slight geraniumy notes in the background as well as quite some violet sweets but in no ways they’re disturbing here. Probably one of the best Bowmores distilled in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that I could taste. Especially the finish is most enjoyable, not bold nor very long but beautifully citrusy and lively (a little icing sugar and lemon), even pleasantly fizzy. A very, very good new Bomwore - but I know some other Maniacs don't like it at all. Controversial, 90 points.
Bowmore 38 yo 1968/2007 (42.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3827) Colour: pale gold. Nose: unmistakenly 1968 Bowmore. That means an extreme fruitiness, truckloads of passion fruit, mangos and tangerines plus a very subtle ‘coastality’ (sea breeze). These whiskies aren’t extraordinarily complex I think but they are so perfect in their own genre that we do not need complexity here. A true fruitbomb. Mouth: the attack is quite soft, almost a little weak but then the tangerines, lemons, passion fruits and mangos do arrive, together with salty touches and a very pleasant spiciness brought by the wood (cloves, soft curry, hints of pepper). Hints of violet sweets, then it’s almost like pure lemon drops. Finish: longer and bolder when compared with the attack, very citrusy and slightly peppery/salty, with also these notes of icing sugar that we already had in the new 25. How could any whiskyfreak dislike this? 91 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
MUSICRecommended listening: let's have something bouncy and seriously 70's today with Dexter Wansel playing Latin Love .mp3. Soul jazz at its best, I'd say... Dexter Wansel
 

March 27, 2007


TASTING – FOUR FINISHED BENRIACHS PLUS ONE
Benriach Finishings
Benriach 15 yo 'Dark Rum Wood Finish' (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: pale straw. Nose: fresh, buttery and flowery at first nosing, getting then quite milky and slightly yeasty, with notes of yoghurt. Hints of rum indeed, fresh bananas… Gets then quite grassy, with apple skins… Nothing too special here but balance is achieved. Pleasant but in no way close to most excellent ‘un-tweaked’ Benriachs on the nose. Ha, fashion! Mouth: nice attack, very sweet and fruity, with the expected candy sugar and various candied fruits (pineapple slices, papayas…) A little caramel and vanilla. Finish: not very long but balanced, maybe a little sugary. Very simple but quite quaffable. 80 points.
Benriach 15 yo 'Madeira Wood Finish' (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: straw. Nose: a little hotter at first sniffs, more vinous, obviously… Madeira is the finishing I usually like best (or dislike less) and this is probably no exception. Nice notes of fresh walnuts and vanilla fudge. Less yeasty than the Dark Rum version. Quite some raisins. Mouth: more presence than the Dark Rum but the fruitiness is a little more ‘unstable’ and less clean. Dried papayas and bananas, coffee-flavoured toffee, cappuccino… Maybe a little sweetish now, less dry than expected. Finish: a little longer than the Dark Rum version’s, fruitier, even more sugary (bubblegum). Simply quaffable again. 79 points.
Benriach 15 yo 'Pedro Ximinez Wood Finish' (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: pale gold. Nose: less expressive than both the Madeira and the Dark Rum, vinous, fruity (ripe strawberries)… Getting more and more vinous but never bold or rich. A little vanilla. A very simple but flawless nose in my opinion. Ultra-clean. Mouth: closer to the Madeira at the attack but gets more vinous again (cooked strawberries, blackberry jam). Candy sugar, nice notes of sherry that prevent it from getting too sweetish. Finish: again a little longer and maybe more complex than the Dark Rum and Madeira but the vinosity is a little too obvious for my tastes. 79 points.
Benriach 15 yo 'Tawny Port Wood Finish' (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: straw with salmony hues. Nose: much, much weirder, as often with Port wood. Oddly fruity, a little acidic (lemon drops or ‘powder’), with notes of blackcurrant jelly (rather Jell-o), buds and leaves… Now, it’s quite clean, somewhat cleaner than the PX but really simple. But again, no flaws here. Mouth: vinous and a little more drying than the others, with the wine staying more apart. Ripe strawberries and blackcurrant, jam, notes of hot red wine (like pure Grenache from a ‘simple’ region). Finish: slightly shorter than the PX’s fruity, with a little fructose and fruit jelly again. Simple pleasures again: 79 points. In a nutshell, all these four new finishings work well and are certainly well crafted (no imbalance or ‘wrong’ tastes) but I think they don’t add anything to Benriach’s wonderful current range. Now, there’s probably a market for these Glenmorangish bottlings… (who am I anyway?) And oh, by the way, isn't it strange that 'Tawny Port ' or 'Pedro Ximinez' (wait, shouldn't it be Ximenez?) are written in much bigger letters than 'Scotch Whisky' on these labels?
Benriach Yquem Benriach 12 yo 1994/2006 (58.9%, Signatory, Château d'Yquem finish, cask #06/143/33, 323 bottles) This one is a peated version. Colour: gold. Nose: amazing! This is a whole new dimension, with the wine and the whisky mingling perfectly well at first nosing (yes, Serge speaking). It all starts on unlit Havana cigar and leather polish and then lots of peat – and a great one. Beautiful notes of Sichuan pepper, huge whiffs of smoked sausages and ham, well-hung game, hare belly (sorry about that perfect example of maltoporn), apricot jam… It gets then more academically peaty, with notes of farmyard, wet hay, ‘clean’ manure… Hints of violets and hawthorn tea. This is fantastic – I’m not kidding.
Mouth: oh yes, it’s great. The Sauternes shines through more vividly at the attack, with a lot of apricot jam, hints of quince jelly, rose jelly, then it’s pure peat rolling, of the farmy kind again, with lots of pepper and all-spices, a little cardamom, hints of wasabi, smoked tea… And these notes of smoked ham again, although less bold. What an excellent surprise! Finish: long, compact, hugely peaty, tarry now, peppery, with the Sauternes still there but perfectly integrated. I know I shouldn’t like this Lur-Salucian malt too much but I’m sorry, I do – but don’t worry, I’m not ready to change sides regarding finishings generally speaking. Now, this Benriach by Signatory is very more-ish to say the least. Oh, I even forgot to try it with water… 91 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: let's have more soul funk today with the excellent Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings playing Got a thing on my mind.mp3. James Brown's sister? Please buy her music. Sharon Jones
 

March 26, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
Rosebank 1981

TASTING – THREE 1981 ROSEBANKS

Rosebank 1981/2006 (43%, Daily Dram) From a new Belgian series by Mario Groteklaes’. If I remember correctly, this a cask strength bottling.

