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

May 23 to June 3, 2006


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May 22, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
WILLY MASON
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, May 16th 2007
Willy Mason
You may remember that the last time we saw Willy Mason he was at the end of a gruelling period in the UK. He was brawling onstage with his brother and drummer Sam, crowd surfing from the stage, and taking generous pulls on the ubiquitous bottle of Jack. That was two years ago. Since then Willie’s been back home in Martha’s Vineyard ‘taking time-out’ as they say. He’s recorded a new album, the recently releases If the Ocean Gets Rough, and in addition to touring in the USA at the end of last year, he’s also recently been in the UK on a ‘house-party’ tour. He’s been travelling round the country by himself and playing small coffee shop venues, or at hastily organised parties in the homes of fans (“it comes from me growing up, playing in living rooms, that’s just what it feels like…”). His popularity appears to be undiminished. The Bush is packed, largely with students, their bags of books (it’s exam time so I assume they’re all desperately trying to catch up on a year of lost learning) providing an almost insurmountable obstacle course for the beer carrying boys making their way from the bar, where ID’s are being demanded, and pounds carefully counted from purses. The cockney diamond next to us, just in from Shepherd’s Bush market in his fake Chemise Lacoste and Burberry cap is succinct in his observation – “I’ve never been in such a fucking middle class audience in my life. Anyone here on the dole?”
Did you know that we’re getting taller? It’s down to a number of factors, but you can bet that as always it’s the progeny of the better-off who are experiencing the greatest growth. Better homes, better grub, less manual labour etc. (in fact I would observe that apart from carrying handfuls of pints of lager the most strenuous thing that most of this lot has ever done is endure the rigours of a Mummy and Daddy funded gap year around the resorts of Thailand). Most of the crowd tonight are huge – taller than my six feet – and the diminutive Photographer doesn’t stand a chance. She does manage at one point to get close to the stage, where a generous fellow who’s sketching gives her space for a couple of clear shots. Luckily, as I read somewhere, “there is an upper limit to height beyond which our genes are not equipped to take us, regardless of environmental improvements”. Phew! Otherwise I’d have to start gigging with a stepladder.     Robert Wadlow
Willy Mason Willy’s new album is pretty good. He’s grown up a bit and his writing – even if it is still full of rite of passage angst (he’s still only 22) displays a greater depth and maturity. It was recorded with a bunch of friends and a few ‘guests’, such as KT Tunstall, who sang on the catchy single ‘Save myself’. And still on drums is brother Sam, whose loose and lazy playing drives most of the songs along, and also gives Willy what a marketeer might call, “an ownable sound”. Sam, and some of those friends, are on stage tonight, looking and behaving like a bunch of students in someone’s living room. There are no roadies, and the Jack has been replaced by occasional furtive pulls from a bottle of red wine. There’s a certain naïveté about the performance that doesn’t match the knowingness of many of Mason’s songs. Willy himself is so laid back you might think he was sleepwalking – he barely engages with the audience through anything other than his songs. When his guitarist breaks a string (no second guitar) Willy improvises an awkward chatting up the audience routine – “Hi, where y’all from?”, “Can I buy you a drink? Cider all round” (cheers). When he has a guitar problem – “It’s all gone tits-up man” he invites the band to improvise some “tits-up” music. And when he changes tuning on his guitar for ‘Gotta keep movin’ he demonstrates that he might have an ear for a song, but not necessarily for a note. Someone should lend him a tenner to buy a Korg tuner.
This led to an interesting post gig discussion about some of your French words Serge. Was this gauche or jejeune? Or something more knowing and contrived? Well, the undergraduate audience loved it, just like they did the lines from ‘Our town’ – “I’ve got some white bread, cheese spread, and some mayonnaise”, which they sang with gusto (but if that’s all they eat then how come they’re so bloody tall?). And Mason worked them well – carefully mixing the ‘old’ favourites like ‘Where the humans eat’ and ‘Fear no pain’ with the new material, ‘The world that I wanted’, ‘Save myself’, ‘Riptide’ and the final song of the main set ‘When the leaves have fallen’, a very nice tune with some intriguing guitar that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Jarvis Cocker song. It’s all very good stuff – with solid performances from the band (Sam’s drumming is exceptional) and well-balanced sound.
Of course he saves the most anticipated song ‘till the very last, returning finally to perform a solo version of ‘Oxygen’, with all the six foot five would-be lawyers, doctors and merchant bankers boisterously singing along to “We can be richer than industry, as long as we know that there's things that we don't really need” without a trace of irony. But by that time we were already on our way out, like Hansel and Gretel emerging from the deep and dark heart of the thick forest, trying to find a trail of crumbs to navigate our way home through the tall unforgiving trees. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate).
Many thanks, Nick. You asked ‘Was this gauche or jejeune?’ You know, the problem with foreigners who don’t practice French (or any other language) on a daily basis but who have very solid foundations, is that their French is actually way better than the average French street boy’s because it’s not ‘polluted’ by modern semi-slang. Gauche is excellent and is, indeed, sometimes used regarding youngsters who aren’t quite ‘finished’ yet and who behave a little clumsily. It’s getting slightly literary, alas. As for ‘jejeune’, indeed, it means ‘inexperienced’ in this context. Doubling the first syllable (you’d usually say ‘jeune’) is a way of softening a judgement in certain cases, when you don’t want to be too harsh on somebody, but that only works with a few words. It’s slightly familiar actually and little used (you know, everybody’s getting a little Procterian, keeping everything simple and short…. Impoverishment indeed). But enough with linguistics, there’s some very good music to listen to on Willy Mason’s myspace page. - S.
 
