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Hi, you're in the Archives, Nowember 2010 - Part 2

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


November 28, 2010

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

Whiskyfun temporarily mothballed...
... But only for a few days, maybe that'll be very, very short. We have to wrap up the Malt Maniacs Awards (some surprises for sure - as always) which will be published on December 1, as promised (including on this very page). Also some personal events that take quite some energy...

Anyway, this is what's in the pipeline : my tasting notes for the MM Awards winners, tasting Mackie's Ancient Brand spring cap (a legendary very peaty blend with Malt Mill as base malt!), a very, very revealing head to head session with not just one but three pre-phylloxeric cognacs including some stunning 1830 and 1865, an unlikely fight between Mortlach 1936 and Lemorton 1926 and... quite a few other interesting sessions involving many newish whiskies.

So please stay tuned, see you very, very soon!


November 26, 2010

The Big Push: five… err… whiskies


Benrinnes 18 yo ‘Stronachie’ (46%, A.D. Rattray, 2010) Three stars and a half Stronachie used to be bottled at 12 years old and as an ‘undisclosed single malt’, although we were all knowing – more or less – that it was ‘Benrinnes inside’. This recent 18 yo now comes ‘disclosed’, let’s taste it… Colour: pale gold. Nose: classic floral Speysider at first nosing, rather on yellow ones (dandelion style), with also a good deal of soft honey and touches of sherry and toasted oak plus roasted nuts. Also hints of overripe apples and a little wood smoke. Classically aromatic, I’d say. Mouth: sweet and fruity, more on ripe apples this time, a little fudge, butterscotch, malt, honey, a little sherry again, some tea… Did I tell you how classic this was? Also a little corn syrup. Finish: medium to short, clean, slightly roasted. Comments: all good, I believe we’re clearly above the 12 years old here. Reminds me a bit of some ‘deluxe’ blends. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Springbank 15

Springbank 15 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars I think I haven’t tried a ‘new’ Springbank 15 since 2004 or so. Very curious about this one, will it beat the stunning recent 10 yo '100 proof'? Colour: straw. Nose: typical of Springbank’s +/- 1995 distillate (yup I’m very good at math), with several fairly strange notes such as alka-seltzer or any other effervescent tablets, orange peel essence, tarmac and struck matches. Behind all that, more classic mineral and waxy notes plus whiffs of cider and seaweed. Mouth: same comments. Very typical. Lemon squash, zests, bitter herbs, tar, aspirin… Finish: long, lemony and tarry. A little juniper and capsicum in the aftertaste. Green oranges? Comments: I’m not a total fan of this make but very interesting it is. I like it much better than some finishings that were done on this kind of Spirngbank a few years ago – but less than the superb recent 10s and 12s. And of course the 18. SGP:261 - 81 points.

Macallan 20

Macallan 20 yo 1989/2010 (50.5%, Cadenhead's, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 169 bottles) Four stars I remember a few years ago, when we were thrilled to be able to taste a ‘unsherried’ Macallan as all OBs were sherry versions… How things change ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s with these kinds of bottlings that one can check that Macallan is a classy distillate. This one is beautifully ‘old Highlands style’, with this great combination of flinty and slightly waxy tones with a good deal of smoke, white garden fruits and then quite some vanilla and, above all, coconut from what was probably first fill bourbon wood. Mouth: exactly the same comments apart from even more coconut and even hints of bubblegum (right, or jelly bears). Finish: long, only a tad more bitter (green tea). Comments: most pleasant and potent. Recommended if you like coconut (and jelly bears ;-)). SGP:642 – 86 points.

Macallan 22

Macallan 22 yo 1988/2010 (56.7%, Silver Seal for Whisky Antique, sherry) Five stars This single cask has been selected by and bottled for the engaging Massimo aka Max at Whisky Antique in Formigine near Modena. Let’s see if this new Macallan is a true Cavallino Rampante of sherried Speysiders. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a dry kind of sherry, more austere than on full fruitcake mode so far. That means that there’s quite some dark chocolate, some leather, some black tea, a lot of coffee (espresso of course) and only wee touches of genuine old balsamico (maybe I’m dreaming, you know, Modena…) With water: yes, balsamico! And fresh mint, old wine cellar, rancio… Yet it stays straight in its boots.

