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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2020 - Part 1

       

April 2020 - part 2 <--- May 2020 - part 1 ---> May 2020 - part 2

 

May 14, 2020


Whiskyfun

Bags of Macduff – part three and last

Would you imagine that I had first hoped we could do all those Macduffs in a row! We’ll try to focus on older ones today.

Macduff 25 yo 1990/2015 (55.4%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry butt, cask #1271)

Macduff 25 yo 1990/2015 (55.4%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry butt, cask #1271) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: rusty tools, which is nice, then apple peeling, rhubarb, sorrel, green walnuts, and even a feeling of manzanilla. Which, naturally, pleases me really a lot. With water: walnuts, new tyres, new wellies, and new stereo set (circa 1975). Mouth (neat): what a funny whisky once again! The cask is giving the tempo, which works (walnuts, mustard, salt) but the background’s a little more, yeah, loco again, with turnips, ink, leather, eggplants… This is almost liquid moussaka. Perhaps not. With water: walnuts running the show. Finish: long, certainly dissonant at times, but funny if a little challenging. Comments: these Macduffs are crazy, you never quite know what you’ll be getting. Almost as if you would buy some face masks from an unknown dealer on Facebook. OMG.
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Macduff 29 yo 1989/2018 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherry butt, 390 bottles)

Macduff 29 yo 1989/2018 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherry butt, 390 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s quieter, as expected, narrower but clean, on oils (peanuts, sunflower) and soft breads, then orange blossom water and a little mint as well as broken branches and roots. We’re approaching awesomeness now, does Macduff really need this many years? With water: yesss! Old toolbox again! Mouth (neat): it was an excellent cask. Soft vanilla over harsher green tea, orange peel, tiny touches of varnish, kiwis, marmalade… All is pretty perfect this time. 29 years, that’s all what was needed. With water: decomposes into myriads of tiny herbal flavours. Finish: long, with rising aniseed and fennel and wild carrots and stuff. That I find absolutely perfect. Comments: best – I mean, my favourite – Macduff ever? Have to check my lists.
SGP:461 - 90 points.

Is age the key?

Macduff 32 yo 1980/2012 (48.1%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry butts, cask #6910, 388 bottles)

Macduff 32 yo 1980/2012 (48.1%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry butts, cask #6910, 388 bottles) Four stars and a half
One of the earliest Valinches & Mallets ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh wait, these games aren’t over yet, it seems that there’s some repartee. Frankly, who would have expected the softest tropical fruit mix ever? With pink bananas, papayas, mangos and passion fruits, guavas?… This has strictly nothing to do with the youngsters, neither does it hit you with dissonant metallic or spicy notes… Nutshell, love this. Let’s only he hope the palate will behave… Mouth: but it does! It’s a little more, say restless and reckless than on the nose, but once again, mangos are running the show here. Granted, there is a little cardboard in the back of the background, but no one would care. A tiny touch of soapiness too, but there, at least it’s clean (wha-a-at?) Finish: medium, with only a tiny handful of dirty(ish) notes of old vegetables. Nah, that’s nothing. Comments: surprise surprise!
SGP:651 - 89 points

Good, let’s try an older vintage and then officially declare that we shall never do this again. Ever. Blame the Virus.

Macduff 1974/1987 (58.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #6.5)

Macduff 1974/1987 (58.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #6.5) Four stars and a half
If this isn’t heavy sherry my name is Donald. Colour: office coffee (nothing wrong). Nose: ooooh, great coffee (blue mountain or stuff like that, I don’t know much about them but I appreciate them), figs, prunes, old Cognac, chocolate, cigars, cardamom, touches of caraway. High class. With water: jamon iberico, chocolate, coffee, Cubans (I mean puros), cinchona, bitters, and a touch of raw wool that’s just awesome. Mouth (neat): rancio, soy sauce, caraway, bitter chocolate, bitter oranges, cracked pepper. There’s a pattern there. With water: no waters! It swims like a timorous bull on the palate. Finish: long and tightly tobacco-y. A lot or bitter marmalade too, and tons of bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: heavy and yet pretty smart. This one is (was) for die-hard chocolate connoisseurs. Which I am not myself.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Very happy with the three last ones, tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la... See you!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Macduff we've tasted so far

 

May 13, 2020


Whiskyfun

Bags of Macduff – part two

Because we had more. A part three is not out of question by the way, we shall see…

Macduff 10 yo 2006/2017 (55%, Which, Madeira finish, 400 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2006/2017 (55%, Which, Madeira finish, 400 bottles) Two stars
Didn’t we mention Madeira right yesterday? I would believe it’s pretty smart to associate Macduff and Madeira, not only because both start with ‘ma’ (S., I believe lockdown is getting on your nerves.) Colour: gold. Nose: mustard and exhaust fumes, not a start that’s unseen. Gunpowder, struck matches, Brussels sprouts, paint thinner, putty… Well well well, looks like we’re at Ikea’s again. With water: new plastics, or another lousy parcel from Wish’s. Ha. Cooked asparagus. Mouth (neat): very thick, mustardy, with bags of bitter oranges, leather, ginger, and a bit of lavender sweet. With water: ginger, leather and orange zests. Finish: rather long. Cabbage and mustard. Comments: oh well, that was pretty art-house. Noticed that I haven’t used the S word?
SGP:362 - 70 points.

Macduff 20 yo 1997/2018 (57.3%, Murray McDavid for SCSM, China, sherry butts, cask #5865, 634 bottles)

Macduff 20 yo 1997/2018 (57.3%, Murray McDavid for SCSM, China, sherry butts, cask #5865, 634 bottles) one star and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: soot, chalk, fennel seeds, jelly babies, cranberry syrup, sour fruits, yogurt, fumes… Not too sure, really, it does seem to be looking for its path. Could be rotgut, could be a winner. Patience… With water: asparagus cooking water, hard-boiled eggs, coal smoke, coaltar… This is very bizarre, really very bizarre…Mouth (neat): it must have been an ex-peater cask. Laphroaig? Peat, cough syrup, lime, brine… This is not ‘Macduff’ at all, but not sure we should complain. With water: what the hug is this? Burnt bananas, smoked parsnips, barbecued marshmallows… Is this legal? Finish: long, odd, punk and funk. And some cream egg in the aftertaste! Comments: this is a vicious little whisky! Let’s not be too harsh, but I’m wondering if this wasn’t paid for by the Committee to Keep Whisky Evil.
SGP:563 - 69 points.

Hey not an easy flight… Let’s seek tranquillity and peace…

Macduff 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12362, 326 bottles)

Macduff 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12362, 326 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: immediately oaky and sulphury, but as a matter of fact, that unlikely combo kind of works here. Freshly sawn oak, used matches, then shortbread, brioche, pencil shavings (and lead), sour cream, wee whiffs of fresh baby vomit… Yeah well… With water: new plywood at the plywood shop, porridge, damp oats... Mouth (neat): ah nice! Lemon yogurt and orange blossom honey, then granny smith and cucumber. Indeed, cucumber. Yes I wrote cucumber, no typo. With water: gets a tad wishy-washy, I would say water’s unnecessary here. Finish: long, sour, yogurty, porridge-y. That’s a little difficult. Comments: no comprendo mucho here. Don’t they do blends?
SGP:362 - 77 points.

Let’s try again…

Macduff 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12593, 335 bottles)

Macduff 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12593, 335 bottles) Two stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: petrol for small 2-stroke engines (old Italian engines – oh whatever) and sourdough, plus plywood again and sour cream. A tough baby, no doubt. With water: a tad more ‘normal’. Sooty smokes, or the other way ‘round. Mouth (neat): melon cream and cardboard, sour wood, pink pepper, green apple, sawdust, milk, mashed turnips… With water: a tad fruitier. M&S’s jellies and cheap liqueurs. Finish: rather long, sour, woody, mashy. Comments: no, really, this one reminds me of our old Gitane Testis, Malagutis, Fantics… But we’re insensitive to nostalgia. Of course we are. Not an easy drop.
SGP:361 - 72 points.

As their Queen said a few days ago, never give up!...

Macduff 25 yo 1990/2016 (49.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11356, 136 bottles)

Macduff 25 yo 1990/2016 (49.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11356, 136 bottles) one star and a half
25, that’s a good age for malt whisky. But this is loco Macduff, so let’s see… Colour: light gold. Nose: coconut and vanilla at first sniffs, that’s rejuvenated US oak. In theory. Other than that, notes of pineapples, fresh wood, and a few vegetables and roots. Pretty nice. With water: some kind of vegetable soup with a dollop of lightish acacia honey. Mouth (neat): nice for a while, then soapy, sour and bitterish. I find it strange that Douglas Laing would have bottled this. With water: no, oak is coming out in a very disorderly fashion. Finish: medium, cardboardy, a little difficult. Comments: I hope DL are having better stuff these days. Well I’d guess they have.
SGP:351 - 68 points.

Alert! We are sinking!... I know who’s gonna help…

Macduff 1997/2018 (56%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #18/041, 207 bottles)

Macduff 1997/2018 (56%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #18/041, 207 bottles) Four stars
We all know that G&M are kings of sherry maturing. We’ve seen their casks being made and prepared in Jerez, bung up and no lousy palettes, kudos! Colour: amber. Nose: could we please have a ‘normal’ Macduff? I’m saying that because this one’s shock full of gun oil (reminds me of my days in the army) and mushrooms. Not an unpleasant feeling at all, it’s just that it’s really very unusual. With water: wonderful fresh wild mushrooms! I’m thinking of those utterly glorious pieds-bleus (blue feet a.k.a. Lepista nuda a.k.a. Rhodopaxillus nudus) Kings of late-season mushrooms.  Mouth (neat): fun metallic notes, fun bitter oranges (aplenty), and lovely very oloroso-y walnuts. Old rancio, artichoke liqueur, walnut wine… With water: the mushrooms are back. Finish: and they’re still there. Some muscovado sugar too. Comments: just impeccable. You say Macduff?
SGP:561 - 87 points.

We aren’t losing steam yet…

Macduff 20 yo 1997/2017 (51.3%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon, cask #170120, 296 bottles)

Macduff 20 yo 1997/2017 (51.3%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon, cask #170120, 296 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: these metallic notes once again, brake pads (not obligatorily after the Nürburgring), flints, bitter herbs… With water: oatcakes, lawn, raw wool, a little manure, fresh concrete, mud… Mouth (neat): oh, a (very marginally) gentler Macduff. Coffee and Golden Grahams, beans, leather, pepper… With water: touches of mead, otherwise leathery sweet touches. Between chestnuts and soybeans. I agree that’s not very sexy, and not very well written at that. Finish: medium, on mead and bitter bears. Pretty yeasty aftertaste. Comments: aren’t these whacky Macduffs becoming a little tiring?
SGP:461 - 79 points.

Good, an insane young baby and we’ll call this another finito tasting session…

Macduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (61%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, first fill sherry, cask #900343, 645 bottles)

Macduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (61%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, first fill sherry, cask #900343, 645 bottles) Four stars
Oh-my-god… Colour: amber. Nose: Guinness, roasted chestnuts, butterscotch, girls’ gloss, coconut balls. There. With water: yes. Modern oak, coffee, butterscotch, vanilla, caramel, toasted bread and pastries. Modern and very nice, even pretty Dr-Jim-Swan-esque. Cheers Dr. Swan! Mouth (neat): yep! Very active oak over some sourish distillate, that seemed to work, it’s just that it’s a bit basic so far, and very strong. Now as Mishima used to say – that’s a quote I love – ‘True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.’ Probably not the first time I’m writing that. With water: almost liquid caramel blended with peanut butter and maple syrup. Almost molasses. Finish: long, rich, roasted, on crème caramel, honeyed and creamy for a long time. Like, say 30 caudalies. Of course Google isn’t our friend. Comments: I sometimes hate it that I would find these modern cookings pretty good. In truth there are quite a few new whiskies that may well lead me to a schizophrenic conflict with my former ego. But I’ll manage (while drinking Cognac).
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Guess what, we’ll be back tomorrow with even more Macduff (I hear you bursting out with joy!)  

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Macduff we've tasted so far

 

May 12, 2020


Whiskyfun

Bags of Macduff a.k.a. Glen Deveron

We’ve got boxes of Macduff at Château Whiskyfun. Nothing to brag about, it’s just that there are also all these Cynelishes, Bowmores, Ben Nevisses, Highland Parks, Springbanks, Lagavulins, Ords, Glen Elgins, Glenfarclasses, Ledaigs… to taste! Anyway, let’s see how many Macduffs we’ll manage to try today… Starting with an official as the aperitif.

