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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2014 - Part 1
       

February 2014 - part 2 <--- March 2014 - part 1 ---> March 2014 - part 2

 

March 14, 2014


Whiskyfun

A bag of cereal-based drinks and whiskies

From the rest of the world, as the Scots would say. Well actually, we’ll have something Scottish, but some of these won’t be whisky as such, although all were made out of cereals…

Watt Dickie (35%, OB, Brew Dog, Scotland, ice distilled beer, +/-2013)

Watt Dickie (35%, OB, Brew Dog, Scotland, ice distilled beer, +/-2013) Let’s simply quote the brewers: ‘Watt Dickie is the first genuine innovation in spirits for 200 years. Hell, maybe longer. Definitely longer. This is an insanely amplified IPA masquerading as a spirit. A faux spirit, a dead spirit, a new spirit. Born as an India Pale Ale, Watt Dickie then undergoes patent pending (and consequently for now secret) freezing alchemy which transforms the beer into a high octane roller coaster of flavour, craftsmanship, originality and audacity.” All right, let’s see! Colour: deep red amber. Nose: thick beer. I’m no beer expert and I’m not even exactly a beer drinker, but this smells of heavy beer, stout style. Also reminds me of some Belgians, such as the heaviest Rochefort or Westvleteren. So I do not detect much differences at this point, not too sure the aromas have actually been amplified. Mouth: waaaaah! Thick, rich, hugely sour, sweet and bitter at the same time. The alcohol doesn’t even feel much, but indeed the flavours have been amplified a lot. A lot of caramel, malt extracts… And again, dark trappist. Fun stuff but I wouldn’t say it’s very drinkable… Finish: extremely long, and that may be the problem. Tends to wreck your palate. Comments: very heavy and unbalanced stuff, but I guess it’s more a record-breaker than something that was meant for drinking. For die-hard beer aficionados only? SGP:680 - 60 points (but I have very little experience so please don’t take my score into account).

Polugar 'Single Malt Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013)

Polugar 'Single Malt Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013) Three stars This is the original pot still vodka aka breadwine, made by Russian vodka historian Boris Rodionov. The rye is malted, then triple distilled. Colour: white. Nose: definitely more expressive than any vodka, and definitely close to pastries, croissant, fresh brioche and various herbs and vegetables, all sweet. Jerusalem artichoke? Green bananas?... There’s also a floral side (orange blossom) and a very pleasant earthiness. Roots. Very engaging nose if you like what’s close to the raw materials. Mouth: the low strength is a handicap, but otherwise it’s a fine, rather elegant spirit, on sweet bread, brioche, oranges, honey, liquorice and coriander. Then more and more caraway and cumin, there’s definitely a feeling of aquavit, but without the addition of anything ‘extra’. Natural aquavit. Finish: not very long but pleasantly bready. Liquorice and caraway seeds in the aftertaste. Comments: an excellent spirit in my opinion, too bad the price is very hefty (around €140 a bottle!) SGP:441 - 80 points.

Speaking of vodka…

Fair (40%, OB, France, quinoa vodka, +/-2013)

Fair (40%, OB, France, quinoa vodka, +/-2013) Do not ask me why I’m trying this vodka on WF, I for one have no ideas… Maybe because it’s ‘fair trade’? Or because it’s made out of quinoa? Because it’s French? Btw, I have to apologize, according to Wikipedia, quinoa isn’t even a cereal, it’s a ‘pseudocereal’. Serious! Colour: white. Nose: not much, maybe a smokiness. A little soot? Mouth: not my cup of spirit, it tastes of alcohol, just like most vodkas in my very short experience. All right, maybe there, in the background, these notes of smoked gravel (or something like that). Finish: short, sweet. Comments: I’m sure it’s one of the best vodkas. The problem is that most vodkas are emasculated spirits in my opinion (don’t shoot, dear vodka aficionados…) Oh and this company are making great rums by the way! SGP:231 - 50 points.

Starka 25 yo (50%, OB, Piastowska, Poland, aged rye vodka)

Starka 25 yo (50%, OB, Piastowska, Poland, aged rye vodka) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather herbaceous and earthy, I find some caraway like in the Polugar, some bitter chocolate, then funny notes of tomato stems, gingerbread, German Christmas cake (spicier than the British version), dill, juniper berries… And then more cereals, rye, white bread, clay, charcoal… It’s a likeable nose, it’s pretty complex stuff and while some aspects hint at Scotch, others make it pleasantly unusual. Well made spirit. Mouth: there’s a sweetness that’s maybe a tad ‘too much’ (corn syrup, very sweet gingerbread), but the herbal and spicy side is most engaging. Some kind of honeyed gin, perhaps, or caraway liqueur yet again. Touches of dry oak in the background. Finish: very long, always very sweet and spicy. Ginger-flavoured chocolate with honey and juniper. Comments: it’s a good spirit in my opinion. Maybe not €200-good, but good. ‘Almost whisky’, I’d say. SGP:650 - 79 points.

The Real Highlander 10 yo 2003/2013 (46%, Waldhaus am See, Switzerland, cask #2, 321 bottles)

The Real Highlander 10 yo 2003/2013 (46%, Waldhaus am See, Switzerland, cask #2, 321 bottles) Four stars A new Swiss highlander matured in an ex-Islay cask provided by Signatory Vintage ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: hey, this is nice! A rather austere smoke, around coal rather than peat, with also plenty of gentian and other Alpine roots. Did they throw some into the still? It’s all very clean, pure, also very nicely herbal (fennel, maybe) and slightly medicinal (more gentian). Well done! Mouth: very funny, and very good, I think. It’s a different kind of smoke, there’s a wee feeling of liquid smoke actually (beech?), with some salt and some lemon as well as touches of pasticine. And the gentian is back again! Finish: long, lemony, smoky, earthy. Very fresh. Comments: well done! I don’t quite know what should be attributed to the ex-Islay cask, but I find this Highlander very excellent. Especially because of the gentian! SGP:465 - 86 points.

While we’re in Switzerland…

Langatun 'Old Deer' (40%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013)

Langatun 'Old Deer' (40%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013) Three stars This is a single malt. Probably pretty young. Colour: straw. Nose: rather austere, porridgy. Bread, vanilla, juniper and barley. Rather unaromatic but honest, it seems. Mouth: not bad! Oranges, sweet barley, praline and light honey. Also sultanas. Good body. Finish: rather short but clean, sweet, barleyish. More oranges and sweet beer in the aftertaste. Comments: very good sweet light malt whisky, without make-up from some too active oak. I’m rather impressed. SGP:531 - 80 points.

Langatum 'Old Bear' (40%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013)

Langatum 'Old Bear' (40%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013) Two stars This one is the peated version of Langatun. What’s a little scarier is that it was matured in Châteauneuf-du-Pape casks. A clash to be expected? Colour: gold. Nose: gasp! This is strange, not off-putting but strange. The spicy winey side and the smoke do not work too well together (who said as usual, who?), there are curious notes of tomato sauce, Maggi, peppered muesli, beef stock, salami… In short, a whole pizza ;-). Mouth: rather weird, not bad but weird. I find salami again, smoky tea, some earth, oyster-plant, drops of pastis, smoked fish… What a funny combo! I never tried anything like this. Finish: quite long, with… sweet tomato? Comments: I find it better than what you may have thought while reading my notes, in no small measure thanks to it’s strangeness, always welcome when you try a lot of whiskies. SGP:363 - 73 points.

Langatun 'Old Deer Cask Proof' (62%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013)

Langatun 'Old Deer Cask Proof' (62%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2013) Three stars This is the high proof version of the unsmoked one, matured in sherry cask. Colour: dark gold. Nose: this is bizarre, it smells like bourbon. Pencil shavings, coconut, vanilla and pale syrup, then more raisins and geranium flowers. With water: same. Was it really a sherry cask? Mouth (neat): very strong but creamy and fruity, again more bourbony rather than sherry-like. Vanilla and maple syrup, big time. Grenadine. With water: good! Honey and pepper, grenadine syrup, tinned pineapples, vanilla, a little coconut. Finish: long, sweet, balanced, easy. Comments: quite different from the version at 40%. I like this. SGP:630 - 81 points.

