BREAKING NEWS - Auchenbowie's Master Distiller Interviewed for Whiskyfun
You may remember this first interview a few years back (scroll down), he's at it again. Any resemblance... ahem!
Private Parties at Feis Ile Just in from our reporters on Islay
Today it’s our correspondent Angus who’s reporting two private evenings that just took place during Feis Ile. Thanks Angus, vicarious pleasures are still pleasures.
Flaming Lobster Night 2012 Highlights
The Flaming Lobster Night has become slightly infamous in recent years. It is a private tasting event hosted by the Lindores Whisky Society at Lagavulin Hall on Islay during the festival. A fresh and simple seafood dinner is provided for all guests with the provision that they bring a bottle of something spectacular to open and be tasted by all participants on the night. Below is a selection of some of the many fantastic bottles we were fortunate enough to have this year.
Johnnie Walker Red Label (70 proof, OB, rotation early 1930s, driven cork) No capacity. Another blast from the past courtesy of Mr Walker and his rainbow of labels. Colour: Light amber. Nose: Thick wax, coal smoke and good quality toffee sponge pudding all rolled into a big dollop and stuffed up your nose. Goes on with caramelised sugar, muesli, hessian, a warehouse full of metal polish, grease, pipe tobacco and shammy leather. Quite an impressive potency on the nose given the strength and age of the whisky, the 80 or so years in glass has evidently left its mark but the results seem pretty spectacular. There is quite a bit of this wonderful old style peat in there as well. Palate: It’s another of these classic old blend profiles, bags of vegetation, old medicine, drying, thick ancient peat, metal, dusty phenols and all kinds of farmyard characters. A wonderful saline quality runs through it as well with a big crusty saltiness and flavours of lemon oil and waxed citrus rind. Hints struck flints and mead with a bag of cider apples and some sharp white fruit notes as well. That vegetal quality returns towards the end giving it a sense of completeness. Finish: Great length for such an antique spirit. Mashy, baked cereals, steamed vegetables, coal smoke, metallic peat, green tea and all kinds of oils and wax. Comments: This is bigger than an early 1920s rotation I tried late last year. The oiliness and weight of the whole thing, especially after all this time is quite something, there’s no denying it is a soft whisky but the quality is fantastic. Not to mention the privilege of drinking these extinct styles of whisky nowadays. Angus 91.
Glen Grant 1954/1970 (70 proof, Berry Bros, 26 2/3 fluid ounces) Colour: Light gold. Nose: One of these perfectly delicate old style noses, highly fragrant and full of subtle notes of honey, wild flowers, grass, quince, wax and all kinds of minerals. Behind that comes tiny nuances of natural vanilla, metal polish, dusty phenols, camphor, calpol medicine and rosewater that borders on high quality Turkish delight. A really beautiful old highlands style aroma that just keeps on improving in the glass. With time we also get pollen, motor oil and honeysuckle. Palate: Great delivery for such a low strength. Dry and biting at first but not aggressive, it is rather more silky and velvety in the mouth with notes of barely sugar, cornflour, more wax, mineral notes, flowers and white fruits. White balsamic and olive oil with dried tarragon and a little sea salt, just a very classy salad dressing really. Goes on to become slightly dusty and peppery with more of these notes of polish and gun metal. Delicious. Finish: Really long and slow fading, all on wild flowers, grass, farmyard notes of earth and hay and more of these wonderful touches of vanilla and fresh bread. Comments: A brilliant old highland style malt and a great window on Glen Grant’s house style at the time without any overt sherry influence, the wood has done a spectacularly ‘quiet’ job on this one. The time in glass has also been very well spent, the OBE is perfectly balanced and not even slightly over the top at any point. I love it. Angus 93.
Ardbeg 17 yo 1969/1987 (80 proof, Cadenhead’s Dumpy, 26 2/3 fluid ounces) Colour: Gold. Nose: This is a much lighter version of Ardbeg, more akin to the 1990 Arigh Nam Beist with its elegant peat and oil combination. Wonderful hints of old rope, tcp, iodine, coal tar soap and greengages. Some background drying peat smoke and sea salt as well with notes of fresh orange juice and juniper. Becomes quite peppery as well with some fresh ground white pepper, peppered mackerel and brine. Palate: Quite saline and peppery at first with a big salt and vinegar quality, quite Lagavulinesque in fact. Very quaffable old Ardbeg this with not much in the way of OBE that you normally taste in these old Cadenhead Dumpies. Increasingly fat and oily becoming more and more classically 60s in style with some white fruits and seashore mineral qualities. Finish: Long and all on very glycerol peat, graphite oil, wax, coastal notes and hessian, even a touch of Iron Brew in the finish, great. Comments: A curious Ardbeg, maybe this is a hallmark of the 1969s but then how many 1969s are there available to taste? Lighter than you might expect and not the greatest but still magnificent by almost all other standards. Angus: 92.