Glen Deveron 16 yo ‘Royal Burgh Collection’ (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Glen Deveron 16 yo ‘Royal Burgh Collection’ (40%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars
I insist, Glen Deveron is Macduff. It’s a bit cheapo to bottle a 16 at 40% vol., is it not? Colour: gold. Nose: malty, a bit in the style of younger Glenlivets. Vanilla, tarte tatin, toasted bread, tiny touches of fresh mint, a little liquorice, hints of fresh oak… Really easy and mellow, well in the style of a fine ‘entry-level’ malt whisky. Which is what it’s meant to be anyway, I suppose. Mouth: not at all on par with the nose, and I’m sure that’s the low strength. Tannin-like flavours stand out under these conditions, oak, tea… Finish: medium, you’d almost believe you’ve had a goodish blend. Comments: I had found the 20 yo a little weak (WF 79) which is also the case with this rather fragile little 16.
SGP:341 - 76 points.

Let’s check a very young naked one to get a better grasp of the distillate…

Macduff 8 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 745 bottles)

Macduff 8 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 745 bottles)
How a very young Macduff could be strictly limited, I don’t quite know, but there. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: porridge, muesli, fresh croissants, grass, overripe apples, cantaloupe, barley. Not bad at all this far, but we all know that… Mouth: touch of hand cream (right, soap) then grass, paraffin, cardboard, apple peeling, porridge, cider, sour apples… Finish: medium, bitter, with a welcome lemon in the aftertaste. A little late. The porridge is still there. Comments: pretty poor I’m afraid, too simplistic. The slightly soapy arrival didn’t help either.
SGP:241 - 65 points.

Macduff 2002/2013 (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, ‘Lead on Macduff!’, 854 bottles)

Macduff 2002/2013 (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, ‘Lead on Macduff!’, 854 bottles) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: another one that’s a tad difficult. Grass, graphite, cardboard, coal, porridge, sour fruits, leaven, dough, then loads of fresh walnuts. Mouth: rather singular but that’s the cask I’d wager. Same load of green walnuts, touches of varnish, turmeric and ginger, and only then notes of raisin cake. Globally rather bitter but that’s not something I dislike. Finish: medium, with even more green walnuts, then tobacco and leather towards the finish. Comments: I had first thought it was really strange (not as strange as Roberto Baggio’s haircut, having said that) but it slowly grew on me – and reached the 80-border.
SGP:351 - 80 points.

No, no, we’re okay, we shall go on, full of innocent enthusiasm (yeah right)…

Macduff 2004/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogsheads)

Macduff 2004/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogsheads) Three stars
Still the older livery for G&M’s CCs. Colour: straw. Nose: yep, parsley and lovage! Who doesn’t love parsley and lovage? Behind that touches of burnt sugar (or cassonade) and the obligatory fresh walnuts, plus the no-less necessary vanilla. A very simple yet very lovely nose. But… Mouth: no, this is rather okay this time, with bitter oranges, a wee touch of soap, lemon drops, and icing sugar. I would have believed this was re-refill sherry, but it wasn’t. Finish: medium, rather clean, yet a tad sugary this time, on Fanta lemon and limoncello. Quite some paraffin in the aftertaste, having said that. Comments: very very okay, even good, much better than, say… wait… Neymar’s main haircuts. Obrigado.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Are we making good progress?...

Macduff 11 yo 2006/2018 (55.2%, North Star Spirits, refill bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Macduff 11 yo 2006/2018 (55.2%, North Star Spirits, refill bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Three stars
Colour: light gold. Nose: sour woods, porridge, crushed bananas, fresh baguette. With water: cut grass, old cardboard boxes, ink, fruit peelings… Mouth (neat): rich and powerful, pretty unbalanced once again but we have no problems with that at all, while there’s quite some coconut cream. In general and in my book, coconut would kill any spirits, but that’s not the case at all here, even if it’s pretty Malibu-y. With water: grass and fruit peel are having the upper hand this time. Finish: rather long and grassy, with coconut back in the aftertaste, with a drop of lemon liqueur once again. Comments: we’re progressing once again. I liked this little coconutty malt.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Macduff 10 yo 2006/2017 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 720 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2006/2017 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 720 bottles) Three stars and a half
It’s always interesting to have Cadenhead’s take, as they would often go closer to the point. Having said that, they did not call this particular one ‘Macduff-Glenlivet’. Call me eagle-eye. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s falling in line, with easier, gentler notes of barley, apples, cakes and even popcorn. Mouth: good and gentle, this is the style I would expect from a good OB, really. Cake, marmalade, lemon jam, Jaffa cake, ginseng, preserved pears, just a touch of paraffin this time. Finish: medium, more citrusy. Lemongrass. Comments: a lovely fresh and tight composition. It’s lost its Macduffy idiosyncrasies, but we shan’t complain.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

A sister and we’ll call this a session, but we’ll be back with many more Macduffs right tomorrow (don’t look so happy!)

Macduff 11 yo 2006/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)

Macduff 11 yo 2006/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles) Four stars
A much smaller small batch, apparently. Colour: gold. Nose: this is Mr. More. More herbs, cigars, teas, walnuts, cakes, leather, roots, dried bananas, dried flowers, patchouli… Awesome nose! Mouth: weird and good. Spices, bell pepper, cinnamon, curry, bitter oranges, mustard, notes of dry Madeira wine, Formica and plywood, even touches of beech smoke… Are we dead sure this was a BB cask? Finish: very long, very spicy. Indonesian curry and even some satay, which I just love. I know quite a few folks I’d just kill for some good satay sauce, especially since we’re in isolation as I’m writing this. Hope we won’t be anymore when I publish these very humble lines. Comments: absolutely nothing to do with the others. Again, this one’s weird, but I like it quite a lot.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

See you tomorrow.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Macduff we've tasted so far

 

May 11, 2020


Whiskyfun

Strict lockdown is over in this country, let's celebrate appropriately with...

An OOTW trio

For once I wanted to do a wee session that would not gather whiskies from the same distillery (which will get tougher anyway with all those new bastard malts that are really starting to rattle our cage.) So, let’s find three pretty rare old malts that do share obvious similarities, while remaining totally different. Sure that’s possible, you’ll soon see what I mean… Oh, OOTW = Out Of This World. In fact we’ll have three variants by three different distilleries that started to produce some heavy peaters in the early 1970s because Islay was not producing that much, while demand for smoky components was getting higher at the blenders'. Think Jonnie Walker, for example, a brand that was thriving and that always needed quite some peaters. Especially for Jonnie Walker Black! Good, we’ll do this by ascending age if you don’t mind…

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB)

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB) Five stars
So Springbank! This is a legendary bottling from modern Longrow’s second year of activity. These 1974s came out with various age statements. I had adored the 16 a long time ago (WF 93) while a 25 that came out more recently with a newer livery fetched exactly the same mark. But I had never tried this 18 before.  I would add that I’m very happy about the fact that Longrow’s back in full form again since a good, say twenty years, while I think the early 1990s had been extremely problematic (notably because of all those very sulphury sherry casks that they were filling). Anyway, let’s proceed… Colour: pale white wine, crikey! Nose: a style never seen again since back then. N.e.v.e.r. And one that they had already lost in 1987, although many 1987s had been excellent too. So, let’s try to describe this… Say you take some oyster shells and crush them. Then you add a little urchin flesh, some aspirin powder, some bizarre old-style mentholy ointments, certainly some chalk and plaster ala Ben Nevis (it is, in fact, a notch Ben-Nevissy), drops of paint thinner, a cup of seawater, bits of bandages, and please shake well. That’s it, more or less. Mouth: pretty crazy, because it’s rather full of off-notes, and sometimes even flavours that are supposed to be flaws, and yet it’s a beautiful whole that became wonderfully soft. Citrons running the show as far as fruits are concerned, otherwise bandages again, soot, camphor, chalk, paint, suet, oysters and urchins indeed, some bizarre fish brine (ex-rollmops?)… And even wee bits of plastic. Crazy good. Finish: medium, this time rather on paraffin with grapefruit and lime juice, as well as a pinch of salt. And smoked fish, almost forgot to say. Comments: I had forgotten about this style. I won’t forget it twice. An incredible drop, wondering if they kept the recipe over there in Campbeltown.
SGP:555 - 94 points.

Ledaig (Tobermory) 22 yo 1973/1996 (44.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ledaig (Tobermory) 22 yo 1973/1996 (44.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars
So Tobermory’s Longrow, if you will. It’s to be noted that many Ledaigs had been christened Tobermory, so it’s always good to double-check da Internet before you buy any old Tobermory. Especially if you’re looking for mashed turnips and tinned porridge instead of deep coastal smoke! I agree, who would. Colour: straw. Nose: they got it right immediately! Any 1972, 1973 or 1974 was absolutely stellar, with a few rare exceptions. It is, in fact, a tad smokier than the Longrow, certainly less medicinal, probably more coastal (yet), and perhaps a wee td dirtier, almost feinty in a way, but in a good way. Yes that’s possible. What’s absolutely mesmerising is the pace at which all these tropical fruits are coming out one after the other, bananas (that often derives from the first bready notes), mangos, passion fruits, oranges, lemons, then roots, celeriac, liquorice, gentian (bingo), palm hearts… Leaves you breathless! I mean, noseless! Mouth: perhaps a we tad less fabtastic on the palate, but we’re still flying over the highest mountains. It’s rather peppery, smoky of course, neither very coastal nor medicinal this time, rather on jams, ripe tropical fruits, all-fruit juice… And indeed smoke. Finish: hold on, it does get medicinal now. Embrocations? Cough syrup? And always some mangos lurking in the background. These mangos often appear after quite a few years in great peaters. Some molecules are probably more instable than others. Comments: no, it’s just another immense whisky. Fascinating drops, those early new-era peaters from the mainland…
SGP:656 - 93 points.

Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead)

Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead) Five stars
Good, Brora’s story is not exactly the same since they used a different distillery to make this peated version of Clynelish, but the context is similar: they had to make Islay-style whisky on the mainland (granted, Tobermory’s on Mull). As for the 1978 vintage, in theory it’s rather lighter, I mean les smoky than those of the early 1970s, but we’ve tried quite a few Boras and whilst all 1970-1972s were very smoky indeed, the following vintages became less consistent. What I mean is that within the same vintage (say 1978 indeed), you could find either some lighter Clynelish-style distillates, or some heavy Lagavulin-style peaters. Not to mentions some rather Taliskerian juices. Anyway let’s try this wee bottling that was done for Asia last year. Colour: gold. Nose: I would say the most fragile, this is probably a kind of death seat after the fab Longrow and Ledaig. Having said that it did not become too oaky on the nose (the palate might be different), and what’s clear is that, quite unexpectedly, it’s closer to the Longrow than to the Ledaig. Seaweed, seawater, mercurochrome, clay, mouthwash, touches of olives, liquorice, capers, oysters… It’s really getting coastal, this is almost as if you’re opening your windows in front of the ocean, very early in the morning. You’ve even got whiffs of diesel fumes from a few fishermen’s boats leaving the harbour… Who needs holidays when you’ve got whisky? Mouth: no obvious oak, much more power than I expected, some big peat (like 30ppm, since you’re asking), apples first, then guavas, oysters again, clams and whelks (are you hungry yet?), tar, ashes, mango jam, a wee bit of vanilla fudge… IN fact, its also a tad rounder than I had thought, but never would it show any sign of tiredness. Once again we won’t quite feel allowed to make fun out of these Casks of Distinctions. Not out of this one, at least. Finish: medium, on a combo that’s always incredibly stunning, smoky marmalade. Wee kumquats smoked over charcoal and beech. Wonderful citrusy aftertaste. Comments: and one grain of salt.
SGP:555 - 93 points.

(Heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Hideo and Patrick)

 

May 10, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The last of the Confined Sessions!
Day 54
A good little flight of rum

Well, lockdown is over tonight at 0:00 in France, let's only hope this won't happen again. For our last session in isolation, let's have a few rums as they come, all pretty recent unless stated otherwise.