Mouth (neat): fruitier than expected and not ‘extremely’ sherried, kind of flinty and peppery as well, this time rather closer to the old style Macallan 10 CS (with the red stripe!) Chocolate and coffee again. Not a turgid sherry monster at all. With water: gets creamier, with some orange liqueur and black pepper. Finish: long, clean, spicy, peppery, with some chocolate again in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect old style sherried Macallan at full strength, need I say more? SGP:552 - 90 points.

Caol Ila

Caol Ila 12 yo 'unpeated style' (57.6%, OB, 2010) Four stars I remember well the first time we tried some unpeated (aka ‘Highlands style’) Caol Ila at the distillery quite some years ago. It was a true novelty that we had never heard of before! Diageo started to bottle it one or two years later, with first some 8s and then a 10. I liked them all (WF81-83) but less so than the peated ones, let’s see how this new 12 behaves. Colour: straw. Nose: well, this is certainly not peatless, or rather not smokeless! It’s quite sooty as well, as ashy as Caol Ila can sometimes be, and otherwise rather lemony and mineral. It’s also quite seaweedy and briny. With water: am I dreaming or there’s an even bigger peatiness? Also walnut skins, apples, muesli…

Mouth (neat): extremely oily mouth feel, rich, fruity and spicy. Think peppered lemon marmalade with a pinch of salt. Also quite some vanilla fudge and marzipan, lemon liqueur... It’s a big, big dram. With water: it got even zestier yet full and still very oily. Limejuice... Wait, mojito? Finish: long, simply on the very same flavours. Very clean. Pepper and peat. Comments: much, much more convincing than earlier batches in my opinion, but don’t expect a complete ‘unpeatiness’. SGP:664 - 87 points.

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November 24, 2010

The Big Push: six new whiskies (some fab!)

Benriach 20

Benriach 20 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars Here’s a fairly new regular version of Benriach. Not much else to say, let’s see what gives… Colour: straw. Nose: we’re exactly between the old Benriachs’ rather extreme fruitiness (1968, 1976) and some younger ones’ more ‘Highlands’ style, with more grass and mineral notes but also a wee smokiness and notes of mead. Also herbs, mint, a little leather, barley sugar… Funnily, I had the Redbreast 15 not so long ago and it had something similar. Mouth: oh so easy! Almost a sin, fruity, honeyed, herbal, mentholated, slightly sugary (barley sugar again)… tinned pineapples… It’s very, very drinkable to say the least. Finish: a tad short but that’s probably because of the 43% vol. Leaves you with a very fresh mouth. Comments: the palate is much fruitier than the nose. It’s probably not one of these spectacular Benriachs but it’s dangerously drinkable, and I liked it better than the 25. Locks needed if you ask me. SGP:741 - 86 points. Let’s have the newest 30 while we’re at it…

Benriach 30

Benriach 30 yo (50%, OB, +/- 2010) Four starsThe first version of the 30 back in 2006 didn’t quite convince me but it’s true that Benriach may suffer from the utter excellence of it’s older ones (yes, 1976). You just cannot not think of them when trying a Benriach! Well, I guess the best you could do then is never to even touch a 1976 ;-). Enough babbling, let’s try this new batch of the 30. Colour: gold. Nose: we aren’t too far from the 20 but this is more complex. There’s more polished wood, more different fruits (the bananas are back), more herbs and teas (rosehip, hawthorn, jasmine) and then quite some orange liqueur, sultanas, raspberries… It’s very lively and doesn’t seem to need water. No water then.

Mouth: hmmm… A superb attack with Benriach’s expected soft yet exuberant fruitiness (bananas, passion fruits, mangos) but there’s also something a tad odder, some slightly strange woody notes plus notes of blackcurrant buds that suggest some red wine casks. Strangely cabernetty at some point, although I’m sure there’s no genuine Bordeaux casks involved. What, Super Tuscans? Nope. Finish: rather long, with some cranberry juice and quite some ‘green’ cinnamon in the aftertaste. Drier and greener. Comments: this one is hard to assess. Some parts are truly fab (the ‘Benriachness’) while some others are a little disturbing (the winy notes on the palate). Anyway, a very, very fine dram globally. SGP:661 - 85 points.