A last one, another smoked Swiss…

Whisky Castle 'Smoke Barley' (43%, OB, Switzerland, cask #483, +/-2011)

Whisky Castle 'Smoke Barley' (43%, OB, Switzerland, cask #483, +/-2011) Two stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: smoked porridge and oatcakes! Also baker’s yeast, leaven, fresh bread… And grapefruits. I find this nose much, much nicer and better balanced than other whiskies by Whisky Castle. Mouth: indeed, this works nicely. A pleasant salty smokiness on cereals, various kinds of bread and spicy herbs and seeds. Mustard? Finish: quite long, smoky, salty, peppery and always nicely balanced. Too bad the aftertaste is a little too drying, loses one or two points here. Comments: I find this baby quite impressive, I wasn’t expecting this level of quality – and peatiness. SGP:344 - 79 points.

(with thanks to Franco, Jon and Michal)

 

 

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Block Today: (not that challenging) JAZZ. Performer: Albert Ayler. Track: Love Cry. Please buy his music...
 
 

March 13, 2014


Whiskyfun

Cardhu, Cardhu and Cardhu

Diageo are really ultra-active these days, quite a departure from their former pretty self-confident ‘just people and their products’ approach. That translates into truckloads of new bottlings, all coming with a good dose of branding, stories, sometimes louder packaging, and, more and more often… no age. Mind you, without any age statement, you’d better have a good story and a funny name! I think the brand new Cardhu “Amber Rock” (sounds a bit like the name of a Blue Oyster Cult cover band, doesn’t it) is a good example, let’s try it… But first, aperitifs as usual… 

Cardhu 12 yo (43%, OB, Wax & Vitale Italy, pale vatting, late 1970’s)

Cardhu 12 yo (43%, OB, Wax & Vitale Italy, pale vatting, late 1970’s) Five stars These excellent old Cardhus came in various colours, form quite dark almost-sherry monsters to almost white full-refill versions. It’s one of those that we’re now having. Please note that it’s the version that has “12 years old” on a neck label, not on the main label. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: yeah I know, its probably not very fair to have this old glory as the aperitif, as it may overshadow its more modern siblings. Forget about ‘may’, it will for sure. What’s also sure is that the nose is much firmer, more ‘old Highlands’ in style than contemporary Cardhu, with some engine oil, linseed oil, camphor, ‘old toolbox’, coins, Barbour grease and gravel, then more delicate floral touches (nectar) and tangerines. A rather marvellous dry-ish nose, very complex. Mouth: perfect! Very old Highland again, greasy, phenolic, mineral, greatly metallic (yup there’s good metal and there’s bad metal), with some clay, chalk, then superb notes of citrons, lemons and grapefruits. A great white Sancerre! Finish: maybe not extremely long but it got beautifully earthy and even more phenolic. Clay indeed. Comments: not fair to the others, not fair… SGP:353 - 90 points.

Cardhu 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Cardhu 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars I first tried this fairly new one three years ago and found it simply pleasant (WF 78), let’s see if this newer batch has more stamina. Colour: dark gold. Nose: completely different from the old 12, but seemingly more complex and more appealing than the earlier batch of the 15. It’s really an entry-level malt whisky that won’t offend anyone, especially not blend drinkers who’ll find in this a small extra-kick. I quite like these notes of Ovaltine, roasted nuts, the small touches of plasticine, the milk chocolate and the honey. Very easy. Also whiffs of roses and tarte tatin. Mouth: sure it’s struggling a bit after the old 12, but things aren’t as bad as I had feared. There’s an elegant fruitiness (apple pie), a nice caramel, quite some malt ala Ovaltine again, marmalade, cake and brioche, honey… It’s really honest, just not immensely interesting. Finish: short, malty and honeyed. Spicier aftertaste, with a little juniper, maybe. Becoming a little bitter. Comments: I could sip this! I was ready to go to 80 but the bitterness in the aftertaste didn’t quite work for me. So… SGP:431 - 79 points.

Cardhu ‘Amber Rock’ (40%, OB, 2014)

Cardhu ‘Amber Rock’ (40%, OB, 2014) Three stars This new baby was double-matured in toasted American oak. Should we expect a vanilla bomb? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a slightly fresher version after the 15, I doesn’t seem that the vanilla and the lactones are overwhelming, in fact we’re rather having more fresh garden fruits (around ripe gooseberries and greengages) and then certainly quite some bubblegum and marshmallows, together with very faint touches of varnish, which is absolutely not unpleasant in this context. It seems that the treatment has worked – so far. Mouth: the 15 yo with more creaminess, this one has almost the texture of sunflower oil! I think it worked indeed, the vanilla isn’t ‘too much’ and I don’t even find any coconut, although there is a little more ginger and other spices indeed. Cinnamon, for example. Finish: of medium length, with a feeling of speculoos and acacia honey. Maybe touches of rosewater? Comments: there, we found the point that was missing in the 15 yo! SGP:541 - 80 points.

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

 

 

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Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Blue Mitchell. Track: the wonderful ballad Alone, Alone And Alone. Please visit his website and buy his music...
 
 

March 12, 2014


Whiskyfun

A trio of young Bowmore and more

More new independent Bowmore around, nothing to complain about, obviously.

Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (50.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (50.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this is mescal. Really, his is mescal. Same smoky and briny profile as that of a great Minero, for example. Capers, moss, sea water, olives, tar. It’s not not hugely smoky/peaty, in fact, but it’s an absolutely stunning fatty distillate. Mouth: immediate and utterly brilliant. Sure it’s young, and sure it’s no peat bomb, and sure it’s less clean/pure/chiselled/whatnot than earlier distillates such as those from the mid 1990s, but I adore this petroly, olivy, briny style. Glen Oaxaca! Finish: not very long, but with a great smoky tar and notes of candy sugar, not obligatorily odd in this context. Comments: smashing fully distillate-driven bottle. Only the sweetness in the finish might be a notch excessive, but that could be me. Misses the 90-mark because of that. I’ll say it, why can’t the distillers themselves issue such casks? SGP:546 - 89 points.

Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (53.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #20188, 179 bottles)

Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (53.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #20188, 179 bottles) Five stars We’re expecting something similar… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this one’s rather less immediate and has got a little butter and bakers’ yeast at first nosing, and a rather different kind of sourness/brine. But that doesn’t last for long and then we’ve got… intense mescal again. Smoke, brine, olives and capers. After two minutes, yeast and butter have gone for good, and it gets globally (even) more tarry than the Fässle. Mouth: perfekkkt. Lime tar smoke brine kiwis olive brine lemon kippers grass petrol (watch your commas, S.!) Finish: mescal for a long time. Comments: one of the nicest distillates over there. These indies are doing the greatest of jobs if you ask me. Well selected, Doris and Herbert! Oops, forgot to add water… SGP:547 - 90 points.

Bw3 (51.6%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2013)

Bw3 (51.6%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2013) Four stars Not sure it’s Bowmore, this could also be Bwichladdich. Haha. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really the smoke that strikes first, but it’s charcoal and even exhausts rather than plain peat. A feeling of liquid smoke (not saying they’ve used any, of course!) then a lot of plasticine, ashes, fresh paint… And then more cut grass as well as more and more dirty oil, graphite, coal… Lastly, a wee touch of antiseptic. Rather less briny than others at this point. Mouth: very big, with more citrusy touches than in the others, especially limoncello, pink grapefruits… Other than that it’s very smoky again, not very coastal, and perhaps a little more ashy rather than smoky – but it remains very smoky Bowmore. Finish: very long, always very citrusy and slightly liqueury. Also this feeling of engine oil and grease again. A sugariness in the aftertaste. Comments: this baby’s pretty different. It’s maybe not exactly my favourite kind of young Bowmore (because of the sweeter side), but it remains grand whisky for sure. SGP:557 - 87 points.

Maybe we could also kill a few oldish 1989s before they kill us, what do you think? No, I’m joking, these should be all relatively good, if unusual…

Bowmore 10 yo 1989/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 402 bottles) Three stars These batches keep haunting us! Colour: gold. Nose: fine! Something sweet, some fudge, some brine and a very moderate peatiness. Around pickled fruits and chutneys. Mouth: starts nice, quite smoky and very briny as usual, but the lavender and Parma violets are soon to make it through, although that’s not too offensive in this baby. By far not the most FWP-ed 1989 Bowmore. Finish: quite long, the salt fighting the lavender. Comments: really very drinkable, but the soap’s apparent. SGP:544 - 80 points.