Chairman’s Reserve 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘Master’s Selection’ (46%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, St. Lucia)

Chairman’s Reserve 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘Master’s Selection’ (46%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, St. Lucia) Three stars and a half
TWE had a great 13 yo last year. Now how could a spirit be both the ‘Chairman’s Reserve’ and the ‘Master’s Selection’, I don’t quite know, but I suppose some distilleries are organised in cunning ways… Hey I’m joking! Colour: gold. Nose: pretty brilliant, that is to say both a little ‘agricole’ and rather petroly, in a Caroni kind of way. So cane juice and benzine, then rotting pineapples and bananas coated with some civilised and well-behaved vanilla and liquorice. Perhaps the best of both worlds, let’s see what happens on the palate… Mouth: a wee tad on the sweeter side on the palate, so rather easier. We’re reminded of some good young agricoles that are part of our daily life here in France. Clément and such. Orange sweets, honey… A little less oomph than expected. Finish: medium, with a wee tad more liquorice and tar this time. Nice tangerine liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: rather sweeter than expected on the palate, but naturally, that’s all , err, natural. Very good, I think.
SGP:652 - 84 points.

Port Mourant 21 yo 1997/2019 ‘MPM’ (49.4%, High Spirits, Guyana, cask #155-1, 198 bottles)

Port Mourant 21 yo 1997/2019 ‘MPM’ (49.4%, High Spirits, Guyana, cask #155-1, 198 bottles) Four stars and a half
A bottle that, apparently, is very hard to find. Well I for one couldn’t find it on da Web. This from the famous double wooden pot still. The lower natural strength suggests European aging. Colour: light gold. Nose: soot, ashes, coal dust, diesel oil, olives. Behind that, quite some camphor and cough syrup, while the coal dust would just never disappear. That makes it a little different, pleasantly so. Also growing notes of anchovies in salt. Mouth: very salty indeed, extremely brine-y, this is almost anchovies or sardines in thick brine, mixed with banana and mango juice. Does that work? You bet it does. The usual liquorice and tar coming out as well on the palate. Usual in the ex-pot still Demeraras that is. Finish: long, with just a wee bonbony touch that will make it miss the 90-mark. Dura Lex, sed Lex (pff…) Comments: excellent, as expected. Now go find a bottle…
SGP:553 - 89 points.

We were mentioning agricole w.r.t. the St. Lucian…

Rhumerie du Simon 15 yo 2004/2019 (61%, The Duchess, Martinique, agricole, cask #14)

Rhumerie du Simon 15 yo 2004/2019 (61%, The Duchess, Martinique, agricole, cask #14) Three stars and a half
This baby aged in the tropics for 4 years and was then shipped to Europe. Rather Holland, I suppose, since this excellent wee bottler is Dutch. Rhumerie/Habitation du Simon is the place where they make the new A170 rhums, and produce some new-make agricole for the brands Clément and HSE (Habitation Saint Etienne). Unless I’m mistaken! Colour: gold. Nose: burns a bit, with a lot of acetone, nail-polish remover, and simply varnish on top of fresh pear and pineapple juice. I believe watering it down’s in order… With water: a lot of aniseed, ouzo, pastis… I have to say I’m a sucker for these kinds of notes, even more so since fennel, dill and wild carrots are also part of this. I’ve found these aromas in some pretty artisanal pot-still rums in Cuba (aguardientes). Mouth (neat): feeling of cachaça and Cuban aguardiente indeed, pastis, vanilla… With water: gets firmer, a tad fizzy perhaps, with quite some grass and fruit peel. Always a lot of aniseed-like notes, and drops of Fanta or Orangina. Finish: rather long, grassy. Caraway and capsicum in the aftertaste. Comments: a little mysterious, very fresh, and even unpolished at 15 years of age. Not a style that’s very common, and probably more for connoisseurs and connoisseuses.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

Foursquare 18 yo 2001/2019 (56.9%, The Duchess, Barbados, bourbon barrel, cask #18)

Foursquare 18 yo 2001/2019 (56.9%, The Duchess, Barbados, bourbon barrel, cask #18) Four stars
I suppose this is the usual blend of ex-column and ex-pot-still Foursquare (blended at birth) the proportions of which are being guarded by half a dozen Dobermans that are only fed once a week. Colour: gold. Nose: coffee, caraway, liquorice, wormwood (absinth), then crushed ripe bananas and wee whiffs of garden bonfire. Well, as I remember them since it’s been streng verboten to do garden bonfires for ages now. With water: gets tighter and purer yet. Garden bonfire, really, also chocolate, figs and tobacco. Orange blossom. Pretty elegant. Mouth (neat): very Foursquare, with oranges and fudge, some flavoursome herbs, some plain cane juice, and touches of muscovado sugar – or any brown sugar that would be more appropriate in this context. With water: it’s rather light-bodied, as if it was mainly ex-column, but these notes of sugarcane and fudge/popcorn just work. Finish: medium, sweeter, with orange and honey candies. Light molasses ‘honey’. Comments: it’s a fairly lighter Foursquare that I find very elegant.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Foursquare 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘Plenipotenziario’ (60%, OB/Velier, bourbon, 6000 bottles)

Foursquare 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘Plenipotenziario’ (60%, OB/Velier, bourbon, 6000 bottles) Five stars
This one was blended at birth indeed, and entirely aged at the distillery. The name would suggest that the good people involved are willing to engage in smooth diplomacy, unless I’m not getting it right. I suppose I am not getting it right, am I? Colour: amber. Nose: pumpkins, ripe mangos, and pencil shavings all over the place. As usual, rums aged in the tropics are more extractive and display more oak tones, sometimes towards cedarwood, as is the case here. Whiffs of geraniol (bees love that!) and brown liquorice. A curious wee meatiness too. Beef jerky? With water: thin strips of duck slow-cooked in orange juice and honey and further flavoured with cedarwood extracts. Or something like that. Mouth (neat): perfect, just too strong. But that’s easy to fix… With water: works. Oak in abundance but that’s sweet fruity oak, plus liquorice, figs and pipe tobacco. Notes of citronella and basil sauce, Thai-style. Hold on, give me a world map…  Finish: long, not thick, with good coffee and triple-sec. Kaffee-Schnapps, as my ancestors used to say. Liquoirce in the aftertaste. Comments: still young and straight (years aren’t actually any longer in the tropics, as Einstein found out), but as a child-rum it’s pretty perfect, this little Plenitopen… hold on, Peltinozent… I mean, Pinelpota… No, wait, let’s gather our forces… Plenipotenziario! Phew!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

CU later.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

May 9, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Closed Distilleries
There’s increasingly a lot of emotion tied up with these now familiar, and in many cases loved, names. It can complicate the process of tasting them as we increasingly involve memory, presumption and common shared experience.

 

However, I would also argue that the process of common intellectual recognition and cumulative consensus of opinion are an intrinsic part of reaching a deeper shared understanding and agreement about things like fine alcohol. It’s what has underpinned some of the most profoundly successful wines - and helped ‘de-throne’ others. While in whisky, it’s also what has helped us recognise the divergencies between ‘old style’ and ‘modernity’. A process which has only enriched our understanding of just how varied whisky can be.

 

 

However, it also makes tasting certain specific whiskies quite tricky sometimes. There is a perfect example in today’s line up: St Magdalene 1979 Rare Malts. As Serge mentioned in yesterday’s post, and as has been discussed in a few forums online recently, it’s a bottling which holds powerful sway over many folk who got seriously into whisky around the turn of the millennium. Indeed, I remember it was one of the first whiskies to get super high recognition when Johannes Van Den Heuvel (founder of Malt Maniacs and online whisky chatter in my view) scored it 97 points. There’s a common mystique built up around this bottling about it being a pinnacle of a very specific and certain style that you could perhaps most succinctly characterise as ‘whisky for nerds’. How much of that is to do with the rosy wash of nostalgia; the memory of simpler (cheaper?) times and the susceptibility of a ‘younger’ palate to being overwhelmed by a whisky of uncharacteristic power and depth of quality? As has been noticed and lamented by a few folk recently, including Serge, there are no notes for this whisky on Whiskyfun at the moment, so let’s remedy that today. But let’s work up to it with a few other silent still distillates…

 

 

Macallan-Glenlivet 35 yo 1938 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo import)
As you all know, Macallan distillery sadly closed in 2018 ;) Colour: amber. Nose: it shares quite a lot with these bottlings of pre-war single malts (Glen Grant, Strathisla, Mortlach, Linkwood) that G&M were issuing like a discarded firehose in the 1980s. That is to say: coconut, dried exotic fruits, precious hardwood resins and long aged herbal liqueurs with a thready backbone of peat running between everything. However, here there feels like extra depth and fatness. You get waxes, putty, lime oils and highly glossy rancio thickness. Harmonious and, frankly, stunning! Mouth: fantastic power at 43%, that’s what so many of the bottlings by G&M from this era lack at their measly 40%. Here you get wood spices, mushroom soup, tarragon, heavy pipe tobaccos, leather, natural tar and herbal medicines. I would say though that the fruits seem to evolve away from the exotic and more towards crystallised citrus peel and dark stewed fruits such as dates, fig and sultana. Light notes of Dundee cake soaked in stout ale. There’s also vapour rubs, hessian, dried herbs and a rather fatter peatiness. Finish: long, leathery, waxy, many dried fruit notes, teas, herbs and medicines. Comments: As with many old bottles, these have long since built and kept their well-deserved reputations. This one shows freshness, power and complexity that I suspect are sustained by those extra three degrees of alcohol. Beautiful old, and ‘old style’ Scottish single malt that displays the kind of poetic elegance that unifies the very greatest aged spirits. A quiet library in a glass.
SGP: 653 - 93 points.

 

 

Rosebank 26 yo (48.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company ‘Batch 1’, 321 bottles)

Rosebank 26 yo (48.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company ‘Batch 1’, 321 bottles)
Is Rosebank still a closed distillery? I have to say, those folks at Ian MacLeod appear to have just gone and breathed new life into that lost lowlander without a single thought for poor Whiskyfun’s cataloguing system! Colour: gold. Nose: beautifully syrupy and honeyed with a whole punnet of green and sub-tropical fruits such as star fruit, green melon, lemon and golden syrup. Also soft herbal notes of verbena, dried parsley and tarragon. I find it beautifully inviting and ‘whole’, while giving the impression of being quite textural and layered. An extremely appetising nose. Mouth: the arrival is all on the warmth of white pepper, bay, tarragon, lime pith, sunflower oil and the lightest kiss of soot. There’s also a kind of waxed canvas and baking parchment vibe going on which adds weight and texture. Again this syrupyness and sense of runny honey and heather flowers feels nicely consistent with the nose. Some lemon jelly, putty, fragrant waxes, citronella and white flowers. Complex, elegant and yet with just the right amount of nibble and sway from the wood. Finish: medium, rather punchy, herbal, bitter lemon, quinine, herbal teas and hints of new leather. Comments: I love the tension between freshness and fruits from the distillate and pepperiness, warmth and bite from the wood. Holds your attention well and feels on the whole quite playful.
SGP: 651 - 90 points.

 

 

Rosebank 15 yo ‘Triple Distillation’ (58.2%, Glencara, 1990s)

Rosebank 15 yo ‘Triple Distillation’ (58.2%, Glencara, 1990s)
I don’t know much about this bottling, except to say that it’s pretty scarce and was bottled quite some time ago (not exactly the encyclopaedia Brittanica I know). There would also appear to be 12 and 14yo versions in existence that were matured in sherry casks. Hopefully one day I’ll manage to stumble across some samples of those. Colour: straw. Nose: raw barley and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You could also add fresh churned butter muddled with chopped chives and parsley. Pure, austere and rather ‘extremely’ lowland in style. As so often with Rosebank, I’m actually starting to be reminded of Daftmill. There’s also chalk, fragrant bath salts, meadow flowers laden with pollen and many shades of sandalwood and various fabrics. I find it pretty superb and very specific in style. With water: doubles down on plain, crisp cereals, lemon peel, butter, grass, hints of ointments, freshly chopped herbs and vitamin tablets in soda water. Mouth: citrus, chalk and petrol. Purity, precision and power. There’s also baking soda, crushed aspirin, sunflower seeds and mineral oil. Also wee things like oily sheep wool, struck flints, even saltiness. Treads that perfect line between charisma and austerity that really seems to be idiosyncratic to many lowlanders. I also haven’t mentioned this kind of massive grassiness that pervades everything, but there, I’ve said it now. With water: becomes beautifully fat and mustardy now. There’s a shred of waxiness too, you could almost think of a lighter version of Banff. Some dried banana chips, heather beer, salty pasta water and many wee tertiary complexities. Impressive stuff! Finish: long, dry, austere, chiselled and showing a rather brittle minerality with touches of white flowers, petrol and sandalwood. Comments: Quite a ride! This is serious, grown up and complicated malt whisky that falls on the fascinating side of austerity. I love this coy, almost evasive profile that commands your attention. Although, I would say it’s absolutely not whisky for beginners.
SGP: 352 - 91 points. 