Fishky

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING - TWO 1992 BRUICHLADDICHS

Bruichladdich 1992/2005 (46%, Cadenhead, 312 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little spirity, quite punchy and very fruity, with notes of tinned pineapple, apples and peaches. A little raw and not very ‘precise’ I’d say. Whiffs of soda water and black pepper, and maybe hints of soap. Below par as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: simple, still quite fruity and spirity, with notes of kirsch and plum spirit. Hints of caramel. This one tastes like wood-matured fruit spirit. Again a little soap, I’m afraid. Finish: quite long but still very simple and rather indefinite, even if the fruity signature isn’t that unpleasant. Very far behind the OB’s, all OB’s. 70 points.
Bruichladdich 1992/2007 'Fishky' (50.2%, Stupid Cask, Germany) Ho-ho-ho! This is a very funny experiment made by some German guy, who bought a bourbon cask of Bruichladdich new make and let it mature in Scotland and then let it being re-racked in sherry in 2001, and finally let it being shipped to Berlin last year. Guess what, he did then a herring cask finishing on it to pay tribute to the early distillers who used to use herring casks to transport whisky (Well, just any casks I think). All that with lots of humour, he even chose ‘Stupid cask’ as the bottler’s name. Good one! Let’s try it now… Colour: gold - apricot. Nose: it’s perfectly all right, and even nice! Not that far from the Cadenhead’s, just rounder and with added hints of red fruits (raspberries, blackcurrant) and apricot jam. There may well be a little iodine in the background but I’m not too sure. An enjoyable nose, for sure, but it should all happen on the palate. Mouth: let’s go straight to the point: you have to like salt to like this. Actually, it does work and it does remind me of the infamous Loch Scainam Tlam we made a few years ago, blending various malts with 5% water from the Loch Indal (please read its name reversely). There’s quite some fruit jam, apricot pie and very ripe melon and most amazingly, the salt never completely takes control of the whole. Kind of a mixture of fruit spirit with salted liquorice and salted buttered toffee, in fact. Again, that works… until the finish! Indeed, the whisky slowly ‘vanishes’ as usual but the salt remains on your tongue and on your lips for a very, very long time… It’s a rather weird feeling but no problems at all, unless you had planned to try other whiskies just after this one. I didn’t, I had been warned ;-). Anyway, I think they did this the best they could, and I doubt any other herring-finished whisky would ever be better than this one. Now, this first may also be a last… 83 points, and I’m not exaggerating at all. (and thanks, Pit).
 