Bowmore 22 yo 1989/2011 (43.9%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, bourbon) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: different, no odd sweetness, rather old wool, beach sand, bonfire and litres of seawater. Maybe a few tiny wet dogs too (yes we’re sorry, dogs). Pleasant mustiness. Mouth: hurray, the lavender is kept at bay, I’m not even sure there is any. Rather a big salty and peppery smokiness, oysters, lemons, gherkins, litres of brine… Feels bigger than 44% vol. Finish: long and very briny. Comments: not as ‘chiselled’ as distillates from the late 1990s and the whole 2000s, but certainly going there. In fact, I like it a lot. SGP:466 - 88 points.

Bowmore 17 yo 1989/2007 (51.9%, Dewar Rattray, bourbon, cask #7914, 222 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: a sucrosity this time, a feeling of jelly beans or babies, marshmallows… But after that, the rest is rather lovely, with brine, seaweed, a little coal smoke, almonds… So rather fine so far. Mouth: no, wait, there is this lavendery soapiness, pretty much on the same level as with the DL. The encounter with the salt is quite explosive. Having said that, it tends to improve a lot, and the lavender gracefully fades away. Good riddance! Finish: quite long, salty, with grapefruits. Comments: I find it good, but we’re far from the impeccable TWA. SGP:445 - 82 points.

Bowmore 12 yo 1989/2001 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Whisky Galore) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a little indefinite, perhaps. A little yoghurt, sour apples, brine, seaweed… Mouth: it’s quite clean! Instead of Parma violets or lavender sweets, there’s a lot of orange squash, grapefruits, Schweppes and, as always, brine. Not a lot of peat smoke, though, and it tends to lose steam. Finish: quite long, rather clean, briny and very grapefruity. Comments: no blade like modern distillations, but I think it was rather one of the good young ones at the time. SGP:443 - 82 points.

Bowmore 1989/2011 (51.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11004, 238 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this time it’s a farmyardy one, with some hay and dried seaweed, then more vanilla, butterscotch, a little aniseed… No peat monster once again. Mouth: big citrus and a very minimal FWP if any. Litres of grapefruit juice, a little salt, then more strong green tea, which makes it slightly acrid. Zests. It’s also a little mineral, which is very nice. Finish: long, saline, with also some pepper. Comments: I really enjoyed this one. SGP:555 - 86 points.

All right, a last one, a 1988 this time…

Bowmore 12 yo 1988/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry, 702 bottles) Two stars and a half Sherry + Bowmore from those times can be very whacky in my experience. Colour: full gold. Nose: how very weird! Leather polish, rotting oranges and exhaust fumes, plus dried kelp and brand new rubber bands. Ermnlmnr… Mouth: well, I must say that this sweetness is that extreme, that it can be seen as an asset, in a way. Cassis flavoured jell-O, cranberry juice, blood oranges, Turkish delights… All that with brine and smoke, no need to say. Very bizarre but quite funny. Finish: not very long. More blood oranges and a little soap this time. Comments: could have been much worse! Huge fruitiness for Bowmore. SGP:743 - 78 points.

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

 

 

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Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Paul Bley with Annette Peacock. Sadly the sound isn't too good but this is a stunning example of the early use of synths in jazz. Track: Mr. Joy. Please visit their websites and buy their music...
 
 

March 11, 2014


Whiskyfun

Three 40 yo Glenfiddich,
well a little more than that

Not a very joyful session because this may be the very last time we can line up three forty years old Glenfiddich, including two indies. But let’s not be sad and spoil our pleasure ourselves if you don’t mind… Because these old ‘fiddichs can be absolutely amazing!

Glenfiddich 40 yo ‘Release No. 9’ (41.7%, OB, 600 bottles, 2013)

Glenfiddich 40 yo ‘Release No. 9’ (41.7%, OB, 600 bottles, 2013) Five stars According to the official website, it seems that some 40yos are bottled at 40% sharp, but this version was bottled at the seemingly natural strength of 41.7%. I had adored another 40yo that had been bottled in 2011 (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: a whole basket of fresh fruits, both tropical ones and western ‘orchardy’ ones, with drops of mint and olive oils as well as a little thuja wood from the oak (don’t ask). Mangos, apples, peaches, guavas… Also some polished wood, I would imagine the dashboard of a brand new Rolls-Royce (sure, Serge, sure…), then more aromatic herbs, vetiver, wormwood, dill, fennel… And lastly, touches of old vin jaune or fino sherry. I found a cognacqy side in earlier expressions, and that’s what I’m finding again in this one. Mouth: first, balance was found. Second, the oak remains un-drying. And third, all the fruits are back, from mangos to apples and apricots. There’s a lightness that’s not light at all, if you see what I mean, and really a lot of elegance. No big mouth feel though, but this baby’s got a talent for repartee, so to speak. Responsive. Finish: surprisingly long, very fruity, just with more polished wood again. Cough lozenges. Comments: I think it’s rather fresher, fruitier and lighter than earlier expressions. It’s also pretty expensive, I’ve seen it at €2,500. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Glenfiddich Cadenhead

Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 41 yo 1973/2014 (43.1%, Cadenhead, single cask) Five stars Cadenhead had already issued quite a handful of Glenfiddich 1973 in the past, but I’d say not all of them were utterly brilliant. Excellent, yes, but brilliant, no. Now, the 1963s were stellar ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a shier version of the official at first nosing, rather less on fresh fruits and more on dried ones. Figs, raisins, dates, pear slices… I also find more yellow flowers, roses, beeswax, then hay and grass, tea, chardonnay (I mean, real chardonnay from Burgundy, of course ;-)), distant whiffs of musk… Having said all that, it tends to get almost as aromatic as the OB, but with rather less sappy/resinous tones, and certainly less tropical fruits. In fact, it’s a lovely nose, very elegant.

Mouth: oh! It’s almost exactly the official, only with more oomph and more ‘chiselness’. Well, that’s what you feel at first sips, but it tends to become more complex over time, with these herbal teas that we all like so much, fruity herbs (lemon balm), citrons, oranges, funny touches of salt, some sweet barley (after 41 years!), even touches of Glenfiddich’s trademark pears… In fact, it never stops getting better. This is one of these old movie-malts that we enjoy so much. Brilliant, and amazingly zesty. Finish: long, just a notch grittier this time. Loses one point – there! Comments: give this one a little time and it’ll really deliver. Not my business of course but I think Cadenhead shouldn’t have bottled their other 1973s so… early. Glenfiddich ages well! Since we were talking about prices, the price for this is around five times lower than that of the official. SGP:561 - 92 points.

Glenfiddich 40 yo 1964/2005 (47.5%, Hart Brothers, sherry cask)

Glenfiddich 40 yo 1964/2005 (47.5%, Hart Brothers, sherry cask) Full sherry this time! Colour: red mahogany. Nose: we’re leaving the whisky universe and sailing towards… Guyana. Indeed, I don’t see many differences between this old Glenfiddich and a Port Mourant of similar age, for example. It’s funny because while the OB was hinting at cognac and this one at rum, only Cadenhead’s was really ‘full whisky’. So Demerara sugar, olive oil, heavy liquorice, pitch, sugar cane, pine wood, then walnuts, maybe… Anyway, great old ru…, I mean, whisky. Mouth: excuse me? Did YOU add some cologne to this whisky? Did YOU add geranium stems too? I’m trying hard to find nicer notes hidden behind this soapy barrage, but I just can’t. Maybe blood oranges? Pink grapefruits? Seriously, it does improve a bit ‘around blood oranges’, but that’s probably because our body and brain tend to filter offensive smells and flavours. Finish: long, but simply very soapy and violety. Comments: loved the nose, and that’s why we won’t be too harsh (who cares anyway, this is an old bottling), but the palate is simply flawed. SGP:641 - 65 points.

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

 

 

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Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: John Mclaughlin in 1970. Track: Dragon Song. (play out loud!) Please visit his website and buy his music...
 
 

March 10, 2014


Whiskyfun

A trio of high-flying Glentauchers

Glentauchers is another name that we’re seeing more often these days although G&M have often bottled some.

Glentauchers 1997/2013 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #5580)

Glentauchers 1997/2013 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #5580) Four stars and a half Colour: dark red amber. Nose: Rivesaltes and old Port! Serious, this is more some old, high-quality fortified wine. Which, naturally, I love. Walnut liqueur, raisins, cedar wood, rancio, old balsamic vinegar, hot caramel, then more mocha, zwetschke pie with cinnamon, whiffs of chartreuse and bénédictine, tarte tatin, more caramel… Very spectacular, wide and yet compact and kind of immediate… This starts well! With water: some lovely pine wood smoke is coming through, as well as a little cough syrup. A medicinal Glentauchers? Mouth (neat): it’s heavy, extractive, concentrated and yet it remained elegant. A lot of polished wood, more walnuts, some bitter herbs and liqueurs, then more fruits such as blood oranges, then more slightly acrid spices, around cloves… A big boy for sure, from a great cask. A little extreme but some extremities are simply lovely (hold on!) With water: Moroccan spice mix and prunes. Finish: long, this time with more bitter oranges. Comments: a spectacular baby from a (probably) spectacular cask. Quite massive. SGP:652 – 88 points.