 

 

Good, I think we’re ready…

 

 

St Magdalene 19 yo 1979/1998 (63.80%, OB, Rare Malts)

St Magdalene 19 yo 1979/1998 (63.80%, OB, Rare Malts)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: the word that always sprung to mind with this whisky for me was ‘petrol’, and that is still very much the case here. It’s also immediately clear that there is rather deep and challenging complexity about the nose. This petrolic, hyper-oily and mineral profile which evolves towards linseed oil, paraffin, waxed canvass, putty and various animal furs and fats. It’s this rather imposing brimming of oils, faint embrocations and brusque, flinty minerals which is so impressive. Definitely whisky for nerds! With water: develops this beautiful freshness that seems to straddle wet forest as well as coastal. This mix of undergrowth, wet moss, sea greens and myrtle. Still plenty of mechanical oils, canvass, ink, dried herbs and putty. Mouth: you can see why so many good whisky folk were transfixed by this whisky over the years. It is indeed a style of its own. Mechanical, yet also organic and close to its base materials. Petrolic, flinty, mineral and yet with these very subtle honeyed and glazed fruit notes. Has the fatness of an oil slick in the mouth. With water: wider and slightly easier and more generous. Picks up all these tiny wee candied fruit peel notes, along with waxes, putty, lemon infused olive oil, eucalyptus and lanolin. What I find amazing is that despite all these various tertiary tangents, it never looses sight of its raw materials. There’s always this natural malty richness underpinning everything. Finish: very long and plainly fatty now. Bacon fat, white flowers, chalk, mineral oil, aspirin, white pepper and this wonderfully thick, residual oiliness of texture. Comments: It remains an unequivocally superb whisky. However, I think its technical brilliance is probably a few edges sharper than its pure pleasure factor. It’s true that it is probably at its most enjoyable when being discussed amongst true whisky fanatics round a table late in the evening. And it is very much the kind of whisky that you really could spend two years and a whole bottle getting to know. For me though, I don’t think it’s quite in the upper echelons of brilliance where some folk place it, but I understand why they do.
SGP: 462 - 93 points. 

 

 

Time for a break I think. Maybe an old episode or two of Doctor Who…

 

 

Lochside 37 yo 1981/2019 (48.6%, The Auld Alliance)

Lochside 37 yo 1981/2019 (48.6%, The Auld Alliance)
Colour: amber. Nose: a lovely mix of old copper coins with many dark fruit preserves, apricot jams and linseed oil. In time it becomes much earthier and full of tobaccos, salted dark chocolate, miso and wee bundles of dried herbs. Some mushroomy notes too. Really a big pot of bouillon and meat broths with added preserved fruits. Mouth: here the ‘Lochside’ fruits really come to the fore. By which I mean much more exotic fruit characteristics, dried tropical fruits, green banana, papaya and mango. All wrapped up with cocoa, hessian, tobacco, camphor and muesli studded with sultanas and chopped dark fruits. Luminous and very attractive, if not the most powerful or complex old Lochside ever. Finish: good length, full of bitter lemon, dark chocolate, dried herbs, wee cured meaty notes and more of these preserved exotic fruits and tobaccos. Comments: terrific and at times genuinely beautiful. It’s perhaps just a couple of years too old and starting to lose a little oomph here and there. Still, it’s retained a wonderfully clear distillery character.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

Convalmore 30 yo 1962/1993 (46.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 30 yo 1962/1993 (46.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really one of these ones that almost scratches you with hessian cloth and other rather industrial fabrics. Some rather scented notes of pine resin, fir cones and a textural blob of furniture polish and beeswax. Almost takes this very old school kind of profile to extremes. Although, given time, there is some balance provided by crystallised fruits, quince jelly and things like rosewater and Turkish delight. Quite immense and very direct. Mouth: you still have this very textural feel of waxes, puttys, orange oils, camphor and linseed oil. Despite the modest abv the impression is one of distillate power and force of personality. The kind of whisky that simply does not exist today. More clay, putty, cough medicines, anthracite and bitter herbal extracts. The epitome of old highland style in my book; close to old Clynelish absent the more coastal inclusions. Finish: long, leathery, herbal, syrupy and pleasantly warming. More of these piney and beeswax polish notes. Comments: A style of distillate that could shine at 5 or 35 years of age provided some suitably restrained wood. Everyone should try this kind of whisky if they can, it’s really an extinct but very beautiful and quite profound style.
SGP: 572 - 93 points.

 

 

Millburn 35 yo 1969/2005 (51.2%, OB, Rare Malts)

Millburn 35 yo 1969/2005 (51.2%, OB, Rare Malts)
One of the latter day glories from that just absolutely wonderful Rare Malts series. However, while the St Magdalene 1979 is often lauded as one of the series’s great triumphs, I think this Millburn remains of its hidden gems. However, I never wrote proper notes, so lets officially double check that proposition… Colour: deep gold. Nose: like someone just unfurled a hessian quilt in a dunnage warehouse. One of these sublimely old school aromas that unspools you enough deceptive rope (organoleptically literally in this case) before reeling you in on a wave of camphor, natural tar, wood embers, precious hardwood resins, pine cones, vapour rubs and wonderful notes of spiced fruit preserves, dried figs, sultana and quince jelly. The nose quivers with this sense of texture you could stand a spoon in. With water: stunning development, all on exotic spiced teas, complex waxiness, earthy notes, tobacco, old leather and bitter orange marmalade. Mouth: Millburn often gets lumped together with the whackier flights of fancy from its sibling Invernetians: Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. However, I think these older (pre-1975) examples really belong more to some kind of Glen Ord / Clynelish ‘highland triangle’. This is swollen with wax, herbs, hessian, sandalwood, fruit jellies, dried mango chunks, pollen and the most wonderful, complex wood spice - almost incense! Just beautiful. With water: now it moves more towards all these wonderful preserved fruit and jam notes. Apricot, quince, yellow plums and spiced apple. Still retains this wonderfully broad and sinewed ‘highland’ style fatness of texture. Finish: long, waxy, slightly drying and revealing a touch of mineral-flecked austerity. More wood resins, teas and spices. Comments: Totally stellar whisky. It’s a world away from the St Magdalene, but what comes to mind is that, while the St Mag has the edge in terms of technical brilliance, there’s perhaps more ‘obvious’ and easy pleasure to be had here. Anyway, who cares! What a gorgeous old Millburn.
SGP: 562 - 92 points.

 

 

I have more samples from closed distilleries to taste, but we’ll get to them next time.

 

 

Big virtual hugs to Edward, Jon and Dave and Sam.

 

 

 

 

May 8, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 52
Two St Magdalene in the Whiskyfun grotto

Total nightmare. The other day, in our friendly little ‘Malt Maniacs’ group on Facebook, we were talking about the famous St. Magdalene 19 yo Rare Malts, when I noticed that I had never written a proper tasting note for it. My bottles are long gone, but I was sure I would have kept a wee sample for future enjoyments. Sadly, I found out that I had not, but I stumbled upon these two babies… So as they say in Washington, better these than nothing.

St. Magdalene 1964 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1990)

St. Magdalene 1964 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1990) Five stars
We used to call these ones ‘old map label’, while there were also earlier bottlings of 1964 under the ‘old brown’ or ‘old banner’ or ‘old brown banner’ labels. Whatever. An older 18/1964 was just marvellous (WF 92). Colour: deep orangey amber (caramel). Nose: oh, no! I mean, oh, yes! The trademark metal polish is striking first, then come autumn leaves and patchouli, beedîes, lime blossom, menthol cigarettes, soot and ashes, charcoal, then cinchona, Campari, eucalyptus, old engine grease, wisteria… In short a very good illustration of old St. Magdalene’s main feature, complexity. Mouth: ooh, even at 40% (and probably around 38% after all these years), it stayed powerful, complex, quite pungent, kind of acrid, gritty, sooty, herbal, mentholy, ashy, mineral… There are quite a few burnt things (cardboard, wood, sugar) but the impact remains high overall, despite the lower strength. Imagine this in the much celebrated CASK series! Even the obvious caramel in it does not raise any problem. Another time, other manners, as they used to say in Rome. Finish: amazingly long, pretty herbal, bitter, sooty, and perhaps a little drying towards the aftertaste. These wee cardboardy notes that weren’t uncommon in this series, at that time. Comments: what a fighter. The distillate was really big-bodied and complex, which explains why these little bottlings keep standing the test of time. As for the distillery, it’s become flats where unaware people are watching Inspektor Derrick on satellite TV. Boo.
SGP:372 - 91 points.

And now, kerosene!...

St. Magdalene 10 yo 1982/1993 (61.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

St. Magdalene 10 yo 1982/1993 (61.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half
We used to call these the ‘small cream labels’. They were having a wide selection of rocket fue… I mean young naked whiskies at natural strength and ex-refill that really used to arouse us, if I may say so. Port Ellen 10, St. Magdalene 10, Glendullan 10… Right, maybe not Glendullan, although… What’s sure is that this series, at that time, represented the best solution if you wanted to have a better grasp of those legendary distillates’ original styles. And I believe they still do. Fasten your seatbelt please… Colour: chardonnay. Okay, richer white wine. Nose: well well well, fruit peelings, perhaps? Rapeseed oil? Sesame? Pear juice for sure, linseed oil, linoleum, asparagus, fresh rhubarb… In fact it’s all very subtle, and not that powerful after all. With water: there, dough, raw wool, porridge, grist, hessian… We’re back at the distillery! What’s that magic? Mouth (neat): shtoh! Pure concentrated lime juice blended with williams pear spirit and engine oil. And the feeling of quaffing ink… Quick!... With water: grass juice, lemon, grapefruit, lime, ink indeed, paper, soot, ashes… Well, to be totally honest, this is excellent, but it remains a little austere and narrow. Maybe would 50 more years in glass work? Finish: long, extremely grassy, ashy, sooty. Earth and lemons in the aftertaste. Comments: ultra-grassy, hitting and shaking, but perhaps not totally exceptional. By the way, Cadenhead have bottled some of these as ‘Linlithgow’ and others, indeed, as ‘St. Magdalene’. We all need goals in life, so next one, try to find out why.
SGP:361 - 89 points.

The general consensus here at WF Towers remains, indeed, that St. Magdalene used to be the best and the most complex of all Lowlanders. But some new Lowlanders are coming, so things may change, we’ll see…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all St. Magdalene we've tasted so far

 

May 7, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 51
More Aultmore

Serge, your headlines just s*ck.

Aultmore 9 yo 2008/2018 (46%, Orcines, sherry butt, cask #900305, 697 bottles)

Aultmore 9 yo 2008/2018 (46%, Orcines, sherry butt, cask #900305, 697 bottles) Three stars and a half
This baby should be easy. Orcines is a very good wee French independent bottler in Lyons (they belong to famous shop The Whisky Lodge). Colour: straw. Nose: classic good pretty active cask over an average Speysider (in the best sense of the word ‘average’). Which translates into butterscotch, brioche, raisin rolls, malt drink, a few wee herbal touches in the background, it’s all pretty subtle and you could miss them. Wild carrots, lemongrass, verbena… Is verbena related to the fact that Orcines are located not very far from the Alps? Mouth: totally and plainly on croissants au beurre (oui), more butterscotch, milk chocolate, brioche, kougelhopf, the drops of Cointreau and a wee feeling of modern STR. Finish: medium, pretty much with the same flavours, with a little more grass, as almost always in the finishes. Comments: no quibbling, I would say this is very well-made modern young malt whisky that’ll disappoint just no one.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Good, we’ve also got a set of three young Cadenhead’s that came out last year. Let’s treat them right and fast… ly. Fastly, we speak Whashingtonian now, better believe me.