Colour: straw. Nose: indisputably very Rosebank at first nosing, with lots of citrus fruits (lemons but also oranges and tangerines). What’s unusual is that there are also lots of other tropical fruits (mangos and passion) and hints of peat. Gets quite minty, slightly camphory and resinous (pine needles, moss, fern) and also a little maritime (sea breeze). This is truly beautiful but, err… excuse me but it smells like an old Bowmore! Mouth: excellent attack, more citrusy this time but still a little old-Bowmore-ish. Lots of grapefruit and tinned pineapple, citron, green tea, green apples, a little kiwi… Lemon drops, dry white wine (high-end Sauvignon)… It seems that there’s still a little peat in the background, even if less than on the nose. Gets more candied with time but always very pure and clean. Excellent. Finish: quite long, on lemon marmalade, mangos and, yes, a little salt. Well, wasn’t it an ex-Bowmore cask? A great, great dram in any case: 90 points.
Rosebank 20 yo 1981/2002 (62.3%, Rare Malts) Colour: straw. Nose: ouch! A high-octane malt, with a little lemon indeed but so strong that you can’t really nose it just like that, unless you want to ‘suicide your nostrils’. So, with water (at roughly 45%): lots of lemon indeed (including rubbed zests), fresh mint, moss and fern just like in the Daily Dram, a little paraffin and lamp petrol, wet stones… There’s also a little apple juice, beeswax, heather honey… Quite austere and a little ‘rigid’ but very elegant. Excellent but maybe not for everyone. Mouth (neat): more drinkable than noseable at such high strength, very lemony, but let’s not play with our palate. With water: yes, it’s excellent, very elegant, very close to the Daily Dram now. Maybe a little spicier, with more pepper, and certainly less ‘tropically fruity’. Great, long finish, on lemon and high-end green tea, with quite some pepper. Another excellent Rosebank, just a tad less complex than the new Daily Dram. 88 points.
Rosebank 1981/1997 (63.9%, Flora & Fauna, Cask Strength) Colour: straw. Nose: same comment as with the Rare Malt – they are extremely similar at this stage. With water (+/-45%): similar to the Rare Malts but a little fruitier and maybe more vanilled, with also a little cardboard. A little less clean and less elegant – more of a riffraff Rosebank. Hints of coffee, chicory, grass. Mouth (neat): too explosive for proper assessing. With water: same thing s on the nose, this one is sweeter and more sugary but much less complex. Grainier. Nice lemon, though, and a little fructose that plays with your tongue. Finish: very long, better than the middle, more purely lemony and candied. Good, no doubt, but they should have written ‘handle with care’ on the label. Don’t try this without water! 81 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: strange news on their website: The Beautiful South have split up due to musical similarities. LOL! Time to listen to their rather funny Perfect 10.mp3, and to buy their music... beautiful south
 

March 25, 2007


TASTING - TWO WOODY INCHGOWERS

Inchgower 37 yo 1969/2006 (46.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #6129, 184 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: wow, this is pure menthol and eucalyptus! It really smells like Vicks, or maybe also thuya wood like they use to make boxes in Morocco (picture). It gets then meatier (lots of hot ham), with also various vegetables (celeriac, salsify, lovage). Extremely unusual, I think I never had a similar profile before. Goes on with pastis, artemisia, maybe even absinth… Are they sure they used oak for this one at the time? There’s even pine resin coming through together with a little mustard. A very ‘funny’ malt, for sure…

Inchgower
Mouth: a little more classic at the attack but those concentrated vegetal notes do quickly invade your palate. I’m not too sure I like this… Something like varnish, resin, kind of wood extract, pipe juice (err…), tar, chocolate sauce… Did some visitors drop a few cedar balls into this cask, thirty years ago? Goes on with strong green tea, quite some tannins, chlorophyll (cough syrup for bad boys?) It does get a little more ‘classical’ after a moment but the heavy woodiness never disappears, especially at the long but truly concentrated finish (oak, resins, mint and eucalyptus drops and quite some salt – oyster juice). Maybe they did use cedar, after all… 80 points (conservative rating).
Inchgower Inchgower 1990/2006 (56.8%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #31030) Colour: straw. Nose: punchy but much more neutral, spirity, grainy and grassy, with a little smoke but that’s more or less all. Hints of vanilla, tea, sour cream, burnt cake… Ashes. Funny how it wakes up after a good fifteen minutes, though, with much more coconuts, marzipan, praline, nougat… This one really develops in two steps. Interesting provided you don’t forget to take your time. Mouth: ultra-sweet, powerful, hugely fruity and again quite oaky. Quite some pear juice, green apples, orange drops, developing on liquorice and lemon marmalade… Better than on the nose I think, almost as concentrated as it’s elder brother. Goes one with notes of marzipan, pineapple jelly, crystallised fruits… Good. Finish: long, fruity, orangey, with quite some oak now but also a little resin (much less than in the 1969, that is) and Inchgower’s trademark salty signature. Excellent, punchy palate. 82 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: It's Sunday, let's go sort of clasical with the Woburn Concert Choir (Woburn is a Canadian music school) singing this 'nice' Orkney Lullaby.mp3. Woburn
 

March 24, 2007


Blair Athol

TASTING – TWO BLAIR ATHOLS

Blair Athol 8 yo (70°proof, OB, Bell’s, 1970’s) The versions bottled in the 80’s weren’t to my likings, too grainy. Colour: straw. Nose: grainy indeed but with more oomph than I remembered. Then it gets quite superbly fruity, with lots of freshly squeezed oranges and apples, before it switches to something more ‘tertiary’ like shoe polish, metal cleaner, new leather… Also notes of mint-flavoured tea, cigar box. Finally goes back to mash, cereals, slightly stale beer… An obvious bottle age in this one.

Mouth: hmmm, it’s got a little of these tea-ish and cardboardy tastes that go with bottle age when it went wrong. Then we have something a little weirdly bubblegummy and then it gets just better and better, with more complexity. Praline, smoked tea (peat?), cake, roasted hazelnuts, earl grey tea… And then a little mint and liquorice… Gets truly bolder with time, candied, smoky. Nowhere near an old Glen Garioch but it’s got something of it in the profile, once the weird ‘bottle’ tastes have vanished. Finish: not too long but compact and slightly salty, with quite some praline and caramel. Excellent – partly, at least – but you have to be patient. 85 points.
Blair Athol 1993/2006 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one smells just like plain fresh apple juice. Okay, maybe a little pear juice as well, and of course the skins, and also a little fresh butter but that’s pretty all. One of the simplest noses of recent time – but it’s so clean and pure that it’s truly enjoyable. Mouth: exactly the same feeling. Apple juice and a little tea. Maybe a little weak when compared with the old OB. Finish: guess what? But it’s quite long, with also quite some candy sugar. Extreme simplicity can be enjoyable, it seems. 80 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the funny guys of Tr yo are doing Désolé pour hier soir.mp3 ('Sorry about last night' - a story about repentance). Please buy Tryo's music. Tryo
 

March 23, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
STEVEN SEAGAL AND THUNDERBOX
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, March 18th 2007

I don’t really watch a lot of TV, and when I do it’s mostly in hotel rooms scattered around the world at some awful time in the morning when I can’t sleep (why – I’m in one now). The strange thing is that wherever I am, and no matter what time it is, there’s always what seems to be the same Steven Seagal film showing. You know. It’s the one where Mr Seagal karate-chops and kicks his way up and down a train, (and along the roof and quite possibly underneath it too) packed with nasty guys who want to destroy the world, or some such. They’ve also kidnapped his daughter (or was that another film?), which as I recall turns out to be a pretty dumb thing to do as that just makes him mad. And you wouldn’t want to see Mr Seagal mad would you? I mean he’s a pretty serious aikido black belt, and he’s also a reincarnated Tulku, which is something to do with nirmanakaya and puts him on the same level of consciousness as the Dalai Lama. Oh yes – and in addition to all of that he’s a blues guitarist, with a band with the unfortunate name of Thunderbox. You can all make your own jokes about that. And maybe a bit like this nirmanakaya stuff, when he plays guitar he transcends his corporeal being and transmutes into the Mojo Priest (which happens to be the title of his new album). And as we’re reminded for much of the evening – Steven Seagal is THE Mojo Priest.