May 21, 2007


TASTING – A SMALL BLADNOCH RETRO-VERTICALE
Bladnoch
Bladnoch 26 yo 1958/1985 (46%, Cadenhead) Certainly the oldest Bladnoch I ever tried. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’m sorry, but ‘wow!’ Very elegant, very delicate but not weak at all, starting on slightly overripe apples and hints of metal (aluminium pan), with also hints of coal smoke and, as expected, fresh lemon juice. Then we have hints of chives and celery, then rather huge notes of lilac arising as well as freshly cut rhubarb… There may well be a little peat in the background. An old lady that still displays lots of charm. Superb. Mouth: oily – and here’s the lemon (including the zests) as well as quite some spearmint, pepper, mustard, chlorophyll… It gets grassier and grassier with time, superbly bitter (dry herb liqueur), waxy… Then more resinous, candied (crystallized lemon zests, lemon marmalade) and even spicier than at the attack. A lot of green pepper. Very bold and really vibrant despite all these years. The finish is probably the part that’s closest to more ‘modern’ Bladnochs, with lots of lemony notes – the whole being very long. Absolutely excellent! 92 points.
Bladnoch 13 yo 1975 (55.0%, G&M for Intertrade, 218 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we aren’t that far but the floral and sort of vegetal notes are here right from the start. It’s probably a little headier actually, with quite some musk and old roses. Then it changes directions, getting more on vanilla and light toffee just before we get some rather huge notes of lead pencil. Very entertaining but much less citrusy than expected. Mouth: rounder, sweeter but just as oily as the 1958 at first sipping, with a striking lemon leading the pack this time. There’s also quite some crystallized citron, lemon pie, all sorts of herbal teas, green tea, sage… gets grassier with time, bold, powerful… Yet, the balance is absolutely perfect. Perfect compactness. Finish: very long, still extremely lemony and grassy but in a perfect way. A lemony monster on the palate, excellent again. 89 points (and thanks, Bert).
Bladnoch 16 yo 1990 (50.1%, JWWW Auld Distillers Collection, 120 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the style is very different here, grainier, mashier, maybe more ‘mundane’ so to speak, but the citrusy notes are well here in the background. Develops on yoghurt, ‘light baby vomit’ (remember?), porridge, quite some parsley… This one is harder to enjoy and less ‘pure’ than its older siblings but it’s also got something wilder. ‘Clean’ manure, wet hay, horse dung… A Bladnoch from the farm. Mouth: hmm… it is more on lemon but there’s also something faintly ‘chemical’ (cheap orange drops?) Lots of pepper (the wood is quite biting), a little liquorice, lemon-flavoured tea… Some big bold tannins, not exactly silky ones. Finish: very long, green and lemony, bitterish, with kind of a very peppery aftertaste. In short, a rougher Bladnoch – for big boys as they say. 82 points.
Bladnoch 1993/2006 (58.7%, Scott's Selection) If I’m not mistaken, 1993 was the last year of distilling by United Distillers, the former owners. Should be interesting… Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, this is extremely lemony – it’s almost like lemon-flavoured vodka. Okay, not quite but it’s amazing how this one resembles, say lemon pie on the nose. Maybe a little mono-dimensional I’d say but that’s precisely what’s quite striking in this one. In the background: a little grass, a little pepper, a little porridge and a little vanilla. Mouth: this is pure lemon juice, with just a little candy sugar (and of course quite some alcohol). I like lemon a lot! Finish: very long, very lemony of course, with a little pepper. This is highly recommended to all lemon freaks – again, I’m among them, hence my 87 points. Someone might have burned lemon essential oils instead of peat in a malting plant somewhere in Scotland… (hey, I’m kidding!)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
(thanks to Woody)

 

MUSICRecommended listening: let's go a little more adventurous today with No Wave diva Lydia Lunch and her Carnival of fat man.mp3. She said once, 'I would be humiliated if I found out that anything I did actually became a commercial success', so maybe you should not buy her music ;-).

Lydia Lunch
 

May 20, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

THE WATERBOYS
The Royal Albert Hall, London, May 11th 2007

Well who would have thought it? Less than twenty-four hours later and we’re back in the Royal Albert Hall, opened you’ll recall, in 1871, having been built at a cost of £200,000 – somewhat less than the current value of a two bedroom flat in London. Like all grand public building projects it was dogged by controversy and disagreement. Not everyone welcomed the thought of such a massive arena – three times Prime Minister Lord Derby was concerned in 1865 that it would end up as 'a mere place of public amusements, of which monster concerts would be the least objectionable'.