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (56.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (56.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: austere and very grassy. This one’s a fighter, we’re far from the Orcines’ relative gentleness. Whiffs of lilies of the valley and grapefruit skin, also. With water: lovely earth! And autumn leaves… Mouth (neat): very good now. Lemons and kiwis with dollops of custard and liquorice cream and wood. Still a fighter, it’s green liquorice in there. With water: texture gets a little oilier. Do any serious makers do some kind of limoncello out of grapefruits? Finish: long and pretty perfect. More grapefruits, globally. Comments: not very complicated malt whisky, but it would just hit you where it needs to. Not exactly a surprise, but there, well, it’s a surprise. Great distillate at a very fair price (I believe). Lovely tension.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 288 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: frankly, honestly and sincerely, it is more or less the same whisky, just as tart and full of tension as its sister cask. I suppose they didn’t want to vat them into a ‘Small Batch’ just because of that. Mouth: ditto, no need to add any waters, or any other comments. I think I’ll tell you a little joke instead. A married couple, Paul and Diana, is on the verge of going bankrupt. Paul’s accumulated a huge stash of whiskies throughout the years, especially Macallans and Ardbegs, the whole being now probably worth hundreds of Grants. One good evening, Diana tells Paul that it is time to sell the whiskies to bring the family's finances back on track, but Paul’s very reluctant to part with his cherished collection. So he tells his dear wife “Diana, I agree, but I haven’t got the strength to sell them myself. What we could do is book a stand at a whisky festival, where you could go and sell those bottles yourself.” Diana is game, so three months later she’s got her own stand at a large whisky festival in London, with literally hundreds and hundreds of Paul’s old Macallans, Bowmores, or Ardbegs… Once the festival is over, she’s back home, where Paul’s waiting for her feverishly.
“How did it go, Diana? he asks.
- Perfectly well, Paul!!
- That’s cool, and how much did you make?
- £10,005!
- That’s better than nothing. But what idiot gave you five pounds?
- Well, all of them, why?”
Finish: same. Comments: just as excellent.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (57.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 1044 bottles)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo 2006/2019 (57.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 1044 bottles) Four stars
This one from four hoggies. In theory, but I could be wrong, this baby could be a little less sharp and tart. Colour: straw, so a tad darker. Nose: indeed, perhaps a little more vanilla, granny smith apple, a tiny touch of rubber, lemon, white asparagus, a hint of coconut water… With water: indeed it lost a bit of the ACs’ wonderful tightness. But it remained lovely. Mouth (neat): indeed, it’s a little rounder than the single casks, but other than that, profiles are extremely similar. No silly joke this time. With water: a little bit of sweetness over limoncello, grass and liquorice wood. Finish: rather long, still very grassy and limoncello-y. Comments: some friends would perhaps find these young Aultmores a little say petty or narrow, but I would disagree.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

So all in all we’ve tried six casks of 2006 by Cadenhead, that’s enough. 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Aultmore we've tasted so far

 

May 6, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 50
A fine Japanese duo

Fifty days in isolation, wow! But there’s this rather new Chichibu for the Whisky Exchange that’s ex-refill hogshead, so much less scary than the crazy (and perhaps even a tad provocative) finishings they’re sometimes doing. So high hopes here, then we’ll see which proper opponent we’ll find in the sample library. Could be that we’d need a gunslinger.

Chichibu 2012/2019 (60.8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 20th Anniversary, refill hogshead, #2089)

Chichibu 2012/2019 (60.8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 20th Anniversary, refill hogshead, #2089) Five stars
In my book, sister casks #2087 for LMDW and #2088 for TWE had both been totally stunning back in 3 B.C. (3 Before Covid). And both very peaty (P=7). Colour: white wine. Nose: I find it extremely hard to nose or taste a peater from ‘elsewhere’ without immediately having the famous Islays in your mind, in this case Ardbeg (you give me this blind I say young Ardbeg circa 2000). Okay say 80% Ardbeg, 30% Caol Ila and 20% Lagavulin. Maths? What maths, this is poetry! Perfect brine, olives, seawater, touch of tar,  touch of oysters, then fresh almonds and lime. Totally a razorblade, exactly what we need since we haven’t seen a hairdresser or a barber for months. With water: benzine coming out, brake fluid, graphite oil, new tweed jacket, a tiny touch of green curry… Perfect purity – dare I add that it reminds of some sake? Mouth (neat): splendid, but perhaps lethal at this strength. Chilli, smoke, seawater, a little coal tar, lemon… With water: the sweeter peaters are coming to the front (CI, Laga) but this baby needs no comparisons. It is absolutely perfect as it is. Finish: long, rather with the brine and seawater leading the pack. Superb ultra-clean aftertaste, with mineral echoes. Comments: incredible potential, what a distillate! Hope I’ll live long enough to be able to taste it when it’s 30 (I’ve heard people who live longest have goals – or the other way ’round), but it’s already perfect at 8. One of the Grands Crus of today – when no silly beers made by hippy hipsters have been used. I say.
SGP:457 - 93 points.

So, let’s find something that can talk to it, if not kill it… Perhaps this!

Yoichi ‘1980s’ (53%, OB, Japan, distillery exclusive, 2015)

Yoichi ‘1980s’ (53%, OB, Japan, distillery exclusive, 2015) Five stars
Some Yoichi from the 1980-1989 vintages. I remember the Miyagikyo ‘1980s’ had been excellent (WF 91). Colour: gold. Nose: boy does it talk indeed. It is probably spicier and more herbal, more on ‘Japanese aromas’, with some incense, sandalwood, resinous woods (mizunara?), tiny green apples and pears, eucalyptus and camphor, then some green smoke (garden bonfire) and a very complex set of spices, all based on saps and resins. Thuja wood? Love it. With water: we’re now in precious teas territories, with also a good deal of fresh nutmeg (very vivid) and fresh cinnamon. A touch of grated horseradish. Fab nose. Mouth (neat): exceptional, thick, ridden with waxy and sappy flavours, some tiny dried fruits (jujube?) and really a lot of sandalwood once again. Completely different from the Chichibu, but just as sublime. Less smoky for sure, but still smoky. With water: incredibly complex, pine-y, resinous, ‘Japanese’, perhaps one of the last of its kind – knowing that Karuizawa’s in a separate – not saying higher – league. Finish: long, superbly camphory. Add zillions of tiny sappy flavours, many unknown to me. Comments: wow, one of the best ‘very Japanese’ whiskies I could try, this is clearly not a Scotch malt lookalike. One more point for the Chichibu because it was purer and even more ‘perfect’, but I’m not sure these comparisons make much sense. Actually, I’m sure they do not.
SGP:473 - 92 points.

(Thank you Chris!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far

 

May 5, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 49
Four Tullibardine

Cadenhead have quite some middle-aged Tullibardines (in my book that’s 15 – 30 yo), which is great of course. So first a little aperitif, then a few Tullies by Cad. You may expect some sport…

Tullibardine 12 yo 2007/2019 (56.4%, Liquid Treasures, eSpirits, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 99 bottles)

Tullibardine 12 yo 2007/2019 (56.4%, Liquid Treasures, eSpirits, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 99 bottles) Three stars and a half
More pinup girls but we haven’t spotted Betty Grable within this range yet. Colour: white wine. Nose: smoky porridge, wet newspaper, soot, burnt wood, charcoal, metal polish, engine oil, pencil eraser, mashed celeriac… Do you see what I mean? With water: croissant dough, brioche dough… We’re in a bakery, at 4:30am!  Mouth (neat): I think the barrel did a rather good job here and managed to impart some fruitier tones (papayas, bananas) before ink, soot and bitter herbs would take control back. Together with quite a lot of pepper. With water: this is much, much, and I mean much nicer! Pink bananas, papayas, guavas, vanilla, and a drop of honey. Very nice, really, and unexpectedly civilised. Finish: medium, harsh and sooty when neat, softer and fruitier when reduced. Comments: as we often say, the best use of water. It totally needs water!
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2018 (40.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles)

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2018 (40.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half
We’ve already tried quite a few 1993s from Cadenhead’s, with good success in general, I need to add. Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, we’re in front of a very pleasant mix that would blend crushed bananas, yoghurt, muesli, pumpernickel and other rich breads, a tiny touch of garage-y smells (tyres, spent oils and stuff), plantain, sweet potatoes and lastly, that glorious combination olive oil, orange juice, and honey. Mouth: excellent! Honeys, orange juices, breads and biscuits, a touch of smoked tea, marmalade… And almost no fermentary, almost bacterial notes this time. Are those things from the past at Tullibardine? We would not complain! No sour, yoghurty notes either. Finish: medium, can, on honey and oranges. Touch of pumpernickel again in the aftertaste, with some caraway perhaps. Comments: not quite a surprise, but… yeah well, it is a surprise. These whiskies at very low natural strength can be hit or miss; a hit this time!
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2019 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2019 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles) Four stars
This one shouldn’t be too different. Colour: white wine. Nose: well it is a little different, that is to say grassier, a tad more porridge-y, perhaps with higher oak impact, more mangos, more bready smells as well… And more oranges too. Mouth: I think I liked the AC a notch better, it was probably a little subtler. But this is excellent too, while it would remind me of some bread they make in the middle-east, with some orange blossom water. These breads are so good! Finish: medium, excellent, on muesli and bread spices. Comments: super good, once again. And probably quite a bargain if you can still find it.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

What’s really excellent with these Cadenheads is that they are not doped-up. No wine wood and no excessively fresh oak.

Tullibardine 26 yo 1993/2019 (43.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles)

Tullibardine 26 yo 1993/2019 (43.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles) Four stars
This baby from two hoggies. It shouldn’t be too different…  Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s closer to the first one, for sure, it’s complex, with more or less the same profile except that I’m finding some additional medicinal notes. It’s almost as if one of the hogsheads had contained old Laphroaig before. Lovely menthol and camphor! Mouth: very good, a tad unusual, medicinal for sure, bready and mentholy at the same time, perhaps just a wee tad drying. Apricot bread, caraway, gingerbread, some mead, fir honey, … Very good indeed. Finish: medium, still a bit medicinal. Comments: an intriguing Tullibardine that I find very good, even if fennel mint and mangos do make for a very unusual combination. Aren’t Cadenhead having the best Tullibardines these days?
SGP:561 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tullibardine we've tasted so far

 

May 4, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 48
A Bunnahabhain verticale, part one

This little session in memory of John Maclellan. And first, a little benchmark/aperitif…

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2019)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2019) Four stars
I’m afraid we haven’t formally tasted the 12 since… 2013. Colour: gold. Nose: typical coastal notes, I find it actually more coastal than it ever was in my book. So sea breeze, then something a tad metallic (old pocket knife) and leafy (peach leaf), then the expected cereals, chestnut honey, and even puréed chestnuts (crème de marron). Add to that some sherry, walnuts, raisins, more coastal fino-like notes (amontillado aged in Sanlucar). Globally, I find it tenser and less soft than the 12 was in the olden days. As far as I can remember… Mouth: I think they upped the oak influence and made use of more dry sherry. That made it more leathery than usual, with more maritime notes too, salt, oranges… It’s pretty firm, even a wee tad smoky, and certainly not ‘the gentle Islay’ anymore. Finish: long, on walnuts, salt, burnt cake… You cannot not think of amontillado. Nutty aftertaste. Comments: simply very good. Bunnahabhain 12 became a big boy!
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Bunnahabhain 2002/2018 (56.1%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, Fortune Cat, sherry hogshead, cask #2086, 300 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 2002/2018 (56.1%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, Fortune Cat, sherry hogshead, cask #2086, 300 bottles) Four stars
Colour: pale gold. Nose: same cluster as that of the official 12, with the same dry sherryness, iron, sea water, kelp, malt, walnuts, leaves, a little umami sauce, fino… With water: a little gunpowder, then malt extract, Marmite, walnut wine… Mouth (neat): isn’t it fascinating that this baby would almost be the OB at a higher strength? Creamy, with the sherry upfront, nuts, raisins, tobacco, salty touches, wee bits of leather, a tiny touch of horseradish… With water: really, the official 12! Walnuts, manzanilla, tobacco, touches of leather again, a touch of curry (mussels simmered in curry sauce, yummy!) In the background, a classic of Bunnahabhain, Ovaltine/Ovomaltine and a pinhead of peanut butter. Finish: rather long, with a smoky touch and just more malty things. Comments: yup.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Good, old ones please… But let’s stay in Taiwan…

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1987/2018 (61.5%, HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #2476, 155 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1987/2018 (61.5%, HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #2476, 155 bottles) Four stars and a half
These vintages can be a little uncertain, but after all, no pain no gain. Colour: full gold. Nose: it really pleases me that I’ve been wrong yet again. Even if the high strength (my, it lost 2% alcohol within thirty years!) may block or mask quite a few aromas, you do feel a lot of honey, tarte tatin, and just crème brulée. A good sign… With water: a few whiffs of sawdust here and there, otherwise some classic nutty and raisiny notes, as well as quite some beeswax if not straight honey. Mouth (neat): very strong, very good! Chocolate, honey, and touches of young super-fruity Comté cheese. Totally love this, hope it’ll stay once water’s been added. With water: I like the palate rather better than the nose, I have to say, not something that happens very often with old whiskies. But is 30 really old? Cakes, scones, muffins and shortbread, a little honey sauce, and actually some straight all-flower honey. And some malt. Finish: medium, really malty, chocolaty… I suppose you could pour this over pancakes! A wee meatiness in the aftertaste. Malt extract? Comments: rather Bunnahabhain as we knew it. A very excellent drop, not particularly ‘old’ on your palate.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (46.2%, Eiling Lim)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (46.2%, Eiling Lim) Four stars
I’m glad I kept this little baby, looks like the 1980s are now extinct. Colour: deep gold. Nose: similar territories, with cakes everywhere and assorted beverages. Tea at the Balmoral (just much better and much less dusty). Brownies, walnut cake, chestnut honey (I’m always quoting chestnut because it’s one of the strongest, the most balsamic, and the best of honeys in my book). And toasts, naturally. Very lovely. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose, word for word, except that there would be many more oak spices. Big cinnamon and strong green tea, crunching some pine needle... Finish: long, a little tea-ish. Comments: I would say old age started to show a wee bit on the palate, but the nose was fantastic.
SGP:361 - 87 points.