Lagavulin 1970 cask sample bottled 1991 in a Bell’s Decanter. Sherry butt. Cask strength. This sample was taken by a worker at Lagavulin in 1991, it was his favourite cask at the time and he kept the sample ever since. He very generously gave it to me for valuing his whisky collection. Colour: Amber. Nose: An intense wave of thick leathery peat, dark sherry fruit, hessian, smoky bacon, tar, old rope, brine, fresh seaweed and barbequed scallops. A massive whisky, fat, glycerol medicinal notes, dried herbs, huge meaty tones, fish nets, germoline, herb liqueur, what an incredibly concentrated and complex nose. With water: it becomes much dried but also much fruitier, a cavalcade of green and tropical fruits, notes of mango puree, dried pineapple, pipe tobacco, brown bread and coal smoke. What a beast.
Palate: Very in keeping with the nose, a wave of fat phenols, ancient peat oils, kippers, lemon juice, dried herbs, molasses, aged rums, raisin compote (does that exist), tar liqueur (I know for a fact that doesn’t exist), hints of rancio, dried mushrooms and sea salt. After time the fruit starts to really come through, all kinds of delicate tropical and green notes mingling together with these dark fruit elements from the sherry, quite spellbinding. With water: dates, camphor, a bucket of candle wax and then all kinds of fruit compote and puree, hugely tropical and lush with a hint of something like dirt and bark in the background that keeps it thick and interesting. Still super meaty and fat, a real powerhouse whisky, it just keeps on going. Finish: Long, meaty, super menthol and minty with huge salty notes, tropical nuances, more of these smoky bacon qualities and all kinds of spice, dark fruit, peat oils, smoked fish and coastal notes. Comments: These notes are kind of pointless because there’s only 1 bottle of this stuff in the world but it was such a pleasure to try such a rare and legendary piece of history from such a great distillery. It reminds me of the official 21yo at several points but really it is quite distinct from anything else I’ve tried from this distillery, that combination of fruit, peat, coastal notes and meaty/oily intensity is spectacular. Angus 95.
John Beech's Port Ellen Tasting
Here are a selection of notes taken from Jon Beech’s wonderful (if a little wild) Port Ellen tasting outside the old distillery warehouses last Monday night. An incredible and rowdy night was had by all.
Old Guns Blend (43%, OB, Italian import, rotation early-mid 1970s) This was an old blend of which Port Ellen was reputed to be a central component. Much like Lagavulin was to White Horse and Laphroaig to Islay Mist. Colour: Gold. Nose: Vegetal and very thick at first with metallic peat and hits of white fruit. More big vegetal notes with fat mineral qualities, old style wax and something quite greasy as well. Very lovely thick peat quality, quite reminiscent of a 60s White Horse. Goes on with hints of honey, cocoanut, spice and more root vegetable notes like mashed potatoes and a touch of boiled cabbage. Palate: Coal, tar, wood spice, camphor, all kinds of oils and peats. More metal polish and wax with some unexpected notes of fresh lemon curd and buttered toast. Very mashy and cereal now with a few final touches of minerals and white fruits again. Finish: Good length for a blend with curtain calls for all those mineral, vegetal and peat qualities. Thick but sprightly. Like me. Comments: A great and fascinating old blend, the level of peat does suggest that Port Ellen played quite an active role in this whisky’s composition. I like all the vegetable notes, does this count as one of my five a day? Angus 87, Luc 81, James 87, Geert 88.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1983/2010 (46%, Single Malts Of Scotland, cask #2) Colour: Straw. Nose: A wonderful freshness to start with very appetising notes of green fruits, white pepper, cereals, gooseberries and white flowers. The coastal aspects are very prevalent and super fresh with all that classic Port Ellen oysters, lemon juice and brine quality. Palate: Ashy and very lemony at first becoming quite floral with a pleasant edge of fragrant soap creeping in but nothing like enough to be a flaw. More cereal, toast, butter, parsley and then coal smoke and green peat. Remains quite dry and fresh with more of this big ashyness.
Finish: Great length and very citrusy with fresh lemon and lime notes all over the shop. Comments: Very 80s, very good and very fresh. A classy Port Ellen, good as an aperitif with smoked salmon or pate (probably). Angus 89, Geert 88, James 88, Luc 87.
Port Ellen 13 yo 1982/1996 (43%, Hart Brothers, 75cl) Colour: White wine
Nose: Farmyard peat, earth, coal smoke, resin and tar with fresh oysters, lemon juice, lime zest and a lovely waxy/mineral combo. After that comes hints of white chocolate and paint with some tropical notes of pineapple, guava and something herbal and liqueurish (herb liqueur in fact). Palate: Once again this is a really ashy one, lemony and floral with big notes of juniper, tarry phenols, more pineapple and a whole host of other tinned fruits and fruit syrups. Develops a slight sherberty zing towards the end. Finish: Long and filled with dried herbs, smoke, white fruits and sea salt. Comments: Always a privilege to taste such youthful examples of Port Ellen and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. Proof that Port Ellen could be great even at younger ages. Angus 90, Geert 91, James 90, Luc 90.
Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, sherry cask) Colour: Bronze, Nose: Dry peat, old seaweed on a hot beach, tar, rope, cured meat, leather, sea salt, greengages and motor oil. Quite a cavalcade of aromas at first but the overall balance of meaty and sinewy qualities with fruit and peat is quite excellent. Nice gamey quality about it as well. Palate: A touch of soap initially then leather, dried herbs, salted beef, green malt, coal, metal polish and grapefruit. Goes on with a hint of mustard seed, wet earth, brine, more gamey and leathery notes and some milk chocolate. Finish: Medium length with a nice mix of sea salt, coal, oil and more green fruits. Comments: Not the best sherried Port Ellen out there but I found it pretty drinkable. Although it was not to everyone’s taste. Angus 86, Luc 87, James 86, Geert 82.
May 30, 2012
Straight from Islay
Our Belgian reporters on Islay have been so busy today that we decided to post tomorrow’s entry, well, right today. They discovered a nice new whisky bar in Port Ellen at the Islay Hotel, where they tried two rare whiskies.
Rare whiskies on Islay, really? ;-) Indeed...
Ardbeg 1978 (57.2%, Cadenhead, white label, +/-1993) Nose: iodine burnt plastic, a little citrus, very closed on the nose. Vegetal. Slight cauliflower. Lactose. Milky. Strange. Palate: Pungeant, dry, paint thinner, austere to the finish, don't feel my teeth anymore, tzatziki and sour cream. Vinegar. Finish: warm, burning, spicy, liquid wasabi. Comments: strange dram! Geert 80, Luc 70, James 73.
Port Ellen 16 yo 1980 (46%, First Cask, cask #89/589/46, +/-1996) Nose: vegetal, fresh cut grass, clean, grapefruit juice, fresh maritime wind, the beach at Port Ellen with fine lime and citric acid. Great!!!!! Palate: clean, fat, oily, rich seaweed, oysters and crab claw juice. Lovely. Finish: great. Salty. Lingering. Like Himalaya pink salt. And a touch of tonic. Comments: great! Geert 94, James 92, Luc 92.
And two new Feis Ile exclusives:
Caol Ila 2001/2012 ‘Feis Ile’ (60.4%, OB, sherry butt, cask #300897, 618 bottles) Nose: grain on buttered toast with shortbread. A touch of mandarine and citric acid on fresh cut wood. Like a fisherman's boat that just cut off his engine. A little petrol & diesel mixed with tar and seashore aromas. Quite heavy to get thru the alcohol but leave it in your glass a little and it opens up soooo beautifully. Palate: strong but stunning. A full mouth of sea, tar, leather, pepper, chilli pepper and salt.... Whauh (that’s Belgian – Ed.) Finish: long, bringing back the full scale of aromas we nosed. Comments: Mmm, the best Feis Ile so far. Don't forget to add water to fully unleash the aromas covered under the whopping 60.4%. James 91, Geert 91, Luc 91.
Bowmore 15 yo ‘Feis Isle 2012’ (55.4%, OB, +/-750 bottles) Nose: nice sherry nose. Sultana raisins. Fine tobacco. Toffee. Orangettes. Coffee bonbons. Fresh leather. Nice! Palate: caramel cinnamon covered oranges. Some Indian spices. Pancakes with dark brown sugar. Crepes Suzette. Finish: long sticky rich aftertaste. Comments: great expression if you like a rich fat sherried dram. James 89, Geert 90, Luc 88.
May 29, 2012
More from our skilled reporters and tasters on Islay
Ardbeg ‘Ardbeg Day’ (56.7%, OB, 2012) Nose: lemon & custard pie, lime juice, white chocolate, clean medicinal peat, campfire with a faint touch of smoke. Palate: punchy, zingy, lots of lime and custard with a strong peatiness with quite some oiliness. Finish: short and quite some tonicum and lime bitterness in the end. Comments: very good dram especially on the nose. With water you get a really nice and almost old style 70's Ardbeg, on the nose especially. A real swimmer, we suggest to take it with water!! Geert 88, James 87, Luc 87.
NEWS: Yesterday morning the water flow at Lagavulin was dry and they had to stop mashing. This is the first time in 38 years this has happened in May according to the stillman.
Tasting two newish Port Ellen and an aperitif
First, the aperitif, of course…
Port Ellen 13 yo 1979 (40%, Douglas Murdoch, +/-1992) By a fairly obscure indie bottler from days gone by. There's also a 12yo, a 17yo and cask strength versions. Oh, and nothing to do with nasty Rupert - I hope! Colour: gold. Nose: this is why I like to taste young PEs when possible, they're always quite different from aged versions. This one is unexpectedly medicinal, more so than, say the most medicinal Laphroaigs. Reeks of cough syrup and antiseptic, bandages, embrocations, mercurochrome and then more tar and these notes of burnt tyres that were so spectacular in the 1978s Rare Malts. This could well be old G&M stock! Mouth: like swallowing a whole ashtray, with something close to old Caol Ilas. Very dry! Then anchovies, a little lemon, smoked salmon (extreme!) and touches of wormwood. The best absinth ever? Finish: very long for a malt that was bottled at a measly 40% vol., still ashy and smoky, with an aftertaste of oysters and almond oil. Comments: rare and spectacular. I believe any true malt aficionado should try to taste some young PE - but yeah, I know that's not easy to do. Apologies. SGP:268 - 91 points.
