(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2015 - Part 1


February 2015 - part 2 <--- March 2015 - part 1 ---> Current entries


March 6, 2015


Two Oban

It’s a bit sad that there aren’t more occasions to taste new Obans these days, as no indies have any, apparently. In short, a different Oban is as rare as an action movie without Liam Neeson these days. Let’s see if we can taste these worm tubs… ;-)…

Oban 1998/2013 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, Montilla fino finish) Four stars No, Montilla isn't sherry, as is often written, but it's very close. Last time we tried Oban DE that was in 2009, with a 1993 that I really liked (WF 86) even if it's been rather destroyed by the extraordinary young 2000 'Managers' Choice. Colour: deep gold. Nose: there’s this salinity at first nosing, which comes with walnuts and tobacco, as well as touches of moist coffee grounds. Also some brine and – am I dreaming – seaweed. I find it more coastal than before. Notes of old wine cellar, a mustiness, infused mint leaves… All that is pretty complex! Mouth: spicy oranges with a layer of sweet mustard and sour apple cake, then more smoky notes. Green and spicy peat. The impression of chewing a good cigar. The strength works well, the sprit’s big enough. Finish: quite long, with some juniper, marmalade and a salty touch that plays with your lips. Comments: some personality! At times you’d think Oban is keeping a close eye on Campbeltown. Score unchanged, would probably be significantly higher at 45-46%. SGP:452 - 86 points.

Oban 'Little Bay' (43%, OB, 2015)

Oban 'Little Bay' (43%, OB, 2015) Four stars Another new NAS that comes with a story about wood management, but this time it’s a bit ‘different’. Various casks of different ages have been married together in 'small and relatively inactive' American oak barrels. That, I cannot not like, I've often shamelessly advocated the idea of using active wood first, rather than the opposite as is customary everywhere in Scotland (finishing). I also quite like the name 'interactive maturation'. Smart! Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s not impossible that I should have had this baby before the DE, as it’s a little silent after that one. It noses like a milder, shier DE, but the distillery’s character still shines through, which is the main thing in my opinion. In fact it’s a little dryer, probably a little smokier, with less musty notes, but maybe a few more farmy ones. Slightly feintier as well. After ten minutes, we got even closer to the DE, but the little bay remains smokier. Some sawdust, but very little. Mouth: very close indeed! Quite an achievement, as this Little Bay is probably much younger than the DE. A little more on pepper, perhaps. Finish: quite long, rather dry, peppery, smoky and slightly grassy… Comments: forgot to say, Little Bay in Gaelic is… Oban. So this is Oban Oban. NAS with body and structure that doesn’t only come from the wood. SGP:363 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Miho Hazama. Track: Journey to Journey. Please visit her website and buy her music...

March 5, 2015


Seven ryes

Some say that rye is any malt enthusiast’s favourite American whiskey. That may be true, but rye doesn’t only come from North America these days. What’s very funny is that in America, and unless I’m completely wrong, whiskey must be made from a grain mixture that’s at least 51% rye to earn the right to be named ‘rye’. Why not 100%? Anyway, let’s have a few ryes of the world, more or less at random…

Michter's ‘US*1 Straight Rye (42.4%, OB, USA, +/-2014)

Michter's ‘US*1 Straight Rye (42.4%, OB, USA, +/-2014) Three stars and a half This is most probably sourced rye. Michter’s bourbon was sourced as well, and yet we quite liked it. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got this perfumy and spicy nose, with bready notes as well, but also quite some brioche, fudge, shortbread and maple syrup that make it round and very approachable. A touch of lavender, some cracked pepper as well, and some marzipan. Very smooth. Mouth: like this. It’s easy, and yet it’s firm, spicy but not too much, with a hoppy side, notes of pumpernickel bread, gingerbread, some honey, geranium, bitter oranges, a touch of Chinese anise… The oak’s noticeable of course, but it never gets in the spirit’s way. Finish: medium length. Easy, earthier now, which is great. Comments: the new Michter’s may not make this themselves, but I find it just excellent on a Mitteleuropaisches palate. This session starts well. SGP:461 - 84 points.