Older yet? Be my guest…

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1978/2018 (47.8%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2587, 484 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1978/2018 (47.8%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2587, 484 bottles) Five stars
This could be a little perilous…But this is a kind of back game, as our compadre Angus already tried this one in due time. Colour: dark amber. Nose: would you agree there are various kinds of gunpowder? Like, some that would be rather meaty (burnt steak-like), and some that would be closer to tar, fumes, truffles… Well it’s the latter style that’s to be encountered here, with leathers unfolding, bone dry old sweet wine (that digested its sugars), and some perfect broth. Malt extract, roasted chestnuts, burnt caramel, rancio… Was this a genuine ex-solera butt? Mouth: at ease! Chestnut purée, molasses, chestnut honey again (and again), dark beer (strong trappist) and loads of bitter chocolate and coffee. Approved. Finish: long, on marvellous notes of artisan chocolate. These guys are in big trouble with Covid, hope everyone will help them. Even worse, the best chocolates don’t keep as well as the mass-produced ‘stuff’ that you’ll find in supermarkets. Double punishment. Comments: pure liquid chocolate! Signatory, would you please celebrate your 30th Anniversary again?
SGP:461 - 90 points.

Older yet…

Bunnahabhain 50 yo 1968/2019 (41.8%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #12397, 323 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 50 yo 1968/2019 (41.8%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #12397, 323 bottles) Five stars
Nineteen sixty -eight! Hold on, wasn’t that the vintage of the famous ‘Auld Acquaintance’ that turned plenty of heads when it came out? Including this one? Colour: full gold (paler than the 40). Nose: you do feel it’s an old one. This nose reminds me of all those old casks that we could nose at Duncan Taylor’s when they had started their ‘Auld and Rare’ range. You do feel quite a lot of oak, but in the best cases, and this is one of them, that old oak kind of transmuted into some kind of od embrocation, or cough syrup, without any obvious dryness. Say pine resin, coconut wine, camphor, melted beeswax and just pollen. It’s very specific. Perhaps a hint of artichoke. As always, it’s on the palate that the war will be fought, but we have confidence in this case… Mouth: and we were right. Honeydew, mead, fir liqueur (from the neighbouring Vosges mountains), crystallised pineapple, papaya jam… In truth it is not ‘oaky’ at all on your palate! Rather a miracle, and probably a stunning refill cask that had decided, in the first place, to play it elegantly. Like an old British actress, my dear. Finish: pretty long, still fresh ,never oaky, with various honeyed notes and reminiscences of many an old chardonnay from the best terroirs. I know, terroir again… Like, Meursault? Comments: I suppose they have been monitoring this marvellous old cask for decades, wondering if it would have hold until their 30th. It did – mind you, the best casks are smart, they are almost persons! No, really!
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Older yet…
Indeed, but rather older as far as vintages are concerned, not ages.

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1947/1975 (90.5°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1947/1975 (90.5°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs) Five stars
Many old Matthew Gloag bottles in the second or third market are fakes, but this one isn’t. What’s more, let’s remember that in those days – I mean in 1947 – all whiskies of Islay were heavily peated, including Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain. No need to say that this an extremely rare bottle, and that consequently, this note will be totally useless. It’s only for sports and panache, in other words. Colour: pale gold. Nose: no, really? Look, we had a 1974 Longrow the other day – not sure if we’ll publish that one before this one at time of writing – and it was a little similar, that is to say different from all famous peaters, and just mega-medicinal, much more so than the most medicinal Laphroaigs. In truth this is a blend of camphor syrup, menthol, mercurochrome, tincture of iodine, almond oil, and fresh mango, pineapple and maracuja juice. You cannot not think of the old Laphroaig Tens, Bonfanti, Carlton, Filippi and stuff. Amazing. Mouth: holy mother of Jesus Christ! The power’s just amazing, the style as well (especially the stunning almondy side), and the phenolic richness would just impart some… hold on, I’ve lost my words, what was I trying to say? Ah yes, I’m finding some fat oysters, mangos, almond oil, beeswax, lemon, wakame, salmon belly… Oh better just call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade a.s.a.p., unless they’re busy with Covid, naturally. Finish: incredibly long, fresh, sappy, on various essential oils and just buds. Ever heard of gemmology? Comments: glorious, even g-l-o-r-i-o-u-s as Patti Smith would have said. Imagine the shape of the malt world, had Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich kept making peaters! I know, Moine, Port Charlotte and stuff, but that’s not exactly the same thing, is it. Maybe it is, after all…
SGP:575 - 94 points.

No, after all there will be no part two. We couldn’t have gone further back in time and quality, mind you.

(Angus, heartfelt thanks again!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bunnahabhain we've tasted so far

 

May 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 47
Stupid booze

Or WTF spirits. That’s rather self-explanatory, no? Now I’m more or less feeling like I’m that stupid American guy who died in a rocket crash trying to prove the Earth was flat. Unless that story too was fake?… So let’s have ‘stuff’ we’ve been accumulating within the last months… And please wish me luck, you may even invoke your imaginary friends-in-the-skies if you like!

Cîroc ‘Mango’ (37.5%, OB, vodka, +/-2019)

Cîroc ‘Mango’ (37.5%, OB, vodka, +/-2019) Two stars
This has been classified by some online luminary as an ‘urban drink’. Sweet Vishnu, shall we survive?... knowing that mangos do not like ethanol at all. Believe me, I tried to distil a good little quintal of mangos quite some years ago, and came up with a nightmare spirit. Long story short, when the raw materials are too aromatic already, all you’ll create when concentrating those aromas is… Glue, or varnish. You need to do macerations actually, but after all, that’s probably what Diageo have done here. Let’s see… Colour: white. Nose: mango and apricot. Mouth: sugar and mango. This is a liqueur. Finish: long, on bubblegum. Comments: liquid bubblegum. It’s not bad at all (yes, Serge at the keyboard) but do not expect to be able to quaff more that 1cl without a pile of crushed ice. This French vodka (made in Cognac, mind you) feels very ‘lab’, but feels pretty fun too. Elementary booze.
SGP:820 - 70 points. (serious, dunno quite how to score this kind of liqueur).

Maestro Dobel ‘Humito’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2019)

Maestro Dobel ‘Humito’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2019)
Smoked tequila. Serious. I swear, believe me. I do not know how they make this, but it is over-packaged to such an extent that I do not wanna know. Even hipsters would run away on their Chinese-made micro-scooters. Colour: white. Nose: bwah. Burnt tyres, perhaps? Dead stones? I know stones are dead by definition, but there. Terrible nose. Mouth: a little better, but that’s thanks to the agave-y part that’s seemingly tried to resist the ugly smokiness that this little spirit had to endure. Very bad, it’s as if someone had blended some cheapo mixto with a few litres of wrecked Octomore. Finish: sadly, it’s not short. Comments: there are no foundations for such a spirit. The best mezcals are already smoky, so this artificial stunt was totally unnecessary. And bad. Never again.
SGP:125 - 25 points.

Cambridge Distillery ‘Truffle Gin’ (42%, OB, +/-2017)

Cambridge Distillery ‘Truffle Gin’ (42%, OB, +/-2017) Two stars
Just reading the marketing blurb is already quite juicy. Mind you, this is ‘rich, decadent and luxurious’, while it is ‘led by white truffle from Alba in Italy - an ingredient which is worth more than gold per gram.’ And guess what, we’re about to find some ‘unparalleled depth and complexity’. RU Ready? Colour: white. Nose: soap, ethanol, coal smoke, burnt rubber, juniper, and indeed some truffleness (gas). Not that ugly I have to say, but it’s true that I’m a dead lover of truffles. Mouth: hey hey, this is cool. Lime, juniper, plum spirit (fruit stones, almonds), celeriac, and certainly some sweeter truffles. Reminds me of a few chefs that keep trying (pre-Covid, naturally) to make some truffle-based deserts. Some do kind of succeed, I’ve had some truffle ice cream that’s been pretty much to my liking, for example. Finish: medium, okay. Comments: more than a stunt, I kind of like this. Pour it over mashed potatoes? Spaghettis? Far from the utter disaster I had announced. Will teach me.
SGP:262 - 75 points.

Tanqueray ‘Lovage’ (47.3%, OB, gin, +/-2018)

Tanqueray ‘Lovage’ (47.3%, OB, gin, +/-2018)
Crazy stuff by Diageo’s Mr. Jenkins, I’d wager. I feel I should add that I utterly love lovage, almost as much as I love truffles. Now, to think that someone in London or elsewhere decided, probably at the pub on a late Friday afternoon, to launch a pretty Monty-Pythony lovage-flavoured gin gives me faith in humanity, especially in British humanity. Even the bottle is crazy, I’m sure Camilla was involved at some point. Friends, do you really want to go on with this Brexit madness? I mean, with Covid and stuff, you would have every excuses to make an U-turn with bravado and panache – and no apologies needed! Colour: white. Nose: by Jove, gin! I’m not a gin guy, but to me this is gin, as in gin. In other words, I’m not finding any lovage at this point. And I know lovage, my garden is full of lovage. Perhaps on the palate?... Mouth: celery, perhaps? There is some sweetness, probably some herbal notes indeed, juniper of course, turnips… But lovage? There’s more lovage in a sherried Brora than in this little gin! Finish: almonds, turnips and celeriac. Perhaps parsley and parsnips? Juniper. Sadly the sweetness here kind of kills it all. Comments: I was expecting something very herbal, but what I got was something very sweet. And regular gin. Now, as always, with a bucket of ice…
SGP:551 - 60 points.

Empirical Spirits ‘Fuck Trump and His Stupid Fucking Wall Blend’ (27%, OB, +/-2019)

Empirical Spirits ‘Fuck Trump and His Stupid Fucking Wall Blend’ (27%, OB, +/-2019)
Seriously, this exists, it’s been officially bottled! Apparently, it is some kind of habanero spirit, but does it still qualify as ‘a spirit’ at those lousy 27% A.B.V.? Now indeed, they could have made the dumbest spirit in the world, the product would have still kept its promises. Let’s see… Colour: white. Nose: totally love it! Chilli, red pepper, raspberries, ‘spending a few hours at Ikea’, plywood, rhubarb, Worcester sauce…. It’s all extremely unlikely, but quite magically, it’s balanced, fresh, and even nice. Did I mention white asparagus? Mouth: it’s a little weak, I would have gone up to 35%, serious. Falls apart, gets glue-y, too grassy, drying… A shame, because you do feel that the core was rather brilliantly composed. What’s the story behind those lousy 27%? Something related to the Trumpster? Finish: short. Comments: funny idea, and a rather lovely nose that’s completely out of any known world, but the palate? Should we just sprinkle pizza with it? So and why the hell isn’t this drink orange? Just ask Irn Bru how to do that.
SGP:472 - (no score) points.