Hazelburn CV

Hazelburn 'CV' (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars After the Springbank and the Longrow CV (I loved that one) here’s the Hazelburn, probably the lightest of the pack. Remember, Springbank is 2.5 times distilled, Longrow 2 times and Hazelburn 3 times, like some Irish (but not all!) This Hazelburn comes from a regular bottle, not from an earlier miniature version. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well done Serge, this is absolutely not light. Having said that, it’s got something Irish indeed (again!), with notes of banana skin, apples and maybe khakis, with some ink (brand new magazine) and quite some lamp oil. Pencil eraser, putty… It’s globally slightly fat in style, which is exactly what I didn’t expect. But I like it.

Mouth: very unusual! Not too sure I like this at this point but it’s unlike any other malt, very herbal and slightly rotten (pleasantly so, mind you!) Some butter, aromatic herbs (thyme), a bit of cardboard, not sure there aren’t some kiwis… Gets then more bitter, with some green tea, apple skin, grapefruits… Very unusual indeed. Finish: rather long, oily and more lemony and candied at the same time. Lemon pie and caramel, with a touch of thyme again. Comments: I don’t know what to say, it’s bizarre whisky. Some parts are superb, some others are, well, bizarre… What’s sure is that I like the Longrow CV ten times better and the Hazelburn 12yo five times better. Now, we won’t go below 80 because its ‘difference’ alone is worth quite some points in my book. SGP:361 - 80 points.

Glen Keith

Glen Keith 18 yo 1991 (46%, Sestante Collection, +/-2010) Five stars I believe a part of this cask was bottled in magnums under the ‘Silver Seal’ flag. Aren’t our Italian friends good as designing old-style whisky labels? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather grassy and flinty Glen Keith, well in the style of some other rather fairly recent middle-aged versions by other bottlers. It’s also delicately floral, with whiffs of dandelions and buttercups, then touches of vanilla and mild honey and finally a light earthiness, with notes of leaves, moss, clay… It’s all a little shy but I must say it’s very elegant malt. Let’s only hope the palate will be a little more talkative.

Mouth: it is! A very oily, almost creamy mouth feel, it’s almost like liquid honey. Bags of fruits, all dried, such as sultanas and figs, but no ‘fruitcake’ here. Date liqueur, baklavas, old style triple sec (orange liqueur), not too ripe bananas… It’s actually less sweet than it sounds despite the faint ‘bubblegumminess’ in the background. Balance is perfect, all is extremely elegant. Finish: medium long, still extremely elegant. Bananas and pineapples with just touches of cloves and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: this one’s much to my liking. Nose a big enigmatic, palate unfolds, then does the peacock’s tail… Almost perfect! SGP:652 - 90 points.

Glenury 1973

Glenury Royal 37 yo 1973/2010 (42.1%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 187 bottles) Five stars Another new one from our German friends who, with a few of their compatriots, are simply stealing the show these days as far as great indie malts are concerned. But how do they do that? Blackadder had some 1973 Glenuries a while back and all were excellent, which gives me high hopes here. Colour: pale gold. Nose: ohhh fudge! Do you know manuka honey? And Yquem 1988? Joy de Patou? Mouth: okay, let’s calm down, as often with these old whiskies the palate doesn’t go (quite) as far as the nose but frankly, that would have been a miracle. Anyway, it’s still fabulously rich and alluring, so to speak, but never heavy. Very elegantly fruity and honeyed, maybe a tad oriental, orangey… The best Turkish delights ever, even the most distinguished Istanbuliot would agree. Oh well, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: please hurry. Comments: superstuff, how do they do that? What’s the trick? And, most important: are there sister casks? SGP:751 - 94 points.