Sonoma ‘County Rye’ (48%, OB, LMDW, USA, 2014)

Sonoma ‘County Rye’ (48%, OB, LMDW, USA, 2014) Four stars We had tried an earlier bottling that was done under the ‘1512 Spirits’ name, and liked it a lot (WF 85). Colour: full gold. Nose: oh this is wilder, rougher, less tamed with sweet oak than the Michter’s, closer to the grain, more bready and more herbal. I love this, however young it is. It’s like if you had let some bread ferment, and then just distilled it. Stunning notes of concentrated tar and gingerbread liqueur (like some make here in Alsace – but this is much nicer). Mouth: really my thing. Some kind of spicy molasses, all kinds of wholegrain breads, some liquorice (no, truckkkkloads of liquorice) and some unsweetened almond paste – which wouldn’t be marzipan. Some might find this a little sticky, but I… no, right, it is a little sticky. Finish: very long, spicy. Cinchona, kummel, juniper and gingerbread. A lot of gingerbread. Comments: they may be improving. This, is true artisan spirit, kudos! And I believe it’s 100% rye. SGP:471 - 86 points.

Copper Fox Rye (45%, OB, USA, Bottled April 2013)

Copper Fox Rye (45%, OB, USA, Bottled April 2013) Two stars and a half Better let the good folks at Master of Malt tell us what this is. Well, it’s ‘2/3 rye grain and 1/3 malted barley, kiln dried using 60% Applewood and 40% Cherrywood. Following that it was double pot-stilled and left to age in a bourbon barrel, along with new and used Applewood and oak chips, finally to be finished in a second fill bourbon barrel.’ Some cookery! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not ridiculous at all after the Sonoma, I have to say. Not on par, but not ridiculous. Far from that! It’s got a fresh, herbal side that works very well, lavender and geranium, cut grass, hay, then brown bread and baker’s yeast. Like this nose, we’re very far from the early Wasmund’s that used to make us all kind of laugh… I even find whiffs of kippers! Mouth: yes! Better this than immature oak-doped Scotch? The woods may do all the work here, but this spicy herbalness just works on my palate. Mint, juniper, liquorice, myrtle, pink pepper, more juniper. The body’s a bit light though, what may be lacking is depth. In other words, an horizontal whisky – which doesn’t mean it’s flat, eh. Finish: tends to lose steam, but that’s all right. Comments: a very encouraging rye. Only the light body was a little frustrating, after the thickish Sonoma. SGP:461 - 79 points.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo Rye (49.5%, OB, USA, +/-2014)

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo Rye (49.5%, OB, USA, +/-2014) Three stars A lot of story comes with this sourced whiskey, but that doesn’t always mean less substance – and there’s 95% rye in the mashbill, hurray! Colour: full gold. Nose: this one’s rather more discreet, self-restrained, flowery and kind of fresh. Moist full-honeyed gingerbread, spice cake, kummel and oak-aged gin. Quite some maple syrup too, then fennel and dill aplenty. Another one that works, in other words. Mouth: this is liquid gingerbread! The kummel is big too, you would think it’s oak aged aquavit or something. Big cloves, mouthwash, more caraway and cumin… No, even more than that, plus the usual bready notes. Finish: quite long, with a few varnishy notes now. A bit harsh. Comments: I find it a little bestial, but other than that, there isn’t much to complain about. Maybe the most bourbony of them all so far. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Buffalo Trace 2001/2013 Rye Bourbon 125 (45%, OB, Experimental Collection)

Buffalo Trace 2001/2013 Rye Bourbon 125 (45%, OB, USA, Experimental Collection) one star and a half The word ‘experimental’ along a product that’s meant to be pretty traditional is always a bit scary, but let’s see. We’ll spare you the any details about this ‘experiment’, I haven’t even checked them myself. Colour: deep gold. Nose: honey and rye, vanilla, warm sawdust, maple syrup, maybe hints of agave syrup, more vanilla, some caramel. Not a lot of individuality after the others, it seems. This one’s rather more caramelly, and lacks the freshness that was in the Smooth Ambler, for example. Mouth: no no no… It’s too varnishy, oaky, biting, rough… Not quite oak juice, but there… Finish: long but drying, oaky… Comments: too much oak for me, and not enough rye. SGP:371 - 68 points.

