(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, Nowember 2010 - Part 1

October 2010 - part 2 <--- November 2010 - part 1 ---> November 2010 - part 2


November 14, 2010


Tasting two Glenkinchie
There are very little independent Glenkinchies, only G&M and Cadenhead’s had quite a few a long time ago, as well as a handful of smaller bottlers much more recently. We’ll take the opportunity of the brand new official 21yo to unearth a 1975 by Jack Wiebers.

Glenkinchie 20 yo 1990/2010 (55.1%, OB, American oak) Four stars Another 20yo bottled in 2007 was much to my liking (WF88). Colour: white wine. Nose: not too powerful but extremely fresh, ueber-clean, starting on freshly cut apples and just touches of vanilla custard. Maybe a tad shyish but other than that it’s really like a walk through an orchard, if you see what I mean. No grainy, porridgy or yeasty notes in this one. The vanilla and notes of fresh oak tend to grow a tad bigger after a few minutes. With water: more on plums and other stone fruits. Whiffs of bubblegum, strawberry sweets, jellies… Very, very discreet soapy oak in the background, paraffin. Mouth (neat): fruitful and youthful, staring all on pear drops, lemon drops and even tinned pineapples. Again, it’s powerful but not overpowering. Gets then even more lemony, almost limey, grassy, kind of acidic in a nice way. Quite sharp, far from the ‘gentle’ Lowlands style. With water: good, easy, fruity profile, quite responsive if you see what I mean. Likes to play with your palate. A lot of lemon and tangerines. Finish: rather long, more on lemon zests and green wood, sorrel, raw spinach… Very zesty, in a fairly unusual way. Comments: it’s not the most complex whisky ever in my opinion but I like the fact that it’s relatively close to a famous neighbouring colleague: Rosebank. SGP:661 - 86 points.

Glenkinchie 33 yo 1975/2008 (50.7%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, cask #6396) Four stars Jack Wiebers seems to like unusual casks displaying, err, unusual aromas. Let’s see… Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes, this is highly bizarre once again. There’s something slightly sweaty or even cheesy at very first sniffs, with also hints of sour cream plus a little dill and other herbs. Highly unusual indeed. Goes on being even more butyric but also rather cleaner at the same time, with some vanilla, new wood, a little toffee and hints of fresh mint. A little caramel and café latte as well, then quite a lot of cut grass. The cheesy notes were ephemeral, good news. With water: milk and cream are back, together with more herbal spices from the wood. Cardamom? Custard. Also something a tad metallic. Mouth (neat): not cheesy or bearing other unusual notes this time, we’re much, much closer to the OB, only with more oak, tea and vanilla. Great greenness, à lot of lemon, even a little kiwi, green apples… Also toasted brioche. With water: hurray! It got really beautiful now, extremely zesty but with depth and complexity. Fresh oranges, lemon squash, grapefruits, notes of jujubes… Some green tea and a little ginger in the background. Sorrel. Finish: long, beautifully lemony. Comments: two whiskies in one, or rather four, depending on the amount of water you’ll add. It’s far from perfect but it’s very entertaining in my view. I’ll score it just the same as the OB. SGP:651 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: big, big sound with the amazing World Saxophone Quartet playing Duke's hypnotic Come Sunday. Plase buy all of these fab people's music.


November 12, 2010

The Big Push: twelve new or recent whiskies


Glengoyne 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-2010) Three stars and a half A recent young version of Glengoyne. There used to be a version at cask strength since around 2005 that I quite liked (WF83). This new one comes from a combination of first fill bourbon and sherry. Colour: gold. Nose: fragrant and very aromatic, violetty, with some vanilla and a distinct maltiness. Quite some liquorice as well, hints of peppermint and a little parsley and other fresh herbs. Fairly complex, nice freshness. Mouth: good attack, rather nervous, on lemon marmalade and liquorice, then more toffee and cornflakes, apple pie, hints of sweet white wine. Finish: long, more on liquorice and fruitcake. Some tea and more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: very good in my opinion, more than just an easy all-rounder. SGP:451 – 84 points.


Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (51,8%, The Nectar of the Daily Dram, joint bottling with The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead) Four stars Two labels for one whisky! Colour: deep gold/amber.

Nose: it’s not one of these fresh fruity and zesty 1981 Lochsides, rather a heavy, deeply infused one, with some wood extracts, toffee, strong tea and notes of plum eau de vie, then something slightly gamy. Also some wild notes of fresh mushrooms, moss, earth… A surprising variant. Wine vinegar, parsley. With water: more grass, more herbs, more mint. Hints of sangria, blood oranges, shalots… Mouth (neat): here it is, Lochside’s trademark fruitiness (tangerines, oranges), but it’s coated with some soft spices (a little curry) and quite some kirsch. Slightly hot. Also notes of pipe tobacco, prunes, molasses… The whole is maybe a little brutal at this stage. With water: softer, leathery, slightly cardboardy. Finish: medium long, a little dry but clean. Very nice lemony signature, with some pepper. Comments: I like this one a lot but I tend to prefer purer Lochsides. SGP:462 - 87 points.


Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency, fino hogshead, 275 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: another one that isn’t extremely fruity. Quite some chlorophyll, walnuts, some fresh butter, cider apples, lamp oil, graphite oil… Globally quite mineral and unexpectedly austere, kind of crystalline. A little jasmine, then quite a lot of orange blossom water. With water: more butter, chives, clay… One of the grassiest Lochsides I ever found. Mouth (neat): more sherry, a little more roughness and even less ‘Lochsideness’. Walnuts and ginger tonic, green tea, lime, maybe a little salt? With water: Lochside is back, with a lot of tangerine and lemon, pepper, hints of bubblegum and tinned litchis… Finish: medium long, very fruity now. C vitamin cocktail. Comments: simply a beautiful one. SGP:641 - 90 points.


Lochside 1981/2010 (57.5%, The Whisky Exchange, oloroso) Four stars and a half Another old style label by the good people at The Whisky Exchange. Amazing how everything becomes old style everywhere, fashion, cars, paintings, motorcycles, rock and roll, advertising, movies, horology, whisky packaging… Are we all scared of the future? Does only nostalgia sell these days? Colour: deep gold. Nose: we aren’t too far from the TN/TWA bottling here, except that this one is a little less expressive… Maybe. Very similar, in fact, maybe just a little flintier. With water: it diverges now, with more mint and a pleasant smokiness. Interesting! Mouth (neat): once again, we’re very close to the TN/TWA. This one’s maybe slightly fruitier. With water: gets more resinous and lemony. Good body. Ginger, peppermint, lemon drops. Finish: long, zestier, pleasantly sharp. Something medicinal. Comments: very good, very good. Pine sap and lemon go very well together. SGP:552 - 88 points.


Amrut NAS 'Special Reserve' (63%, OB for The Whisky Exchange's 10th Anniversary, 2010) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: more austere than several previous Amruts (Intermediate sherry, Kadhambam) at first nosing, with first quite some new oak, then wee touches of rubber and then many stewed fruits. Gets fruitier indeed. Apple pie. With water: green oak, mint and touches of smoked tea. Mouth (neat): very sweet, great notes of apricots and guavas. Very strong! With water: very nice combination of several fruits and greenish oak (green tea). In the background: orange drops and hints of violet sweets plus a little honeydew. Finish: long, clean, liquoricy. Candy sugar and touches of mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: a full bodied Amrut that’s most pleasant, but water is obligatory in my opinion. SGP:551 - 85 points.