Glentauchers 17 yo 1996/2014 (57.2%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, 146 bottles)

Glentauchers 17 yo 1996/2014 (57.2%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, 146 bottles) Four stars A few friends and good spirits, that’s the way for boutique independent bottlers! The big ones sometimes called them ‘armchair bottlers’, but I’ve already found quite a few wonderful armchairs in the past. Colour: gold. Nose: very different from the G&M, which is normal since the casks aren’t the same at all. This time it all starts with some varnish and both tinned and fresh pineapple, before we find more kiwis, peaches and apple peelings. A new pack of jellybeans. The varnishy side is actually very pleasant, it’s good natural varnish! With water: rather ripe apples with water. Mouth (neat): much in line with the nose, with this combination of ‘good’ varnish and youthful yellow fruits. Pineapples big time, also grapefruits and greengages, then more vanilla. With water: zesty bubblegum and jellybeans. The oak got a little louder. Finish: long, on pepper and pineapple drops. Comments: a spectacular style. Do Haribo now own Glentauchers? SGP:741 - 86 points.

Glentauchers 34 yo 1975/2010 (43.7%, The Taster, Scotch Malt Sales, Japan, cask #8883, 158 bottles)

Glentauchers 34 yo 1975/2010 (43.7%, The Taster, Scotch Malt Sales, Japan, cask #8883, 158 bottles) Four stars and a half A rare bottling by  Whisky Agency and Whisky Fair maestro Carsten Ehrlich. Colour: gold. Nose: lovely! It’s got the complexity that only old ones can display, without being tired or even a bit over the top. Lovely musty fruits, grass and earth, grapefruits, or maybe timut (that Nepalese pepper that reeks of grapefruit), old earthy tea pu-erh style, marzipan, a little barley water, wild mushrooms, a pinhead of sweet mustard, maybe rose petals… All that is very complex and pretty delicate. Wonderful. Mouth: more fruits, more freshness and more herbs. It’s got a Lochsidy side, although the citrus is a notch less expressive here. There’s also some peppermint and even more marzipan and raw almonds, as well as touches of gentian. It’s only after a good twenty seconds in your mouth that more oak starts to appear, with some strong green tea and more cinnamon and white pepper. Finish: medium length. Remains fresh, fruity and with green spices. Grapefruits. Maybe a little less focussed than before? Comments: loved the gentian. A wonderful old yet still fresh Glentauchers. SGP:561 - 89 points.

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

 

 

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March 9, 2014


Whiskyfun

A little tasting, two Auchroisk

Some funny pronunciations are to be heard with Auchroisk. Ohthroskk’, Oyshroysk’, Authrosk’, Oshrosk’, Ohkrosk’… Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Auchroisk 17 yo 1996/2013 (48.2%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill barrel, 208 bottles)

Auchroisk 17 yo 1996/2013 (48.2%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill barrel, 208 bottles) Two stars and a half Refill barrel? You bet, because… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: I sometimes really like these ultra-naked malts that display no oak character whatsoever, while being fully mature and, well, smooth. It’s certainly the case here, this is impeccably barleyish and cherryish at first nosing, while more cut apples, yellow peaches and tangerines start to appear after just a few seconds. There’s also a little chalk and clay but the whole  thing is pretty eau-de-vie-ish, which I find much enjoyable. Love the cherries. Mouth: this is eau-de-vie straight from the still. Plum, I’d say. I could list all the kinds of plums I could think of (or plunder Wikipedia) but that would be too much. So yeah, plum eau-de-vie and just a touch of salt and lemon. Oh, and tequila blanco. Finish: not too long, on, guess what? Plum eau-de-vie. Comments: loved the nose but I have to say I find the palate too narrow and rather immature. Very interesting, I’d say. SGP:541 - 78 points.

Auchroisk 23 yo 1990//2013 (49.8%, Sansibar)

Auchroisk 23 yo 1990//2013 (49.8%, Sansibar) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a little sherry coming through this time, sweet walnuts, orange drops, then touches of rubber (bands) that make it a little raw, but on the other hand, the very fine herbal notes work very well. Some roots and soot, a little aniseed and wormwood, genepy… Quite unclassic and certainly intriguing. Curious about the palate… Mouth: heavy oakiness, this is the opposite of the 1996. A lot of pepper and ginger, an earthiness, a spoonful of very bitter orange marmalade, and only on the background, more civilised dried fruits, such as sultanas and figs. Something slightly tropical too, would that be dried mangos? Also some caramel that makes the whole a little smoother. Actually, it does improve over time… Finish: long, cleaner and fruitier. Lovely oranges, both bitter and ‘regular’. It’s a very nice finish, probably the nicest part of this little Auchroisk. Gains a few more points here. Comments: a bit of a rollercoaster. Not boring! Loved the finish. SGP:551 - 83 points.

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

 

 

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March 7, 2014


Whiskyfun

A bag of strange blended malts

It’s all about building brands without having to rely on a particular distillery or distiller on the middle or long run, that’s why we’re seeing more and more ‘designed’ malt whiskies today. They usually don’t appeal much to the malt enthusiasts, unless the story and the marketing/packaging are ‘funny enough’ to catch attention. Lets have a few examples.

Muckle Flugga Blended Malt (40%, OB, blended malt, +/-2013)

Muckle Flugga Blended Malt (40%, OB, blended malt, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Let me simply copy-and-paste what the excellent Master of Malt had to say about this baby: ‘Muckle Flugga is made by blending together six single malts which are then shipped to Unst, near the Muckle Flugga lighthouse in the Shetlands. The whisky spends a year on the island, surviving the harsh seasons before being returned to the mainland for bottling.’ I told you, you need a story… Colour: straw. Nose: a nice, delicately sooty and smoky nose at first sniffs, then apples, gooseberries and fresh almonds. A little barley water. It’s all pretty light but I enjoy this smoke. Mouth: a funny composition with something agave-y, some apple juice, that peat smoke again, rocks, more apple juice, touches of tar and liquorice… The arrival is fine but the middle is a little weak, probably because of the 40% vol. Finish: relatively short but pleasant? Smoked apple peelings? Touches of salt and some pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this well composed, it’s got something of Poit Dhubh. Do you remember Poit Dhubh? A little weak, though… SGP: 443 - 79 points.

Old Perth ‘Number 2’ (43%, OB, blended malt, +/-2013)

Old Perth ‘Number 2’ (43%, OB, blended malt, +/-2013) Three stars It’s the retro wave that’s striking again this time. Oldness sells. Colour: gold. Nose: less peat, more malt and overripe fruits this time. In a way, it’s quite Chivas-y, with some honey, biscuits, butterscotch, Ovaltine, roasted nuts, apple compote, ripe pears, peaches… In short, we’re almost totally in Speyside (if not in Perth). Mouth: nice! It seems that they’ve used some pretty old malts. So praline, caramel, soft spices (cinnamon’s very obvious) and honey, all that on apple crumble and maybe tarte tatin. Candy sugar. An ultra-classic style, well mastered. Very ‘middle-of-the-road’, in a good way. Finish: not very long, but malty and honeyed. More apple crumble. Comments: could have been Glenlivet if you ask me. Loyal and honest stuff. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Scallywag (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2013)

Scallywag (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2013) Three stars A funny dog, why not. Welcome back, Tintin. There’s only Speyside malts inside. Colour: amber. Nose: the Old Perth at a higher strength. Same feeling of malt, roasted nuts, apple pie, raisins, honeydew and candy sugar. It’s bigger but that’s normal. Goes on with more cider apples and green pears, which actually balances it. Wee touches of rubber, possibly from some sherry casks. Mouth: creamy, fruity, malty. Very close to the Old Perth, the styles are almost identical. So very Speysidy, with a little sherry, overripe apples and pears, honey, cane sugar, caramel, praline, fudge… Finish: quite long, candied and yet relatively light. Marmalade. Comments: good oomph, but there’s some youth that comes out. Very decent, I’d say, which is what I was expecting anyway. ‘Above-blends’ category. SGP:441 - 81 points (we’re making good progress, aren’t we).