New York Distilling Company Rye (Unknown ABV, cask sample, 2014)

New York Distilling Company Rye (Unknown ABV, cask sample, 2014) Three stars and a half We don’t do cask samples – or we’d be dead – but his is different, it’s a cask sample from the new NYC Distillery that our good friend Jon Beach brought back from Brooklyn. Around two years old, according to the colour. Colour: deep gold. Nose: not yet big, but balance is already there, with these lovely notes of bread, brioche and gingerbread, plus these touches of juniper and geranium. When I write geranium, I mean flowers, not leaves – which would be a flaw. This baby seems to be rather smooth and rounded, not wild unbridled rye. We’re in a large city after all. Mouth: they could bottle this, easily. Freshly squeezed oranges, lavender sweets, Alsatian spicy hard gingerbread, a little earth, earthy tea pu-erh style, mushrooms… But this is quite perfect! Finish: long, rather on the spicy side. Nutmeg and cloves plus caraway and juniper berries. Comments: some great spicy rye for sure. Quality’s very high. I’ll buy a bottle when this is out. SGP:461 - 84 points.

A last one, just for fun…

Juuri 'Unaged Rye' (46.3%, OB, Kyrö Distillery, Finland, +/-2014)

Juuri 'Unaged Rye' (46.3%, OB, Kyrö Distillery, Finland, +/-2014) A new distillery. I haven’t done my homework, I do not know much about them, I’m afraid. The Swiss-Japanese packaging is nice, though. Colour: white. Nose: hot and raw, this is new make. Some of you might know that I do distil some stuff myself every year since 25 years (with a bunch of old friends), and what I can tell you is that our ‘new make’ – whichever the fruits and stuff we’re distilling – is less harsh and rough than this. More or less yogurt at cask strength ;-). Mouth: better on the palate. Warm butter, sour cream, fish, yeast… and all that. Sour apples. Finish: long, spirity and yeasty. Comments: I’m deeply sorry, I’m sure the people up there are great, and cool, and knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, and passionate (and they might even love Frank Zappa), and yeah the packaging is great, but I think this is not quite the kind of unaged spirit that anyone should ‘throw’ into the market. Apologies. SGP:341 - 40 points.

Session killed.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Phillip Walker. Track: Crazy Girl. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 4, 2015


Little duels, Balbair OB vs. Cadenhead

In theory, an older unfiddled with indie malt should defeat a much younger OB at a lower strength, but this is Balblair and Balblair’s recent bottlings, even when young, have often been… just perfect. So let’s not start counting our chickens just yet…

Balblair 1999/2014 (46%, OB, 2nd release)

Balblair 1999/2014 (46%, OB, 2nd release) Four starsColour: full gold. Nose: traces of juicy golden sultanas may suggest there’s some sherry in this, but it does not nose ‘sherry’. What’s loud and clear is rather the trademark fruitiness, with a crushed slice of ripe banana on top of many apples, blood oranges, ripe greengages and a solid dose of custard, probably from some fairly active American oak. Also whiffs of clay and cut grass for good balance. Very, very “Balblair”, fresh and fruity.  Oh and there are also whiffs of white flowers. Mouth: balanced fruits indeed. Ripe apples and mirabelles, then a greener oak, quite some mead (also what they call chouchen in Brittany, which is a fermented mix of apple juice and honey), then more and more lemon drops, limejuice, a slightly bitter grassiness that kind of loops with the green oak, and even something faintly medicinal. Cough syrup? Finish: quite long, rather on lemons and their skins. Comments: not just fruits. A rather bigger middle-aged Balblair. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Balblair 1990/2015 (52.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Balblair 1990/2015 (52.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: there are notes of almond fudge and pinesap at first nosing, possibly from oak oils, as well as a little damp clay and wee notes of vase water, or ‘duck pond’. But the fruits are soon to come to the surface (ha!), with a greener profile than that of the OB. So rather green apples, gooseberries, also grapefruits… With water: fruits in the front. In a way, it’s rather narrow, but that’s a pleasant narrowness. No wait, after ten minutes, more aromatic herbs do come out, especially spearmint. Mouth (neat): a rather perfect blend of lemon squash, barley water, maybe drinking clay, with a few tiny drops of Red Bull (with apologies to W.M. Cadenhead). Quite zesty! With water: fruits and mint. These herbal/minty notes that water brings out really are assets. Finish: rather long. A funny feeling of Scottish mojito. Comments: this baby loves water. It was a close call. SGP:561 - 86 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Henderson. Track: Invitation. Please buy his music...