Pe5 (57.9%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 50cl, 2011) Oops, I think I may have missed Pe4! Anyway, I thought 1, 2 and 3 were brilliant whiskies. Colour: gold. Nose: I like it when the combination of peat and what might be a little sherry creates a feeling of espresso coffee, which usually leads to many rich yet elegantly sharp aromas. It's clearly what's happening here, as we get cigars, brine, seawater, earth (and lots and lots of it), mustard, flints and then bitter oranges (and a liqueur made thereof). It's not quite a peat monster so far but let's remember it's probably 30 years old. With water: a kind of smoky honey plus old cloths and wet wool. Smoked sultanas? Wonderful. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy and frankly, pretty perfect. It's bigger now, rather 'infused' and herbal (did they add a few drops of Jaeger?), extremely concentrated, with PE's tar and lemon adding even more depth and power. It's huge! With water: becomes liqueurish, in a fab way. Finish: extremely long, peaty, rich, on bitter oranges, ginger and a little aniseed. Maybe figs in the aftertaste, and liquorice for sure. Comments: a stunning beast. Heavy and great, almost Nigel-Tufnelian (yup, goes to eleven). SGP:468 - 93 points.
Port Ellen 1982/2012 (58.6%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS12017, 298 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh, a rounder, softer Port Ellen, despite the high strength! Starts rather on overripe fruits (greengages?) before many herbs and spices from the oak start to come out, together with quite some menthol, which goes so well with this profile. There are hints of pencil shavings but it's all under control. Also camphor, sultanas, marzipan, even a little coconut oil… Again, it's pretty unusual but it's also quite brilliant. I don't think there are many PEs out there that are no sherry monsters while displaying an obvious, and beautifully polished oakines. What's sure is that it's lighter than the Pe5 - yet it's no light whisky of course. With water: some fresh oak comes out more, bourbon-style. Works well. Mouth (neat): amazing. Lemon, lemongrass, ginger, bitter oranges, passion fruits (yes my dear, in a PE), clams, more lemon, brine, oranges, angelica… And an exceptional balance. Just like in the nose, some kind of fresh oak is babbling in the background but while that could have been a tiny flaw, it isn't. Brilliant! Finish: both the sweet oak and the oranges come more to the front. Eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Another one that's wonderfully balanced. Comments: unusual and great. I just couldn't tell you which one I like best between the Pe5 and this wee monster. SGP:367 - 93 points.
Laphroaig 'Cairdeas Origin' (51.2%, OB, Feis Ile 2012) Nose: a lot of smoke with a brioche and remote fruity notes, some orange notes underneath. Nice. Palate: Apple. Smoke. Sweet. Vanilla and ginger with ash. Finish: rather Short finishes on salt. Comments: fine daily Laffie. Nothing spectacular though. James 88, Geert 89, Luc 86.
Bowmore '100 Degrees Proof' (57.1%, OB, 2012) Nose: citrus vanilla cake with fine lime and orangey notes. Really nice. Palate: lovely mixture of lime, citrus & delicate peat with fine smoke. Finish: long lingering finish bringing some fine exotic fruit & herbal notes. Comments: fine and really brings back bowmore and its fruitiness. Geert 91, James 91, Luc 90.
Bruichladdich 1992/2012 'XX Nostalgia Barolo' (OB, Feis Ile 2012, aced in Gaja's Sperss casks) Nose: starts very interesting. Barolo yes, but where is the whisky? Burnt almonds. Spirity with a layer of barolo mmmm. Strange combo. Palate: strong pungeant burnt nuts and grape skin. Finish: burning hot hot hot. Comments: well.... Not my cup of "wine" but Sperss can be great but not with or in my whisky. James 82, Geert 80, Luc 78.
May 27, 2012
Exclusive! This just in from our reporters on Islay
It’s Feis Ile time again and at Whiskyfun we've got our own team of dedicated reporters again, namely Luc Timmermans, Angus McRaild, James Pithie and Geert Bero. No need to say that we fully trust the tastes and scores of this fearless bunch of fellows!
It's so sunny on Islay, suntan lotion is obligatory! ->
Lagavulin 1998/2012 ‘Feis Ile’ (55.1%, OB, refill sherry butt, cask #1716) Nose: ashtray, salt & vinegar chips, Haribo white gummy beers. Very 12 in style, monodimensional. Palate: pepper, mustard seed vinaigrette. A good salad dressing. Finish: white chocolate & loads of volcanic ash. Citric acid and lemon juice. Comments: Very austere salad dressing dram. Monodimensional. Angus 84, James 81, Geert 84, Luc 83. Lagavulin 19 yo Work In Progress Nose: Dry dusty nutty. Like a Snickers bar, iodine, delicate sea shore aromas, coco dust, slight game, meat sauce, weird overripe fruits. Dried mangos. Palate: dried fruits. Leather. Great combo of peat and fruits. Sweet peat. Finish: long and delicately peppery with litchis and rosewater. Comments: great dram! Angus 90, James 90, Geert 91, Luc 91.