High Spirits' 100% Islay Selection 19 yo (46%, High Spirits, blended malt, +/-2011)

High Spirits' 100% Islay Selection 19 yo (46%, High Spirits, blended malt, +/-2011) Two stars A very curious vatting of 90% Bowmore 1989 (watch out!) and 10% Laphroaig 1989. They called that 'Islay Heavy', let's see... Colour: straw. Nose: s.t.r.a.n.g.e. Some warm butter, fermenting coconut, asparagus, then cranberries, floor cloth, seawater, pineapples, apple juice… This baby really loses you. Mouth: grenadine, Parma violets, lavender sweets, brine, smoked osiers, vanilla fudge… A style that we all know well, don’t we? But it’s funny to see the drops of Laphroaig that manage to kind of hide those lavendery notes. Strawberries and salmiak, what would you think of such a combo? Finish: medium long. Smoked fruits, especially blood oranges. Comments: odd, funny, challenging. Obvious FWP. Maybe a little more Laphroaig would have made it better? SGP:534 - 70 points.

 

 

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March 6, 2014


Whiskyfun

A pair of Glenfarclas 17 yo and siblings

The regular Glenfarclas 17 yo is one of these well-known whiskies I’ve never written proper tasting notes for, and that’s a crying shame, agreed. The arrival in WF’s library of a very old 17yo from the 1940s is a good excuse for doing a wee comparative tasting, and maybe we’ll have other Glenfarclasses after those two, we’ll see…

Glenfarclas 17 yo (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Glenfarclas 17 yo (43%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: what strikes me first is a combination of cherry liqueur (guignolet) with drops of pastis, juicy golden raisins (not the dry black ones!) and many herbal teas such as chamomile and rosemary. Then it’s rather caramelised oranges, drops of Pimm’s No. 1, leather and more and more roasted malt and chocolate. It’s pretty complex and aromatic. Mouth: starts very malty, with good body and even a certain roughness. A grassy side, orange zests, quite some oak, more malt, some roasted nuts, some chocolate, chestnuts, apple tart… It’s very robust malt whisky despite a relatively low strength, I find it rather rawer than its siblings in the range. Finish: long, very malt and chocolaty. Slightly bitter aftertaste. Comments: a very fine Glenfarclas, I think, but of course the distillery have many more complex expressions. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 17 yo (91 US proof, US import, +/-1940)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 17 yo (91 US proof, US import, +/-1940) Five stars Most probably Glenfarclas distilled in the 1920s. It was imported by James Sword & Son in New York. If I’m not mistaken 91 proof mean 45.5% vol. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is probably not very fair to the current 17, this baby’s spent more than 70 years in a lovely bottle and has gained an immense complexity, and yet it’s very ‘obvious’ whisky, with a high fruity and phenolic impact. So it’s certainly much more phenolic than the current production, I guess peat was much more in use. At random, I find kumquats, orange blossom honey, charcoal smoke, peat smoke, tiger balm, old crème de menthe, mirabelles, praline straight from the oven and, yes, hashish. It’s becoming more and more resinous! Mouth: absolutely stunning. Absolutely no signs of tiredness and just a massive, immense resinous profile that’s anything but bitter or acrid. Again that specialty from Morocco or Afghanistan ;-), a lot of cough syrup (a cough? Anytime!), chlorophyll, pinesap, then marmalade, dark chocolate, some earth, some roots (gentian, yup), some tobacco, various peppers… All that is very impressive, you just have to enjoy resinous or sappy things as much as I do.  Finish: very long, almost interminable. And always very resinous… Comments: right, this highly resinous profile will not be to everyone’s tastes and that’s why I’ll try to come up with a reasonable score. But who cares after all, these bottles are so rare… SGP:483 - 92 points.

All right, let’s make a short break and then have a few brothers and sisters…

Glenfarclas 1990/2013 (46%, OB, Limited Rare Bottling, Edition No.17, Alexander Selkirk, 1200 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1990/2013 (46%, OB, Limited Rare Bottling, Edition No.17, Alexander Selkirk, 1200 bottles) Four stars A label for Germany that I’ve known for years. Many excellent sherried Glenfarclasses in this series! Colour: red amber. Nose: indeed, deep Glenfarclassy sherry, with wheelbarrows of raisins, prunes and figs plus a light smoke that punctuates it. Plus this feeling of ganache, raspberries… Very nice sherried and rounded richness.  Mouth: drier now, with more coffee, spices and herbs. Cloves, cinnamon… There’s a lot of chocolate as well, especially dark ones, then the usual fruitcake and a few mint drops. Aniseed. Blood oranges. Finish: classic rather old-style Glenfarclas, with good sherry mingled with a rather potent distillate. Calls for chocolate! Comments: I find this extremely good, perfect old style sherry, not too complicated. I mean, not very complex, but excellent. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Let’s try to find another interesting one at relatively low strength… Such as this one:

Findlater’s Mar Lodge 12 yo (43%, Findlater, single malt, France, +/-1985)

Findlater’s Mar Lodge 12 yo (43%, Findlater, single malt, France, +/-1985) Three stars and a half This was ‘a Sportsman’s Malt’ in the good old style, and said to have been Glenfarclas. Hunters like Glenfarclas, don’t they. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very Glenfarclassy, although the sherriness is very subdued. The mirabelles are back, together with these herbal teas that we already found in the modern 17. Also a lot of hay (in the midst of a hot summer) and touches of Virginia tobacco and leather. Wee metallic touches, also. Mouth: quite some smoke, a little pinesap, wormwood, all these herbal teas again, these mirabelles, touches of quinces and just a little liquorice wood. Also a growing marzipan (which could be scary, ha). Finish: relatively long, very clean, with more honey this time and only a mild spiciness. Tiny-wee touches of rubber and cherries in the aftertaste, but that’s nothing. Comments: these bottles are always quite cheap at auctions. Some great surprises can be unearthed. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Glenfarclas 1989/2012 (56.6%, OB, Family Casks, TSMC Taiwan, cask #11046, 591 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1989/2012 (56.6%, OB, Family Casks, TSMC Taiwan, cask #11046, 591 bottles) Five stars With a lovely dragon on the label. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: this nose is both big and delicate, with whiffs of oak (shavings) and rose petals at first nosing, then the expected fruitcake with some raspberry and cherry jams. Cherry and cassis liqueurs, Dijon-style. The active oak makes me even think of some high-end bourbons, imagine. More and more chocolate after a few seconds, it’s almost pure chocolate. With water: more of all that, with more smoothness. A sin! Mouth (neat): extremely aromatic, almost extravagant, concentrated, jammy to the extreme (cassis, raspberry, cherry) and yet pretty elegant. A strong feeling of ripe pomegranates, with a lot of pepper and chilli in the background. With water: various spices come out, ginger, cardamom… Finish: long, more typically oloroso, with Seville oranges, raisins, prunes… A lot of bitter chocolate and mint in the aftertaste. Comments: a very unusual and pretty extreme one, as if it was kind of experimental, in a way. An experiment that worked beautifully – if that ever was an experiment. SGP:571 - 90 points.

A last, older one…

A 1836 founded distillery 1970/2011 (53.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS11025, 55 half-bottles)

A 1836 founded distillery 1970/2011 (53.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS11025, 55 half-bottles) Five stars Of course the mention of 1836 was no obvious proof of the origin of this baby! The equivalent of 55 half-bottles is, I believe, all what was remaining in the cask. Colour: coffee. Nose: perfect rich sherry, and it even remained kind of light and elegant. I mean, some citrus remained to lift it, so to speak. So oranges, figs, raisins, prunes, cappuccino, then more and more chocolate. A lot of chocolate, did Lindt own a distillery? A little mint as well, so that would rather be After Eights. Great nose. With water: a few more grassy and floral notes. Peonies are obvious. Mouth (neat): chocolate liqueur blended with crème de menthe and Cointreau. Also big black cherries. Very impressive, it’s one these rare whiskies that can be both thick/heavy and refined/elegant. Must be the crème de menthe… With water: more wood spices, a feeling of cedar wood, cinnamon, speculoos, bitter oranges… This is absolutely flawless. Finish: long, now very chocolaty again. And minty. I told you, After Eights. Comments: a simply implacable old sherry monster with all the expected attributes, including balance! (yes, despite the heaviness.) SGP:661 - 91 points.