Mojo Priest
Actually despite the queues outside, the Bush is less than half full. It turns out that the queue is made up of ‘competition winners’ – that old last-minute way of trying to give away tickets to fill a theatre. And the previous night’s gig in Oxford had been cancelled and ticket holders urged to travel to London instead – free buses laid on too. Inside there are some of Mr Seagal’s diehard fans – middle-aged Mums and daughters mostly – (and whom I bet weren’t expecting THE Mojo Priest), together with, I have to say, some pretty weird types (more nirmanakaya perhaps). Almost half of the seats in the first balcony (the upper two are dark, silent and closed) is reserved for guests – many remain empty – but TMP does take time out to tell us that one of them “someone who I was very privileged to meet this afternoon” is Yusuf Islam. I thought Mr M. Priest was taking the piss, but no, he’s there opposite us, furrowed brow, chin on hand, looking very perplexed as the band’s two singers genuflect, bow and scrape in the presence of, well THE Mojo Priest. I wouldn’t have thought Yusuf was really a fan of Mr Seagal’s almost pornographically violent action flicks, and can’t imagine he’s too keen on worshipping false gods and graven images (and with his wooden bearing TMK could definitely be classified as the latter) so his presence ‘till almost the very end was a mystery.
Super Chickan
Super Chickan (left) and Magic Slim (right)
A pleasant surprise was Clarksdale blues veteran Super Chickan – “won’t somebody shoot that thang” - who turned in a enjoyable and engaging novelty/blues set to open the night featuring his wonderful home made guitars that you can buy (I nearly did) here should you visit. It was all a bit too jokey – “won’t somebody shoot that thang” - but the Chickan is a much better player and singer than the comedy routine suggests and worthwhile seeking out. Another surprise was the presence of legendary Chicago bluesman Magic Slim, one of the last exponents of a traditionally gritty roadhouse blues, who joined THE Mojo Priest towards the end of his set and eventually managed to make his Flying V heard over the din. Not perhaps the best way to hear one of the last greats, but it’ll do.
Magic Slim and the Mojo Priest
Magic Slim and THE Mojo Priest
And what of the main event? Well – it was like a real concert. All the kit’s got “Steven Seagal” stencilled on it. Thunderbox, name notwithstanding, are an accomplished band, no slouch among them, and Mr Seagal, or should I say THE Mojo Priest, clearly takes the band, the music, and himself, very seriously. His impassive features are etched with concentration as he takes solo after solo (really I think the good work is being done by the two guitarists in the band) and I have to say that insofar as one could tell over the pretty rough mix, he’s not bad – he’s certainly better than me. He sings with a growl, struggles with high notes and relies on his two excellent singers to carry the hard work. I was instructed not to mention his purple tunic and bulging biceps. There’s a camera crane on stage and at least two other mobile cameras, fixed cameras on both sides of the balcony and another mobile. It’s big money rock and roll DVD time. Which is why the two singers are working so hard (they deserve to have been paid overtime) to try and make the audience appear to be enthusiastic – which to be fair some of them are.
Mojo Priest and Photographers
However I think even the most ardent Seagal fan must have cringed when he came out with a southern swamped version of jive talking. He certainly didn’t learn to talk like that when he was brought up in Michigan or California – and living in Louisiana doesn’t really give him the right to affect such a ghastly and embarrassing parody of the real thing. First of all it was something about alligators down on the Bayou in Louisiana (this, I think, to introduce ‘Alligator ass’, with the memorable lyric “Someone took me to a restaurant and I had to eat something fast, I ordered me some chicken, they gave me alligator ass”). Later he introduced ‘We gotta quit’ (I think) with an even more excruciating “Ahhh wuzz waulkn daan Beale Street the other day and this chick hit on me …..” Oh dear, oh dear. I swear even Yusuf had his head in his hands at this point. Oh yes, and if we’re on the subject of lyrics (which we’re not really, but what the hell) then what about this from ‘Gunfire in a juke joint’: “I call my mama, I tell her I'm hot as a pistol, she say baby you better come on home you know, I'm wet as a whistle”. Hmmmm.
Vanity rock and roll? Well it’s hard not to think so really – but some people seem to like it. The Priest was even given an award for all the records he’s sold in France by a fellow who looked alarmingly like a greying Alain Prost. And I know it’s easy to take a big slow moving target and deliberately tear it to shreds. Which I’m not even going to think of doing, because Mr Seagal, and Mr Priest, are both much bigger and tougher than me. No, instead I’m going to light up some of Mr Seagal’s organic Red Crystal incense, keep track of my mantra recitations with a Seagal Mala Prayer Counter, and crack open a can of Steven Seagal’s Lightening Bolt, which “contains the secrets of true energy that martial arts master and actor Steven Seagal discovered in his travels all over the world”. Maybe it will help me get my nirmanakaya back. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Well, many thanks, Nick. It seems that Steven Seagal is on the verge of getting cult, just like Jean-Claude Van Damme used to be cult (and Chuck Norris never was). Why, I don’t know, but there’s maybe kind of an uncontrolled phenomenon going on, more and more ‘aware’ people liking what the majority dislikes, which makes that they become the majority and so on. Now, as for that ‘award for all the records he’s sold in France’, that’s weird… Nobody in the house knew that Mr. Segal was doing anything else but kicking a few bad boys’ teeth in on commercial TV – preferably around 2am indeed. And I didn’t even manage to find a mp3… Maybe that’s good news, more room for Super Chickan doing What ya see.mp3 and a Taj-Mahalesque Ain’t nobody.mp3.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
TASTING – TWO LONGMORNS
Longmorn 16 Longmorn 16 yo (48%, OB, 2007) Here’s the brand new bottling with a small metallic ear on the neck (weird anatomy if you ask me). It replaces the popular 15yo. Significant efforts have been put into the strength, 48% and not ‘just’ 46 like more and more of their colleagues. Colour: straw. Nose: spirity and very green at first sniff. Also lots of oak… Green apples, not too ripe kiwis, lime, grapefruits, green tea. Hints of cedar box, shoe polish… And more and more tannins, not of the silky kind. Freshly broken limestone. This is quite wild and certainly not sweet. Curiously austere for a flagship bottling…
Mouth: quite strong, very lemony and oaky, fizzy, green… Not complex at all but quite acid, which isn’t a flaw here. Sauvignon blanc, anyone? Also a little vanilla from the oak but that’s pretty all. Finish: rather long, lemony as expected, just a tad drying. Well, we can’t say they tried to come up with a sexier vatting with this new expression, rather the opposite, but I sort of like its straightforwardness. It’s a little acrid, though. 79 points.
Longmorn 14 yo 1990/2004 (55.3%, Dewar Rattray) Colour: pale straw. Nose: exactly the same, just a little sharper, thanks to the higher ABV. Huge notes of freshly squeezed lime, extremely citric. Not much to add. Mouth: again we’re in the same vein as the OB’s, except that the acridness and acidity are much less bearable than in the new OB. Gosh this is bitter and harsh, even with water. Especially the finish is hard, with an ever-going pungency. Sawdust, grass and lime marinated in raw alcohol… Now, some extreme amateurs may like this. 70 points.
 