Lord Derby
We’re certainly here for some public amusement this evening with Whiskyfun favourites Mike Scott and his Waterboys (rather, one of my favourites, perhaps not Serge’s). The lottery of on-line booking has been kind; we’re down on the floor of the auditorium, row 18, almost stage centre. Perfect. Well almost. We’re surrounded by people who all seem to know each other. There are smiles and handshakes, and souvenir photographs being taken for websites. These are the hardcore fans of the numerous Waterboys message boards and forums. Actually they’re a jolly bunch, and it’s inevitable that we spend more of the evening on our feet than on our sit-upon. The dancing loons immediately in front depart stagewards early in the evening, leaving us with Ned and his partner Neddess.
Black Pudding “I’m from Stornoway, hen” he remarks to the Photographer in one of his loquacious moments (it’s never really quite clear who he’s talking to). “Nice black pudding” she replies at a stroke, much to his surprise.
The Waterboys have a new album to promote, Book of Lightning. It’s received a hugely enthusiastic response from the majority of critics, many choosing to describe it as the long-awaited sequel to their landmark 1985 release This is the Sea. It’s certainly a return to Scott’s ‘Big Music’ compared with the highly rated Universal Hall and the strangely overlooked Rock in a Weary Land - but on a par with This is the Sea – well, good ‘though it is, I tend to think not. And this was really evident in a set that drew heavily on both albums. Placed side by side the songs from This is the Sea stood the test of time in terms of both their lyricism and depth of feeling. It just seemed as though Scott was trying a bit too hard on the new stuff – for example, the rhyming in ‘She tried to hold me’ is a little strained, and sometimes his vocals were over theatrical. But that’s not to say that most bands wouldn’t fall over themselves to have material of the quality of ‘Strange arrangement’ or ‘It’s gonna rain’. It’s just not quite as good as some have claimed.
Waterboys
Mike Scott is on fine rock and roll form. He prods and goads the adoring audience with his quizzical observations and pointed questions. The sound is excellent and his voice soars through this huge auditorium as strongly as sidekick Steve Wickham’s (“Wigwam”) violin. The Photographer suspects he’s wearing dark eye-shadow, perhaps to help with some of his more extravagant thespian gestures. He switches between electric guitar (perhaps a few too many long solos if I may say so, Mike), acoustic and electric piano. At the keyboards he delivers one of the moments of the night, singing ‘Old England’s dying’, a pointed choice for this icon of Old Albion, with lyrics suitably adjusted to reflect ongoing events in the Middle East. It’s only four songs into the evening but it’s such a moment that he could have walked off stage and I wouldn’t have minded. Other highlights are ‘Dumbing down the world’, the transportational ‘Iona’, the W B Yeats poem ‘Stolen Child’ (another pointed choice) and ‘Red Army’. And I have to remember that Roddy Lorimer (whose playing helped to define the sound of This is the Sea) comes on to play superb trumpet, and that there’s a new rhythm session of Mark Smith and Damon Wilson. From there it got a bit bing-bang-bosh with ‘Medicine bow’ (Wickham and organist Richard Naiff donning masks from a Venetian souvenir shop for a very self-indulgent bit of musical sparring) and ‘Pan within’, and then rowdy encores ‘Be my enemy’ and finally ‘Fisherman’s blues’.
Mike Scott The fans are ecstatic – it’s quite a sight to see this place full with everyone on their feet applauding ¬ – more photographs, more exchanged digits and e-mail addresses. Objectively you have to wonder how long Scott can carry on producing this new stuff, how long his prodigious back-catalogue will continue to sound fresh and relevant, and how long before this informed and sometimes inspired “public amusement” loses its edge. But at the moment it seems to be working to everyone’s satisfaction even, I’ve no doubt, rocking Lord Derby, who in case you didn’t know had a group called the Derby Dilly and played at the Concert of Europe. Fact. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thanks Nick. Oh, no, I like the Waterboys but it’s true that they aren’t too famous in France, like most ‘Celticising’ artists except ours (Allan Stivell and gang – and even, they’re very ‘seventies’ I’m afraid). I’m not saying the Waterboys are very ‘Celtic’ of course but as soon as there’s wood sawyers somewhere (read violins that do not swing too much), it sounds a bit ‘Celtic’ to our ears. Even Roxy Music sounded Celtic, imagine! Not sure you won’t find the Waterboys in the ‘world music’ section in the French record shops… Twits! Anyway, time to listen to the wonderful Peace of Iona.mp3 again – indeed. 
Highland Park 1984

TASTING – TWO 1984 HIGHLAND PARKS

Highland Park 22 yo 1984/2007 (56.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #1731, 208 bottles) I think I tried way more than 100 different HP’s and the northernmost Scottish distillery never failed to amaze me, even in its strangest versions. Colour: gold. Nose: amazing indeed – and a little weird indeed. It starts on mountains of buttered caramel topped with ginger tonic and something like peppered quince jelly (no kidding!) Then we get whiffs of wood smoke and fir honeydew and finally notes of plain ale. With maybe one aspirin or two in it. I told you, it’s a little weird.

Mouth: punchy and just as strange. ‘Chemical’ orange juice, over-infused green tea, grass, tequila… Goes on with gin-fizz, chlorophyll chewing-gum… walnuts… paraffin… Finish: long and better balanced, less bitterish and fruitier (orange drops). The whole isn’t really good in my books but at least it’s not boring – at all. But weird and maybe out of place in Duncan Taylor’s superb recent ‘Rare Auld’ range. 77 points.
Highland Park 1984/1996 (58.6%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask’, casks # 1812 – 1815) Colour: plae gold. Nose: somewhat similar but cleaner, less expressive but also less, err, weird. Alas, it gets extremely grassy after the attack, mineral, very austere and not very enjoyable. Whiffs of chemicals. Ouch. Mouth: much closer to the Duncan Taylor, maybe just a little earthier. Well, it seems that strange things happened at Highland Park in 1984. Maybe something lunar again? 69 points.
 

May 19, 2007


MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH by Johannes van den Heuvel

 

On the day of our laird May 18, 2007, the first local chapter of Malt Maniacs was born: Malt Germaniacs. It's a website for like-minded whisky afficionados who want to share their passion for single malt whisky in their mother tongue: German. And now they can... People from Germany, Austria and Switzerland (and other friends of the German language) are heartily invited to take a look at www.maltgermaniacs.org.

Meanwhile, progress on Malt Maniacs #104 is going smoothly - we just need three more E-pistles to get an issue together. So, with some luck, you could be reading a fresh issue of Malt Maniacs around June 1. Keep your fingers crossed... Sweet drams, Johannes.

 
Broras

TASTING – TWO BRORAS

Brora 26 yo 1977/2003 (54.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #61.15) Colour: gold. Nose: virtually unpeated at first nosing and very close to a Clynelish (wax and minerals), with also lots of lime. Quite sharp, with interesting hints of olives, mustard and avocado, which is unusual. It gets then a little fruitier (butter pears and cider apples), delicately honeyed, with finally a little peat coming through (I’d say half-farmy, half-coastal).