Tasting two 17 and one 34yo Glenturret
Time to tackle our ‘friend’ Glenturret again. Glenturret’s always fun!
Glenturret 17 yo 1994/2011 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry butt, 298 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: frankly, I’m not a dedicated anti-sulphur freak and I think that sulphur can even be an asset to some whiskies (in moderate doses and I’m not talking about rotten eggs), but this time it’s frankly too much. Gas, struck matches and asparagus cooking water plus cardboard and old newspapers. Also a little humus and saltpetre, which is nicer but that isn’t enough. With water: brunt plastic. Mouth (neat): sweetish at first, then burnt and bitter. Barbecued marshmallows? Really strange… With water: disastrous. Finish: rather long, bitter. Especially the aftertaste is problematic in my opinion. Comments: too sulphury and very hard to enjoy, even if you’re a sulphur freak. Flawed, I’m afraid - but as always, only my humble opinion. SGP:272 - 40 points.
Glenturret 17 yo 1985/2002 (59.1%, Wilson & Morgan, hogshead, cask #122, 290 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, we aren’t far from the DL (sulphur) but this baby’s also got notes of porridge and, well, baby vomit. Maybe water will help… With water: big smoke now, while these sourish notes have vanished. Fermenting grass and garden bonfire. Mouth (neat): much, much, and I mean much better than the 1994 now. A very nice albeit very heavy grassiness plus bags and bags of all kinds of pepper. Biting. With water: it got niiiice, even if still very ‘different’. Vive la difference, as we say over here. Herbal liqueurs. Finish: long, peppery, grassy, herbal. Makes me think of Bénédictine. Lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: very extreme, which is an asset in this context. A fun bottling. SGP:272 - 84 points.
Glenturret 34 yo 1977/2012 (46.7%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, refill hogshead, 256 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: funny, very funny! Starts all on vegetables, such as asparagus (indeed), oyster-plant and even aubergines, before it becomes kind of phenolic and sooty, with some tar and coal smoke. Very austere and a little bizarre but it’s elegant malt whisky, very different from… well, any other malt. Also green walnuts, green bananas, dandelions... Very curious about the palate… Mouth: and yet again, a Glenturret that’s very different from all other malts. Starts rather rounded and fruity this time (the bananas are back) but grass and pepper grow bigger after that, without being dominating this time. Chives, grass, black pepper, notes of coriander (maybe sorrel as well?) What’s nice is that there’s also notes of tangerines and other tart fruits that keep the whole balanced and pleasant to quaff, even if there’s also a fizzy side (not quite ginger tonic, but…) Finish: medium long, rather balanced, between lemon, pepper and… Schweppes. Comments: definitely one of the very good Glenturrets despite some unlikely parts. And hey, it’s fun whisky! SGP:362 - 85 points.
-Recommended listening: some glorious and lyrical Angels by master Albert Ayler. It's on the LP Live in Greenwich Village, that anybody must own.
May 25, 2012
Tasting two old Tomatin
Tomatin 44 yo 1967/2012 (51.9%, Clan Denny for The Whisky Fair Limburg, refill butt, cask #HH7993) Colour: gold. Nose: ho-ho, this is potent! Not the expected smooth and delicate old malt, rather a heady calvados-like spirit, full of cider apples (obviously), tobacco, prunes, balsamic vinegar, gunpowder and flints (not sulphur-driven at all) and cured ham. Also a pleasant mustiness, mushrooms, moss, old cellar… Works well so far! With water: little changes, maybe more tobacco and leather. Mouth (neat): again, it’s impressively big and without any obvious signs of old age. Starts on an orange + pepper combination (make that bitter oranges) and goes on with more ginger and walnuts, with a feeling of amontillado. Meat sauce. Quite a beast. With water: it got perfect now (which translates into reaching 90 points in my little book). Ripe fruits and spices, in particular white pepper and cinnamon. I think the sherry got softer and more discreet. Finish: medium long, delicately spicy. Old style compote. Comments: it’s really got something of the best old calvados but let’s not forget that all aged spirits tend to converge when getting very old. SGP:561 - 90 points.
Tomatin 37 yo 1965/2003 (47.2%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Colour: full gold. Nose: typical old Tomatin this time, smooth, easy and fruity. I get bananas, overripe apples, mirabelle plums, then more floral notes, dandelions, light honey, beeswax… What’s also very nice is the feint earthiness, roots… Also vanilla and mocha, very ‘refill bourbon’. All easy, all pleasure this time. Whiffs of menthol after fifteen minutes. Mouth: well, it’s not that smooth! Some smoke, which comes unexpected, green apples, banana skin, sugar cane, lime blossom tea and then simply an apple pie with a lot of cinnamon. It’s not very complicated (read complex) but it’s very good, compact, nervous, easy. Finish: long, with a little more pepper and a little more oranges. Comments: typical old Tomatin from moderately active wood. Goes down without problems – which might be the problem. SGP:651 - 89 points.