March 22, 2007


TASTING – FOUR NEW BOWMORES
Bowmore 12
Bowmore 'Legend' (40%, OB, 2007) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather hot and slightly spirity at first nosing, but truly ‘maritime’, with notes of kelp and seashells. It gets then more floral, with hints of geranium and violets and also hints of grenadine syrup and fresh strawberries. Nice spiciness (hints of soft curry) but these ‘geraniumy’ notes are slightly excessive for my tastes, although it’s not what you think at all. Mouth: malty and peaty at the attack but less maritime. A little salt, café latte, liquorice, grilled tea (Japanese hochicha)… The middle is a little light but I’m sure a version at 43% will do the trick. Finish: not too long but rather balanced, caramelly and truly salty, iodized… Just a tad cardboardy at the end. Not bad at all, I’d say. 78 points.
Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, 2007) Colour: gold. Nose: much, much cleaner than the Legend, flinty and very, very coastal, medium-peaty. Very nice notes of passion fruits, oranges and mangos just like in some much older versions. Great freshness and most enjoyable smokiness, with faint hints of wet dog. Huge progress when compared with earlier batches – Bowmore 12 is truly back as far as I can tell. Bravo! Mouth: ah yes, this is excellent. Perfect ‘medium’ peatiness, lots of salt, notes of candied oranges, vanilla fudge… Again a slight slump at the middle – the 40% again, I guess – but the finish is better again, with a nice bitterness (green tea). Typically a gentle peat monster and no floral or perfumy notes whatsoever. 85 points.
Bowmore 15 yo 'Darkest' (43%, OB, 2007) Finished for two years in oloroso sherry. Colour: amber. Nose: this is completely different, starting on loads of crystallised oranges, caramel, toffee, praline and roasted nuts. The balance is quite perfect, there are also hints of bananas flambéed and cooked strawberries, with a slight meatiness and a little smoke. No disturbing flowery notes here, rather a nice peat underlining the whole after a moment. So much nicer and more elegant than both the earlier Mariner and Darkest! Mouth: excellent attack, with a great balance between the smokiness and the vinosity. Goes on almost like smoked salted caramel… Excellent body – yes, the 43% make the difference. The finish is also quite longer than the 12’s, candied, peaty and quite peppery. Excellently made, this new 15yo, and again, much better than the older Darkest or Mariner in my books. 87 points.
Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, 2007) Colour: amber. Nose: hmmm, this is bizarre I think. It hasn’t got the 12 and 15’s cleanliness, more kind of notes of rotting oranges and sawdust, perfume, something chemical (‘artificial’ orange juice), marshmallows, cooked fruits, sweet white wine, soapy water, wet newspaper… The smoke barely comes through, except for something like smells of wet dog. Not my cup of malt this time. Mouth: it’s a little better now but we do have these dominating perfumy notes at the attack, something like rose jam, violet sweets or light muscat wine. This sweetness is really ‘too much’ for my tastes and it doesn’t go too well with the peatiness. Not completely unbalanced but truly bizarre (some recent Longrows do follow the same path I think). Finish: quite long and better balanced but the strange mix of ‘florality’, overripe oranges and peat is still strikingly, well, strange. But I know, tastes and colours… Anyway, I like the 12, the 15 and even the Legend much better. 75 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's go just a little more 'tropical' today with Brazil's fantastic Egberto Gismonti and his trio playing Don Quixote.mp3 (long excerpt). Gismonti has been on my top shelf since decades, (sometimes despite the ECM sound). Please buy his fabulous music. Gismonti
 

March 21, 2007


TASTING – THREE RARE OLD OFFICIAL LAGAVULINS

From left to right, bottled 1958, bottled 1973, bottled early 1980's

 

This will probably be remembered as ‘the Verviers verticale’, as it’s at Whisky Live Belgium that these rare drams have been poured. The session was chaired by the honourable fellow Malt Maniac Charles MacLean. There was also an excellent recent 12 yo cask strength in the line-up but we’ll not comment on it this time.
Charlie
Charlie checks that some whisky sticks to the bottom. It does, it's definitely not a fake!
Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers for Montenegro in Zola, cork cap, early 1980’s) Another go at this excellent Lagavulin that I like a lot, even if I liked the first 16yo’s even better. Interesting comments on the label: ‘Lapped by the warming Gulf Stream, the Atlantic rain washes through the peat producing soft pure water that gives Lagavulin its special taste.’ So it was all about water…
Please note that Lagavulin probably still had its own floor maltings when this was distilled, the maltings having been closed in 1972. Colour: amber. Nose: big and bold, meaty and almost fat, starting on quite some sherry mixed with oxtail and seashells (queen scallops). Then we have parsley and lots of mint (mint jelly) before it switches to strawberries and pears cooked in red wine. Excellent signature on camphor and embrocations, with maybe just a little cardboard and oiled paper as well as a beautiful oakiness (and notes of cedar wood). Keywords: mint and meat bouillon. Mouth: starts very resinous, quite peaty and very dry, on cocoa and something like mastic-flavoured tea (if that existed). Quite some bitter chocolate, lots of liquorice, woodiness, ginger, orange marmalade, cinchona… Grows bolder by the minute, thick, coating… Quite some tannins and something nicely green and bitter (propolis, green tea). The finish is very long, peppery and nicely bitter, with also a little quince jelly and bitter oranges. Very excellent, even if, again, maybe not as great as the 16yo’s, including the recent ones once they’ll have aged a bit in their bottles ;-). 90 points (up 1 point).
Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers for Carpano in Torino, twist cap, rotation 1973) Another one that we already had, thanks to fellow Maniac Luc. The stills were still direct-fired when this was distilled (they stopped direct-firing in 1965 at Lagavulin). Colour: amber. Nose: immediately more complex than the one from the 80’s, starting much more on tar and tinned mangos but developing on lots of mint again, passion fruit, milk jam and used fireworks. Keeps going on (should we say ‘walking’?) with kumquats and bergamots, a little musk, Havana smoke, incense, lemon balm, flints, pine needles… Hugely complex! What a stunning nose… Mouth: absolutely stunning, excellently bitter and resinous, fat and oily but not cloying at all, starting on high-end Chartreuse (and other kinds of great herbal liqueurs) and orange marmalade and developing on mint sauce, beeswax and cough syrup. The balance is absolutely perfect after all these years… We have also quite some liquorice, butter caramel, resin-flavoured sweets, kumquats… Just fab. Finish: quite long, coherent, satisfying, on orange marmalade and mint, with a little salt and hints of mustard, just a tad drying. A great one again, no questions, and a (pricey) must in any serious collection. Legendary. 94 points.
Spring cap
Here's the spring cap
Lagavulin (75°proof, OB, White Horse Distillers, spring cap, rotation 1958) An amazingly rare Lagavulin, one of the only two known bottles still existing today, the whisky having probably been distilled before Second World War. I’m sure opening this one has doubled the value of the one and only remaining bottle! It was closed with a spring cap (spring caps were called ‘nail breakers’ at the time said fount of knowledge Charlie). The label tells us that “Scotch whisky,” says Grayson Madders, F.R.G.S., in an article upon “How Scotch Whisky is manufactured,” “cannot be made in a town. It is a physical impossibility. Mountain air, moorland peat, and moss water direct from the hills, free from any intercepting contamination, are indispensable conditions of success in the flavour of the spirit.” It is for this reason that we have chosen the Lagavulin Distillery for the subject of the present sketch.’
Right, enough literature, let’s taste this ‘sketch’ now… Colour: amber with bronze – greenish hues. Nose: very different! Very expressive but much mustier and extremely meaty (even more than the version from the 1980’s), with notes of Chinese chicken soup, oxtail and hot smoked ham. It gets then quite metallic (aluminium pan, oven), with also something like wet fabric or old clothes in an old wardrobe, and then much cleaner, more on pine needles, mastic, honeydew (probably ex-peatiness)… It’s finally back on meat bouillon and mushrooms, beef marrow, sandalwood, praline and something like very old rum… Also faint hints of chervil, celeriac, turnips, very old wine... Beautiful and moving, even if lacking a little freshness (obviously). Mouth: the attack is a bit dry and tannic but much less than when I had my first sip of it, two days ago. To be honest, it was a little disappointing but now it isn't anymore, quite the opposite. A little air did it some good it seems, the spring cap having been so perfectly airtight for fifty years. So, what do we have? A little nougat and praline, that meatiness again (meat bouillon), mint and chlorophyll, dried ginger, liquorice, peat (there’s more peatiness than in the 1973 rotation), dried pears, lemon balm – it’s even a bit fizzy (sort of) -, chervil just like on the nose, liquorice stick and gentian, maybe hints of celeriac… Truly excellent. Finish: not extraordinarily long but beautifully waxy, resinous and minty, getting just a tad drying but that’s normal after all these years (a bit tea-ish). This one is maybe not quite as perfect as the ‘1973’ but it’s still fabulous, especially after all these years. Too bad I’ll probably never have the opportunity to try it again… sob… 92 points.
It’s particularly interesting to check the differences between these old Lagavulins and old Laphroaigs. The Lagavulins are probably meatier, fatter and oilier, whilst the old Laphroaigs are rather fruitier and slightly lighter. Different evolutions of peat? Anyway, many thanks to all who made this fantastic session possible (thanks Hubert, Luc and Giuseppe).
MUSICRecommended listening: again a little easy French music with Louis Bertignac and Carla Bruni singing Les froleuses.mp3. Please buy their music. Bertignac Bruni
 