March 3, 2015


Benriach, quite vertically

We’ll try quite a few Benriachs today, and we’ll start with an easy aperitif…

Benriach 20 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013)

Benriach 20 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013) Three stars and a half The first time I tried the ‘new’ 20 in 2010, I really enjoyed its fruity lightness (WF 86). Colour: pale gold. Nose: as I remembered it, that is to say light and fresh, full of yellow flowers, apple juice, heather honey, then rather some faint mineral touches including a wee chalky side. Whiffs of unlit blond cigarettes. Say Camels. And vanilla. It’s a delicate, yet very easy one. Some would call this ‘feminine’, but I know women who wouldn’t agree. Mouth: apple juice and apple pie in the arrival, very little tropicalness if you really need to compare it with older Benriachs, notes of candied beer, vanilla, a touch of walnutty dry white wine (the oak talking, I guess) and more apples. A little less fresh and fruity than the nose suggested. Finish: not very long, with more apples and walnuts. Comments: little obvious Benriachness in this one, and in a way it reminds me of the previous owners’ 10 years old, but its solid, honest lightish malt. SGP:641 - 84 points.

Benriach 1998/2014 (56.1%, OB for Independent Spirit, triple distilled, PX sherry finish, cask #7630, 631 bottles)

Benriach 1998/2014 (56.1%, OB for Independent Spirit, triple distilled, PX sherry finish, cask #7630, 631 bottles) Three stars These triple distilled batches should be (even) lighter, unless the PX speaks loud. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re rather in fortified wine territories here, with some ‘pale’ spicy fruitcake. Dried apricots, touches of ginger and star anise, a little leather and soft mustard, some fruity pipe tobacco and various kinds of raisins. With water: maple syrup and mirabelle juice in an old wine cellar. I have to say this works very well at this point. Mouth (neat): I find this one rather strange now, as it blends some sweet bonbons with a rather sharp spiciness. Crushed orange drops mixed with ginger and cumin liqueurs, or something like that. Add two glasses of bitter walnut wine. A little Campari-like, if you will. With water: some saponification happening. Hints of violet sweets coming through, together with more grass. Finish: rather long, spicy. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: typical finishing, not too sure everything had enough time to mingle together. For Benriach lovers who’re seeking different Benriachs, perhaps. Loved the nose when diluted, though. SGP:651 - 80 points.

Benriach 1994/2014 (54.6%, OB for Independent Spirit, peated, oloroso sherry finish, cask #806)

Benriach 1994/2014 (54.6%, OB for Independent Spirit, peated, oloroso sherry finish, cask #806) Five stars Let’s be careful, this one’s peated! Colour: dark amber. Nose: yes! As usual, and in my own little book, oloroso does the trick much better than PX, and blends so much better with a peater, even if this is only a finishing. Some good chocolate that you would crunch on the shores of the Atlantic while burning dried seaweed and singing Dylan. You may cancel the last bit. With water: a little ink, old leather (old style wine enthusiasts would quote Russian leather), putty, carbolinium, creosote… What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): there is a touch of violet once again, but also plenty of brown tobacco (sucking an untipped Gauloise), chocolate, very salty black olives and maybe one prune. With water: tar, brine, olives, ink and all that. Oranges at the fruit department. Finish: long, beautifully dry, smoky and orangey. The aftertaste is rather farmy. Comments: now we’re talking! Success all around. SGP:466 - 90 points.

Benriach 16 yo 1996/2012 (51.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon hogshead, 275 bottles)

Benriach 16 yo 1996/2012 (51.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon hogshead, 275 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: sweet barley and ripe western garden fruits all around, plus a little sunflower oil. Straight, easy, balanced, full. You may add a little Fanta, perhaps. With water: more butterscotch, Werther’s Original and acacia honey. Indisputably very nice. Mouth (neat): sweet, creamy, slightly liqueury western fruits. Plums, apples, white cherries, gooseberries, all that coated with custard and a little fudge. Simple and excellent. With water: barley sugar and water! Finish: medium length, clean, fudgy and fruity. Pears in the aftertaste. Comments: irrefutable. Very easy and very good. Just not extremely complex, but who cares! SGP:551 - 85 points.

Benriach 18 yo 1996/2014 (52.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14017, 282 bottles)

Benriach 18 yo 1996/2014 (52.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14017, 282 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: very similar. Very very similar. Totally similar, in fact. The oak’s a notch more apparent, maybe, but we’re splitting hairs again. Mouth: same very good blend of garden fruits with vanilla, butterscotch, light honey and fudge. Goes down well, very well. Finish: same comments. Fudge and apples, pears and gooseberries, plus a little sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: I can’t see who wouldn’t enjoy this easy and perfectly balanced style. Maybe narcissistic, obnoxious perverts? SGP:551 – 85 points.