Inchmurrin 1973/2010 (44.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, LMdW, refill bourbon, cask #3380, 149 bottles) Four stars Wouah, Inchmurrin! I think I only tried a handful of them, such as the dreadful official 12 (WF60) that was available five years ago or so. Thank god Cadenhead had some excellent older ones. Inchmurrin is/was one of the malts made at Loch Lomond. Colour: pale gold. Nose: unusual, very unusual. Dry, oily, papery, with whiffs of flour and chalk at first nosing, just before it becomes a little rounder, with some putty, marzipan, walnuts and waxed paper, then a cartload of various apples and something like fern or moss. A malt unlike any other! Mouth: but this is very nice! Pretty much the same aromas as in the nose plus a pleasant, light fruitiness. Apples again, a little lemon, ‘rare nuts’ (I mean, macadamia and such), then lemon balm, chives… There’s a little sugar in the background. Finish: a little short but clean and fresh, rather almondy. Notes of olive oil and paraffin. Comments: this is extremely interesting and of high quality, with an unusual kind of waxiness. The cask did a great job. If you’re a die-hard whisky nut and you’ve already got 784 Laphroaigs (just an example), you should really get one bottle of this rarity (LMdW have also a sister cask, probably similar). SGP:362 - 87 points.


Yamazaki 1995/2010 'Owner's Cask' (54.9%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, shery butt, cask #5J 3020) Four stars and a half I’ve got a huge backlog of Japanese whiskies, let’s start with the most recent ones if you please, we’ll have all earlier bottlings later, maybe before Christmas. Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee. Not joking. Typical Japanese mastering of wood. Perfect dryness, with subtle notes of leather, shoe polish, old walnut liqueur, Demerara rum, cloves, cumin, varnish (faint whiffs), soot, tar… With water: struck matches and new tyres, black truffles… Mouth (neat): rich yet nervous, ‘infused’, with many herbs, mint, liquorice, pepper, cardamom, nuts… The whole is perfectly dry, with only touches of lemon liqueur. Hints of old rancio as well. With water: more sweetness but also more green tannins, cherry tree leaves, even hints of capers, balsamic vinegar… Finish: quite long, more on cinnamon and black cherries. Comments: very, very good if you like this slightly extreme style. The official ‘regular’ 1984 is a tad smoother and rounder in the same style. SGP:562 - 88 points.


Yoichi 1987/2010 (59%, OB, LMdW, warehouse #15, cask #112814, 477 bottles) Four stars and a half La Maison du Whisky always knew how to select great Nikkas. I remember well another 1987 Yoichi, cask #113200, that was much to my liking (WF88). Remember, Yoichi still uses direct firing! Colour: deep gold. Nose: classic Yoichi, absolutely perfect and, well, perfectly balanced. Apple pie, vanilla custard, fudge, earl grey tea, cloves marzipan and fresh putty… And little peat so far, or so it seems. With water: superb development on yellow flowers and citrus fruits, plus what I call a ‘precious’ oakiness. New humidor, thuja wood, sandalwood… Also a little earth, humus… It’s very complex. Mouth (neat): stunning concentration, with a big spicy oak, ginger, slightly lemony green tea (oolong) and a lot of orange marmalade and kumquats. Another one that’s very zesty! With water: yeah, perfect. Creamy, fruity and spicy. Orange marmalade and ginger galore. Finish: Comments: the palate was a tad simpler than the nose but it’s all perfect in my opinion. With only a little more magic it this big baby would have made it to 90 in my book. SGP:662 - 89 points.


Talisker 30 yo (57.3%, OB, 2958 bottles, 2010) Five stars I loved the previous editions of Talisker 30. 2006 (WF91), 2007 (WF92), 2008 (WF93)… I can’t remember if there was a 2009 but maybe this 2010 version will match the stunning 2008? Or will it be even more to my liking? Colour: straw. Nose: oh, this one instantly reminds me of the style of the old official 12 from the 80s. It’s no big dram, it’s rather very elegant and slightly subdued, all on various oils including olive, then apple peeling, fresh walnuts, lemon zests, shellfish (say clams), beech smoke… What’s quite stunning is also how it becomes very peppery after that, although it’s no big blasting pepper. There’s also quite some peppermint and lemon balm, iodine, seaweed… And then whiffs of garden bonfire (under a wee rain). With water: more mint, more medicinal notes, antiseptic… Smoke. Mouth: perfect, just perfect. More presence than in the nose, it’s fatter, more potent, more lemony and candied, and saltier as well. The clams are back, tons of lemon drops, some pepper again (black)… gets then very mineral, extremely zesty. With water: more of the same, with a faint dryness from the oak. Finish: medium long, between crystallised lemon, peat smoke and pepper. Touches of salt again in the aftertaste. Comments: right, it’s maybe a little less complex than the 2008 but it’s still fab old Talisker. SGP:355 - 92 points.


Garnheath 42 yo 1967/2010 (43.8%, Douglas Laing, Old Grain Cask, first fill bourbon,159 bottles) Four stars Garnheath grain distillery was lying within the Moffat complex in the Lowlands (think Glen Flagler) and was closed around 1985. It’s very rare, I only had two of them until today, including a 1969 by DL that I enjoyed a lot (WF88) Colour: gold. Nose: very ‘old grain’ at first nosing, that is to say all on coconut milk and vanilla custard, resembling a high quality pina colada if I may say so. Some delicate whiffs of crushed mint leaves arising after a while, just touches of camphor and eucalyptus, and then just a little leather and old turpentine. All that is very elegant and rather more terpenic than most old grains we know (old Invergordons, Carsebridges and such). Hints of marshmallows. Mouth: it’s the wood that talks first now, with some tea and bitter almonds. Walnuts. Rather drying. Marshmallows and juicy fruits are only in the background, together with a little coconut again. It’s good but one shouldn’t have waited two more minutes before bottling this baby. Finish: medium, with good balance. Great news, it didn’t get any oakier at this stage. Comments: globally much to my liking, rather more ‘tertiary’ than most grains. Only the attack is a tad shaky because of the wood. SGP:750 – 87 points.


Scapa 2000/2010 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, refill bourbon, cask #1073) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: nervous, raw, surprisingly ‘old Highlands’ in style, very mineral at first nosing. Wet rocks, flints, then more apple juice and a little pear. Becomes also a little ‘coastal’, with some sea breeze, oysters, then whiffs of black pepper and a little fresh ginger from the oak. Funny hints of turnips and celeriac as well. It’s a fresh and entertaining dram so far. Mouth: starts fruitier (apples), with good body, before it unfolds on the same mineral notes, then quite some marzipan and a little salt. Unexpected notes of asparagus (not the smell, the taste) and a little sweet mustard. Finish: medium long, more lemony, with some peppermint and just hints of cane sugar. Comments: I don’t know if this was made on purpose or if it’s luck’s work (I don’t mean selecting the cask!), but it’s a very interesting and entertaining Scapa. SGP:452 - 87 points.


Old Pulteney ‘WK499 Isabella Fortuna’ (52%, OB, travel retail, 18,000 bottles, 100cl, 2010) Three stars This cryptic bottling is named after the last remaining drifter boat in Wick Harbour, the Isabella Fortuna, registered as WK499. No ideas how old this one is, probably quite young. Colour: straw. Nose: starts fresh and very fruity, mainly on garden fruits such as apples, ripe pears and white cherries. Gets then a tad grassier but lightly so. Fresher and cleaner than other Pulteneys but also simpler so far. Mouth: good, rather powerful attack, all on garden fruits once again. Same kind of development as on the nose, only louder and even more in two steps. First fruits, then, quite brutally, loads of grass and a pleasant saltiness. Finish: long, simple, with a little mint and maybe a little peat. Comments: simple pleasures. Very well made, flawless but lacks more complexity. Some other recent small batches from Wick have been more inspiring I think, but this is unquestionably good. SGP:643 – 81 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Art Ensemble reloaded! We had it in June, le's have it again. Theme de Yoyo by the Art Ensemble and Fontella Bass. Rare and s-e-m-i-n-a-l. Please buy all of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's music!


November 11, 2010

The Big Push: Eight new Speysiders


Benromach 1999/2010 'Origins Batch 2' (50%, OB, Port pipes, 2010) Two stars and a half Phenol levels 4ppm and full maturing in Port pipes. I liked the first batch of the ‘Origins’ quite a lot in 2008 (WF84). Colour: full gold. Nose: farmy and slightly winey, expressive, gingery… Hints of old wine cellar, slightly mouldy, raw barley, hay… Maybe touches of peat but it’s not really a ‘peaty’ whisky. The notes of old wine barrel are distinct. Mouth: good, sweet attack, fruity and unexpectedly salty. Ginger, blackcurrant leaves, liquorice… Also a little kirsch. More and more notes of ‘wine barrel’ after that, just like in the nose. Lemon oil, bitter tea. Finish: long, with more oak and more liquorice wood. Always this farminess in the background. Comments: it’s not an easy dram and I’m not too fond of the Port here. Maybe does Port go better with lighter spirits? Anyway, I liked batch #1 better and most certainly the regular 10, which I love (WF87). SGP:652 - 79 points.