Macallan 1970

Macallan 1970/2010 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt for LMDW, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, cask #10031) Five stars I believe the Speymalt label usually deals with larger batches but this time we have a single cask. There was already such a 1970 for La Maison du Whisky in 2009 (cask #8326) and it was very good but maybe not utterly thrilling in my opinion (WF87). Colour: brown/mahogany. Nose: is this some very old rum? Which distillery? Blairmont? Enmore? Port Mourant? Seriously, this baby smells like some great old Demerara rum, and I’m not exaggerating. At least for a while… It gets then more classically sherried and, I must say, more ‘old style Macallan’, maybe in the style of the excellent old 18yo 1970. We have bags of raisins, litres of old Port and PX, a lot of old rancio, quite some chocolate, liquorice, prunes, and even whiffs of ‘gravel after a summer rain’ (S., will you!) And many, many other things… But we haven’t gotten all time… Let’s move on…

Mouth: great. Not too woody, not too dry, but certainly impressively fat. Big honey, Armagnac, old rum again, prunes, chocolate, cooked strawberries, peach liqueur, cloves, cinnamon, liquorice, aniseed, tamarind… It’s more a liqueur than malt whisky but what a stunning liqueur! Amazingly rich. Finish: this is the only surprise, it’s not very long, but what’s also very surprising is that it’s still not tannic or ‘tea-ish’ at all, which is miraculous at 40 tears of age. Comments: a monster that’s more ‘Macallan’ than all the current official Macallans, maybe apart from the ‘Lalique Cire Perdue’ that just went for around US$ 460,000 at an auction (not kidding - now, someone also just bought a Cheval Blanc 1947 for US$ 300,000, an impériale that is). Yes, we’ll never know… By the way, sad for the excellent Dalmore, they have been holding the record for less than one month! Next, one indecent million pounds? SGP:762 - 92 points.

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Dee dee sharp

November 22, 2010

Tasting two old Glen Garioch

Glen Garioch

I quit, I give up! Some distinguished readers used to complain about the fact that I tried too many old or unobtainable whiskies and just when I started a ‘Big Push’ with many new ones including quite some affordable ones, some not less distinguished readers are starting to complain about the fact that I do not try enough old and rare bottlings anymore. Okay, I won’t give up just yet and rather try to please everyone by reinserting a few old glories between our Big Push sessions, starting right today with these two old Glen Gariochs…

Glen Garioch 32 yo 1971 (44.6%, OB, hogshead, cask #2041) Four stars and a half There used to be an earlier official ’71 for Oddbins that was bottled at 43% in the mid-1990s and that was fabulous (WF95) so we have the deepest expectations here. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s the combination of soft tropical fruits ala old Longmorn with a fairly sooty smokiness that screams ‘old Glen Garioch’, and they’re all there, plus a slight oaky dryness (tea, cinnamon). Yet, it’s not one of these boldly aromatic GGs, it’s all rather discreet, toned down but quite beautiful, with added notes of potpourri, patchouli, dried mint leaves (tea)... I guess it’ll all happen on the palate, as often with old whisky (as I, err, often write). Mouth: exactly the same feeling as in the nose, and I mean exactly, with only more oomph. Tropical fruits (mangos, grapefruits), smoke, green oaky tones, teas… It’s a tad bitterish but that goes pretty well here. Finish: rather long, with a youthful fruitiness but also even more bitter notes. Heavy on the liquorice wood in the aftertaste. Comments: frankly, there might be a little too much ‘green oak’ in this oldie. The rest was really superb. SGP:572 - 88 points.

Glengarioch 13 yo (57%, Duthie's for Samaroli, +/-1985) Five stars This one to my father Lambert Valentin. Colour: gold. Nose: once again this seems to be a rather austere Glen Garioch, pretty much in the same style as the OB so far but with more kick, probably from the higher ABV. This will need water. With water: it’s still rather austere but there are also beautiful medicinal notes, lemon peel, fresh walnuts… Is this concentrated Château-Chalon? Mouth (neat): ha-ha! The old OB without the green oak, that should be great… once we’ve added water. Big lemon and quite a bitterness I must say, but not a drying one at all. With water: superb! Stunning! The peat comes out, together with bitter oranges, walnuts, bitters, wax, some very earthy pu-erh tea… It’s not an easy one for sure and you have to like them austere, but then, wow! Finish: extremely long, smokier, waxier, sootier… Comments: exactly my style. Imagine just a little less bitterness and presto, this would be an utter stunner in my book. SGP:465 - 94 points (thank you Diego).

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some excellent straight ahead jazz with the American flutist Hubert Laws playing John Coltrane's Moment's Notice (that's on his brilliant Best Of CD). Dad, this is for you. Please buy Hubert Law's music.