Georgia Moon (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, USA, +/-2018)

Georgia Moon (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, USA, +/-2018) Three stars
We all know Georgia Moon’s corn whisky. It’s a staple of Kentucky boozes, a reference, more or less like Loch Dhu 10 in Scotland or the white Manx whisky. No? But I’m not sure anyone’s drinking it, Let’s see… Colour: white. Nose: warm baguette early in the morning. The smell of warm baguette early in the morning is a Proust’s madeleine to many a Frenchy. There isn’t much else, but there, I find this total breadiness just fantastic. Mouth: it’s a little weak, but it isn’t bad at all! Reminds me of pot-still vodka. Bread, herbs and cereals, mustard seeds, wholegrain bread, baguette again, touches of caraway… Finish: medium, very bready, slightly spicy. Comments: Houston, we have a problem. Will friends laugh at me if I write that this is some very good spirit? Will they ban me from Limburg? From the Whisky Show Old & Rare? From Whisky Live Paris, from Luzern? From Zurich? Seriously, let’s all pray St. Clynelish that they’re all fine and will be able to hold all their brilliant events in the nearest future! Crikey, isn’t this little Georgia Moon goooood? Note to self, have to check who’s making this…
SGP:451 - 80 points.

Whitley Neil ‘Quince Gin’ (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Whitley Neil ‘Quince Gin’ (43%, OB, +/-2018)
Same story all over again, I’m not a gin guy at all, but I cherish quince, the subtlest fruit there is as soon as you’re talking distilling. And the trickiest as well (quince could wreck a still, serious), but I suppose this is just a matter of aromatization. Piece of cake then… By the way, this is ‘handcrafted’, but I’m not sure that’ll remain a strong selling point post-Covid. Colour: straw. Some oak involved, I suppose. Or caramel. Nose: gin with a layer of apples and quinces. So, basically, gin. Mouth: it’s been heavily sweetened, this is almost a liqueur. Terrible thing, don’t tell your dentist you’re drinking this. Finish: long, extremely sweet and sugary. I’m sure you need to kill wildlife to be able to produce this… thing. Comments: seventeen ice cubes per centilitre, that would be the proper way to drink this horrendous sugabomb, should you have nothing else at hand. I mean, not even water. No seen no quince, by the way. Yuck, what a rotgut!
SGP:920 – 10 points.

And just to show you that we’re afraid of strictly nothing…

Two Birds ‘Rhubarb Gin’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Two Birds ‘Rhubarb Gin’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)
Frankly, gin is a laughable category. The darkest dungeons of booze, where all third-grade marketers like to bathe since every Tom, Dick and Harry can make their own gin and claim to a kind of first. In this very case, that would be rhubarb. Crikey, we love rhubarb! Colour: pink gold. Or there, rosé gold as they say at Audemars-Piguet or Rolex, both footballer’s brands these days. Your brain on your wrist, as they say, but let’s move on… Nose: gin, that is to say soap, juniper, and lemon zests. I’m not against that. No rhubarb in sight (and I’ve got as much rhubarb as lovage in my garden). Mouth: seriously? A little rhubarb syrup indeed, but all the rest is weak. Not bad, but weak. What’s cool is that they haven’t buried this one under tons of sugar. Finish: medium, gingery and lime-y. Perhaps some rhubarb. According to this colour, that would be pink rhubarb. Comments: some kind of limoncello with less sugar. Lemon and rhubarb can get close together.
SGP:440 - 55 points.

Let’s put an end to this nightmare, with this last ‘thing’…

Dujardin ‘Vieux Blue Label’ (35%, OB, Spirit Drink, Dutch brandy, +/-2015)

Dujardin ‘Vieux Blue Label’ (35%, OB, Spirit Drink, Dutch brandy, +/-2015)
Dutch brandy, my nose! Everything here screams swindle. The fake French brand name, the design, the word ‘vieux’, the word ‘blue’, the word ‘label’… If we don’t get blind here, we’re lucky… Colour: orange. That’s caramel, as you know. Orange hues or tinges, like in most nasty Scotch blends (so 90% of the production, really), give caramel colouring away. Nose: none. Perhaps burning alcohol. Perhaps Fanta and Coke? Extremely weak, nada, niente, nichts, rien, nothing. Mouth: terrible, puke-y, repulsive, bitter, undrinkable. A fucking nightmare, there, I said it. Finish: yuck. Some bad sugar, perhaps recycled molasses? Comments: I hate it that because of the fake name ‘Dujardin’, some absent minds would believe this is French, or perhaps even Cognac? There, why not Martell Cordon Bleu? The brand owners here deserve death. Ten bullets, then hanging, then drowning, then the stake, then poison,  then being forced to listen to a speech by His Orangeness. Okay that last part may have been a little too harsh, after all this is just booze and no fortune has ever been built without a big lie…  
SGP:110 - 2 points.

Dutch brandy, right… By the way, they usually blend these with highly rectified, thus totally silent spirits.

 

May 2, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Ten Caol Ila
Caol Ila, there’s never a shortage of that pin-sharp distillate knocking about these days it seems. Although, arguably there are fewer indy bottlings of it around than ten years ago. In my view it remains the epitome of top notch modern style peated single malt. Unless there has been some unlikely PX or STR deployed in the mix, which personally I always find a tad disheartening.

 

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 ‘Reserve Cask’ (48%, Elixir Distillers, Single Malts of Scotland, hogsheads)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 ‘Reserve Cask’ (48%, Elixir Distillers, Single Malts of Scotland, hogsheads)
This one is part of a recent series of younger malts at 48% by the good folks at Elixir Distillers. Isn’t 48% the new 46%? Or is that just me? Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a rather gristy and smoky one. Which means close to the raw ingredients with sourdough, carbolic acidity, fermenting wash, lemon juice, a freshly shucked oyster and some tar. Pure, plain and pretty unequivocally Caol Ila. Mouth: extremely salty on arrival. Pure seawater, rock pool, wet seaweed, drops of iodine and malt vinegar. Pickled onions from a chip shop dipped in squid ink. There’s also a rather brittle peat and these typical notes of wood ash and lemon juice. Finish: long, very smoky and getting these wee notes of black olive, hot rubber, wood embers and black pepper. Indeed, gets rather fatter, oilier and heavier in the finish. Comments: Very good. I can see why they would bottle this as a more ‘introductory’ peated single malt. It’s rather simplistic but also direct and everything is in its place rather tidily.
SGP: 357 - 84 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (51.8%, North Star Spirits, hogshead / PX finish, 378 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (51.8%, North Star Spirits, hogshead / PX finish, 378 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: immediately rather sooty, metallic and with these wee peppery touches of new oak. Smoked varnish, hessian, tar and rather a lot of medical ointments and some leathery meaty notes. Hot putty, camphor and aspirin. With water: a lot more cohesive and interesting with water. Smoked peats, paprika, tar, ointments, smoked white fish and sandalwood. Mouth: you do kind of get this rather hefty impression from the PX, or rather the oak of the PX cask. Which continues with this vibe of smoked green peppercorns and sawdust alongside this smoky varnish aspect and brinier qualities. Some dried seaweed and black olives too. A whisky of two halves in some respects. In time it’s more ashy and with smoked olive oil and salty pasta water. With water: slated butter, mixed dried herbs, coal dust and more smoked paprika and black pepper notes. Finish: long, deeply smoky, earthy, peppery, sooty and with these slightly dirty boiler smoke notes. Comments: I remain uncertain about the influence of the PX here, I’m not sure the marriage of the two rather powerful personalities is entirely a happy one. However, it has its moments, and certainly swims well. It’s true that Mr North Star is a more deft juggler of additional maturations than most.
SGP: 466 - 82 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2020 (50.8%, Adelphi, cask #301264, 1st fill oloroso hogshead)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2020 (50.8%, Adelphi, cask #301264, 1st fill oloroso hogshead)
This is another of these new Adelphi bottlings that I’m tasting from the miniature, so no image of the actual bottle yet. Mind you, given it’s Adelphi, I don’t expect it will take too great a leap of imagination to envisage its eventual bottle. Colour: rosewood. Nose: some kind of smoked dark chocolate with sea salt and a huge dollop of bacon jam. Also tar, freshly brewed espresso, kirsch and those burnt raisins from the tops of hot cross buns. A little all over the place but very fun. In time it becomes a little more traditional with these gamey and meaty qualities. Also lots of salty and dark umami broths. Things like Maggi, olive tapenade and mushroom powder. With water: develops very nicely with this dovetailing of smoke, earth, chocolate, coffee, meats and spices. Much more cohesive now and more complex. Mouth: natural tar liqueurs mixed with red fruit jams, bottle aged Jägermeister, herbal cocktail bitters, espresso, salted caramel wafers, squid ink, cinnamon powder and juniper. Smoky, meaty and getting increasingly earthy and spicy. With water:    again very tarry and lots more of these bitter herbal notes like old Fernet Branca. Extremely resinous, sinewy and umami. All manner of cured game meats, wood spices and precious hardwood resins. Finish: good length and once again all on game meats, tar, earth, coffee, bitter chocolate and punchy herbal bitters. Comments: probably quite a divisive bottling. Although, I’m sure some will find it totally to die for. I would be curious to know if it was full term in sherry or a longish finishing? Anyway, I’m not totally sure the balance between Caol Ila and sherry is totally there, but there’s a huge amount of fun to be had along the way. Especially if you bring your pipette and some water.
SGP: 576 - 88 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2014 (60%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.201 ‘True love on a pebble beach’, refill sherry butt, 575 bottles)

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2014 (60%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.201 ‘True love on a pebble beach’, refill sherry butt, 575 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: quite a departure! Coal smoke, linens, bath salts, crushed seashells, grilled whelks, ink, preserved lemons, smoked limes, olive oil and a rather elegant and thready antiseptic note. Quite beautiful and showing this wonderfully fragile but distinctive coastal quality throughout. With water: still wonderfully coastal and fresh but also slightly farmy now. Sheep wool, dried tarragon, motor oil and aspirin. Mouth: the difference that age brings to these Caol Ilas is always quite striking. This is oilier, deeper and more complex. These rather fat and thick medicinal flavours and textures come first, but also sandalwood smoke, crab meat, natural tar, green herbs, smoked mint and petrol. With water: pretty much pure seawater, petrol and syrupy medicines, all slathered in peat and with this umami core holding everything together. Really excellent! Finish: long, deeply smoky verging on these slightly dirty notes of boiler smoke and rubber fishing wellies (a nod towards Port Ellen in some ways) and various shellfish meats, black pepper and more briny and lemony notes. Comments: Bish. Bash. Bosh. Perfect Caol Ila. It’s to be wondered when you see a strength of 60% at 18 years of age why someone wouldn’t think to keep such a cask till it was 40? But of course cash flow etc. And, then again, this with another 30 years in bottle should be really quite something…
SGP: 467 - 91 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: this kind of lemony smokiness which I often find in Caol Ila of this age and era. Preserved lemons in brine, lemon and ginger tea, seaweed crackers and then this evolution towards things like smoked oatmeal, dried mint and sheep wool. Also some hints of pollen and slightly funky cider apple. Very good! Mouth: pebbles, flint smoke, lime juice, mercurochrome, iodine droplets, smoked mint leaf, hessian and aspirin. Gets drier and more chiselled over time, moves towards crushed seashells and bath salts, rather mineral and saline. You also have these elegant herbal and pine resin notes. Finish: long, lemony, briny and rather medical with these antiseptic and gauze notes. Comments: A lighter side of Caol Ila but I find this more fragile quality extremely pleasurable and nicely complex. Also rather dangerously gluggable. Burp!
SGP: 456 - 87 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2019 (55.3%, OB ‘Feis Ile’, cask #9373, refill bourbon barrel, 180 bottles)