Benrinnes 26 yo 1982/2009 (57.4%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #3229) Five stars Did I already tell you how happy I was to see that Edinburgh’s The Bottlers are still quite active? Colour: full amber. Nose: all on dry sherry at first nosing, very flinty and almost smoky, developing on sweeter and richer notes such as sultanas and prunes. Refill, really? Smells almost like first fill. With water: became ueber-flinty and quite rooty/earthy as well. New leather jacket (a perfecto, if you like). Mouth (neat): perfect! Orange marmalade and spice mix for mulled wine. Quite some pepper as well and bags and bags of cinnamon. The oak’s perfect. With water: even more cinnamon. Finish: long, rather dry. A lot of nutmeg and cinnamon yet again. Grape pips. Comments: great whisky if you like dry sherry. Not exactly winey, the cask imparted a very pleasant kind of smokiness. SGP:462 - 90 points.


Benrinnes 1996/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.1%, OB, cask #8994, 324 bottles) From refill American oak. Colour: white wine. Nose: exactly the opposite of the The Bottlers. It’s a rather grassy dram, with quite some new oak, vanilla, green tea and flowers. Lis? Also quite some paraffin and lamp oil. Not a rich Benrinnes. With water: more grass, hints of lager beer and a little banana. Mouth (neat): modern, fruitier, with some coconut and tinned pineapples. Also a little bubblegum. Punchy but not heavy. With water: more ‘stuff’ from the oak, coconut oil, sweet ginger, cinnamon, green apples… Finish: rather long, clean and elegant. More vanilla and a little lemon. Comments: not one of the fat Benrinnes, kind of a variant. Very well made. SGP:541 – 84 points.

Glen Grant

Glen Grant 1972/2010 (55%, The Whisky Show London) Five stars A funny label with many tributes to the past. The copy reminds us of some very old Lagavulin (Certificate of Analysis), the content is also stated in ounces and so on… Colour: amber. Nose: right, it’s simply one of these superb 1972 Glen Grants (think DT). An avalanche of figs, dates, various honeys, maple syrup, precious wood, incense… And God knows what else. With water: even more complex, with added herbal teas, chamomile, mead… Mouth (neat): the best fruitcake. Extreme freshness, fantastic fruits, honeys, baklavas, kumquats… With water: wow. Finish: medium long, very clean, with mild tannins if the aftertaste, earl grey tea. Comments: its only flaw is that there’s no surprise here. Fab, unbeatable 1972 Glen Grant, highly drinkable (yes, dangerously so). SGP:651 – 92 points.

Glen Spey

Glen Spey 21 yo 1989/2010 (50.4%, OB, 5844 bottles) Five stars I only tried about twenty Glen Speys until today, my favourite having been Malts of Scotland’s recent 1977 – WF87, and this new official version is most welcome. Great old style label (after some Italians started to do that ten years ago, don’t we detect a new global trend?) Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes! Superb combination of sweet dried fruits with the softest spices and only hints of precious wood (thuja). Orange jam, figs, dried pears, cooked strawberries, very ripe mirabelle plums and apricots, almond oil, fresh putty, speculoos… Really beautiful. With water: more oak, pencil shavings, sawdust… Before the fruits are back. Whiffs of raw barley. Mouth (neat): rounded, with a little more vanilla from the wood than in the nose but other than that it’s all on soft fruits and honey, overripe apples, a little cough mixture, marzipan… Quite perfect! With water: hints of bananas, very ripe kiwis and mint-flavoured green tea. Finish: not the longest but it’s very clean and pleasantly mentholated. Comments: a very easy, very sexy and eminently drinkable fruity Glen Spey. My new benchmark as far as that little-known distillery’s concerned. SGP:651 - 90 points.


Glenfarclas 41 yo 1968/2010 (49.7%, OB for Thosop BVBA, Belgium) Five stars A vatting of a first fill oloroso hogshead and a first fill fino hogshead, both selected by our friend Luc Timmermans. Colour: amber. Nose: think fruitcake, honeys, leather, putty, patanegra ham, mint liqueur and sandalwood and add a wee drop of very old balsamic vinegar. There, you have it. With water: the oak comes out but it’s not a varnishy one. Faint mouldiness, old wine cellar, saltpetre. Mouth: a tad more vigorous than the nose, more tannic as well. Pepper and capsicum, cloves, tobacco, prunes, old Armagnac, blackcurrants… It’s not a smooth old Glenfarclas this time, rather a fighter! With water: some fruits are back, some aren’t. Banana skin, dried pears, green tea. Finish: rather long, more on mint tea, with a little aniseed in the aftertaste besides the tannins. Comments: funny that Luc’s chosen these casks (while he had dozens at hand). It seems that he wanted to bottle something ‘different’. I think it’s really excellent but not for people who are scared of a little oak. I’m not ;-). SGP:471 - 91 points.


Glendronach 31 yo 'Grandeur' (45.8%, OB, oloroso sherry casks, 1013 bottles, 2010) Four stars Time to try this fairly recent baby… Colour: amber. Nose: typical raisiny sherry but it’s not a monster, not at all, rather a whispering olorosoed Speysider. Roasted nuts and blackcurrant leaves and buds, walnuts, a little tamarind, whiffs of old wood, old red Burgundies… Becomes drier and drier, with a little leather, old pencil box, a slight dustiness, old papers, maybe a little soot, coffee beans (freshly opened pack of coffee)… Little fruits in this one. Mouth: easier, rather fruitier and smoother but also a little tannic and tea-ish after a few seconds, with notes of grape pips, apple peelings, fresh walnuts, green tea… Also a little mint, some ginger, bitters… Finish: long, on marmalade and ginger. Quite some cinnamon and mint as well. Comments: the great fruits are there only in the attack and it’s the dryness that wins the fight after a few seconds. Clearly an excellent one but I tend to like the regular range better, such as the 15 and the 18. SGP:461 - 86 points.


Longmorn 31 yo 1978/2010 (58%, Specialty Drinks, Masterpieces, bourbon, 135 bottles) Four stars and a halfOwner of the bottlers Sukhinder Singh is a fan of Longmorn, so no wonder he chose this cask for this new series called ‘Masterpieces’. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s not a fruitful, exuberant Longmorn at first nosing, we’re rather more on light toffee and café latte with just a little kirsch on top of that. Coffee-Schnapps? Now, the high alcohol may block it a bit… So, with water: water unleashed grass, tea and green bananas, before it settles down on ‘ideas’ of rhum agricole and apple pie. Mouth (neat): oh, this is one of the zestier Longmorns ever as it starts all on lemon marmalade, lemon balm, a little peppermint and maybe a little ginger ale. Creamy mouth feel. More vanilla after that, a little mead, orange cake… With water: perfect! Even zestier, orangey, with some pink grapefruits and hints of marshmallows. Finish: not too long but very fresh, lemony, with some ‘zesty herbs’ in the aftertaste (sorrel, coriander). Comments: maybe this baby hasn’t got the older ones’ (1968-1972) lusciousness but it’s otherwise quite perfect. Loved the palate when diluted. SGP:651 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Germany's Lyambiko and her catchy Give it up that was on 2006's album 'Love... and then?' More love! Smooth can be good, please buy Lyambiko's music.


November 10, 2010

The Big Push: a small hotchpotch (with video support!)