We do have a little wet dog and wet straw… And then it’s back to lemon and limejuice for a while, and then it gets even farmier and peatier. Fir-scented wax? Very long development, top-notch distillate as (almost) always but it needs time. Mouth: oh, now we have the same kind of peaty blast that’s usually associated with earlier versions. Superb! Here goes: wax, mustard, seaweed, smoked oysters, pepper, ginger, horseradish, liquorice, gentian spirit, something tarry, hints of eucalyptus and mint, cough syrup… It’s endless and it keeps improving! Just great, with obvious similarities with the 1977 Rare Malts (maybe more the 21 yo than the 24yo). Finish: now it’s totally perfect, liquoricy, smoky and lemony. Better and better, too bad the nose was a little hesitant but it’s well worth 91 points on my scale (and thanks, Konstantin).
Brora 25 yo 1981/2007 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1423, 682 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much less peaty, more vanilled and more on caramel and sawdust. Very oaky indeed, not sure the wood does allow the spirit to come through. I’m afraid giving this one more time doesn’t work, although that does bring more notes of walnuts and apple skin and a little wax… Wait, no, that does work a little actually, time awakens nice notes of marzipan but also quite some paraffin. I don’t quite know what to think, I must admit. The palate should help… Mouth: indeed, this is much better now. It’s very interesting to check that it’s almost like the SMWS but with less peat, as if somebody had simply turned the ‘peat button’ down a bit. That brought more lemon and more other fruits (I get a little kiwi, maybe plantain as well) and enhanced the waxiness. How interesting! Brora will never fail to amaze me. Finish: long, very waxy and beautifully bitter (apple skin). Another one that kept improving – Brora isn’t for people who’re pressed for time. Too bad the nose was slightly underwhelming, it would have made it above these 87 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening: here's the new French wonder Christophe Maé. It's not because all teenagers adulate him that he's not good, as the catchy On s'attache.mp3 should show you. Please buy his music...

Christophe Mae
 

May 18, 2007


Glen Spey

TASTING – FOUR GLEN SPEYS

Glen Spey 12 yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, circa 2005) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts grassy and faintly smoky, milky and porridgy. I’m sorry but it develops in the same way, and is still very herbal and grassy after a good fifteen minutes. Dry and charmless.

Mouth: not much more happening here. Maybe a little more vanilla and hints of liquorice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not undrinkable at all but ‘I guess they had to bottle this because they wanted to have one expression of each of their distilleries’. Well, they succeeded. Quite uninteresting I think but flawless, that is. 70 points.
Glen Spey 30 yo 1976/2006 (55.2%, Signatory, cask #370, 190 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: same but older and at cask strength, which means with a little more vanilla, a little more wood and a little more mint. Wait, it does get better – much better – with time. We get eucalyptus now, all kinds of resins, camphor, vanilla pods… And even more mint. Keywords: mint and vanilla! Mouth: punchy, powerful, minty but also quite weirdly yoghurty. Strawberry-flavoured yoghurt? The cask must have been quite lazy, even if there’s quite some vanilla and liquorice. What’s interesting is that it tastes like a 10 yo malt (of good quality). Simple but balanced, especially at the finish which is long, compact and pleasantly sweet. Vanilla, strawberry sweets and liquorice all-sorts with a little white pepper. Not especially interesting but dangerously drinkable – and old Glen Speys are very rare, aren’t they? 86 points (for its ultra-balance and compactness).
Glen Spey 11 yo 1995/2006 (59.7%, Norse Cask, hogshead #421, 242 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: powerful, vanilled, quite spirity, quite grainy and quite mashy, with also whiffs of newly sawn oak. Gets then more on cider apples but again, not much personality when undiluted, I’m afraid. With water: we get more farmy notes as often, notes of wet straw, maybe asparagus, old wood (grandma’s cupboard). It gets then much more interesting, with huge notes of tobacco and even game and liquorice. Much, much nicer with water indeed. Mouth (neat): thick, powerful, sweet, vanilled and rather fruity, with lots of nutmeg this time but water is really needed. So, with water: that worked again, although less impressively than on the nose. It got nicely liquoricy, herbal (quite some coriander), maltier as well… And maybe also oakier. Finish: long, liquoricy and grassy, with touches of honey… Well, again, it’s probably not the malt of the decade but it’s an enjoyable Glen Spey. Provided you don’t forget to add water, that is. 83 points.
Glen Spey 1977/2006 (58.9%, Blackadder for Scoma 30. Anniversary, cask #BA0245, 353 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: quite amazingly, this one is very similar to the 11 yo despite its much older age. Maybe just a tad more on vanilla. Let’s try to wake it up with water… Less development than with the 11yo, it gets more closed, maybe even a little cardboardy (also notes of flour). Faint hints of aniseed and plain grass. Not the most exuberant nose ever, I’m afraid. Mouth (neat): again, we have roughly the same whisky as the Norse Cask at the attack, including the heavy nutmeg. Incredible… With water: same development as with the 11yo, only grassier. Long but harsh, grassy and slightly drying finish, with just hints of apple compote. Not bad at all but another one that’s quite average in my books. 75 points. Glen Spey 1977
MUSICRecommended listening: I have no idea why I wanted to listen to this rather old tune by Marlene Dietrich today... Sag mir wo die Blumen sind.mp3... You may prefer the English version, but I don't. Please buy Marlene Dietrich's works. Marlene
 