Benriach 20 yo 1993/2014 (52.3%, OB for The Whisky Agency, virgin American oak finish, cask #7977, 277 bottles)

Benriach 20 yo 1993/2014 (52.3%, OB for The Whisky Agency, virgin American oak finish, cask #7977, 277 bottles) Three stars I usually find virgin oak very scary, but I’ve tried some ‘viriginised’ Benriachs that have been to my liking in the past. Colour: gold. Nose: I would not say this is downright plankish, it’s rather notes of green tea, other teas and green bananas that seem to have been added to this otherwise slightly silent Benriach that’s globally shyer than the others. Touches of dried coconut. With water: apple juice. Mouth (neat): bourbon! Was this Benriach triple distilled? So coconut, vanilla, fudge, maple syrup and a touch of rye. Rye? With water: more malt, but the bourbony side’s still there. A little mint, possibly a wood extract. Finish: not too long, but pleasantly fruity and fudgy, not unlike the 1996s. Comments: enjoyable but I find it a little dispensable, given that there are so many good middle-aged Benriachs around. SGP:541 - 81 points.

Benriach 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #100142, 315 bottles)

Benriach 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #100142, 315 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the wonders of old refills! This is fresher than most others, more delicate, and yet it’s no fruit bomb, as if the longer ageing had just made it more, yeah, delicate. Funny notes of poiré (pear cider), then marshmallows, tangerines, blueberries and the lightest marzipan. As Art Blakey would have said, it’s whispering low but you can still hear it. With water: a touch of farminess. Mouth (neat): not that delicate anymore, and even rather spicy, beyond the crisp fruitiness. Oranges and barley water, pink grapefruits, a touch of ginger and nutmeg from the oak. With water: a fruit salad, with both fresh and tinned fruits. Finish: medium length. More fruits in soft spices. Comments: not quite wow, but very hey hey (diving to new lows here, S.) SGP:651 - 87 points.

Benriach-Glenlivet 22 yo 1992/2015 (52.9%, Cadenhead, rum cask)

Benriach-Glenlivet 22 yo 1992/2015 (52.9%, Cadenhead, rum cask) Four stars This new baby has spent its last years, that is to say from October 2007 to this year, in a rum cask. BTW some great really old rums by CAD are in, check these pages on Sundays… Colour: straw. Nose: the rum is loud and clear, and it’s from the infernal French agricole-Jamaica-Demerara triangle if I’m not mistaken. And it’s really funny to check how well it blends with modern Benriach’s garden fruitiness, despite a few touches of rubber that are floating here and there. With water:  an earthy smokiness and, perhaps, whiffs of marijuana. Mouth (neat): fun stuff! Pears cooked in sugarcane syrup, a touch of eucalyptus, and a little liquorice. Frankly, this is a bit unlikely, but the combo worked a treat. Liquorice allsorts, banana compote, mead… Fun fun fun. With water: smoky pears come out. Finish: quite long. A fruit salad with fresh coriander and mint leaves. Comments: this is not serious whisky, it’s almost a joke, but a very, very lovely one. Middle-aged Benriach seems to take rum extremely well. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Good, let’s tackle some older ones as the digestifs, such as some 1976s that we haven’t tried yet…

Benriach 35 yo 1976/2012 (43.8%, OB for Kinko, Japan, hogshead, cask #3035, 158 bottles)

Benriach 35 yo 1976/2012 (43.8%, OB for Kinko, Japan, hogshead, cask #3035, 158 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: plain guava and papaya juices and syrups, with a drop of almond oil. That’s all, folks, but that’s already a lot. Mouth: please call the Japanese anti-maltoporn police! Pure tropical fruit juice, mangos, papayas, guavas, passion fruits… Plus, perhaps, a little avocado purée and fresh parsley. I know a place in Ubud where they used to make this kind of cocktail… Oh forget! Finish: the only part that’s a little less entrancing, because of wee touches of oak that are a bit unnecessary. Comments: one day, we might learn that Glenlivet’s good people used to add tropical fruit concentrate to all casks of Benriach’s new fillings back in 1976. SGP:741 - 92 points.

Are you up for some more?...