Berry's Speyside Reserve (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, blended malt, 2010) Three stars Berry Bros have been making such vatted malts for ages, Berry’s All Malt, for instance, was always great (WF89 for a version from the early 80s). Colour: straw. Nose: it’s not one of these ‘antique’ sherried vattings at all as it’s rather quite youngish, nervous, fruity, flinty and fairly porridgy. Quite some fresh pears, apples, gooseberries, a faint smokiness… Then more light honey and touches of roasted hazelnuts. Fresh and rather light style but it’s quite complex. Mouth: same feeling as with the nose at first sips, the whole getting then fruitier and fruitier and rather more citrusy as in the nose. Hints of roasted almonds as well. Finish: long, fresh, clean. Juicy fruits. Comments: a light and fruitful style, one to drink (obviously). SGP:531 - 82 points.


Cutty Sark 25 yo (45.7%, OB, blend, +/- 2010) Three stars and a half I tried the 18 two years ago and found it nice but not thrilling, lacking complexity (ha, complexity!) I believe this one was bottled at natural cask strength. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, this is certainly quite complex, starting honeyed, roasted and delicately smoky, with a ‘HP feeling’ (not saying there’s any HP in there!) Some nectar and pollen, ripe apricots, touches of dates and plums, faint flintiness, a little candle wax, even a little grass… Single malt aficionados may feel this goes in too many different directions at the same time but other drinkers may think it’s… right, complex. I don’t quite know what to think – yet.

Mouth: good attack, smooth, roasted, malty (maltier than many malts), with some coffee and honey, nuts, orange marmalade and touches of wood. In the background, a faint dryness, a little dust. The middle is a little weaker, it’s not quite full bodied. Finish: short but very pleasant, a tad oakier, with quite some marmalade and cinnamon. Comments: I think it’s very, very good and anyone looking for a light but ‘wide’ dram will enjoy this baby, especially since it’s not ‘too’ expensive. Nice composition, probably one of the best blends around. SGP:431 - 84 points.

White Oak

White Oak 5 yo (45%, OB, Japan) Three stars This a single malt from White Oak distillery. The excellent Chris over at Nojatta tells us that this one comes from Eigashima. These good people seem to be more into sake, let’s see if that’s a shame. Colour: straw. Nose: smells like a young Speysider, with apples, pears, gooseberries and just touches of smoke. Also strawberries. Some liquorice in the background and just touches of vanilla and tea (oak). It’s simple but I must say balance is achieved. Mouth: sweet, full bodied, waxier and flintier than before. Other than that, same classic profile, ripe apples, sugar cane, touches of ginger and white pepper, vanilla, faint smokiness… Same feeling as before, it’s full and perfectly balanced. Finish: rather long, more on ginger but always with these hints of strawberries. Bitter tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: as I wrote, it’s simple but very, very well made, very ‘Scottish’ in style. A good surprise. SGP:441 - 80 points. More about White Oak at Nonjatta


Double Barrel Highland Park-Bowmore (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2010) Four stars DL keep toying with the ‘double’ idea since a few years but even if there’re only two malts, it’s technically a blended malt. I really liked a Macallan-Laphroaig in the same series that was bottled last year (WF86). Colour: white wine. Nose: quite surprisingly, it’s HP that speaks out first, with Bowmore’s coastal profile only in the background, at least for a while. The latter grows then bigger, with whiffs of brine, seaweed and a very discreet peaty smoke. Then, a rather perfect lemony profile that must come from both malts. I must say this works extremely well so far. Mouth: more Bowmore this time but peat is always ‘bigger’ on the palate. Salty, citrusy, very coastal, very Bowmore… Not too sure HP has much to say now. Good pepper. Finish: long, very peaty. Comments: I’m wondering if this isn’t peatier on the palate than a single Bowmore! Must be tricky to compose such ‘double’ vattings while achieving balance both with the nose and the palate. I’d say they failed here, but as I love both HP and Bowmore, I’m happy about that ;-). SGP:347 - 86 points.


Karuizawa 1968/2010 (61%, OB for LMdW, cask #6955) Five stars Okay, there was a 1967 last year (joint bottling between LMdW and TWE) that was ueberfab (WF95). This is a 1968. Yup, let’s keep this short and stupid. Colour: amber. Nose: a symphony for precious woods. Not even brutal at 61% ABV. Figs, dates, mead, dried apricot, then camphor and cured ham. And hundreds of other aromas. With water: a walk in the forest after the rain. And hundreds of other aromas. Mouth (neat): so rich, so punchy, so elegant at the same time! Mint, ginger, cinnamon, prunes, fruitcake and various honeys. Plus hundreds of other flavours. With water: I had thought it would become too woody with dilution, it doesn’t. Yes, and hundreds of… Finish: sadly, yes. Comments: have a sip of this one and you may experience the same feeling as the good Serge G. in this wee movie…


OK let’s be serious, I believe this wee baby’s just a tad drier and oakier than the 1967 and maybe a tad less smoky, but it’s still stunning. The industry’s former best kept secret stroke again. SGP:572 - 94 points.

PS: yes, that was Laetitia Casta playing BB in the movie Gainsbourg - (vie héroïque). Excuse my Frenchness.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: queen of modern fado Susana Maria Alfonso de Aguiar aka Misia sings a beautiful Triste Sina (from her 1999 album Paixões Diagonais). Please buy Misia's music.


November 9, 2010

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

The Big Push
There are so many new whiskies around these days, and great ones at that, that Whiskyfun's traditional 'one distillery at a time' format became
unsuitable for the current pace. That's why we'll try to do a 'Big Push' for a few days, maybe we'll manage to catch up!


The Big Push: Nine recent Islayers


Bunnahabhain 8 yo 2001/2010 (54%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, oloroso, 180 bottles) Four stars Always with these nice labels by Hans Dilesse. Colour: amber. Nose: classic dry sherry of the highest quality, all on flints, orange marmalade, white pepper, leather, roasted chestnuts, smoked tea and ginger. Gets then rounder, as often, with more honey and maybe molasses. With water: eucalyptus and mint coming through now. A little aniseed as well, then raw barley, porridge, wet clothes, wool and a little cardboard. Mouth (neat): much sweeter now, with many sweet spices, orange blossom, rosewater, honeydew, pine sap, millionaire shortbread… Almost thick but not cloying, not a all. Quite unBunnahabhain! With water: more of the same, with a little more honey. Finish: long, with more pepper as often. Toffee and black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: an unusual young Bunnahabhain and an entertaining one. SGP:552 - 87 points.


Bowmore 29 yo 1981/2010 (49.6%, OB, Vintage Series, 402 bottles) Two stars and a half Hum, curious about this one, the early 1980s were Bowmore’s ‘violettest’. Colour: gold. Nose: violet and lavender sweets all over the place as well as huge aromas of cranberry juice and geranium flowers. Little peat and little coastal notes, which makes it very ‘unbowmore’. Goes on more on hints of dried mushrooms, some leather and maybe touches of dried kelp. Mouth: similar to the nose, plus notes of bitter oranges and Campari-orange. Parma violets and capsicum, then toffee. Custard. Finish: medium long, with a little salt in the aftertaste. Very little peat. Comments: true to the vintage, I’d say. It’s not my kind of Bowmore at all (the new Tempest is the example of the opposite) but this style is now historic. And at +/-£250, it’s even more so. SGP:552 - 78 points.


Bowmore 11 yo 1998/2010 (46%, Signatory Vintage for LMdW, sherry butt, cask #800191, 756 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: simply as flinty, mineral and ‘coastal’ as Bowmore can be, with a good deal of lemon and fresh oysters at first nosing and a very mild peatiness. The sherry kicks in after a few seconds, adding notes of leather, bitter oranges and marmalade, a little toffee and just wee touches of violets. Gets then farmier and farmier, with whiffs of horse stable. Mouth: great earthiness, roots, gentian and liquorice wood at first sips, then the ‘usual’ coastalness. Kippers, brine, samphire… Not really more peat than in the nose but it’s immensely marine. Finish: medium long, very salty, very coastal. Hints of violet sweets and cranberries again in the aftertaste – just hints. Comments: recommended if you like earthy and very briny Bowmores with moderate peat. SGP:544 - 86 points.