Hubert Laws

November 19, 2010

The Big Push: six peated youngsters from the Rhinns of Islay

Kilchoman summer

Kilchoman 'Summer 2010 Release' (46%, OB) Three stars and a half Yes I know this is almost winter. Time to boost my Kilchoman mileage… Colour: white wine. Nose: dry, ashy, sooty peat with just faint touches of geraniums in the background (not leaves, which is a flaw in the wine world, rather flowers, which can be nice!) Goes on more on porridge and grains, with hints of fruits (kiwis?) Graphite oil. Mouth: sweeter, mostly on apple juice and sweetened lemon juice, then peatier and smokier as a whole. It’s not really complex and I guess it couldn’t be a such young age and without having been aged under tropical climates. Finish: long, rather more medicinal. Cough medicine, lemon and a very smoky and peppery aftertaste. Comments: simple but all good in my opinion. Legend in the making? Could be… SGP:357 - 84 points.


Kilchoman 2007/2010 (61.5%, OB, fresh Bourbon, cask #211) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: hard to nose because of the high strength. Pears and peat, peat and pears at first nosing. Gets then more ‘delicate’, so to speak, with notes of shellfish and green olives. With water: quite beautiful and already complex and ‘wide’. Lamp oil, candle wax, lemon oil, big peat, fresh walnuts, oysters… And yes, I insist, green olives. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very briny (green olives again) but too strong for this sissy of a taster. So, with water: wonderful! Many citrus fruits, both fresh and crystallised, and a peatiness that became subtler and more ‘caressing’. Finish: long and ultra-clean. Smoky grapefruits plus oolong tea. Very ashy aftertaste. Comments: this is a wonderful cask. To tell you the truth, I believe it’s not normal that such a young Scotch whisky would be so ‘full’. There’s a trick somewhere (but of course there isn’t). SGP:347 - 87 points.


Kilchoman 2006/2010 (62.2%, OB, fresh Bourbon, cask #114) Four stars This one was made available at Whisky Live Paris this year. Colour: white wine. Nose: more on fruits and vanilla and certainly less ‘maritime’ than the 2007 at this point. Or so it seams… With water: definitely less complex and more spirity than the 2007. Also more pepper, more smoke, more burning wood. Mouth (neat): closer to the 2007 now… And even stronger (and that’s not just the extra 0.7%). Ashes. With water: rounder, sweeter and ‘younger’ than the 2007. More bourbon wood influence. Finish: long, sweet, vanilled (or vanillaed?) Pear drops. Comments: funnily enough, the younger one was more ‘subtle’ in my opinion, without these notes of pears that we have in this one. But this 2006 is surprisingly complex and mature at barely four years of age. SGP:437 - 85 points.

You know what, these baby Kilchomans remind me of the teaser of that very famous old ad for piano lessons (I think the copywriter was David Ogilvy himself): “They Laughed When I sat Down at the Piano, But When I Started to Play!”

Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte 9 yo 2001/2010 (46%, Hilgering, Haut-Brion hoghsead) Four stars The oldest Port Charlotte I ever tried, obviously. Funny to see these wine casks that may have been used for finishings now transformed into hoggies. For the better? Colour: straw. Nose: no winey notes. Okay, done. Right, right, this a clean, smoky, peaty, slightly ‘damp’ PC (old cellar, wet clothes) that’s also got notes of paraffin and beach sand (wet). It’s a clean nose but it isn’t imposingly exuberant. Mouth: very good! An ashy, peaty, dry (and maybe a tad drying) Port Charlotte with some lemon everywhere and then some brine and kippers. Anchovies? Finish: rather long, peaty, slightly salty and almondy. Comments: cool, for lack of a better term. SGP:347 - 87 points.

Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte 7 yo 2002/2010 (63.5%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #1171, 298 bottles) Four stars and a half Port Charlotte (and Bruichladdich) is filled at higher strength than most Scotch but funnily, here’s a cask that went back to the ‘regular’ 63.5%. Seven years, that’s a bit long for reducing whisky ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: pungeant, citrusy (more peel than fruit) and probably a little medicinal (antiseptic, no camphory notes). I wrote ‘probably’ because this is hyper-strong and deep nosing would be too hazardous. With water: even at +/-45% vol, this is still strong. Very big peat (do you remember whether they increased the peatiness in Port Charlotte after the first year or not?) and then some rather big farmy notes, farmyard, hay, raw wool, boiled cereals… Mouth (neat): kerosenish. With water: ah, this is tad easier now… and quite wonderful provided you like sharp and biting whiskies. Big saltiness. Finish: long, big, not frankly sweeter (OK, a little marmalade as often) but this baby will please all peat freaks. Comments: as I just wrote. This is a Port Charlotte that has its eyes on Octomore in my opinion… Well, let’s find out, there’s a new one... SGP:248 – 88 points.


Octomore ‘3/152’ (59%, OB, 2010) Five stars I liked the two first ones a lot, I liked the third one quite a lot as well but rather less (the one that was Petrussed), here’s the fourth edition with even more ppm peat than before. But let’s rather see what gives in the glass and not comment on numbers… Colour: straw. Nose: well, this seems to be rather gentler than the first ones, and probably not that peatier than the Port Charlottes that we just had. No ashtray effect and no burnt Pirellis (ex-Enzo), rather a clean, smoky, ashy and slightly ‘roasted’ peated whisky showing unexpected balance. Also apple peelings, walnuts, dry fino, vin jaune… That’s to my liking. With water: becomes more empyreumatic as the wine freaks say, with notes of turpentine, motor oil, pine sap (touches), tarmac, gun flints… And a lot of smoke, of various origins (not only peat).

Mouth (neat): sweeter and rounder (yes I wrote rounder) despite the ashy tones. It’s powerful and intense malt but it’s kind of drinkable at high strength… drop by drop! Lemon, pepper, bitter oranges, ginger, peppermint and, naturally, a lot of peat. With water: it’s almost easy whisky now! Easy but quite delightful, all on something such as smoked lemons. Does that exist? Finish: long, leaving a great deal of ashes on your tongue. Comments: let’s forget about the ppms, the packaging, the story and the buzz and let’s rather focus on the spirit: I think it’s great (but yeah, of course, you have to like peat). SGP:439 - 90 points.

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Creed taylor

November 18, 2010

An Cnoc

Solo tasting – an old official An Cnoc

An Cnoc 30 yo 1975/2005 (50%, OB) Three stars and a half I had this puppy on my shelves since a long time. It seems that the owners have been selling it in ‘tranches’ like some winemakers do, which explains why it’s still rather widely available in shops.

Colour: gold. Nose: what comes out first is the oak, almost like if it was some heavily infused tea. Globally very dry, with whiffs of pepper, flour, paper, then more mint and a little camphor. There are some floral notes flying around but it’s also quite leathery, earthy, rooty… It’s unexpectedly wild yet austere for an old official expression. With water: more on herbs, leather, earth and hints of wood smoke. Traces of peat. Mouth (neat): much, much sexier than on the nose when neat, thicker, richer, sweeter… There’s some sherry, oranges, marmalade, soft pepper, nutmeg, bitter chocolate… It’s got something of Dalmore in my opinion (without the digital madness ;-)). With water: excellent now, with an added grassiness that make it quite complex globally. Some green tea and grape pips. Vanilla in the background. Finish: fairly long, maltier and a little gingery. Dry aftertaste, strong tea, pepper. Comments: very good but it hasn’t got some of the single casks’ individuality (clever, eh!) SGP:442 - 84 points.

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



MUSIC - Recommended listening: more classic funk with the godfather of 'go-go' Chuck Brown and his Bustin' loose. Please buy Chuck Brown's music!

Chuck Brown

November 17, 2010

The Big Push: seven new whiskies (a mixed bag, really)

Glenturret 1995

Glenturret 14 yo 1995/2010 (43%, Signatory, hogshead, casks #546-547, 747 bottles) Four stars These Glenturrets can be extremely whacky, they are very different malt whiskies and, what’s more, they’re never, ever boring. Colour: white wine. Nose: porridge, muesli, fresh tangerines, ink, aspirin tablets and sunflower oil. It’s got no ‘dirtiness’ at all, it’s even a clean, fresh and fruity malt with some personality. It’s actually a very good surprise. Mouth: once again, an excellent surprise! It’s punchy, waxy and mineral, with an oily mouth feel and again these very ‘pretty’ notes of tangerines. Some barley sugar as well, and only hints of Glenturret’s earlier style (salt, strange herbal notes, mouldiness, mushrooms) that was common in the 1970s and 1980s. Finish: medium long, more on bitter oranges and ginger tonic. Comments: wow. This newer distillate has improved mucho-mucho in my opinion. Maybe it’s less ‘funny’ than before, but it’s also much better in my book. I can’t wait to taste some recent young OBs! Recommended. SGP:442 - 86 points.