March 20, 2007


 

 

 

TASTING - FOUR GREAT LONGMORNS +2

 

Longmorn 1990/2005 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, casks #30111/30112) Colour: straw. Nose: starts much punchier than expected, and also less fruity. Very smoky and ashy at first nosing, with also something slightly metallic (nicely) and candlewax. Lots of plants in the background, roots, green tea, bergamot, coffee flavoured toffee, mushrooms, mint… Very complex, to say the least. This one needs time but it’s brilliant whisky. Mouth: it’s all in keeping with the nose, maybe a just a tad on the drier side. Lots of tea and various herbal teas, praline, bitter oranges (Seville), pistachio oil, quite some saltiness, marzipan, bitter almonds, walnut skins, grapefruit… Phew, a whole dictionary. Another ‘rather young winner’ by Doug McIvor it seems. Finish: very long, citrusy and spicy, with just that woody tang in the background that prevents it from getting a little cloying. Extremely good – probably a B-F-Y-B malt. Hope it’s still available somewhere. 92 points (and many thanks, Luc).
Longmorn 1976/2006 (54.3%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #5879) Colour: full gold. Nose: yes, it’s fantastic as well, bold, vibrant, complex, rooty, earthy, with an avalanche of various aromas from all sectors of the ‘wheel’. Juts to name a few: bananas, old pu-erh tea, leather, cigarette tobacco, ‘clean’ dog, gravy, beeswax, rubbed mint leaves, Chinese anise, camphor… Amazing whisky, as often with Longmorn. Extraordinarily coherent and even ‘compact’, yet so complex! Mouth: what a blast! It’s got everything again (please see above) and loads of salt. Granted, you have to like salt in your whisky, but then this one’s just a stunner. Immense Longmorn, bold, punchy, rich yet balanced. ‘Wow’, if I may say so. 94 points.
Longmorn 31 yo 1972/2003 (58,3%, Premier Malts, cask #1099) Colour: full gold. Nose: ah, now it seems that the wood took its share. More drying and ‘matt’ at first nosing, more on green bananas and tapioca, getting then more ‘classically’ fruity with the usual cortege of ripe bananas this time, oranges, passion fruits, guavas, mangos… Not completely unlike some old Lochsides / Clynelishes / Bowmores / Benriachs or, yes, Longmorns. Goes on with hints of nutmeg but also a little flour, cardboard and something chalky. Very nice but not totally beautiful, I‘d say, and less entertaining than both the 1990 and the 1976. Mouth: oh, now it got extravagantly fruity, with huge mangos, passion and pink grapefruits… Excellent I must say, even if not too complex. It gets then spicier – but not too woody – with notes of cloves, white pepper, chilli… Gets extremely peppery with time, which goes well with the fruits. Finish: it’s all pure peppered grapefruit now, although I should confess that I never tried that. Anyway, a superb palate on top of a nice nose. Excellent Longmorn again. 89 points.
Longmorn 30 yo 1976/2006 (59.7%, Kingsbury, bourbon cask) Colour: pale straw. Nose: powerful and a little spirity at first nosing, certainly less smooth and 'marmalady' than many of its siblings. We have lots of smoke (unusual!), peat, bitter ale, chlorophyll freshly cut grass, hay… Lots of cinchona as well (Campari), tonic, green pepper… Gets even more herbal after a few minutes, with also quite some beeswax, liquorice and mint, soft curry… Hints of icing sugar and lemon drops as well as old books. It's also still a little feinty after all these years, mustardy and porridgy. So much less fruity than its colleagues, but what a wonderful oakiness and what a beautiful austerity! (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) Longmorn Kingsbury 1976
Mouth: now we have lots of lemon mixed with oak, pepper and a hint of horseradish. The icing sugar is here again, together with mustard and even more pepper after a moment… Develops on candied citrus fruits, lemon drops again, gin fizz, tequila and cactus juice. Goes on with lime, chilli, peat, a little mint… Mojito, anyone? Finish: long, peppery, spicy, and superbly bitter, with a very lemony aftertaste. In short, a very different old Longmorn, very frank but that takes no prisoners - a great old Highlander, armed to the teeth. 91 points (and thanks, Patrick)
Longmorn And also
Longmorn 18 yo 1987/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 314 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: much more bourbony, grassy, woody… And much less expressive than its comrades, or than most Longmorns we know for that matter. Mouth: sweeter now, mostly on pear spirit and candied fruit paste. Gets almost sweetish after a while and then a little acrid, quite bizarrely. An okay Longmorn but not more I think. 78 points.
Longmorn 1990/2006 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Rum Finish) Colour: straw. Nose: rather neutral and ‘natural’, with little rum influence that I can get. Mostly on grain, porridge, caramel, vanilla and a touch of mint. Mouth: sharp attack on caramel, cornflakes and candy sugar (from the rum I guess). Slight taste of distillation, malt and overripe apples. Finish: quite long, a little neutral (cereals), with a little bitterness. Quite standard but not bad at all, with little rum notes. 79 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: simply BB King and simply The thrill is gone.mp3 (despite the synth's strings) Please... BB King
 