May 17, 2007


Glen Grant 1970

 

 

 

 

TASTING –
THREE NEW 1970 GLEN GRANTS

Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #837, 208 bottles) Colour: dark amber – mahogany. Nose: wow, this is big bold sherry indeed! Very rich, very powerful, exuberant and invading, starting right on coffee with a few drops of schnapps, thick rich orange liqueur and old sherry (matusalem oloroso). Then we have a beautiful dryness, cocoa, fir wood smoke and finally more meaty aromas (the usual game, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and oxtail). A perfect dry sherry monster, almost Olympic. And no sulphur, no varnish and no nail polish. Mouth: ah, here’s the ‘woody cavalry’. Starts on quite some bitterish wood, cooked wine, strawberry jam (but it isn’t very sweet), developing on over-infused tea and fruit spirit (tutti frutti)… The bitterness gets more bearable after a moment, though, but the whole remains quite drying and ‘kirschy’. Finish: very long but still quite drying, like a mixture of very strong tea and heavily reduced wine sauce. Phew! But the nose was really superb, hence my 85 points.
Glen Grant 1970/2007 (53%, Highlander Inn Hotel, cask #861, 153 bottles) Colour: dark amber – mahogany. Nose: very, very similar, just a tad fresher and less thick. A little less smoke, a little more fruit jam… Maybe a tad less demonstrative in fact. Splitting hairs here. Mouth: starts cleaner and less bitter and tannic than the Duncan Taylor but just as concentrated. Lots of wood, lots of wine, lots of cooked fruits, a little rubber, quite some strong tea, rum, orange marmalade… All that is quite clean actually, although still a little lumpish and slightly too fat and oily for my tastes. A true sherry monster (infusion?) indeed. Finish: very long, penetrating, winey and quite tannic, with always hints of rubber… In short, very good (especially the nose again) but lacking elegance somehow. I know, a monster… 86 points.
Glen Grant 37 yo 1970/2007 (55.9%, Alambic Classique, cask 51031) Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one is different. There is some sherry but it’s all less ‘monstrous’ and rather subtler, both candied and more on fresh ripe fruits (apricots, melons, plums…) There’s also quite some smoke again, quite some oak, vanilla crème, now a little ham… What’s more, it’s very fresh at such old age. Mouth: more sherry this time, tannins, apricot pie, plum spirit… But as much as the attack was quite bold, the middle is much more silent, which is quite bizarre. It gets quite ‘smaller’ but rather delicately fruity (fresh melons, pineapples) and that may be good news. Nice spiciness (soft paprika and cinnamon from the wood). Faint hints of mustard. Finish: not exactly long but quite balanced when compared with the two monsters we just had, fruity and spicy, with just a fading dryness on your palate. I’d guess this one came from a refill butt, I like it better than the two ‘fresh sherry’ version. Very good old Glen Grant, 89 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: the great, great Mary Lou Williams playing Praise the Lord.mp3 (from her Black Christ of the Andes) with a big band. Please buy her music (there's for instance a fab DVD of her concert in Montreux in 1979, in the Norman Granz Collection. Two years before her death - piano solo at its best). Mary Lou Williams
 

May 16, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
RAY DAVIES AND HIS BAND

The Albert Hall, London, May 10th 2007

Blimey – it’s the Albert Hall, a right royal gaff (as you might say in France) if there ever was one! We’ve just had a few pints of mixed at the Queen Vic and popped over to catch lead Kink Ray Davies in concert with his band. It’s a first for Whiskyfun, if not for us, so just in case you don’t know this place was built in the late 1860s (it opened in 1871) as a tribute to the late Royal Consort Prince Albert (who is also fondly recalled by some for his contribution to male genital piercing).