Bowmore 20 yo 1990/2010 (50.7%, The Prestonfield for LMdW, hogshead, cask #1065, 294 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: austere, very austere, all on almond oil, damp gravels, clay, lemon oil and paraffin. Also fresh walnuts, apple peeling, hints of olive oil… Moderate peatiness once again. Gets then more flowery and slightly fruity. With water: more of the same plus the usual farminess that comes with peat+water. Oh, and wet dogs (arf, arf!) and touches of pineapples. Mouth (neat): we’re in the same style as the 1998’s here, this one being a tad rounder and softer at the attack. Briny, lemony, citrusy (also grapefruits), with some kippers and once again touches of violet sweets. With water: earthier and more liquoricy. Finish: medium long, balanced, between liquorice allsorts and kippers. Yup, better than it sounds. Comments: it’s a very good one in my opinion, even if some other casks were even zestier – beautifully so. Typical early 90s. SGP:456 - 88 points.

Caol Ila

Caol Ila 26 yo 1983/2009 (55.3%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry, 240 bottles) Five stars Forgot this one when it came out last year. Strange because 1983 often means ‘excellent’ at Caol Ila, for example I remember an excellent one by the Bladnoch Forum (cask #4806) or one by French bottler Jean Boyer (both WF90). Colour: gold. Nose: yes, it’s this very particular combination of fresh butter, vanilla and a fresh and zesty peat. Works very well, with perfect balance. The sherry isn’t too big, but cumin and cloves start to take control of the whole after a while. With water: beautiful greenness, apples, walnuts, a little pine resin or sap, putty, earth, gentian… Mouth (neat): rich yet zesty, lemony, mineral, with just the right amount of sweetness from the sherry. Some brine as well, oyster juice, limejuice… All perfect. No cumin this time. With water: sweeter but not flatter, it’s still zesty and perfectly coastal. Very elegant peat. Finish: medium long, pure, clean, fresh, with the lemon still there in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect, really perfect, and so drinkable. I may sometimes overlook Caol Ila because there are so many out there – shame on me. SGP:555 - 91 points.


Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2010' (56.5%, OB) Five stars These are always great and the ‘2009’ was no exception, peated malt at its purest (WF91). Colour: white wine. Nose: you’re on Islay. Sea breeze, seaweed, a bonfire on the beach, some coal somewhere, juicy apples, a little lemon, some soot, wet sand (always on the beach) a little mercurochrome… With water: it got drier and more medicinal. Also flintier… Well in the ‘Riesling malt’ category. Oh well… Mouth (neat): bang! Stunning combination of gentian eau de vie with straight peat, earth, ashes and smoked ‘stuff’ (ham? Salmon?) and always that Lagavulin sweetness, fructose, apple liqueur, lemon… With water: more gentian! Yes! Also eucalyptus sweets. Finish: long, sweet and very earthy. Lemon drops in the aftertaste. Comments: it may be sweeter than last year’s version, and probably a tad ‘wider’ and less zingy. What’s sure is that its still one of the greatest 12yos out there – in my humble opinion as they say on the Web. SGP:448 – 91 points.


Lg2 (58%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2010) Four stars and a half Lg1 was excellent so we have high expectations here. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a slightly drier and more vanilled version. More custard, more smoked tea as well, more farmy notes (horse saddle, leather, hay) and more smoked and salted fish. Maybe a little less ‘Lagavulin’ than the official Lagavulin, which would make sense. With water: certainly wilder than the OB, more animal, sootier as well. More tar, farm (hutch), new car (interior), plastics polish… It’s really something else now. Very expressive. Mouth (neat): even sweeter than the OB now, but we’re very close globally. Extremely close. Same lemon, fructose, roots, smoke… A little cane sugar. With water: almost the same whisky as the 12. Some grapefruit juice. Finish: long, young, sweet. Hints of white rum. Comments: it’s a more austere version than Lg1 and I think I like it rather better than the latter despite its obvious youth. Slightly less ‘full’ or ‘wide’ than the OB. SGP:448 - 89 points.

Port Ellen

Port Ellen 31 yo 1978/2010 '10th Release' (54.6%, OB, 3000 bottles) Five stars Only the half of the usual batch size this year, uh! I loved the 9th release from last year as much as the 1st from 2001 (WF93) but the 21yo ‘Port Ellen Maltings’ still rules my list of official PEs (WF94). Colour: straw. Nose: oh this is restrained and elegant! Exactly the opposite of some exuberant peat monsters, this is very subtle, on old papers, almond milk, shellfish, old slightly musty spice mix, soot and quite a lot of cut apples. I think I’ll try to compare this one with the 22yo 1978 Rare Malts one day, I seem to remember that one was a true monster- exactly the opposite of this new 1978.

With water: the beast still roars! Water woke up a tarry peatiness that, precisely, reminds me of the Rare Malt (that I used to call ‘the Pirelli whisky’ – nothing to do with the naked girls on the calendars). Mouth (neat): ah yes, yes yes! More vibrant than the nose and ueber-lemony, superbly zingy, ‘chiselled’ and kippery. Greatest notes of olive oil and marzipan in the background. Gets then ashier and saltier at the same time. I don’t think we used to know how PE would behave after 30 years of age, I think we have the answer. With water: perfection made whisky. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: very long. Superb salty aftertaste and a contrasting spice blast (carvi, pepper, cloves, bitter almonds). Comments: wow. To think that we’ll have all these new old Port Ellens to try in the coming years! And if PE was the peaty Islayer that aged best? Shall we soon see the revenge of the old lady on her thundering neighbours? Imagine there’s probably much more old PE than old Ardbeg around… SGP:367 - 95 points.


Pe3 (54.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2010) Five stars The heavily sherried Pe1 was fab in my opinion (WF93) but I didn’t try Pe2 yet. I’ll do that soon but new stuff first, let’s have Pe3. Colour: straw. Nose: after the sherry monster that was Pe1, this is much more subdued, delicate, almost whispering for a Port Ellen. We aren’t too far from the newest OB, this one being just a tad grassier and more almondy when neat and maybe a tad sootier. Just hints of tar. Apple skins.With water: classic costal, fresh, briny Port Ellen, exactly the opposite of the sherried ones. Perfect grassiness as well, walnuts, graphite oil… Just faint whiffs of new plastic pouch, as often in some PEs.

Mouth (neat): it’s a rather punchier but also slightly simpler version of Port Ellen, and it may suffer a bit from comparison with the 31yo. Don’t get me wrong, it’s some great PE, it’s just that the OB was so revealing… Anyway, this is a classic peat-packed, zesty middle-aged PE, with a lot of lemon, a little salt and a perfect peatiness. With water: perfectly balanced natural PE. Kippers, lemon, ashes, pepper, ginger… Finish: long, dry, very ‘precise’. Comments: I should have tried this excellent one before the OB instead of ranking them by ABV. I know, a mistake, it’s always hard to follow a stunner. SGP:258 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: she's from Guinea, she's got an extraordinary voice, she's called Kani Dambakate´ and she sings I kolon ma ni kana ma. Please buy Kani Dambakaté's music and support African music.

Kani Dambakate

November 8, 2010


Tasting two official Cragganmore

There’s more Cragganmore around these days, both official and independent, and I think the whisky’s image keeps improving. Will the new official 21yo match the wonderful 29yo from six or seven years ago?

Cragganmore 21 yo 1989/2010 (56%, OB, American oak casks, 5856 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: one of the few whiskies that display rather heady notes of aniseed and liquorice at first nosing and even hints of sherry (whilst, yeah, it’s probably bourbon wood). There’s also rather meaty notes, ham, then fresh fruits (more like strawberries) and a ‘raw’ vanilla as well as hints of struck matches, flints and freshly malted barley. A rather big personality. Oh, and also unusual hints of shallots (cooked). With water: really improves, becoming even fresher and superbly herbal. Chives, high-end green tea, green apples, more aniseed and whiffs of hay (after a hot summer day, of course). Very faint soapiness, even after 15 minutes. Nothing unpleasant though. Mouth (neat): nervous attack, less smooth than expected for a Cragganmore, very fresh and very fruity. Apples and kiwis. A lot of liquorice wood as well, some grapefruit, pomegranates… All that’s coated with a few green tannins that do further bring out the freshness. With water: more on fresh fruits, tinned peaches and pineapples, liquorice allsorts, orange drops… More youth and more briskness. Finish: long, more gingery, herbal and grassy. A little cardamom and coriander in the aftertaste. Comments: lots happening in this one. It’s not a Cragganmore to sip in an old Chesterfield armchair late at night. The brisk fruitiness is spectacular. SGP:751 - 87 points.