March 17, 2007


TASTING – FOUR TYRCONNELS AND FOUR CONNEMARAS (plus a bonus at the end...)
Tyrconnell
Tyrconnell NAS (40%, OB, 2006) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh and clean, starting rather on the grain and mashy side when compared with the very fruity Bushmills. Quite some milk and mashed potatoes. Goes on with pineapples and pears and then hints of fresh mint and aniseed (fennel?). Also a little caramel. A clean and fresh malt. Mouth: slightly toasted at the attack but also much fruitier than on the nose (ripe melon and pineapple). A little vanilla crème, a little liquorice, a little caramel… The finish is rather long (although not bold), slightly sugary, on quince jelly and with a faint waxiness… The whole is clean and close to flavoured vodka – a very good one, that is. Much more body than earlier versions I think and another perfect summer dram that should stand ice: 77 points.
Tyrconnell 10 yo (46%, OB, Madeira Cask finish, 2006) Colour: gold with salmony hues (the back label states ‘prehistoric amber’ – Lol!). Nose: quite lively at first nosing, fruitier than the regular Tyrconnell, starting on notes of Beaujolais nouveau (raspberries and strawberries, grenadine syrup) but getting more malty and ‘normal’ after that. Very nice whiffs of farmyard just after the rain, freshly squeezed oranges, pineapples, rosehip and hawthorn teas… Maybe this kind of rather light malt is a much better basis for finishings than some more vigorous Highlanders? This nose is very enjoyable. Mouth: frankly, I’m surprised. It’s thick, rich, creamy like a good liqueur at first sip. Sensual, not unlike a Mandarine Imperiale (tangerine liqueur), with quite some dried apricots, quince jelly just like in the regular bottling, pineapple liqueur, ripe strawberries… Sure it’s not really complex but it’s all pleasure, again developing on maltier, caramelly and toasted flavours, with just a slight oakiness to prevent it from getting a bit too sultry (it isn’t at all but it could have been). Finish: long, just as thick and rich as the attack, like a vanilla-flavoured plum jam. An excellent surprise. It’s no secret I’m no fan of silly finishings but this is truly ‘yummie’ as some friends would say. 85 points.
Tyrconnell 10 yo (46%, OB, Port Cask finish, 2006) Colour: salmony – at Cooley’s they wrote ‘antique copper’. Nose: certainly more marked by the wine at first nosing but, most curiously, less demonstrative than the Madeira. More on blackcurrant buds, apple juice, leaves, then spices such as very soft white pepper. Hints of new leather and again that farmyard after the rain. Rather inoffensive and not as talkative as the Madeira but maybe a little more elegant. Mouth: much closer to the Madeira now. Not creamy but very rich again, sweet, fruity and candied, reminding me of tawny Port indeed. We have strawberry jam (all sorts of jams actually, including cherry), then cake, then it switches to malt and candy sugar, caramelized cornflakes, honey… I’m sorry but I like this too! Especially the finish is perfectly balanced, richer again, long, coating, sweet… Maybe a tad decadent. Just like the Madeira, it’s not complex whisky but it’s dangerously drinkable, even if you’re a hardcore Scotchfreak. 84 points.
Tyrconnell 14 yo 1992 (46%, OB, cask #3179, rotation K 92/25, 2006) No finishing this time, just ‘oak’. Colour: pale gold. It’s a little hard to go back to ‘normality’ after the extravagant finishings but let’s try – and hard. Nose: very ‘natural’ when compared with the finished versions, maybe more Scottish than Irish. Or let’s say just between both (isn’t that Islay? Err…) Starts on mashed potatoes, oats, muesli, rather similar to the regular Tyrconnell, just bolder and a little more on vanilla. The added complexity comes after that, with mirabelle plums, chestnut crème, tea, quinces, white cherries… A little caramel as well and faint hints of cologne. Close to mashed sweet potatoes, globally. Mouth: quite satisfying at the attack, compact, sweet but not sugarish, with a lot of apple compote, vanilla crème, fudge and all-flowers honey. Not much character, I’d say, but the balance is here and there are no flaws whatsoever. A good spirit, full bodied and highly drinkable but without that zing that both finishings had. Finish: long, compact, coherent, sweet, honeyed and grainy. Like they say on the back label: ‘not overly complex’, but certainly very drinkable. 80 points.
Connemara
Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Peated single malt, circa 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a fresh mix of pear juice, smoked tea, wet hay and drying kelp, getting a little simpler after that, mostly very lemony. Not a peat monster, maybe a little less peaty than the first batches, but balance is achieved. Mouth: a little more ‘bizarre’, starting with notes of rotting oranges and pepper plus kind of a dustiness. Quite some body but the middle is weaker, more on cold tea, before it takes off again at the finish (both peppery and ‘papery’). 75 points.
Connemara 12 yo (40%, OB, Peated single malt, circa 2006) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is obviously peatier and much closer to a classical Islayer. Less ‘fruitily’ Irish than the no age version. It’s also a little more mashy and slightly yeasty, with hints of fresh wood and apple skin. Quite simple again but the peatiness is enjoyable, as well as the freshness. Mouth: it suffers from its low ABV but the profile is very nice, much more on barley and peat than the NAS, with also a little coffee, kiwi juice, oak and a good deal of nutmeg that joins the pepper, especially at the longer finish. A good introductory peaty malt to pour to your ‘non-whisky’ guests. 79 points.
Connemara NAS Cask Strength (58,8%, OB, Peated single malt, circa 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: much more austere but also more elegant, sharper, kind of ‘authentic’ if I may say so. Also farer from a typical Irish than the reduced versions. Simple, farmy peat and fresh almonds, smoked tea, oysters, hay... Then we have fresh fruits, mainly strawberries and apples. Not aromatically bold but very clean. Mouth: even simpler and very sweet, starting mostly on green apples with the peat lingering in the background and then coming to the front, with quite some pepper and a little cloves. Gets more bubblegummy after that, with also lemon drops… The finish is quite long, now frankly lemony and peppery. A few drops of water make it fruitier and even simpler (pear juice). This one will not make you scratch your head but it’s certainly very well made. Highly drinkable. 80 points.
Connemara 14 yo 1992/2006 (58.9%, OB for Corman Collins, cask #K92/34 4183) Colour: gold. Nose: much more marked by the wood at first nosing, even more austere and more grassy although less peaty. It’s all on liquorice stick, vanilla, yeast and walnuts, getting even grassier with time (horseradish, chives). Interesting notes of high-end green tea and freshly crushed mint leaves with also a little mustard and hints of paraffin. Quite some vanilla-flavoured tea as well. Very interesting profile but certainly not ‘Irish’ in style. Mouth: sweeter and peatier, powerful but not pungent at all. Lots of apple compote before it gets very spicy and oaky, even sort of prickly. Lots of pepper! Then the rather huge peatiness takes control, truly Islay-style. I don’t know if these first batches were actually peatier at Cooley’s but they certainly taste like if they were. Goes on with notes of quinces and an little cinnamon… Very excellent. Finish: very long, peaty and waxy, with notes of bitter oranges now… It’s an excellent cask, no doubt, certainly in the same league as most middle aged Islayers from the south shore. Or something of Caol Ila? 85 points.

BONUS - THE NEW ARDBEG

Ardbeg 1998/2007 ‘Almost There’ (54.1%, OB, 2007) Here we go, after the two 1998 ‘Very Young’ (for discussion and ‘Committee approved’), that I found too harsh and lacking complexity (79 points) and the 1998 ‘Still Young’, that was already quite better I think (83 points), the trilogy is now complete with this ‘Almost There’ that’ll be available in April. Let’s compare it with a perfect benchmark whisky, the popular Ardbeg Ten (this one bottled around 2004) that everybody knows.