Let’s have another Tomatin while we’re at it, a younger one…
Tomatin 1991/2012 (54.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #51) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical clean, malty, sweet, barley-ish, slightly chocolaty (milk chocolate) and with good fruitiness (apples, greengages). Cornflakes, muesli and apple compote. With water: more minerals. Mouth (neat): it’s great to find out that the profile that’s to be found in older Tomatins such as the 1976s is already there, even if in an embryonic way. I mean mangos, papayas, blood oranges… Very good! With water: orange juice, aloe juice, mango… And just a little honey. Easy and sexy. Finish: medium long, clean and fruity. Comments: I think the nose wasn’t so special but the palate is already quite brilliant. A recommended fruitbomb! SGP:741 - 87 points.
-Recommended listening: all right, it's a Nirvana cover (I know) but it's by Steve Earle, so... It's Breed. Please buy Steve Earle's music.
May 24, 2012
Tasting another old Banff plus a neighbour
There’s this new Banff by MoS but sadly, I haven’t got any other yet-untasted old Banff at hand so I’ll rather have an oldie from Banff’s closest neighbour, Macduff (which doesn’t really make much sense, agreed…)
Banff 1975/2012 (43.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #12015, 165 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: interesting, it’s not a typical Banff in my opinion. Less austere and mineral than usual and rather more on flowers and herbal teas, especially chamomile. Develops mostly on roses and orange blossom, with even touches of scented soap (rose again). At the fruit section we have peaches or rather nectarines as well as hints of tinned litchis and pineapples. In other words, more gewürztraminer than riesling, this very interesting Banff. Mouth: ha-ha! Here come the mustard and the chillies (all that isn’t big, though), on top of a rather luscious fruitiness. Fruit salad, peaches, oranges, raspberries, touches of fudge, cappuccino, chocolate… All good. A few spices from the oak, rather towards bitter chocolate and cinnamon. Also nutmeg. Finish: medium long and oakier, as always, but the tannicity is moderate and there’s no plankishness. Comments: one of the most drinkable and fruitiest old Banffs, pretty sexy. Makes me rather think of a distillery that used to lie further east, starting with ‘Glen’ and ending with ‘gie’… No, not Glenmorangie, that’s up north; Glenugie! Excellent. SGP:651 - 90 points.
Macduff 1974/1996 (55.4%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #5113) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a heady profile all on coffee-schnapps, which often happens with high-strength whiskies. Notes of new make or eau-de-vie, which is something I often found in Macduff, whether sherried or not. Kirsch. With water: more hay, a little soap, cherry stem tea… And more soap. Doesn’t swim too well even when you give it a lot of time. Sinks! ;-) Mouth (neat): oily, mouth coating, very fruity but also kind of burnt, with these notes of new kirsch yet again. Cardamom, bitter herbs, plain malt. Not an easy one. With water: more paraffin, jelly beans, sweets, bubblegum. Really, I’m not a fan of this style. Finish: rather long, on a curious combination of overfruitiness (sweets) and bitter herbs. Something burnt again in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m afraid I’m having troubles with many Macduffs. SGP:651 - 76 points.
-Recommended listening: a good chunk of good funk blues with good riffs and good spirit. It's Marc Ford And The Neptune Blues Club and they're playing Main Drain. Play loud and then buy Marc Ford's music, thanks.
May 22, 2012
Tasting Deanston 1977 vs. 1967
Not many Deanstons on WF, I’m afraid…
Deanston 35 yo 1977/2012 (40.4%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, refill hogshead, 253 bottles) Thosop already had a very nice 1977 Deanston two years ago (WF 88). Colour: white wine. Nose: first, it’s clean, which is a feat in itself. Second, it’s neither oaky nor weak, which is quite a feat as well. And third, it’s beautifully sappy and fruity, right between a whole fruit salad and a cocktail made out of putty, almond oil, cough syrup and barley water. Quite a cocktail indeed. Also earthy tones, gentian, other roots… And tinned pineapples. Mouth: hurray, it’s neither an oak bomb nor some tired old tea. The whole remained lively and fresh, fruity, delicately spicy and decadently phenolic (well…) Dried pears, Turkish delights, a feeling of retsina wine, a little leather, citrons, marzipan, mead… Impressively un-tired. Finish: shortish, which was to be expected, but clean. Cinnamon and mint in the aftertaste. Comments: superb nose, very nice palate, finish a bit more ‘for the record’ but that’s normal. SGP:451 - 88 points.
Deanston 23 yo 1967/1991 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1785, 300 bottles) That’s rare… Colour: gold. Nose: some parts remind us of the 1977 but this is much stronger, obviously, and unexpectedly oakier and more tannic. Having said that, it’s just as almondy and earthy, with whiffs of white rhum agricole and maybe even tequila, then quite some eucalyptus and maybe a little cologne. After fifteen minutes: smells just like Vicks Vaporub! With water: ultra-grassy and a little soapy. White beer, bread leaven... Nice touches of kumquats and bergamots in the background. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy but much wackier now, more ‘Deanston’. Bitter herbs galore, bitter oranges, a little plastic (make that paraffin), lemon squash and Schweppes-Lemon (the one with Uma Thurman – what did you expect? Did you have it on telly?) Unusual for sure and a little chemical. With water: wrecked! Ultra-chemical, like chewing on Sophie the Giraffe – is that regressive or what? Finish: medium long, all on squash and undetermined chemical things. Plastic. Comments: well, it’s a funny one and some parts are frankly great, while others are frankly weird. We’ll reward the fun because this is Whiskyfun, after all. SGP:362 - 80 points.