Cragganmore 17 yo 'Manager's Dram' (62%, OB, 1992) Three stars This one was distilled around 1975. Colour: full gold. Nose: very punchy, with similar aromas (flints, struck matches) but also something that’s even closer to sulphur, leather and shoe polish. Most probably from sherry casks. Rather winey as well. Very nice whiffs of damp earth and humus and a little salpetre. Very interesting nose but the 62% vol. are well there! With water: superb! Game, old balsamic vinegar, menthol, tiger balm, camphor, fern… The Managers had it good in 1992. Mouth (neat): yee-hah! Strong, invading, nervous, heavy on the liquorice and on herbal liqueurs. Mint liqueur? Dantziger Goldwasser? Quite extreme. With water: crash! It became so heavily mentholated that it’s almost flawed in my view. Reminds me of some very strong old bourbons of Irish (some, not all!) Finish: very long but really green now, kind of biting. I’m sure some enthusiasts would love this one but it’s a rather tricky malt on the palate. Comments: the nose was superb but the palate was really too hard for me. A dichotomic old Cragganmore. SGP:481 - 80 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful Argentinian actress and singer Soledad Villamil (think El secreto de sus ojos) sings La cancion y el poema (from her CD Morir de amor). Please buy Soledad Villamil's music!

Soledad Villamil

November 7, 2010


Tasting two official Auchroisk

The various older versions of the Singleton of Auchroisk have been rather underwhelming but now that the appellation ‘Singleton’ has been reattributed to Dufftown, Ord and Glendullan, maybe these newish Auchroisks will be more tastebud-catching, so to speak.

Auchroisk 1999/2009 'Manager's Choice' (60.6%, OB, cask #111323, 642 bottles) Three starsFrom bodega sherry European oak. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the wood that talks first, with a good deal of coconut, mint and aniseed on top of vanilla and hints of rum. Cake. Other than that, it’s all rather aggressive at such high strength, better add water right away. With water: more fresh oak, sawdust, broken branches and just something slightly gamey that suggest sherry wood. Cut grass. It’s rather flawless but it’s a little boring, if I may say so. Mouth (neat): good, smooth yet nervous attack, rounded at the same time, on apple pie and lemon squash. The wood’s a tad bitter in the background. Hints of bubblegum. With water: it’s all good and even pretty perfect, with no more bitterness and rather more fruits, especially juicy apples, but again, it’s not very inspired – and inspiring. Yawn… Finish: rather long, fresh, vanilled, slightly woody and faintly mentholated. Notes of rum in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m sure this is technically perfect, but it’s not a very thrilling whisky in my opinion. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Auchroisk 20 yo (58.1%, OB, 5856 bottles, 2010) Four stars From both American and European oak. This one bears a wonderful pre-WWII label. Colour: straw. Nose: this one is just as powerful as the MC but there’s much less oak impact, the style being rather less “concentrated’. Classic fruity Speysider, with quite some vanilla, walnuts, hazelnuts, fresh butter, fresh putty, vanilla fudge and many tinned fruits such as peaches and apricots. Orange cake. With water: too bad, water brings out the oakiness, just like in the MC. A little more menthol, cough syrup, crème brulée. Mouth (neat): sweet, creamy, much in the style of the MC but a little wider, with more complexity. I like these herbs, this mint flavoured green tea, the lemon balm, the touches of mint drops, these faint fudgy notes… All good so far. With water: more of the same, which is great. Finish: long, with hints of caramel, Turkish delights and lavender sweets. Pine sap in the aftertaste as well as a little coffee and coconut. Comments: just like the MC, it’s technically perfect but it’s also more ‘interesting’, with more dimensions and rather less oak influence despite this baby’s older age. SGP:541 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Strawbs with Sandy Denny on backing vocals doing their famous How Everyone But Sam Was A Hypocrite in 1969. Please buy the Strawbs and Sandy Denny's music.


November 5, 2010


Tasting two recent Clynelishes
I did a wee Clynelish/Brora class at the Whisky Show London that, I believe, has been fairly successful, thanks to the great whiskies that we had, including a Brora 1972 cask sample courtesy Diageo (and as a good friend rightly said, such an exercise was easy, doing a Bell’s masterclass would have required much higher skills). Anyway, time to try to confirm Clynelish’s high quality yet again today, with another 1982 and another 1972 that were issued in 2010.

Clynelish 27yo 1982/2010 (59,8% The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMdW) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: instantly reminds me of the ‘Synch Elli’ at 46% that we had during the class, with this fruitiness that ‘comes straight from the 1970s’ coated with a waxiness that’s rather more ‘1980s’ indeed. The whole is terrific despite something a tad too spirity and kirschy that’s probably related to the very high ABV. With water: more soot, more grass, more wax. Mouth (neat): bang! This profile hits you right between your eyes, with the wax, the orange zests, the slight smokiness, the thick grass, the lemon that adds zing to the whole… With water: this is why I love these Clynelishes. It’s not really complex whisky, and maybe even a tad roughish, but the balance between the fruits and this very idiosyncratic waxiness is divine. Finish: long, with more grass and oils. Lemon oil? Comments: this may be for Clynelish lovers exclusively. Yes, more for us. Perfect age for a 1982/1983 Clynelish but it’ll stand even more ageing in my opinion. Yes I’m partial to Clynelish. SGP:553 - 92 points.

Clynelish 37 yo 1972/2010 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, Book of Kells, cask #14300) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the expected fruity explosion that strikes first here, rather something vinous that borders balsamic vinegar and ‘old boy’s jam’ (several fruits in eau-de-vie). No huge quantities of fruits in the background either, rather some coastal notes, seashells, seaweed… Not often to be found in 1972 Clynelishes. Also some antique wood, beeswax, dried fruits (here we go!), figs, dates, litchis, tangerines, then oriental pastries, something earthy, humus… It’s all very complex! It’s also rather sooty. With water: more damp wood and these balsamic notes are back as well. Smells almost like mead now. A very old, long forgotten wine cellar? Mouth (neat): one again, it’s not as directly fruity as expected, rather resinous and slightly bitter (Jägermeister). We have also many spices, soft curry, liquorice, maybe even a little pastis, an obvious saltiness, quite some orange zests and marmalade… What’s more, it’s easily sippable at 55%! Keeps developing, becoming very, very lemony (liqueurs). Not a classic 1972 Clynelish but this kind of variant is truly excellent. With water: rounder, more honeyed, with the lemon remaining in the background and then more soot and even a faint smokiness. Quite some salt as well. Finish: rather long, maybe a tad more ‘fuzzy’ than usual and more on stewed fruits and bananas flambéed. In the aftertaste: a lot of liquorice and even more salt. Comments: this will benefit from a little breathing once the bottle’s been opened. It’s rather richer and ‘wider’ than other Clynelishes, I guess it all comes down to what you’re expecting from your Clynelish. But quality’s very, very high for sure. SGP:652 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I've first heard of Vusi Mahlasela during the World Cup in South Africa and it was an instant hit. Please listen to Jabula and then buy all of Vusi Mahlasela's music.


November 4, 2010


Tasting two new Glenglasssaugh
Two new bottlings by the recently revived Glenglassaugh Distillery. The 1974 is part of a series that pays tribute to the distillery’s former managers, this time Jim Cryle who was in charge in 1974 (more recently at Glenlivet).