Colour: white wine (slightly paler than the Ten). Nose: certainly closer to the Ten than both the VY and the SY, cleaner than the Ten and a little harsher (and that’s not only the alcohol). We’re also closer to the mash and grains (it smells like the distillery) but certainly peatier, more medicinal and more neatly maritime (a full plate of fresh oysters, with kelp and all that). Slightly milky as well. Less fruity (less apples) than the Ten, less sweet, cleaner and fresher but a little less complex. Indeed, it’s maybe ‘not quite there’ but the profile is ultra-clean. Mouth: ah, it seems to me that the palate is ‘closer’ to maturity than the nose was. No harshness anymore and quite some balance, with a striking pepper – even more pepper than in the Still Young and much more than in the Ten. It seems that a part of the Still Young’s fruitiness disappeared (less ‘new make’ character) and was replaced with that pepper and, curiously, even more peat. Sure it’s no truly complex whisky (yet?) but the cleanliness and ‘purity of style’ is quite spectacular. I’d really love to see what this would give in sherry (but do such sherry casks exist?) Finish: long, balanced, peppery and now also lemony, and of course very peaty. Main difference with the Ten on the palate: more peat and pepper, less apples and liquorice. And it’s cleaner whisky, even if, of course, the Ten is very far from being dirty. Another step forward I think (although there’s probably less difference from the SY than there was between the SY and the VY). Will this be as striking as the Ardbegs from the seventies when it’ll be 20 years old? That’s really possible, ‘if wood permits’. 85 points (btw, this Almost There is fab with chocolate - and thanks, Jean).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: of course we'll go Irish again with the Irish tenors (John McDermott, Anthony Kearns, Ronan Tynan) singing When Irish eyes are smiling.mp3. Right, right... Irish Tenors
 

March 16, 2007


Jameson

TASTING – TWO OLD IRISH FROM THEIR ORIGINAL DISTILLERIES

Jameson (40%, OB, ‘Bow Street Distillery Dublin’, bottled 1970) This one comes from the old Dublin distillery, Jameson being now distilled at Midleton in Cork.

Colour: pale gold. Nose: we have an obvious OBE, but more of the caramelly kind although there’s quite some mustiness and something slightly metallic. The caramel grows even huger with time, with also caramelized peanuts… It gets also more mashy, starting to smell almost like Guinness (which takes the biscuit!) Also hints of very ripe oranges, the whole switching progressively to dustier and more tea-ish notes (with maybe hints of lavender and geranium). Well, it’s very interesting but maybe not really enjoyable, even if it’s not even nearly tired. Mouth: extremely sweet, nutty and cereally and not weak at all, even powerful despite the 40%. Very caramelly again, candied, even a little coffeeish, malty, with notes of burnt cake and overcooked praline. Gets then quite liquoricy and finally more tannic and dry, the medium long finish being mostly on bitter chocolate mixed with fresh apple juice. In short, an unusual style, much less fruity and more cereally and chocolaty than the current Irish but that may well come from bottle age – or from the use of more sherry casks. 78 points.
Power’s Gold (40%, OB, John Power & Sons’, bottled 1960’s) From Jameson’s old rival distillery in Dublin. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much, much less caramelly and toasted as well as closer to Scotch. OBE is less obvious as well, the whole being very grainy, developing then mainly on cornflakes and candy sugar. It gets then more complex, slightly phenolic, with a little eucalyptus, mint, lemon balm, wax and hints of shoe polish. Less demonstrative than the Jameson (even if we have a growing and nice meatiness) but better balanced on the nose, Mouth: a little weaker than the Jameson, but with a closer profile than on the nose. Grainy, candied and cereally, more malty than on the nose as well as fruitier (crystallised oranges and a little coconut). It gets bolder after a moment, liquoricy and a little chocolaty (but less than the Jameson). The finish is a little shorter than the Jameson’s and a little dustier but there’s a nice signature on candy sugar. A little better. 80 points.
 
MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're going Irish again with the obligatory drinking song Bugger off.mp3. I'm sorry, I don't know who's singing it here...
 