(with thanks to Patrick and the PWWT)

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

 

 

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March 5, 2014


Whiskyfun

The Good Guys are always on the White Horse

White Horse
As far as old Scotch blends are concerned, White Horse is probably the most cult of all large brands and only smaller ones may compete or be even more sought after, all that because White Horse used to be full of Lagavulin, which was the brand’s home distillery. White Horse is still being made today but it seems that it’s lost a part of its former prestige.

White Horse (70° proof, OB, for N.A.A.F.I. stores, H.M. Forces, 1960s) N.A.A.F.I. stands for Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, so shops for British military staff, both in the UK and overseas. This is a UK bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very peaty and ashy and instantly reminds me of the current Lagavulin 16yo, with these notes of new rubber boots and tar. There’s a lot of brine as well, some ink, old books in an old attic in an old house, some seaweed, leather, a bit of sweet mustard and quite some pepper. It’s a very dry nose, the malt content is probably very high. Touches of manure coming through after a few minutes. Mouth: very big peat! It’s to be wondered why, while peaty malts are so fashionable these days, to my knowledge no big brands make some heavily peated blend anymore. Not talking about boutique ventures. So peat, then bitter oranges and a lot of brine/salt, green olives, sour apples, a little marzipan, some pepper… Now it also tends to become a little cardboardy, but that never gets embarrassing. The body’s impressive at just 40% vol. – probably only 37 or 38 after all these years in glass. Finish: long and massively salty. Almost pure smoked brine. More mint and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: a beast. I don’t know how much Lagavulin was added to this mix but that wouldn’t surprise me if someone said 40 or 50%. SGP:264 - 90 points.

White Horse (70° proof, OB, for N.A.A.F.I. stores, H.M. Forces, 1960s) Five stars N.A.A.F.I. stands for Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, so shops for British military staff, both in the UK and overseas. This is a UK bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very peaty and ashy and instantly reminds me of the current Lagavulin 16yo, with these notes of new rubber boots and tar. There’s a lot of brine as well, some ink, old books in an old attic in an old house, some seaweed, leather, a bit of sweet mustard and quite some pepper. It’s a very dry nose, the malt content is probably very high. Touches of manure coming through after a few minutes. Mouth: very big peat! It’s to be wondered why, while peaty malts are so fashionable these days, to my knowledge no big brands make some heavily peated blend anymore. Not talking about boutique ventures. So peat, then bitter oranges and a lot of brine/salt, green olives, sour apples, a little marzipan, some pepper… Now it also tends to become a little cardboardy, but that never gets embarrassing. The body’s impressive at just 40% vol. – probably only 37 or 38 after all these years in glass. Finish: long and massively salty. Almost pure smoked brine. More mint and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: a beast. I don’t know how much Lagavulin was added to this mix but that wouldn’t surprise me if someone said 40 or 50%. SGP:264 - 90 points.

White Horse (70° proof, OB, bottled 1960)

White Horse (70° proof, OB, bottled 1960) Four stars The year of bottling is mentioned on the label (upper left), which comes handy. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rounder version, less globally peaty, with many more dried fruits, probably thanks to a higher proportion of sherry casks. But the sooty/rubbery side remains, as well as all the seaweed. I also seem to find more herbs, around fern and moss, as well as touches of menthol. Less musty than the NAAFI, there’s also more raisins starting to come through after a good five minutes. In a way, it’s a little more ‘commercial’, whatever that means. Mouth: no no no, drop that, it’s very dry, smoky, salty and leathery on your palate. A very sooty/ashy side as well, which makes it even a little acrid and rough. Some ink, pepper, black tea… A rather big tannicity’s starting to invade your palate, together with a few cough lozenges and always a lot of salt. This one’s not very easy. Well, less easy than the military version! Finish: long, peppery, ultra-dry. Mint-flavoured green tea, salty salmiak… Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: finally less compact and ‘immediate’ than the NAAFI, and maybe simply less good. The palate was incredibly dry. SGP:365 - 86 points.

White Horse (No ABV, OB, bottled 1942)

White Horse (No ABV, OB, bottled 1942) Three stars Again, the year of bottling is written on the label. It also states ‘Lagavulin Distillery’ and ‘Glenlivet District’, which is what was also written on the ‘1960’, while the ‘military’ White Horse already had ‘Glasgow and London’ instead. Obviously pre-war distillation this time. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s always difficult to tell whether a different and especially more complex nose was already there when the whisky was bottled, or if it’s more the effect of ageing in glass. It’s true that this baby spent more than 70 years in its bottle, and boy it’s magnificent. What strikes first this time is a huge mentholated side, that comes with its compadres eucalyptus and camphor, while it would then unfold on many other herbs and oils, such as wormwood, fennel or verbena, and then on some kind of light fruitcake with only touches of coastality. Erm, I mean, there’s less brine as well as less tar and rubber. After ten minutes, whiffs of fresh passion fruits, which is something that often happens with very old peaters. Also a little earth. Simply brilliant. Mouth: splendid attack, fatter than the others, oilier, maybe better balanced, but it tends to lose steam after a few seconds, which is kind of normal after all those years. The middle got a little weak, but on the other hand, some lovely tropical fruits are playing in the backyard. I find bananas, for example. Finish: rather short, but the aftertaste is full of smoky fruits. Comments: akin to some great old wine that would have become a little fragile without losing its main attractions. Hard to score. The nose was superb. SGP:343 - around 83 points.

(with thanks to the Glug Glug Club)

White Horse

Last minute bonus, we could put our hands on some contemporary White Horse. Sadly, that happened long after the above lines were written, so I couldn’t do a proper comparison, but there, here’s the new one…

White Horse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)
Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: I may be dreaming but I do seem to detect a kind of tarry and rubbery side that hints at Lagavulin 16 (brand new wellies), but Lagavulin being on pretty severe allocation, that seems unlikely. And yet, I swear I could detect Lagavulin (not just Coal Ila or Talisker). Other than that, some caramel, hay, vanilla, raisins and a rather big maltiness. Not dull at all, it seems that the blenders have kept an eye on the original recipe. Mouth: same feeling! It’s even quite salty, tarry, smoky, leathery, with a little brioche and then a pleasant bitterness, reminding me of artichoke liqueur. Or Fernet-Branca. It’s a little thin on the palate but certainly not flat. Cool character. Finish: short and dry, as expected, but the tarry smokiness lingers on in solo, so to speak. Comments: a pretty good surprise. If you like your blend quite peaty and fairly priced, you may try to ride the current White Horse. SGP:353 - 80 points.

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

 

 

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March 4, 2014


Whiskyfun

Ben Nevis ups and downs

Ah, Ben Nevis, Don’t we all know we may expect the unexpectable, as our concierge would say? Today we’ll have quite a few, more or less at random…

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1996/2012 (54.8%, Riverstown, cask #2012-122, 392 bottles)

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1996/2012 (54.8%, Riverstown, cask #2012-122, 392 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: one of these rare very sugary noses. A lot of candy sugar, barley sugar, caramel and, wait, wouldn’t that be warm Coca-Cola? What’s funny is that all this is quite pleasant, just rather unusual. Behind all this sugar, notes of hay and malt, Guinness, and whiffs of rose petals and tinned litchis. Fun! With water: a little grassier, as often. Mouth (neat): almost a syrup but I have to say this works. Rose flavoured Turkish delights, pineapples, sweet barley, very sweet oranges, even curaçao, caramba! (pff…)… With water: becomes more citrusy. Excellent. Finish: long, mainly on blood oranges. Comments: it’s a pretty clean one, actually. Very engaging fruitiness. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1995/2013 (51,8%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 242 bottles)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1995/2013 (51,8%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 242 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one has a little more varnish and glue at first nosing, it seems that it’s been very extractive. Also this feeling of green bananas rather than plain and pure fruits, green greengages (no kiddin’), broken branches, something both mineral and rooty… Then a new pack of marshmallows. A huge pack! With water: more citrus and touches of marzipan. Mouth (neat): we’re much closer to the 1996, with many oranges and grapefruits, pineapples, triple-sec… But it remains globally grassier. Forgot to mention guava juice. With water: a fruity explosion, with a sourness. Lemons and passion fruits, I’d say. Finish: long and zesty. I seem to remember some Inverlevens, quite bizarrely, and maybe some Lochsides. Comments: this baby’s got many stories to tell, and a citrusy ending. All is well that ends (very) well. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1997 (55%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, sherry hogshead, 96 bottles, +/-2014)

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1997 (55%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, sherry hogshead, 96 bottles, +/-2014) Three stars I had first thought we’d have this new one first, but since it’s quite dark, I’ve changed my mind. Mad sherry? Colour: very dark amber. Nose: it’s clean! I mean, quite clean! Well, kind of… Starts with old copper coins and a lot of chocolate, with peonies and bitter oranges, with tonic water and cured ham, with soot and metal polish. And then, there’s a lot of balsamic vinegar and a little vase water. And a little menthol. There’s a lot of weird fun in this. With water: more old coins and metal polish! Mouth (neat): the word unusual’s been invented for this. Some kind of blend of thick orange cordial, liquorice, extreme herbal teas, chocolate liqueur and once again something metallic. Not unpleasant at all and, I have to say, very entertaining. Not a boring malt! With water: plasticine and pinesap everywhere, then cassis jelly. Finish: long, rather fruitier and cleaner. More cassis, I’d say, it’s even a little clarety. Comments: okay, probably not my preferred style, but what a ride! Unboring. SGP:462 - 82 points.