-Recommended listening: a pure gem by the supremely elegant and much missed Joe Henderson, between Oliver Nelson and Horace Silver. It's called Canyon Lady and it's just irresistible. Please buy Joe Henderson's music...
May 20, 2012
Highland Park 11 vs 22 vs 33 years old
Silly because indeed, I chose these whiskies only because of the numbers. Good news that I don't have any 44 years old at hand ;-)…
Highland Park 11 yo 2000/2012 (50,9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #800005, 129 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: the good thing with HP is that even when it's very young and maybe not totally mature, it can be quite great because of the very classy and pretty complex distillate. This baby's a good example, as it blends mineral and slightly smoky tones with a fresh fruitiness, apples, greengages, limes and even touches of kiwis. Distant whiffs of diesel oil and fish market (early in the morning!) then more earthy notes. Again, very classy distillate. Mouth: young, very zesty, very lemony. Well in keeping with the nose but rather less complex, but we don't always need complexity, do we? Becomes a tad sugary after a few minutes. Sweet barley, orange squash. Finish: medium long, a little more on stout, caramelised barley… Comments: very likable and the nose was perfect. The palate was maybe a little more mundane. SGP:441 - 84 points.
Highland Park 22 yo (46%, OB for Waldhaus am See, Switzerland, 2011) From a single cask but no further details are provided. Colour: gold. Nose: very nice but the oak's quite loud, as we get a lot of pencil shavings and eucalyptus at first nosing. Then more Seville oranges and ginger, game, ham, mead, chocolate, honeydew… Some aspects are very nice and it's certainly complex spirit, but I fear the palate will be too oaky after such a nose. Biggish oak in the nose can be great - and quite disastrous on the palate in my opinion. Mouth: indeed, this baby's very oaky. Acrid, tannic, tea-ish… All that makes for a funny contrast with the notes of bubblegum and marshmallows that start to rise after a moment. Liquorice allsorts. Finish: medium long, still tannic. Strong tea, grape pips, menthol… Comments: a very unusual official, less 'smoooth and rich' than most other OBs. Don't get me wrong, it's still excellent whisky, it's just that, well, you have to like this style. SGP:471 - 85 points.
PS: I had already tried another bottle of this last year and liked it better. Either it was different or I'll have to try it yet again. Maybe one of these whiskies that 'move' a lot.
Highland Park 33 yo 1978/2011 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Old & Rare, 207 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: quite some straight sulphur at first nosing, shoe polish, struck matches, hardboiled egg… I think I'll have to wait a bit - that may vanish, or rather my olfactory equipment may get used to this… zzz zzz zzz. After fifteen minutes: indeed, it got much more bearable and we now have more bitter oranges and pine sap. There's also something like horse dung, hay, manure, game…. Well, it's not exactly coastal, to say the least. With water: less sulphur for sure, and more tobacco and leather, which, I agree, can be close. The farmy notes got fresher and cleaner as well. Swims well! Mouth (neat): very flinty attack, very lemony as well, extremely nervous, with a lot of Schweppes and lemonade. Gin as well? Then bitter oranges, truckloads of bitter oranges. Unusual! With water: ah yes, now it's excellent. Creamy, with oranges, Cointreau, a little ginger liqueur, spices, mint, cinnamon, star anise… Very well, it was worth the wait. Finish: long, all on ginger, honey and bitter oranges. Comments: this kind of whisky is hard to score as it keeps changing over time and depending on the amount of water you add. Some parts are stunning, some maybe slightly flawed. Needs time and water. SGP:562 - 87 points.
-Recommended listening: let's have a good slice of heavy 'modern' delta-style blues by The Josh Pilot Band. It's on their album 'Price To Pay' and it's called When I'm dead. Please buy everything and anything The Josh Pilot Band.
May 18, 2012
Tasting old malt vs. old grain from Lochside distillery
We'll start with the malt because it's stronger - but we might have started with the grain because it ought to be lighter… We'll see…
Lochside 1967/2012 (41.7%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS12016, 115 bottles) This is Lochside malt. I think it's only the second time I try a 1967, while there were quite a few 1965s and, above all, 1966s around. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's not a 1966, i.e. not a fruitbomb - at all - and rather a slightly phenolic one, relatively discreet, subtle, balanced… It smells a bit like malt from an old bottle I must say, with touches of metal and a little soot, with the expected fruitiness rather more in the background (mangos - that metallic feeling again). Old tools, cloth, pine needles, fresh quinces, juniper berries, moss, fresh mushrooms… Frankly, it's no big whisky but the complexity is quite amazing. I'm very, very curious about the palate… Mouth: perfect! We're exactly at the stage when the oak's about to get a tad 'too much', but isn't yet, which is a magical moment in my opinion, because there are many spices while none is drying yet (esp. cinnamon). Other than that, we have Chartreuse, bitter lemons, white pepper, turmeric, ginger and then more and more grapefruit (and its skin). The oak sings louder and louder but everything remains harmonious and balanced (okay, barely, but still…) Finish: it's where the oak takes control but it's still more than bearable. Comments: love the nose, love the attack, like the middle, am a notch more sceptical about the finish but that's not uncommon with 45 years old whiskies. Still a marvel. SGP:471 - 89 points.