Glenglassaugh 26 yo (46%, OB, 2010) Four stars I wasn’t extremely fond of both the 21 and the 30 from last year (while I thought the 40 was brilliant) so let’s see whether this new 26 is in a higher league or not (remember, personal feelings only!) Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather malty and slightly toasted, with notes of, er, toasts, cornflakes, caramel and vanilla fudge as well as faint gingery notes (like speculoos). Nice herbal notes behind all that, hints of orange zests, hawthorn… Gets then more and more ‘oriental’, that is to say more and more on orange blossom water, baklavas, spicy honey… Very nice development, it started a tad ‘mundane’ but never stopped getting more complex and aromatic. In other words, needs time if you don’t want to miss it. Mouth: good, smooth attack but there’s also quite some wood, an obvious tannicity and notes of strong tea that are very noticeable… What’s nice is that they come with some mint and liquorice, which soften the tannins in some way. Keeps improving after that, with some lemon marmalade and touches of coriander. Finish: rather long, with more pepper. Malty signature, a faint smokiness and quite some liquorice. Comments: a perfect example of a 85 points malt in my book. Please remember 85 is a good score, probably the equivalent of 93 or 94 at other places. No I’ll never hand out astronomical scores in the hope of being quoted in the distillers’ promotional efforts, whether printed or digital. Oh and remember I work for nobody and am not looking for fees, work or for a position. Phew, why am I telling you all this just now?! SGP:441 - 85 points.

Glenglassaugh 1974/2010 ‘The Manager’s Legacy’ (52.9%, OB, Jim Cryle, refill hogshead, 200 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: punchier of course but not heavy, and certainly more complex and with more personality than the 26. Starts on superb notes of pipe tobacco and dried oranges as well as just touches of camphor and pine sap. Goes on with notes of mocha, espresso, dried litchis, dried tangerines, a little liquorice... Also the same whiffs of toasts as in the 26. It’s a superb nose! (not only my view, it’s a fact, please believe me ;-)). Also some leather and marzipan. With water: traces of pencil shavings but also tropical fruits and unexpected farmy notes (clean cow stable ;-)). Mouth (neat): haha! Sure there is some oak once again but it comes along these beautiful resinous and mentholated notes that are sometimes to be found in old casks (when it’s extreme it gets bad but it’s perfect here). Orange marmalade, passion fruit ice cream, mangos (very obvious here), tangerine liqueur, also a little chartreuse (these resinous notes again), verbena… Really excellent! With water: that makes the oak a tad louder but it also widens the fruitiness, so to speak. Sultanas and dried muscats (or old desert wine made out of muscat grapes). Finish: long, round but certainly not sluggish, always with this great oakiness that gives the whole a perfect backbone. Comments: spitzenklasse as they say on the other side of river Rhine. Try to find one bottle of this new baby. SGP:552 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the most pillaged tracks of all times, Cymande's The Message. So much better than all what so many clueless 'DJs' have done out of it. Please buy Cymande's music.


November 3, 2010


Tasting two more Brora
The new Brora 30 is out since a few days, time to try it in a quiet environment and alongside a ‘colleague’, a 1981 by Chieftain’s.

Brora 26yo 1981/2008 (48%, Chieftain's, cask #1521, oloroso sherry butt, 588 bottles) Two stars and a half I already tried a few Broras in the same series, they were all very good but not really thrilling in my opinion, maybe because of the wood (WF 83-86) and maybe because not all 1981s were great whiskies. Colour: amber. Nose: the sherry isn’t as dominating as in other bottlings but it does kind of interfere with the spirit in an uncoordinated manner. That creates some slightly soapy notes as well as some rather heady notes of pencil lead, shavings and damp old wood. The spirit has troubles making it through the wood – and imagine its Brora! Yet, there are nice notes of humus, moss, fern (fern grows bigger over time). Mouth: salty attack, then something lavenderish that give it a 1982-Bowmoreness if you see what I mean. Violet sweets, orange drops, white pepper, cologne (a little)… It’s nicer than it may sound but well well well… Cranberry juice – not sure notes of cranberry juice go well with Brora. Finish: medium long, much more liquoricy. Liquorice allsorts and bags of them. Comments: the distillery’s undetectable here and the sherry has added weird flavours of confectionary. Blackcurrant Jell-O? But it’s not bad whisky of course, far from that, it’s only slightly ‘unstructured’. Another cask by ‘parallel’ bottler Dun Bheagan (#1526) was much more to my liking (WF88). SGP:642 - 78 points.

Brora 30 yo 2010 Edition (54.3%, OB, 2,958 bottles) Five stars Many people had thought that the quality of the Brora 30s would dwindle year after year as they would move away from the magical vintages from the early 1970s. I was among those people and I’m sorry to say that up to last year, we were proven wrong. Maybe that will change? Colour: straw. Nose: right, this isn’t as peaty as the 30yo used to be and we’re rather closer to the 25yo from two years ago, with something that’s rather ‘Talisker’ in the nose. It’s not explosive, rather delicately marine, seaweedy, almondy and buttery, with light vanilla notes and just hints of patchouli and various dried flowers. It’s got something slightly ‘old-world’. Faint farminess arising after a while, together with a little more peat. With water: as expected, more farmy, seaweedy, slightly grassy. Almond oil. Mouth (neat): this is more like an early-1970s Brora, with a good deal of peat, lemon and salt plus some obvious medicinal notes, antiseptic, wood smoke, kippers… It’s still unusually ‘unbig’ at 54% vol. and rather more lemony than others but quality’s very high here, no doubt about that, even if it’s not quite a ‘2004’ in my opinion. With water: ah yes, it’s all there now, with the salt, these oily notes, ‘a feeling of petrol’, more almonds, that famous waxiness, smoked salmon ( from river Brora of course), lemon… All perfect now. There must be some older casks in the vatting, and not just one. Finish: long, salty, sooty, smoky, paraffiny, with hints of green olives and anchovies in the aftertaste – or is that only brine? Comments: it’s funny how water revived the ‘Broraness’ in this Brora that’s rather less fruity than last year’s version in my opinion. I think Diageo should add a free miniature of Gleneagles water with each bottle. SGP:356 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Swallow all this booze? Come on!
I've heard that it's been said or written somewhere on the Web (couldn't tell you where, the whisky Web became such a maze) that I do not actually drink all the whiskies on Whiskyfun and that I often score my whiskies completely at random.
I'm sorry to confirm that all that is perfectly true. I'll even give my little secret away: I'm using this very cool device. (Dear colleagues, I'm sorry, there's only one, it's a prototype.)

Ipad Whiskyfun

MUSIC - Recommended listening: stupendous singing by Spain's Maria Concepción Balboa 'Concha' Buika! It's called Volveras and it's on her great CD 'Niña De Fuego', which you should buy asap. Please do.

Concha Buika

November 2, 2010

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Whisky for Movember 2010 has started!
Ladies and gentlemen (well, gentlemen!) it’s time to grow your moustache for Movember 2010! Movember is a global charity that raises funds against prostate cancer, all funds going to The Prostate Cancer Charity or to Everyman (Institute of Cancer Research).

The rules are simple, start around November 1st clean shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month.  The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days. You may even keep your moustache after November 30, how cool is that?


You may further help by donating to the Movember team of which I’m a member, it’s called Whisky for Movember. You should also order one or several special bottles that were just done by the excellent Master of Malt team, sporting the famous moustaches of Dave Broom, Charlie MacLean, Marcin Miller, Richard Paterson and an unknown French whisky enthusiast. All profits will go to this very worthy cause! You'll find the whiskies on the Master of Malt website (two styles available under each label, Smo'key and Mo'land, only 420 bottles of each).



Two 32 yo Bruichladdich ending with 7 and at 47% ABV, which doesn’t make much sense.
Does it?