Tullibardine  'Aged Oak Edition' (40%, OB, +/- 2010) Two stars A rather cheap recent no-age-statement Tullibardine (£25) that’s a vatting of recent spirits and older ones that were distilled before the distillery’s been reopened. I really enjoyed some aged versions of Tullibardine (the old Stillman’s Drams for example) but younger ones tend to leave me cold. Colour: white wine. Nose: the only thing that smells more of porridge and waxed paper is porridge on waxed paper! Also quite some apple juice, paraffin, geranium and just hints of lemon squash and yoghurt sauce. Mouth: a little sweet, rawish, very close to the grain and slightly burnt. Toasted bread. Not much body but I like it rather better than in the nose. Finish: short, a little burnt and cardboardy. Comments: I think it’s no bad malt whisky at all but it’s rather weakish, probably not designed for us malt otakus. SGP:231 - 70 points.

Balblair 2000

Balblair 2000 (43%, OB, 2010) Three stars and a half After the pleasant 1997 that was bottled in 2007 (WF80) here’s another 10yo ‘vintage’ version, a 2000. Colour: white wine – the deep golden colour on the distillery’s website is a tad optimistic. Nose: starts with whiffs of slightly soapy oak and vanilla but it’s soon to become more floral and honeyed, with added hints of apple pie and black tea. Also fresh apples, apple skin… There’s also a faint dustiness in the background. No extravagant fruitiness in this young version that has nothing to do with the exuberant old Balblairs. Mouth: much more presence now, with more ‘young’ fruits. Apples again, ripe gooseberries, oranges, vanilla crème and touches of cinnamon and white pepper. Pleasant body, not thin at low strength. Finish: a little short but clean and pleasantly honeyed. Comments: no fighter but a very pleasant young Balblair that won’t make you scratch your head. To sip just like that, maybe in Summer. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Arran 14

Arran 14 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars After the 12 that I enjoyed a lot (WF85), here’s a 14yo, I believe it’s the oldest Arran ever (apart from a 1983 that some MM spotted in Taiwan – yes, a fake). Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes! Less woodwork so to speak and more spirit in this version that’s both fresh and complex. Fresh fruits (I get oranges and bananas but also butter pears), classic but not excessive vanilla, sweets (liquorice, violets, raspberries) and a rather soft spiciness involving cinnamon and maybe touches of cardamom. Goes on with more maple syrup and whiffs of freshly cut grass. Works very well so far. Mouth: once again, this is pretty perfect, sweet but not dull, fruity, fresh, very well balanced. I get vanilla fudge, a little caramel (or rather light toffee), maybe a little white chocolate, crystallised oranges… All that on a bed of ginger, lemon balm and cinnamon. Finish: rather long, with more pepper and just a touch of salt playing with your tongue. Comments: excuse me but with this kind of quality, I guess they could now start to drop the wine finishes. SGP:541 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 12

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3%, OB, 2010) Four stars I always liked the rather humble Bunnahabhain 12 at 40 or 43%, it was one of these malts that never failed you despite its lack of punch. More punch? The owners just raised its ABV to 46% (excuse me, 46.3! A very ‘Balvenish’ ABV…) so maybe that’ll be the case with this newish version. Colour: orangey amber (ahem). Nose: well, it’s not that punchier than previous versions at 43% vol but these typical notes of malt, honey and toasted brioche on top of a faint briny character work just as well or even a little better. There’s also quite some corn syrup, faint hints of shoe polish, roasted chestnuts and maybe touches of peat, or rather a ‘peaty smokiness’. Also stewed fruits.