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (43.1%, OB for Usquebaugh Society, refill bourbon, cask #3031, 124 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (43.1%, OB for Usquebaugh Society, refill bourbon, cask #3031, 124 bottles) Five stars Any Sherlock will have noticed that this is a sister cask. Colour: gold. Nose: a subtler, slightly toned down version of these tropically-fruity extravaganzas. In a way, that’s even better, because you also get delicate whiffs of roses, ripe Muscat grapes, tinned litchis… But other than that it’s all guavas and papayas again. I’m asking you, who wouldn’t love this? Touches of tin after a few minutes. Mouth: the tropical fruits are dancing on your tongue like there’s no tomorrow, and they’re a little sourer now, more metallic again, perhaps. A wee feeling of silverware. Eating oranges using a silver spoon. Finish: quite long, very fruity, with notes of rotting fruits that make it a bit decadent, in a good way. Comments: I liked this nose a little better than that of the Kinko, and the Kinko’s palate a little better than this one’s. SGP:741 - 92 points.

How many have we just tried? Time to put an end to this verticale, with an even older official Benriach, while remembering those good times when the current owners launched their first bottlings that blew us all away, while earlier official Benriachs had been so… say pedestrian. And unnoticed. And so few.

Benriach 38 yo 1970/2009 (49.1%, OB, Pedro Ximenez sherry finish, cask #1035, 250 bottles)

Benriach 38 yo 1970/2009 (49.1%, OB, Pedro Ximenez sherry finish, cask #1035, 250 bottles) Four stars It must have taken some guts to do a finishing on a 1970! Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is no whisky, this is jam and soup. The complexity is pretty astounding, much more so than with the rather more ‘evident’ 1976s. Figs, chocolate, dates, pipe tobacco, fermenting oranges, notes of Spanish ham, sweet game, beef stock, marrow, chives, chicken bouillon… On the other hand, there are also notes of plasticine that may not quite fit here, but that borders on marzipan, which kind of works. Ooh that’s complicated. Mouth: a little bizarre, as it’s a bit disjointed for a start, and as it displays loud notes of mulled wine and even sangria. Really, there are plenty of oranges, red wine and spices. That makes it a little unnatural in my book. Not too sure… Finish: long, rather tannic. Black tea, rosehip, tobacco… A soapy and winey touch on the aftertaste. Old red Bordeaux. Comments: I don’t quite know what to write. Sometimes it’s totally great, and sometimes it’s kind of inconsistent. Not too sure, not too sure… SGP:661 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: 3 Brave Souls ft. Darryl Jones. Track: Stay. Please visit their website and buy their music...

March 2, 2015


Indulging in Springbank again

We’ll first have the newish (well, I might be a bit late) ‘Green’ and then unwind with two older Springbanks. Or Springers, as some like to call them.

Springbank 12 yo ‘Green’ (46%, OB, organic barley, 9000 bottles, 2014)

Springbank 12 yo ‘Green’ (46%, OB, organic barley, 9000 bottles, 2014) Four stars This baby came out in December last year, and it’s not the same kind of ‘green Springbank’ that Cadenhead had quite a while back. Those were actually green, while this one’s just organic. Hope it’ll be more to my liking than the organic 7yo ‘Da Mhile’ from round ten years ago. Colour: white wine. Nose: were well at Springbank, but it’s a tad more porridgy and yeasty than usual, while the sooty side remains there. Nosing a can of pickled gherkins, fresh paint, damp gravel, and clay. The oak’s influence is rather minimal. Mouth: sooty lemons, ashes, smoked things, brine, a touch of honeydew, a chewy mouth feel. Green apple peelings, walnuts, some mustard, quite a lot of nutmeg… It’s a Jansenist’s Springbank! The smoke’s rather bigger than usual. Finish: quite long, spicy, ashy, salty. Comments: the distillate does all the talking, and it talks well (albeit with a strange accent ;-)). One of the austere Springbanks, right up my alley. SGP:364 - 87 points.