Lochside 42 yo 1963 (45.2%, Clan Denny, cask #HH2243, single grain. +/-2005) As you may know, Clan Denny is a Douglas Laing brand and… HH means Hogshead. This is no malt, it's grain, as Lochside, just like its sister distillery Ben Nevis, was also fitted with column stills in the 1960s. Colour: full gold. Nose: I don't think we've ever been closer to some great old bourbon, although this is probably a little lighter and fresher and less on heavy vanilla and corn syrup. Maybe it is to be remembered that in the old days, grain whisky was used to season newish casks before filling them with malt, as using active oak with very complex malt whiskies was seen as a no-no. The times they are changing… Well, I think the old guys were right! Anyway, this nose is absolutely superb, with many herbs, dried fruits, pine sap, liquorice, aniseed, dill, kumquats, vanilla, old Sauternes, apricots… In truth, I think it's one of nicest grains I've ever nosed. Mouth: same phenomenon as with the malt. Starts sweet and kind of smooth, delivers quite a few fruity notes and gets then sort of tannic, green and drying, but the fruity (lactones) base is solid enough to keep it all balanced and fresh this time. Yeah, bananas flambéed and all that jazz. Finish: quite long, very bourbonny at this point. Banana skin and maple syrup, with slightly resinous aftertaste. Pepper. Comments: a beauty. The palate plays with the limits but it's a genuine Indiana Jones of a whisky. One of the best grains I've ever tasted. SGP:551 - 90 points.
-Recommended listening: this smells of the good old 1970s and there are several quotes. I like it coz it's not hard rock - is it? He's Ash Grunwald and he's playing The devil called me a liar. Please buy Ash Grunwald's music.
May 16, 2012
Tasting three independent Glen Moray
Another bran… excuse me, distillery that's up thanks to the indies.
Glen Moray 21 yo 1989/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #7277, 419 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-typical start on muesli and porridge, with the oak's vanilla roaring in the background (right, whispering) and very pleasant notes of overripe apples. Goes on with barley sugar, a little lemon and grapefruit as well as just hints of cardboard and tea. The epitome of a nice grainy profile, very close to sweet barley. Very pleasant freshness. Mouth: good body, good attack, nervous, citrusy and spicy, a profile that gives it some kind of Indian profile. Schweppes, ginger, cardamom, caraway seeds and citrons. The whole is very clean, very straightforward but certainly not too simple. Likeable. Finish: medium long, more on lemon zests and a bit of green pepper. Comments: it's got something of some excellent gin, I'd say. A perfect example of a middle-aged Glen Moray from excellent wood. SGP:451 - 85 points.
Glen Moray 1991//2012 (57.3%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5654) I liked this baby very much when I previewed it. Colour: white wine/straw. Nose: we're extremely close to the 1989 but this one goes to eleven while remaining fresh, clean and balanced. Nice ripe kiwis, muesli, mint, barley water and rocks/soda water. More oranges and tangerines after a while, maybe more squash actually. With water: more grain, yeast, beer… Very Glen Moray again. Not feinty! Mouth (neat): same as the 1989, only bigger, more nervous of course, and with more tangerines and grapefruits, which might give it something faintly 'chemical' at times - nothing embarrassing that is. With water: excellently zesty, another one that swims like a champ. A tad mojito-esque, I'd say, which is great in this context (less so at 4am in a little Paris street - just making that up of course). Finish: medium, clean, zesty, 'green', freshly bitter. Comments: same overall quality. Maybe something of old Rosebanks. SGP:451 - 85 points.
Glen Moray 1977/2012 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS12021, 172 bottles) Labelled as Glen Morey, but that's probably a funny typo, nothing to do with the stellar wines of Morey-St-Denis in Burgundy ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: a perfect example of what American oak can do on the long run when everything's under control. More citrus fruits, tangerines, papayas and passion fruits on a layer of patchouli and just hints of 'old wardrobe' (with a few mothballs). Some meat as well… cold cuts? With water: great fresh oak, broken branches and roots, 'clean' earth, just touches of fresh coconut, sweet potatoes… Great vegetal profile. Mouth (neat): unsurprisingly, the oak's louder than in the 1989 and 1991, it's even a little green and acrid but that goes well with the citrus fruits. Rhubarb and cardamom? With water: same, only louder. I like this kind of green bitterness but it's probably not for everyone. Finish: long, on herbal liqueurs and green oak. Obvious tannicity. Comments: the oak's a tad heavy on the palate but I loved the nose. SGP:361 - 86 points.
-Recommended listening: a bit of reggae again today, with our own Serge Gainsbourg who had flown to Jamaica to record Overseas Telegram and other tunes around 1978. Yes I know, many were doing that at the time... Anyway, please buy SG's music.