Albert
Albert Hall Fact: 70,000 blocks of terra-cotta were used in its construction. Albert’s glinting-gold memorial (no piercing in sight), beautifully restored and recently reopened is across the road; in fact it’s captured in perfect outline through the huge windows of the upper circle bar. Inside the auditorium feels like a massive cavern (I used to do some caving – or speleology as the experts say - and it reminds me of being at the bottom of the famous Gaping Gill cave in the Yorkshire Dales).
“The interior” wrote one Victorian critic, “which is amphitheatrical in construction – like, for example, the Coliseum at Rome – is grotesquely inappropriate to any purpose for which it is ever likely to be required”. As a result of the lottery that is online ticket purchasing (“best available tickets”) we’re on the highest level, almost dead centre, with the royal box (I’m not sure if her Majestyness has dropped in to see her most loyal songster) beneath us. The stage, which sits beneath the Hall’s imposing organ, the largest pipe-organ in the UK (fact: it has 9,997 pipes), is a seriously long way away. Our seats
Sadly the Hall is a bit short of its 5000 capacity; I’d estimate no more than two thirds full. The online ticket machine has filled from the centre up, so the rows of seats to the left and right of us are largely empty (how many tickets, I wonder, to turn a profit?).
In front of us are a party of seven – it transpires they are three generations of a family from the States (Utah and Montana) and they’re here on a flying rock and roll tour . Ray Davies, Roger Waters, Mary Poppins (well – that’s for the youngest member of the group, who manages to sleep through most of this gig – “yeah, we’ll tell her about it in the morning”) and then Roger Waters again in Dublin. They like Roger a lot. And back home when they’re not chasing gigs they even holiday on rock and roll cruises – their favourite is the Lynyrd SkynyrdSimple Man” Cruise (did I mention that I once saw what was claimed to be the shirt that Ronnie Van Zant was wearing when he died in that infamous plane crash in Mississippi in 1977, in a museum exhibit in Macon, Georgia?). They’re all as tired as hell – not surprising as they only arrived in the morning and they’ve spent the day in the British Museum (“wow, that’s some museum”), but like the rest of the audience they’re all on their feet by the end of the night. And assuming you didn’t lose the little piece of paper the Photographer gave you and you’re reading this, respect, folks – I hope you had a good and safe trip.
Ray Davies
Having said all of that I would have to observe that tonight is hard work for Ray compared to last year’s gig at the Bush, and if we were all on our feet at the end it was largely due to affection and respect for such a fantastic songwriter and performer rather than to an infectious atmosphere. That part of the show didn’t really seem to kick off – even the sing along stuff was half hearted. Ironically Ray and his band were probably better – singing and performing top class, and very good (if not slightly loud) sound. That I’ve no doubt is as a result of being in an optimum position (thank you online ticket machine), but it’s also thanks to the fibre-glass acoustic diffusers which hang from the ceiling like flying saucers, the most recent attempt to deal with the acoustic problems that have bedevilled the Hall since its construction. The set is well-structured and follows the Bush sequence quite closely – starting with ‘I’m not like everybody else’. From last year’s Other People’s Lives we get ‘Next door neighbour’, ‘After the fall’, ‘The getaway’ and ‘The tourist’ - probably some of the best songs on that album and really well performed tonight, holding their own against Davies’ remarkable Kinks songbook. There are also two very strong unrecorded songs, ‘No one’s going to listen to me’ (with delicious hints of Mose Allison) and ‘Imaginary man’, both of which seem to be rooted in Davies’ New Orleans experiences, not least getting shot in the leg by a mugger back in 2004.
As for the hits – well you can probably imagine, although a surprise was ‘A long way from home’ rescued from the 1970s and dedicated to brother Dave Davies, whom you may like to know, is sufficiently recovered from his stroke of 2004 (not a good year for the Davies brothers then) to release a new album last year, Fractured Mindz.    
Kinks
The original Kinks - from left to right: Pete Quaife, Dave Davies, Mick Avory, and Ray Davies
Ray speaks fondly of his sometime musical partner, sometime adversary, and tells a bunch of stories, many of which we heard last time, but they bear retelling. He’s as sprightly as a whippet, in tight drainpipe trousers and trainers, exhibiting an agility that would be remarkable in a forty year old – he’s sixty-three. Bugger!
In all he plays twenty-five songs, not quite a record but pretty close to it – just think of being able to finish with an encore comprising ‘Days’, ‘Imaginary man’, ‘You really got me’, ‘Waterloo sunset’ and, well, you should be able to guess the final song given where we were. And even if the atmosphere was lacking it’s still a triumph – I don’t need to add that if you ever get a chance it’s well worth a few of your quids to go and see him. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Many thanks Nick. Let’s go straight to some old Kinks stuff if you don’t mind, such as their Well respected man.mp3 (1965). There's also some nice music by Ray Davies on his Myspace page. - S.
 