Burnside 15 yo (46%, Eaglesome Ltd., 1993)

Burnside 15 yo (46%, Eaglesome Ltd., 1993) Five stars So, this Burnside isn’t Balvenie in disguise (or teaspooned Balvenie), it’s well a single malt from Springbank, bottled in 1993 by one of their sub-companies, Eaglesome. Colour: pale amber. Nose: jawohl! Archtypical Springbank from that time, with a coastal sootiness that was toned down a bit, and many more honeyed notes. It’s very beehivy, as I like to say, with nectar, ripe mirabelles, pollen and nectar, beeswax and all that. Stunning whiffs of fruitcake and pipe tobacco, plenty of raisins and quite some sweet raisiny sherry, a bit ‘PX’. Everything’s in place, this is flawless. The touches of menthol that arise make me think of some great old Sauternes – starting with a Y. Mouth: as an Italian friend uses to say, ‘you drink this, you cry’. With tears of joy, of course. An avalanche of sooty raisins, smoked honey pearls, salted overripe plums and, well, regular tobacco. The strength is perfect, the mouthfeel is perfect. Classic stuff. Finish: long, rich, but with a growing dryness that will let your palate clean and fresh. Comments: I don’t think this baby was 15 years old sharp. There must have been some older juice poured into the vatting tank. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Good, as the last one, let’s try to find one that was bottled around the same era…

Springbank 19 yo 1972 (46%, OB, +/-1991)

Springbank 19 yo 1972 (46%, OB, +/-1991) Five stars We already had another 1972 that was bottled for Taiwan around 1991 as well. It was good, if not totally great. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re very close to the Burnside. A tad oilier and more mineral, a notch less raisiny and sherried. Long story short, this is brilliant. Mouth: same feeling, word for word. This profile is directly connected to that of today’s Springbanks, with maybe just more sherry wood. Finish: long, on smoked raisins, mineral notes, bitter oranges and salt. I mean, a feeling of salt. Comments: identity, character, idiosyncracies and differences. Pretty pleasant combo. SGP:453 - 91 points. (and gracias, Jeroen)

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

February 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
None in February

Favourite older bottling:
Port Ellen 12 yo (OB, The Queen’s Visit to Port Ellen’s Maltings, 1980) - WF 99

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
None in February

Favourite malternative:
Demerara 32 yo 1975/2008 (57%, Norse Cask, barrel #1231, 178 bottles) - WF 90



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the Yosuke Yamashita Trio with Joe Lovano. Track: Kurdish Dance. Please visit their websites and buy their music...

March 1, 2015


Sunday Malternatives, more rum

We’re simply going on with our little exploration of the world of rum.

Watson's 'Trawler Rum' (40%, Ian McLeod, blended rum, +/-2013)

Watson's 'Trawler Rum' (40%, Ian McLeod, blended rum, +/-2013) Two stars A pretty cheap blend of Guyana and Barbados rums that matured on location. We seldom see these ‘UK navy’ styles on our shores. Colour: coffee. Nose: how much caramel there is in this, I don’t know, but I do find notes of burnt sugar, mocha, some Coca-Cola (I swear that’s not because of the colour), then whiffs of hay and soy suace. It’s not extremely aromatic, and I don’t find it unpleasant. Mouth: full coffee liqueur and triple-sec, plus oaky tones. It’s sweet but not too sweet, and there are even tarry notes that come through, possibly the Guyanese part. Okay body. Finish: medium, not too sweet, always on coffee, oranges and liquorice. Comments: what we would call an honest and loyal rum. Not really heavy. I liked it better than Watson’s Demerara, which I had found too sugary. SGP:452 - 72 points.

Dictador 'Solera XO Perpetual' (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2013)

Dictador 'Solera XO Perpetual' (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2013) Question, is this over-packaged? What’s sure is that it’s expensive rum at around 115€. Colour: amber orange. Nose: not that different from the much cheaper (five times cheaper) Watson’s, only sweeter, rounder, with more vanilla, fudge and butterscotch. Hints of pencil shavings, American oak, coffee, milk chocolate and just a hint of damp earth. It’s all very soft, without many ‘asperities’, as they say in advertising. Mouth: very sweet, and oaky as well. Not my style, that’s for sure. Honey, caramel and corn syrup plus chocolate and cinnamon/nutmeg. Oily mouthfeel. Finish: quite long, and very caramelly. Oak-aged caramel? Comments: not my kind of rum at all, that’s all. Too sweet. The bottle is nice, though. SGP:740 - 65 points.

Montero 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, Granada, +/-2014)

Montero 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, Granada, +/-2014) Two starsFirst time we’re trying a Montero. I’ve heard they were part of the ‘better’ Spanish-style rums. Colour: gold (hurray). Nose: ah indeed, bye-bye sweetish syrupy liqueury notes, this rather reeks of wet paint, new leatherette and tarmac, which rather hints at Trinidad or Jamaica. Hurray indeed. The downside is that there isn’t much after that, it deflates like a balloon. But I really enjoyed that fresh paint (oil paint, artist studio). Mouth: no, there is some sugar now, and I wouldn’t say that works a treat on the rather phenolic, paint-like profile. Almonds, oranges… Even a little salt. No, I like it for its uncommercialness. There. Finish: not too long, on the same notes. Cointreau, tar liqueur and pieces of bicycle inner tube. Comments: a funny one! Would love to try it at a higher strength. SGP:562 - 75 points.