Only another dark one could follow…

Ben Nevis 13 yo 1984/1998 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #78.18, 229 bottles)

Ben Nevis 13 yo 1984/1998 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #78.18, 229 bottles) Two starsDark kerosene?... Colour: very dark amber. Nose: it’s kind of clean this time, and we’re rather on Demerara and candy sugar. Having said that, it’s very powerful. So, with water: extraordinary! Very different from anything I could nose until now, this smells like crushed high-end sardines mixed with a kind of tea liqueur and old Chinese plum sauce. Sounds weird, is weird and is quite stunning. Serious! Mouth (neat): big and thick, with oranges and bitter herbs. Very powerful! Water is really needed… With water: oh, too bad, things didn’t work out like they did with the nose. It’s rather something chemical that comes out (UHU glue?) Pass… Finish: long, a bit cleaner but it is pretty dirty whisky. Comments: typical adventurous sherried Ben Nevis. Did the Monty Python own the distillery in 1984? I’m totally unable to tell you whether I like this one or not. Deeply perplexed. SGP:572 - 75 points (scored almost at random, to be honest).

So, did the Monty Python use to own Ben Nevis in 1984? Only one way to find out, have another one. For the cause!

Ben Nevis 1984/2002 (61.2%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, sherry, cask #258)

Ben Nevis 1984/2002 (61.2%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, sherry, cask #258) Three stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: candy sugar, chocolate  and silverware. The jury’s still out – to say the least. With water: odd. Rotting herbs, green cigars, cherry stems, game, cheesecake straight from the oven. And bags of dried porcinis, that’s the nicest side. Or even morels? Mouth (neat): this time it’s some kind of bitter oak infusion with a lot of mustard, pepper and then cassis liqueur and raisins. Very strong potion. With water: hold on, this is quite nice. Wheelbarrows of dark raisins and not many dirtyish notes. Granted, the chlorophyll and menthol in the background are a little too… say thundering, but other than that, all fine. Finish: long, thick, jammy and even kind of clean. Miraculous? Comments: another rollercoaster, but it’s rather more orthodox than the crazy SMWS.  SGP:551 - 80 points.

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

 

 

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March 3, 2014


Whiskyfun

Bunnahabhain, grouped fire – almost

I believe Bunnahabhain has become #1 as far as the number of new independent expressions is concerned. There’s pleanty, both young and old and both unpeated and peated. And many are very good… Let’s have a few today – again.

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2006/2013 (60.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #800097)

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2006/2013 (60.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #800097) Two starsSo young? I suspect it’s a peater, let’s see… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s rather blocked, I suppose the high ABV does that. Whiffs of coal smoke and cut green apples, but not much else at this stage. It’s a peater for sure. With water: a very narrow and sharp profile, certainly not unpleasant but it’s so simple that it’s more like smoked vodka. Coal, ashes and apples, wet wool. Mouth (neat): very punchy and fiery sweet peat, very aggressive, this thing burns your throat. Help! With water: smoked apple juice and bitter almonds plus a little salt. Becomes drier and drier. Finish: not very long but very narrow. Smoked brine, some tar, apple juice. Comments: I think this very simple young peater ought to be drunk with many ice cubes. Highball? SGP:337 - 76 points.

Let’s call to some older ones for help…

Bunnahabhain 1990/2013 (50.9%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, 228 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1990/2013 (50.9%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, 228 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: some evanescent gunpowder at first nosing, then a pretty beautiful earthy sherriness, with some tobacco, many dried fruits such as figs and raisins, touches of balsamico and soy sauce, then a little camphor. An elegant sherry, not a thick monster at all. A lot happening in this one so far… With water: a little smoke and a farminess. A little manure? Also limestone, gravel… Mouth (neat): very good arrival, chocolaty and raisiny, with some marmalade and a few greener elements such as apple peeling and grass. That keeps it lively and even kind of light. Tobacco. With water: pretty perfect, fresh, orangey, with also a little more toffee and coffee. Finish: quite long and relatively dry. More tobacco and more coffee. Comments: that was an excellent sherry cask. Great balance. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1988/2013 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, sherry, cask #4111)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1988/2013 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, sherry, cask #4111) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: this time it’s a rather grassy kind of sherry that we’re having at first nosing, with some eucalyptus, liquorice and mint, and then it would rather unfold on the usual fruitcake and pipe tobacco, all that in a beautiful manner. Quite some strong chestnut honey as well as, maybe, tamarind jam… Beautiful nose! Mouth: very classy sherry indeed, with always a lot of fruitcake, orange liqueur, raisins aplenty, milk chocolate, cappuccino and, once again, chestnut honey. It’s big but it’s not thick. Finish: long, with a few bitterer notes that keep it tensed. Propolis, maybe, as well as marzipan. An a very chocolaty aftertaste. Comments: state of the art clean yet big sherry. No tiny flaws whatsoever, that’s a 90. SGP:541 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (62.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, pale version)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (62.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, pale version) Five stars We already had its excellent sister cask that was much darker a few months ago. I know I should have had both head to head, mea culpa… Colour: gold. Nose: this is different, there might be some sherry but it’s a very light one, while more fresh fruits and possibly a little coastal smoke are playing first fiddles. Distant beach bonfire plus grapefruits and a little verbena. Quite easy and even very elegant at 62.5% vol.! With water: lovely fruits, both sweet and sour. Pineapples, mangos, apples, gooseberries… Mouth (neat): a big boy but most amazingly, it’s kind of swallowable. Er… I seem to find a little banana liqueur as well as notes of strawberries. Marshmallows and jellybeans for sure, but not quite the same kinds as what one can find in very young whiskies. With water: perfect fruitiness and an earthy touch. Finish: quite long, fresh, fruity… A little acacia honey and tinned peaches. Grape jelly. Comments: fresh, fruity and complex. I like a lot. Perfect maturation. Same high quality as the dark version. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 33 yo 1980/2013 (45.6%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, cask #92)

Bunnahabhain 33 yo 1980/2013 (45.6%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, cask #92) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: the oak’s more apparent in this one, but that’s normal. Polished wood, chocolate, praline, walnut cake, honey cake… It’s rather ‘beehivy’ in fact, which is most pleasant. You’ve got the wood, the wax, the honey and the pollen. No, no royal jelly. Also a wee smoke, charcoal, then hints of menthol and milk chocolate. Maybe dried seaweed? So far, so good. Mouth: the oak is more obvious this time, and probably a little drying (strong green tea), but the honey and the nice notes of tarte tatin keep the whole balanced and lively. Mulled wine, orange cake, cinnamon flavoured chewing-gum (do they still make that?) and gingerbread. Finish: long, rather more on praline and gingerbread/speculoos. The honey’s still there in the aftertaste. Comments: the oak starts to show a bit but it does act more like some spice and just underlines the very lovely honey notes. Excellent, I think. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 1973/2013 'The Birthday Dram' (48.5%, The Whiskyman, 155 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1973/2013 'The Birthday Dram' (48.5%, The Whiskyman, 155 bottles) Five stars This bottling was done to celebrate the 40th birthday of four Beligian friends, namely Dirk, Geert, Dominiek and Billy. Colour: light gold. Nose: ha! They chose a waxy one! It’s actually one of these whiskies that do hint at Cynelish 1972-1974, with this kind of sappy fruitiness, citrons, beeswax, orange zests, barley water, putty, plasticine, apricots, plums, papayas… Also yellow flowers, dandelions, buttercups… And earth and roots. What’s not to like? Nothing, unless this baby got flattish on the palate, let’s see… Mouth: perfection. Plenty of fruits, some wax, a little salt, some honey… Oh too hell with tasting notes, let’s simply enjoy this lovely baby… Finish: orange salad with honey and olive oil. Pear cider. The oak’s under control, it only really shows up in the aftertaste. Comments: a magnificent fruity 40yo Bunnahabhain, but it’s a little too drinkable. Of course not! SGP:651 - 91 points.