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2019 (55.3%, OB ‘Feis Ile’, cask #9373, refill bourbon barrel, 180 bottles)
I remember there was quite a fussy queue for this one on the day of release; something to do with the card machine not working… Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in some kind of halfway house between the early 80s style and the mid-90s. A very attractive mix of petrol, tautly structured minerality, pink sea salt, pine cones, sandalwood and more tertiary aromas of hessian, camphor, oily rags and rope. There are wee moments where it could almost be a 1990 Ardbeg with these oily and tarry aspects. I find it quite elegant, subtle and impressively complex. With water: saltier and showing a greater degree of precision and purity now. Also with these meaty notes of pork scratching, frying pancetta and something like smoked olive oil and ink. Mouth: wonderfully intense oiliness. Glisteningly tarry, mentholated, herbal, sooty and showing this almost waxy peaty quality. Some kind of salty, aged mead, heather ales, pine resins, putty, seawater cut with petrol and pickle brine. Beautifully concentrated, textural and direct but never losing this sense of captivating complexity. With water: salty butter with chopped green herbs, anchovy paste, langoustines, fabrics, lanolin, seashells and hints of iodine and herbal mouthwash. Finish: long, limey, lightly ashy and showing hints of raw ingredients like sourdough, smoked cereals and smoky wort. This very lovely briny and lemony aftertaste lingers with notes of smoked teas. Comments: I will say one thing for Diageo, they know how to pick a cask! I love how this one seems to get brighter and more youthful with evolution and water. It also makes sense that they would pick this cask as it seems to showcase multiple Caol Ila eras and personalities rolled into one.
SGP: 467 - 92 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 1982/2008 (61.9%, Queen Of The Moorlands ‘Rare Cask Edition XXVI, 60 bottles)

Caol Ila 1982/2008 (61.9%, Queen Of The Moorlands ‘Rare Cask Edition XXVI, 60 bottles)
I have very fond memories of visiting David Wood and his great wee wine shop in Leek in the north of England where he sold these bottlings. Not to mention trips to the Earl Grey pub where he and his pals would gather to select the casks for future releases - but that’s another story entirely. That was back in 2006 and feels like a lifetime ago now. It’s funny and very cool that David went on several years later to be distillery manager at Caol Ila. How many industries are there where fandom and enthusiasm can take you on that kind of journey? A worthwhile pause for thought in moments when we find cynicism about whisky overtaking us a little too much. Colour: gold. Nose: deep and brimming with this sense of coiled sinew and power. Wonderfully ‘wet’ notes of algae, frothy kelp, lemon slices in green tea, sandalwood, tar extract, fir liqueur and wisp peat smoke. Things like pickled capers, hessian and fresh grapefruit. Beautiful and deeply evocative. With water: becomes more fragrant. Lovely notes of fresh linens, drifting peat smoke, carbolic soap, wintergreen and various soft medicines. Mouth: hugely powerful! Smoked paprika with dried seaweed, miso, tar, petrol, herbal mouthwash, petroleum jelly, dried tarragon, vapour rubs and iodine. Immense, punchy and wonderfully thick! With water: becomes softer but at the same time far thicker in texture, this sense of mouth-coating oiliness but with gentle flavours of lemon peel, chamomile and green teas, a waxy peatiness and more soft tarry and hessian notes. Finish: long, thickly oily, tarry, peaty and almost greasy with these notes of medical embrocations and smoked cooking oils. Comments: What I think it’s important to remember is how ubiquitous these stocks have been over the years. How many terrific bottlings have come from these vintages of Caol Ila showing this quality? For me, when I think of being on Islay and having fun at the Islay festival, it’s this flavour profile that comes to mind. I would argue these bottlings are still a tad underrated but that’s a good thing as, even now, the prices are still relatively accessible by comparison. I’m sure we will look back one day and realise just how much pleasure and joy these late 70s - early 80s Caol Ilas have been responsible for. And probably for how many whisky journeys they’ve kindled.
SGP: 367 - 92 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 37 yo 1982/2019 (56.3%, Kingsbury for Club Qing Hong Kong, cask #700, sherry butt)

Caol Ila 37 yo 1982/2019 (56.3%, Kingsbury for Club Qing Hong Kong, cask #700, sherry butt)
Colour: rosewood. Nose: you know you’ve got integration between peat and sherry when you get this very leathery walnut and salty oloroso quality alongside these wonderfully animalistic cured game meats, black tea, anthracite embers, natural tar and camphor. Then all these wee fruits begin to emerge: grapefruit, kumquat, blood orange marmalade and wee spices like star anise and cloves. Beautifully elegant and aromatic while retaining plenty of freshness. With water: gets earthier and meatier. Developing a nice note of Irish coffee, old leather and mothballs. Mouth: what’s most impressive is the power that the sherry itself holds over the distillate. You really feel like you’ve just ingested a hefty mouthful of extremely leathery, walnutty, salty old VORS oloroso that’s dripping with rancio and old wine cellar must. Now, there’s still lots of these game meats, tannic black tea, pin-sharp salinity, smoked mussels and natural tar. Also some more subtle notes of bergamot, black olive tapenade and umami paste. With water: still the sherry dominates with this extremely walnutty, salty and rancio quality. But also notes of salted dark chocolate, miso, tar, iodine, dried kelp, jasmine tea and leather. Quite a few subtle notes of dark fruits such as date syrup and sultanas stewed in brandy. Finish: long and deeply earthy, leathery, salty and riddled with bitter herbal extracts, citrus pith, natural tar, old leather and soot. Comments: quite a fascinating old Caol Ila. Unlike any other, even the few other sherried examples that you can find. The interplay between cask and distillate is an extremely entertaining and rather hypnotic conversation.
SGP: 575 - 91 points.

 

 

We could stop here, but where would be the fun in that? If you don’t mind, for reasons of ABV, I’m going to do this final pair by reverse vintage.

 

 

Caol Ila 1967/1983 (92 US proof, RW Duthie ‘Selected by Narsai M David for Narsai’s Restaurant and Corti Brothers)

Caol Ila 1967/1983 (92 US proof, RW Duthie ‘Selected by Narsai M David for Narsai’s Restaurant and Corti Brothers)
92 US proof being equivalent to 46%. Duthie being the export name for Cadenhead at the time and Corti brothers being famous retailers and importers in San Francisco who selected some utterly legendary whiskies in their day. Colour: straw. Nose: I should really have included this one in my soon to be published ‘closed distillery’ session. It’s some distance from post-reconstruction Caol Ila. Fatter, wider and with a lemony profile which is oilier, more opulent and more ‘generous’ - like some kind of smoked limoncello. Also Barbour grease, waxy peat that feels like it’s slapped on in layers with a trowel. Then this kind of  murky green seawater, olive juices and muscular - almost brash - salinity. “Hello, Coastguard? Get me the Anti-Maltoporn brigade pronto!”… Mouth: medicines, seawater, olive oil, peat, tar, iodine, metal polish, new leather, waxed canvass, putty. Just immense and totally flabbergasting whisky. The peat manifests in an almost heart-stoppingly beautiful way which is so wonderfully structured, complex, dynamic and layered that all you can do is follow it down these labyrinthian pathways. Finish: immensely long, deep, rooty, earthy, herbal, citric, waxy, coastal and peaty. Comments: Another total marvel from the old Caol Ila distillery. It really seemed to produce a totally distinct make. Different from any other of its Islay contemporaries at the time. One seemingly defined by fatness of texture, bass-like smokiness and a peat character that seemed to behave like an impossibly obese ballerina. Everything holds together with perfection, even when physics would suggest it should all fall apart.
SGP: 456 - 94 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 1968 (58.6%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘CASK’, 1980s)

Caol Ila 1968 (58.6%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘CASK’, 1980s)
Not sure when this one was bottled, but most probably around 1986-1988. Colour: deep gold. Nose: hyper clean at first nosing. This kind of rather brutal, ashy smokiness, raw peat, iodine and seawater. Powerful but with a sense of restraint. Then it starts to open with this kind herbal jelly, menthol smokiness, cough medicines, mint tea and lighter notes of salted walnuts, eucalyptus oil and camphor. One of these noses that just keeps evolving and getting louder and more immense with each passing minute. I have to admit, I find this combination of herbs, smoke, salt and peat just utterly destroys me. If this whisky asked for my bank details I’d hand them over without blinking. With water: just when you think it cannot possibly get saltier, you suddenly find it is time to immediately call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Mouth: syrupy in texture but also astonishingly salty, drying and pure. Lashings of petrol, oily peat, game meats, boiler smoke, old toolboxes, bouquet garni of dried herbs but most specifically mint, tarragon and parsley. Also more mentholated eucalyptus tones. You can throw soy sauce, ramen broth and gorse flowers into the mix as well. We could go on for days just picking out wee flavours, but really this is a whisky entirely about that tiny harmonious sweet spot between power, balance and depth of flavour. With water: deeper, dustier, peatier and more resinously herbal and medical. It’s also fruitier with wee exotic touches such as grapefruit and dried mango. A notch less saline now and more towards coal smoke, anthracite soot, carbon paper, ink, tar, mushroom powder and wee vegetal touches. The kind of whisky that commands your attention and seizes total control. Finish: endless, salty, peaty, chalky, mineral, oily, petrolic, herbal, rooty, earthy, vegetal and coastal. Mesmeric. Comments: These kinds of bottlings aren’t really a surprise these days. But they never fail to be a devastating reminder of just how good whisky can - and should - be. Not to mention the limitations imposed upon quality when all you focus on is yield, efficiency and wood.
SGP: 567 - 95 points.

 

 

Big virtual hugs to Edward, Sebastian and Andy.

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far

 

May 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

The Confined Sessions
Day 45
Little duos,
today Banff 1975

Who remembers Banff? I certainly do, what a fabulous malt! The story’s quite interesting too, between fires and bombings by the Luftwaffe. At Banff, mothballed in 1983, life has never been a bed of roses.

Banff 29 yo 1975/2004 !46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3323)

Banff 29 yo 1975/2004 !46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3323) Five stars
Not the first time I’m trying this one, but for once I’ll try a whisky a second time. It’s my ‘blog’, I do what I want, capisce? But I promise we’ll keep this short. Colour: white wine. Nose: old school metal polish, humus, beeswax and old humidor, then quince jelly and earthy teas. Was that short enough? Mouth: mandarins, more beeswax, paraffin, tangerines, other citrus fruits and then some mineral notes, chalk, limestone… Finish: rather long, bright, but with some orange honey now and quite some earl grey tea. Comments: I’m re-reading my older notes (2007) and I cannot not notice that this baby got rather waxier and rounder over the years in its bottle. As if it had moved towards Clynelish, up north…
SGP:552 - 90 points.

And so another 1975, much more recent…

Banff 1975/2017 (41.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS17045, 185 bottles)Banff 1975/2017 (41.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS17045, 185 bottles)

Banff 1975/2017 (41.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS17045, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half
It’s very cool that our friends in Paderborn would have still owned a cask of Banff just two or three years ago. How old is this baby? 42? Now the low strength is a bit scary, but there, let’s check it… Colour: gold. Nose: no! I mean, how could anyone resist a blend of quince and apricot juices? And with whiffs of hot roasted chestnuts, plus a glass of Trockenbeerenaulsese from good old Schloss Vollrads? One day I’ll tell you a story about this guy bringing home half a bottle of such nectar from Bad-Godesberg and leaving it in the kitchen, and finding the pineapple chicken cooked by his wife absolutely stunning just two days later. Indeed, it is a sad story, but the nose of this Banff is glorious. Mouth: good, the oak’s taken over, so you need to intellectualise it a wee bit and to tidy things up. In that case, provided you manage to focus on all this, you’ll still find mango juice, papayas, avocado juice, crushed bananas and guavas. In a way, it’s a bit like when you’re watching a very old yet fantastic black-and-white movie, some context is in order. Finish: short. Comments: this won’t be a proper ‘organoleptical score’. Now, what a nose!
SGP:331 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Banff we've tasted so far

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

April 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Lagavulin 40 yo 1979/2019 (49.1%, The Syndicate, cask #112, 188 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000) - WF93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Benriach-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 270 bottles) - WF88

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020) - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Ransom WhipperSnapper (42%, OB, USA, Oregon spirit, +/- 2019) - WF40

April 2020 - part 2 <--- May 2020 - part 1 ---> May 2020 - part 2


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Banff 29 yo 1975/2004 !46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3323)

Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1978/2018 (47.8%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2587, 484 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 50 yo 1968/2019 (41.8%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #12397, 323 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1947/1975 (90.5°proof, Matthew Gloag & Son, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs)

Ledaig (Tobermory) 22 yo 1973/1996 (44.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB)

Macduff 29 yo 1989/2018 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherry butt, 390 bottles)

St. Magdalene 1964 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1990)

Chichibu 2012/2019 (60.8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 20th Anniversary, refill hogshead, #2089)

Yoichi ‘1980s’ (53%, OB, Japan, distillery exclusive, 2015)

Foursquare 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘Plenipotenziario’ (60%, OB/Velier, bourbon, 6000 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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