Vizcaya 'VXOP Cask No.21' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2014)

Vizcaya 'VXOP Cask No.21' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2014) one star and a half Said to be made from cane juice, not molasses, but I’m wary of Dominican rums, many are way too sugary for my taste. Also the ‘21’ figure that’s placed like if it was an age statement… Booo… But that’s not any worse than a ‘solera number’. I’m looking at you, Z. Colour: dark gold. Nose: akin to the Dictador. Almost undistinguishable. Bananas flambéed, caramel, oak, coffee, chocolate. Touches of tar as well, which is obviously better. Mouth: very sweet, sugary, liqueury… In its own style it’s certainly not bad, but as I’ve already written 4712545656 times, too sweet, I quit. Millionaire shortbread, banana liqueur, maple syrup… The sugar really feels! Finish: rather long, but it’s the sweetness that makes it last. A feeling of having just taken six spoonfuls of maple syrup. Comments: it’s s a style. Like them sweet? You’ll love it. Actually, I liked it a little better than the Dictador. SGP:740 - 68 points.

This has happened so many times when starting with sweet rums: let’s simply change categories!

Long Pond 18 yo 1992/2010 (45%, Alambic Classique, Jamaica)

Long Pond 18 yo 1992/2010 (45%, Alambic Classique, Jamaica) Five stars In my measly experience with rum, I’ve noticed that Long Pond can be very complex! Dunder dunder. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah yeah yeah! This is ridden with carbolic notes, engine oil, pitch, black olives, dried cow dung, fermenting fruits, putty, brand new leather jacket (or shoes)… In short, I find this nose appropriately perverse. Brilliant. Mouth: and there, gherkin juice, salty liquorice, black olives, After Eight mints, seawater, cane juice, chewing your cigar, strong black tea… And all that. Finish: endless, very salty. You keep feeling the salt on your lips even after fifteen minutes. Comments: only regret, that this amazing baby wasn’t bottled at 50% or more for even more powah. You can still buy this bottle from Germany. Do it! SGP:464 - 90 points.

Now, go try to climb over that one… Wait, this may work…

Caroni 1985/2006 (58.8%, Velier, Trinidad, 6600 bottles)

Caroni 1985/2006 (58.8%, Velier, Trinidad, 6600 bottles) Three stars and a half This is heavy style Caroni, and it is a large vatting of 22 drums. Remember a drum typically contains 650 litres. Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: it’s heavy, but not that heavy. Certainly fruitier and oakier than the Long Pond, less phenolic, more on classic high esters. A bag of liquorice allsorts, some polished rosewood, strawberry jam, and only in the background, some seawater, brine and olives. Little tar that I can get so far. With water: can you age strawberry jam in oak? I guess you can… Some sappy tones as well. High oak extraction. Mouth (neat): lots of oak and menthol! Bites you a bit, I have to say. A lot of quince jelly too, which I love, but the oak really is massive. You have the impression of quaffing walnut stain, in a way. With water: much, much better. The oak remains there and keeps biting you a bit, but the expected notes of tar, olives and polish manage to come through. Finish: very long, oaky, mentholy, with drops of salted Grand-Marnier. Comments: another one that takes your tongue hostage if you’re not careful, but water helps loosening up the ties. SGP:652 - 84 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Benjamin Henocq and Pierre de Bethmann. Track: Not Yet. Please visit their websites and buy their music...

February 2015 - part 2 <--- March 2015 - part 1 ---> Current entries



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Benriach 1994/2014 (54.6%, OB for Independent Spirit, peated, oloroso sherry finish, cask #806)

Benriach 35 yo 1976/2012 (43.8%, OB for Kinko, Japan, hogshead, cask #3035, 158 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (43.1%, OB for Usquebaugh Society, refill bourbon, cask #3031, 124 bottles)

Burnside 15 yo (46%, Eaglesome Ltd., 1993)

Springbank 19 yo 1972 (46%, OB, +/-1991)

Long Pond 18 yo 1992/2010 (45%, Alambic Classique, Jamaica)