March 15, 2007


TASTING – ELEVEN BUSHMILLS
There’s little Irish whiskey on WF – a shame, agreed - but St. Patrick’s Day (its on March 17th) is a good occasion to have a go at a few (well, quite a few in fact) versions. So, today we’ll have eleven Bushmills including an antique, tomorrow it’s going to be two very old Irish whiskeys (some original Jameson and Power’s) and finally, on the 17th, we’ll have eight new Tyrconnels and Connemaras from Cooley’s.
Bushmills
Bushmills NAS (40%, OB, Blend, Ireland, circa 2006) This is a blended whiskey. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not too expressive but nicely grainy and nutty, with lots of freshness, developing on the trademark banana notes as well as a little apple and grape juice. Also a little toasted cake, hints of mastic and a very faint smokiness. Very inoffensive, round and ultra-clean. Mouth: fruity, direct, cereally and again very fruity. We have mostly bananas, dried pears, coconuts and cornflakes. Not weak at all, with a finish that’s medium long, still very fruity and also slightly caramelly. I think I like this better than most regular Scottish blends, for it’s cleaner and livelier. A perfect summer aperitif. 75 points.
Bushmills NAS 'Black Bush' (40%, OB, circa 2006) Black bush is matured entirely in sherry casks. Colour: gold. Nose: grainy again but also more influenced by the wood, with quite some vanilla and a little coffee. Probably less extravagantly fruity than most other Bushmills I already tried. Slight hints of glue, roasted nuts, rum, cake... A little less clean than the regular version, which I like for its cleanliness, precisely. Mouth: maybe too ‘blendish’ this time. It’s got a little more body than the regular version but just like on the nose, it’s less youthful and clean. Quite caramelly, toasted, with indeed a little sherry in the background… The finish is also a little longer but again, less fresh. The whole isn’t bad at all of course, just less… err, fresh. And flawless. 72 points.
Bushmills Malt 10 yo (40%, OB, Matured in two woods, Oloroso & Bourbon, circa 2006) Now it’s malt whiskey. Colour: pale gold. Nose; very sweet and fruity, starting on tons of ripe bananas and quite some pear liquor. It gets frankly bubblegummy after that, with also nice notes of acacia honey and hints of passion fruit and tangerines. Fruits, fruits and fruits here, with maybe just hints of grass and cut flowers. Mouth: very sweet, very honeyed and a little oaky, with notes of coconut. Not too far from a pina colada, I’d say. Or maybe a sweet young Muscat wine like Beaume de Venise, to which you would have added a little nutmeg and cinnamon. The finish is rather long very sweet and fruity as expected but also slightly drying. 74 points.
Bushmills Malt 12 yo ‘Distillery Reserve’ (40%, OB, circa 2006) Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is immediately more complex, with lots of fruits of course but other aromas as well, such as vanilla, fresh butter, old books… Other than that it’s the bananas again but also gooseberries, apples (and their skin), fresh almonds and walnuts… More complex than the 10yo. Mouth: yes, it’s certainly another league. A better mouth feel, lots of body, quite some spices upfront (nice gingery notes), caramel, vanilla fudge, bananas (but of course)… And white pepper, cinnamon… And always lots of ginger. Very good, and the finish is rather long, on something like bananas dipped into cinnamon sauce and rose jelly… Muscat? I like this one, it’s a bottle to have in your summer bar. 82 points.
Old Bushmills ‘Special Old Liqueur’ (75°proof, OB, 1950’s) Colour: pale amber. Nose: wow, there certainly is the ‘Bushmills character’ (the bananas are very present) but the whole is much more candied, even smoother, and more complex than the recent versions. All these additional aromas do come from bottle maturing, as they are close to what we get with old Scotch. Actually, this old Bushmills is closer to Scotch Malt whisky than its younger brothers. So, besides the bananas, we have lots of coffee (more sherry, for sure), leather polish, metal polish, beeswax… And then it’s a little camphor, mint and eucalyptus like often with old bottles. No mustiness, though. A superb nose. Mouth: much, much closer to the current versions at the attack, which makes sense, as old bottle effect is usually much stronger on the nose than on the palate. So, we have bananas (right), caramel, nougat, cereals, ginger, fudge… Then maybe faint hints of metal… Lots of tea after a moment, tannins… Gets weaker and a little drying, especially at the not too long finish, which is more fragile and slightly indefinite now. In a nutshell, a great, great nose but a palate that’s more so-so and that all youngsters dominate HtoH (but it’s not worn out at all despite the 50 years in glass). 78 points (the nose is worth 85+).
Bushmills
Bushmills Malt 16 yo (40%, OB, Matured in two woods, Oloroso & Bourbon, Finished in Port Pipes, circa 2006) Colour: full gold. Nose: much more ‘serious’ than the younger Bushmills, also more austere, more ‘Scottish’ whatever that means. Quite malty, with quite some coffee, roasted nuts and cornflakes... Raisins, very ripe apricots… Then we have notes of farmyard, wet wood, moss, mushrooms… Gets rounder and smoother after a while, with notes of, yes, bananas (but flambéed this time). Most pleasant. Mouth: sweeter again, closer to the regular 10 yo but better balanced and a little less sweetish, although we have a lot of that long yellow fruit starting with a b.. Also oakier, with notes of ‘arranged’ rum (rum with slices of that fruit). The finish isn’t too long but nicely sweet and rummy (just a tad drying), the whole being very enjoyable and very drinkable whisky. 82 points.
Bushmills 21 yo Madeira Finish (40%, OB, circa 2006) Nose: much nicer than last time I tasted this ‘expression’ (I didn’t like it when I first had it, a few years ago, but I remember I had some Scotch before and I don’t think Scotch and Irish go well together). Nice notes of farmyard just like in the 16 yo as well as smoked tea. Truly a fino character. Gets drier, and maybe a tad sour (old cask) but that’s nice here. Also hints of walnut bur and something that resembles peat. Gets also fruiter and even flowery with time (roses, lychees, Muscat). Mouth: it’s roughly the same profile as the 16yo’s (very sweet) but there’s much more wood in the background. So, besides the Haribo sweets, the very ripe pineapples, the lychees and that yellow fruit, we have quite some white pepper, cinnamon, just a little nutmeg and hints of liquorice. Also a nice nuttiness and a little coffee. The finish is also longer than the 16yo’s, spicier. This 21 yo is more exuberant than the 16 yo but I like the latter a tad better. So, 81 points for the ‘21’.
Bushmills ‘sherry - bottled 2002’ (53.7%, OB, cask #7427) No age or vintage statement on this one, which is weird. Colour: plain gold. Nose: this ones starts straight on oak and vanilla, with little sherry at first nosing. It gets then quite fruity but not overly so, with quite some bananas (of course), butter pears and notes of pollen. The wine wakes up after a while, but it’s rather of the muscaty kind, with something that reminds me of some fresh sweet muscat from Corsica. Then it’s back on freshly sawn oak, with also hints of lavender honey (which doesn’t quite smell like lavender, don’t worry). A very clean and straightforward nose. Mouth: now it’s much sweeter and fruitier, with even lots of fructose, icing sugar, kiwi and mandarins… Very spicy as well, with lots of white pepper. Somewhat hot but very drinkable, slightly bourbonny. The sherry is very, very discreet. Finish: very long, dryer and maybe a little too spirity (kirsch) but with a welcomed bitterness that sort of cuts the sweetness off. Very good and globally quite dry. 86 points.
Bushmills 1984/1996 (57%, OB for Celtic Whisk(e)y, cask #11758) From a dark sherry cask. Colour: mahogany with bronze hues. Nose: it’s the sherry that takes control right from the start here, and we may well have been near Ballindalloch or Elgin – there’s little ‘Bushmillness’ here. Now, it’s a rather fantastic dry sherry, with lots of walnuts, wax polish, leather and Smyrna raisins, coffee… And then the expected meatiness (game) but no mint and no eucalyptus that I can get. But bananas… (flambéed with rum). Very excellent, it seems that Bushmills is an excellent base malt for heavy sherry maturing, I hope it’s not a thing from the past. Mouth: a rather fantastic attack, with that mix of fruitiness from the spirit with the huge sherry that make it taste like a great old cognac (or maybe rum). We have all kinds of raisins, dates, prunes, chocolate and praline, orange liqueur, with a nice waxiness and notes of coffee-flavoured toffee. Very excellent at just 12yo. Finish: very long, very sherried, not drying at all and certainly not cloying… (although I wouldn’t say it’s ethereal). Maybe the best Irish I ever had, and it’s not only thanks to the sherry. 90 points (many thanks, Konstantin)
Bushmills ‘rum - bottled 2000’ (54.4%, OB, cask #7111, 153 bottles) Fully matured in a rum cask. Colour: straw. Nose: much more discreet at first nosing but maybe more elegant, with the usual fruitiness being sort of tamed by the rum – or so it seems. Apples, bananas and pears with a little candy sugar and an unusual grassiness as well as something delicately mashy (heavily buttered mashed potatoes like Joël Robuchon did in his older Parisian restaurant, 50% butter and 50% potatoes). We have also quite some flowery notes, pollen, light honey and hints of vanilla crème… Rather dainty, I’d say. Mouth: excellent attack, again with maybe more balance and delicacy despite the huge fruitiness (you see what I mean, don’t you). Nice notes of bergamots and candy sugar, caramel-topped pears, nougat, halva… And a long finish, maybe a little more MOTR now, more simply sweet and fruity. Much closer to a ‘regular’ Bushmills than the 1984 of course and very good. 85 points.
Bushmills 1993 ‘bourbon’ (56.5%, OB for LMdW Paris, cask #298, 2006) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more concentrated and certainly much oakier on the nose. Lots of vanilla and that yellow fruit. Gets truly fragrant with time, with lots of caramel and immense notes of pollen and coconuts. Cask strength Malibu? Not complicated at all and hugely expressive, with something ‘modern’. ‘Parkerised’ whiskey? Mouth: the huge coconut notes are here again, as well as quite some bubblegum and marshmallows. Extremely exuberant, with lots of sweetness both from the spirit and from the cask, clearly bourbonny but even sweeter than most bourbons. Truly a fruitbomb (or a coconutbomb). Hints of ginger as well… And did I mention bananas? Finish: not as long as it’s siblings and also a little simpler, with the above mentioned fruits and quite some lactones on the tongue. A wham-bam Bushmills – warning, it’s hugely drinkable despite the 56.5% (and despite its slightly optimistic price, 145 Euros). 84 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: of course it's Irish (inspired) music today and they are The Frame playing One Irish rover.mp3. Please buy their music... The Frames
March 2007 - part 1 <--- March 2007 - part 2 ---> April 2007 - part 1


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

Benriach 12 yo 1994/2006 (58.9%, Signatory, Château d'Yquem finish, cask #06/143/33, 323 bottles)

Prestonfield House Malt 10 yo (43%, Prestonfield, late 1980’s)

Bowmore 25 yo (43%, OB, 2007)

Bowmore 38 yo 1968/2007 (42.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3827)

Bushmills 1984/1996 (57%, OB for Celtic Whisk(e)y, cask #11758)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers for Montenegro in Zola, cork cap, early 1980’s)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers for Carpano in Torino, twist cap, rotation 1973)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers for Montenegro in Zola, cork cap, early 1980’s)

Longmorn 1990/2005 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, casks #30111/30112)

Longmorn 30 yo 1976/2006 (59.7%, Kingsbury, bourbon cask)

Longmorn 1976/2006 (54.3%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #5879)

Rosebank 1981/2006 (43%, Daily Dram)