Bruichladdich 32yo 1977/2010 ‘MCMLXXVII’ (47%, OB) Five stars The crazy Bruichladdich people seem to be willing to go on with strange names, this time a very Roman ‘MCMLXXVII’. Imagine going to your nearest liquor shop and asking for the new ‘Emseeemelekseksveehihi’. Well, alternatively, I guess you could also yell ‘1977’. And don’t we all know what 1970s + Bruichladdich can mean? Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re clearly in the same league as the 1970s here, the overall style being rather similar albeit a tad more mineral and waxy, which can’t be bad, can it? That the distillery still has such casks is great news, I had thought they were all gone. So, what do we have? Apricots, melons, vanilla, honeydew, brooms, gorse, honey, fir liqueur, sap, sultanas… and just a little paraffin and lamp oil on top of the whole. I must say this is extremely classy. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose. Superb, very zesty fruitiness and no obvious oakiness whatsoever. The trademark melons and peaches once again, notes of cranberry juice, a little mango, papayas, lemon balm… And many other fruits. Very much to my liking but warning, it’s also dangerously drinkable. Finish: maybe not the longest ever but it remains very fruity and even the aftertaste is as fresh as a baby’s mouth, with bags of strawberries. Comments: I think this very classy bottling may well be this month’s best piece of news (I know this is just the start, but well…) It reminds us that these Bruichladdichs from the 1970s can join the Lochsides 1966, Clynelishes 1972 and a few others (Longmorns for example) in the pantheon of the greatest fruity old malts. Love it, also for its relative ‘un-oakiness’. SGP:741 - 93 points.

Bruichladdich 32 yo 1967/1999 (47.7%, Signatory, Millenium, sherry, cask #161, 274 bottles) Five stars Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: this is simply a sherried version of the 1977, and it’s a stupendous sherry. What’s really striking is the coastalness of this baby that goes so beautifully with dry sherry. Nothing to do with the peaty whiskies that can ‘smell of the sea’, this one is like a light sea breeze. One of the few heavily sherried whiskies that are also extremely elegant and very sleek. Other aromas: coffee, tobacco, prunes, iron, Spanish ham (nope, not just any cured ham), walnuts, leather, varnish (like in some old bourbons)… Tends to become a little less aromatic after a few minutes but it’s still beautiful. Mouth: an astonishing combination of a fresh fruitiness (please read the 1977’s notes again) with some classic dry sherry of the chocolaty-walnutty kind. Wonderful notes of dried mushrooms in the background, morels, porcinis and such. Enough said. Finish: just like the 1977’s, it’s not the longest ever but the balance is perfect and the whole is oh so elegant and superbly old style. Comments: it’s impossible for me to tell you which of these two Ladies is the best. And why would that matter, by the way? SGP:552 - 93 points (et merci les Passionnés!)

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: great modern jazz piano by Michael Wolff. It's called Euphoria and it's on his album 'Impure Thoughts.' The music's very pure and the percs are perfect! Please buy Michael Wolff's music.

Michael Wolff

November 1, 2010


Two 1893s head to head
Aren’t we expecting several new flights of GlenWonka-ish ‘oldest whisky in the world’ or ‘most expensive whisky in he world’ in the coming months? Those will be ‘obscene’ to some whilst other punters just won’t care or bother and will think that, as always, ‘this is a free world’ and ‘after all, business is business’. I for one – and for once - won’t argue. Having said that, I’ve been wondering why we poor bloggers or webmasters wouldn’t also come up with ultra-deluxe-giga-premium posts, while we’re at it, and I have been rummaging through my shelves, trying to find something preemptively deluxe, so to speak. I think I found something…



Indeed, I could put my hands on two spirits from the very same vintages, so that we could have a wee ‘horizontal’ session: two 1893s, one Cognac and one Armagnac. Both come from very old bottles, not from new crystal-decanterised bottlings, which means that the styles will be rather close to what they were one hundred years ago and not ridden with heavy wood influence. Granted, some old bottle effect may have occurred but nevertheless, this will be kind of historical (hopefully not hysterical, uh!) So, are we ready for this ultra-deluxe-giga-premium tasting session? Let’s go…

Cognac Grande Champagne 1893 (J. Calvet & Co, early 20th century) Four stars No ABV statement on these very old bottles. Colour: mahogany. Nose: very old spirits tend to converge when they spent their lives in wood but that isn’t the case here, it’s all very grapey, very close to the fruit, with notes of marc and grappa and something slightly ‘cooked’, reminding me of some PX. There’s also something kirschy, as if it was distilled from pinot noir, which can’t be the case. Or did they send over some Nuits or some Chambertin from Burgundy? What’s amazing is how it unfolds after that, all on liquorice, chocolate, various aromatic herbs and just touches of balsamic vinegar. Also a little tamarind, speculoos and fermented prune sauce. Striking freshness. After ten minutes: huge notes of sultanas. Mouth: rich, absolutely not tired, picking up on the same notes of sultanas as well as quite some dried figs. Good mouth feel, not really bold but more than reasonable after all those years. Quite some jam as well (cherries again, raspberries), a little tea, Corinthian raisins… Something of a liqueur, in that sense very different from contemporary cognacs. Finish: surprisingly long, smooth, all on raisins (various kinds) and a little ripe blackcurrants. Ratafia. Immaculate aftertaste, extremely clean. Comments: very much unlike recent cognacs, much less ‘woody’ or polished and with more fruits, especially stewed ones or jams. Let me score it on its own merits, as if it had been distilled twelve years ago ;-). SGP:741 - 86 points.

Grand Bas Armagnac 1893 (44%, Domaine de Jouanda, early to mid 20th century) Four stars and a half This should have been rebottled quite some decades ago, maybe from demijohns. According to the colour, it didn’t spend too much time in wood. Colour: pure gold. Nose: even fresher than the cognac, probably younger, less aromatic but rather more medicinal, with whiffs of camphor and old turpentine. Develops more on roots and earth, leaves (blackcurrant, cherry), hints of green vegetables and then quite some marzipan, almond oil and even fresh walnuts. Maybe a bit more ‘from the countryside’ than the cognac but just as fresh. Gets slightly grapey after a few minutes (blackcurrants, cherries). Mouth: absolutely perfect, even rather punchy, balanced, fresh, nervous and almost as rooty/leafy as on the nose. Curiously nutty, certainly medicinal again (throat lozenges), with also hints of bitter oranges and cinchona. Amazing youth. Keeps developing on liquorice, cardamom and black pepper. Strong tea. Finish: very long, with a little more oak now (tea) and quite some nutmeg. Clean aftertaste on herbal tea and fresh mint. Comments: that this was distilled 117 years ago is quite unbelievable… But true, the bottle came directly from the domaine and it’s a very well reputed one. Again, we’ll score it on its own merits. SGP:551 - 89 points.

(With heartfelt thanks to Patrick and Régis)

You may expect a few even more ‘premium’ malternative tasting sessions before Christmas. And finally, let me quote the sadly missed and very un-PC humorist Pierre Desproges: “Le whisky est le cognac du con” (whisky is the idiot’s cognac). Well, then I’m probably one of the biggest idiots ;-).

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the amazing guitar of Preston Reed aka 'the world's most gifted guitarist' playing Hijacker. Please buy Preston Reed's music.

Preston Reed

October 2010 - part 2 <--- November 2010 - part 1 ---> November 2010 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



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

Benrinnes 26 yo 1982/2009 (57.4%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #3229)

Brora 30 yo 2010 Edition (54.3%, OB, 2,958 bottles)

Bruichladdich 32 yo 1967/1999 (47.7%, Signatory, Millenium, sherry, cask #162, 274 bottles)

Bruichladdich 32yo 1977/2010 ‘MCMLXXVII’ (47%, OB)

Caol Ila 26 yo 1983/2009 (55.3%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry, 240 bottles)

Clynelish 37 yo 1972/2010 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, Book of Kells, cask #14300)

Clynelish 27yo 1982/2010 (59,8% The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMdW)

Glenfarclas 41 yo 1968/2010 (49.7%, OB for Thosop BVBA, Belgium)

Glenglassaugh 1974/2010 ‘The Manager’s Legacy’ (52.9%, OB, Jim Cryle, refill hogshead, 200 bottles)

Glen Grant 1972/2010 (55%, The Whisky Show London)

Glen Spey 21 yo 1989/2010 (50.4%, OB, 5844 bottles)

Karuizawa 1968/2010 (61%, OB for LMdW, cask #6955)

Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2010' (56.5%, OB)

Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency, fino hogshead, 275 bottles)

Pe3 (54.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2010)

Port Ellen 31 yo 1978/2010 '10th Release' (54.6%, OB, 3000 bottles)

Talisker 30 yo (57.3%, OB, 2958 bottles, 2010)