Bruichladdich 10

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE BRUICHLADDICHS

Bruichladdich 16 yo 1990/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2, sherry cask) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts spirity and mineral, quite inexpressive, with just a few winey notes in the background. Gets slightly more expressive after a while it’s still very shy. Little fruit that I can get (where’s the melon?) but a little more grass… Let’s give this one a little more time… … … … well, I almost fell asleep, but the whisky stayed just like it was. OK, let’s say it got a tad fruitier (watermelon). Mouth: not frankly better but a little oomphier. Still grassy, that is, austere, bitterish, getting quite dry. A very, very unusual Laddie indeed, and the finish isn’t any better, still grassy and quite bitter, with just a little lemon. Not the best Bruichladdich ever methinks. 70 points.
Bruichladdich 10 yo ‘sherry casks’ (43%, OB, France, 1990’s) A very rare version that was issued only for France. Colour: amber. Nose: more, much more of everything. It starts on coffee and chocolate, quite some wood smoke, a little sulphur but nothing embarrassing, rubber (inner tube)… gets then much nuttier, a little honeyed, and then quite flinty, mineral and slightly meaty (ham). Lots of ashes as well, coal oven… Unusually smoky (but not peaty). Mouth: even more unusual, with an attack marked by quite some ham as well as tar and liquorice, toasted bread, bitter caramel… We have quite some salt as well, crystallised oranges… It gets bolder by the minute (the attack wasn’t that bold), smokier, nuttier… The whole is quite beautifully dry. Finish: rather long, still smoky, nutty and toasted. Really excellent, a great surprise, kind of an unpeated peat monster (as strange as that could sound). I had it at 86 points but now it’s going to be 89 points.
Port Charlotte 5 yo 2001/2007 (46%, The Alchemist) A bottling by Gordon Wright who used to be part of the infernal trio who bought Bruichladdich he's still a significant shareholder I think. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely clean, crystal-clear peat with also a little kirsch, fresh milk and smoked mashed grains. Gets grassier and farmier after that, certainly less wham-bam than the PC5 and that’s not only the different ABVs. Kind of domesticated. Mouth: sweeter but also closer to newmake than the PC5 was. Lots of pear juice, a little quince, liquorice sticks, gentiane spirit, porridge… And then it’s back to pears, with quite some peat but certainly less than in any young Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Lagavulin. Smoked pears, anyone? Finish: not too long, still smoky and pear-ish, getting slightly resinous. Well, it’s like if reducing this one with water had sort of subdued it too much. But it’s still excellent whisky that reminds me a lot of the peated Connemaras. Now, it’s true that Bruichladdich is very close to Ireland. 80 points.
 

May 15, 2007


Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – TWO BUNNAHABHAINS

Bunnahabhain 1991/2006 (45%, The MacPhail’s Collection, sherry) There are other versions of this one at 40 and 43%. Colour: amber. Nose: lots of presence! It really smells like an old bottle, starting with notes of old walnuts and honeyed roasted hazelnuts as well as whiffs of old books and shoe polish. Also cigar box. Goes on more on fruits (raspberry jam) and a little smoke that may come from the wood. Gets then more frankly orangey, smelling more and more like freshly squeezed oranges. Whiffs of church incense and (mass) white wine, getting just a tad dusty after a moment. Rather complex and not too far from the officials. Mouth: candied and honeyed, even closer to the official 12, just bolder. Quite some coffee, nougat, praline and some smokiness again, roasted nuts, a little liquorice and a little mint… It gets also a tad resinous (and beautifully so). Perfect balance, very satisfying. Finish: rather long, coating and honeyed, on candy sugar, liquorice and honey. Hugely drinkable, very pleasant. 87 points (and thanks, Pierre)
Bunnahabhain 9 yo 1997/2007 (59%, Signatory, refill sherry butt, cask #5272, 645 bottles) Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts on peat, lots of peat. Reminds me of how sorry was Bunnahabhain’s manager, John Mclellan, when he told us that ‘they had to make whisky for the peatophiles’. It’s very clean peat mingling with the sherry’s butter caramel notes but it’s a little too powerful for us to enjoy it without a little water (or it’ll burn your nostrils). It’s incredible how close to a young sherried Ardbeg this one is. but does that still exist? With water: gets very soapy and ‘lavenderish’ but that’s because I didn’t wait long enough before dipping my nose into the glass again. Then it’s the peat and the youth that come through more than the sherry, the latter almost disappears now, although we do have quite some coffee and hints of sawdust. Mouth (neat): wow, what a nice attack, bold and compact but much more ‘bearable’ as far as the strength is concerned. Lots of crystal-clean peat (I’d guess they must cut quite late to get all this peat with tall stills) and candy sugar, nougat and flavourful honey as well as orange marmalade. With water (even if it’s not obligatory): we have added layers of flavours, like smoked tea and salted liquorice. Finish: long, more organic and farmy now, with funny hints of asparagus and quite some salt. A very good dram despite its young age. 88 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Tokyo's very excellent 'conservative avant-gardist composer' Jun Miyake does Switch.mp3 (from his 2002 album 'Mondo Erotica'). Please buy his music... Jun Miyake
May 2007 - part 1 <--- May 2007 - part 2 ---> June 2007 - part 1


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

Bladnoch 26 yo 1958/1985 (46%, Cadenhead)

Brora 26 yo 1977/2003 (54.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #61.15)