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

 

 

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March 2, 2014


Whiskyfun

Sunday malternatives, another bag of rum

Time to resume our rum sessions, looking for malternatives. What I’ve learnt until now is that beside Demerara, Jamaica can make some brilliant ones. And let’s not forget other parts of the world, such as Trinidad (Caroni) and Guadeloupe/Marie-Galante… The trick is to try to avoid the dreadful uebersweet ones that I just hate. Pigswill! Anyway, we’ll have a few rums at total random today…

Rhum Vieux de Marie-Galante 6 ans (40%, Aldi, +/-2014)

Rhum Vieux de Marie-Galante 6 ans (40%, Aldi, +/-2014) Three stars and a half That’s right, I found this baby at Aldi’s for around 10€ a bottle. As you may know, Marie-Galante is a tiny island near Guadeloupe, but there are three distilleries there, namely Bielle, Bellevue and Poisson (Père Labat). As for what’s inside today’s bottle, there’re no clues on the label, sadly, but it’s an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Colour: gold. Nose: pleasant! Slightly molassy, with obvious notes of sugar cane, touches of aniseed and fennel, quite some juniper (it’s got something of gin) and then a slight coastal touch. Iodine? Not too sure this is genuine agricole, but it feels like it a bit. Pleasant nose. Mouth: really, it’s pleasant. Sugar cane, brine, olive oil, a little tar, some liquorice, very discreet notes of ripe bananas, more liquorice, a little salt… This is really good, just a little thin because of the low strength. Finish: good length, very liquoricy. Even more liquorice in the aftertaste as well as a smokiness. Comments: omg, Aldi! I had though this would be putrid swill, it’s not. At all. SGP:462 - 83 points.

I think we’ve got another 6 years old from the French Caribbean…

Clément 6 ans (44%, OB, Martinique, rhum agricole, +/-2013)

Clément 6 ans (44%, OB, Martinique, rhum agricole, +/-2013) Two stars Clément is a well-known house. This 6yo is classified as a “très vieux”. We’ve tried a younger “vieux” a while back and I didn’t quite like it (WF 70), it was too liqueury for my taste. Colour: Nose: huge sweet oak! Reeks of cinnamon cake and pencil shavings at first nosing, but things do improve after a few minutes, with nice touches of sugar cane, roasted cashews and pineapple juice. Quite some candy sugar too, milk chocolate... Mouth: good, fruity, not too oaky this time. Pineapples and tangerines with soft spices and notes of liquorice allsorts. Certainly sweeter than the Marie-Galante, and maybe a little too aromatic. Plenty of sultanas too. The oak comes out after thirty seconds and the whole gets slightly planky. Finish: medium length. Sweet and oaky, sweet ginger. Comments: very fine rhum but I think it’s a little too sweet and oaky. SGP:641 - 75 points.

While we’re at it, we could as well try the 10 yo…

Clément 10 ans (44%, OB, Martinique, rhum agricole, +/-2013)

Clément 10 ans (44%, OB, Martinique, rhum agricole, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Another ‘très vieux’ by Clément. Colour: deep gold. Nose: similar, but deeper and rounder, with more honey, jams and chutneys. Mango? The oak’s actually less loud, although there is some cinnamon and traces of pencil shavings again. Lots of raisins and dates as well as something floral. Roses? A little cedar wood too. Mouth: closer to the 6yo, maybe just a notch saltier. Very, very similar… Maybe more strawberry jam? Finish: good length, with some sweet oak that hints at some bourbons. Comments: these Cléments are good rhums, no doubt, but they’re a little flabby for my taste. I think I like my rums tighter and more tensed, so to speak. SGP:641 - 77 points.

Back to Guadeloupe and thereabouts…

Guadeloupe 12 yo 1998 (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2011)

Guadeloupe 12 yo 1998 (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2011) Four stars and a half It doesn’t say so but this could well be Bellevue. Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, now we’re talking! Oily, grassy, tarry, petroly and very sugarcane-y (!), this is true rhum. Not much to add, this is perfect. Look for Bellevue at the indies, they’re always worth your money (assuming this is well Bellevue). Mouth: indeed, almost perfect arrival, well balanced between a grassy/petroly side and the ripe fruits that abound, such as passion fruits, bananas, pineapples and then a camphory, almost medicinal side. Also coffee and toffee, liquorice as almost always… Excellent! Finish: long and bold but kind of fresh, without the slightest molassy notes. Great distillate. A little smoke and more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I think I already wrote that I think that Bellevue’s on the same level as Caroni, the best Jamaicans or the best Demeraras. This was another proof, well done BB&R! Assuming it was Bellevue indeed, eh!... SGP:652 - 88 points.

All right, since we were talking about Caroni…

Caroni 16 yo 1997/2013 (51.6%, The Whisky Agency, Trinidad, 223 bottles)

Caroni 16 yo 1997/2013 (51.6%, The Whisky Agency, Trinidad, 223 bottles) Four stars Let’s not forget that Caroni used to produce both some heavy style rum (which I love) and some light one (which… I don’t know much about). Colour: gold. Nose: very nice, but the Bellevue overshadows it. In a way, the Guadalupean is more ‘Caroni’ than this Caroni. Praline, caramel, milk chocolate, candy sugar, just hints of linoleum and bakelite, dried bananas, a little sandalwood, incense… So yeah, very, very nice but it’s not one of the big tarry ones. Mouth: wait, no, what wasn’t in the nose is all over the palate. Metal polish, grapefruit skin, new plastic, liquorice, litres of lapsang souchong tea (it’s certainly smoky) and a feeling of diesel oil, then capers and gherkins. Brine. Really captivating. Finish: long, salty, briny, minty and tarry. Caroni. Comments: forget about noses, what a wonderful palate! Now, I did like the Bellevue a tiny-wee bit better… SGP:653 - 87 points.

These rums are really heavy, so one last one if you don’t mind…

Uitvlugt 15 yo 1998/2013 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, 269 bottles)

Uitvlugt 15 yo 1998/2013 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, 269 bottles) Three stars Remember that Uitvlugt was the very last functioning distillery along the Demerara river. It got closed in the year 2000. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a much, much lighter rum than the Bellevue and Caroni, maybe I shouldn’t have put it behind them. Having said, that it’s got some beautiful notes of linseed oil, ink, waxed paper and freshly mown lawn. Also roasted peanuts and cashews. It’s a discreet one… Mouth: a blend of orange liqueur and barley water (yup). A surprising light style that rather hints at Cuba in my feeble experience, we’re far from the amazingly heavy Demeraras. But yeah, not all Demeraras are/were heavy… Finish: relatively long but a little sugary. Sugar cane syrup. Comments: the sugary side of Guyana. Certainly very, very good, but not my favourite style (and conversely). SGP:730 - 81 points.

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

 

Whiskyfun fav of the month

February 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014)  - WF 98

Favourite older bottling:
Tamdhu 26 yo 1970/1996 (51.5%, Signatory, butt, cask #378, 390 bottles) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 (50.4%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, sherry hogshead, 235 bottles) - WF 90

 

 

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February 2014 - part 2 <--- March 2014 - part 1 ---> March 2014 - part 2


 

 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (53.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #20188, 179 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1988/2013 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, sherry, cask #4111)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (62.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, pale version)

Bunnahabhain 1973/2013 'The Birthday Dram' (48.5%, The Whiskyman, 155 bottles)

Cardhu 12 yo (43%, OB, Wax & Vitale Italy, pale vatting, late 1970’s)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 17 yo (91 US proof, US import, +/-1940)

Glenfarclas 1989/2012 (56.6%, OB, Family Casks, TSMC Taiwan, cask #11046, 591 bottles)

A 1836 founded distillery 1970/2011 (53.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS11025, 55 half-bottles)

Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 41 yo 1973/2014 (43.1%, Cadenhead, single cask)

Glenfiddich 40 yo ‘Release No. 9’ (41.7%, OB, 600 bottles, 2013)

White Horse (70° proof, OB, for N.A.A.F.I. stores, H.M. Forces, 1960s)