Mouth: it’s on the palate that things changed most, this is certainly bigger and more ‘assertive’, as the pro say, than earlier 12yo Bunnies. Definitely a kind of peatiness, blood oranges, roasted and caramelised nuts, honey, chestnuts again (marron glace), toffee, white pepper, maybe hints of cloves and cumin… It IS a bigger dram but it didn’t lose its freshness, thanks to the fresh oranges in the attack. Finish: rather long, on the same notes, the whole being maybe slightly more toasted/roasted. Comments: yes it’s an improvement. Funny that it made me also think of some rum, as the owners are Trinidadian if I’m not mistaken. SGP:542 - 85 points.

Oban 14

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars Last time I tried the popular Oban 14 it was a 2008 version (more or less) and I thought it was very good but a tad underwhelming (WF80). Time to try a newer version today. Colour: deep gold. Nose: right, it starts with the same kind of slightly soapy and cardboardy notes that I had already found in earlier versions, but once again it gets then slightly coastal and leathery, with also notes of dried oranges and gingerbread that are quite beautiful. Speculoos in orange liqueur plus a pinch of salt – or something like that. Mouth: no more cardboard, or very little, rather an unusual combination of dry green tea (but does one add sugar to green tea!), ginger, kummel and bitter oranges. It’s got power despite the low strength. Becomes more leathery and grassy after a while, with also a little limoncello. Finish: medium long, dry, grassy and slightly briny. Bitter oranges again in the aftertaste. Comments: the Oban 14 is really a different malt, rather bigger than others at 43%, maybe because of the worm tubs that are on the distillery’s roof. Or maybe not. Anyway, this version was particularly big. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Redbreast 15

Redbreast 15 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Three stars and a half Redbreast seems to be sort of cult among the malt cognoscenti, as if it was the Scotchest Irish (after some of Cooley’s best). All I can say is that I usually enjoyed the 12 a little better than the earlier 15 from around 2005, and that a version of the former dating from the 1970s has been utterly brilliant in my opinion. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s this oiliness that’s striking, and the fact that it’s much less fruity than most Irish. It’s very grassy, waxy, kind of mineral, with even notes of green vegetables. Also something such as ink, leather, shoe polish, a bit of varnish… Not a sexy nose for sure but it’s got its charms. Also lemon oil.

Mouth: certainly fruitier now, and much sexier as well (well, that was related I guess). Tangerines for sure, white currants, gooseberries, green bananas, pomegranates… It’s a very unusual fruitiness, I don’t think I ever anywhere else than in Redbreast. I just read my notes for the older version of the 15 and it seems that this new one is even more to my liking – on the palate. Nice notes of orange blossom honey. Finish: rather long, both fruity and oily. Comments: I don’t think the nose is downright stunning but the palate is really great. The oiliness is quite unusual. SGP:640 (for palate, nose is more like 260) – 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I've been to Eddy Louiss' 50 anniversary of music gig at the Olympia in Paris the other day, it was fab! Time for WF to pay tribute to the great man again, with No more beer (that's on the 1995 CD Louisiana). Please buy Eddy Louiss' music.

Eddy Louiss

November 16, 2010


Solo tasting – as natural as malt whisky can be

Linkwood 19 yo 1989/2009 (53.5%, The Clydesdale, cask ref #0034/1841, 209 bottles) Four stars This baby was one of the candidates at last year’s Malt Maniacs Awards and I think it was about time I published my notes, now that the 2010 edition of our awards is in full swing.

Colour: white wine. Nose: quite superb at first nosing, with a very peculiar combination of dried roses and ‘soft’ paraffin. We’re not talking about flaws here, quite the contrary, even if that can be very faintly ‘soapy’. It’s also quite smoky and grassy, with also notes of orange cake and… other cakes (your pick). With water: grass and smoke up, the rest down. We’re almost in a farm… Quite some hay and fern! Mouth (neat): punchy and close to the malt, with probably a little less personality than on the nose. Barley sugar, cereals, apples, table grapes… Good sweetness and again a faint smokiness. With water: same profile, maybe even a tad sweeter, almost sugary. It’s actually very, very pleasant, very natural, very close to sweet malted barley. Finish: long and just as natural. It just wouldn’t change, which is maybe just as good. Maybe just a little liquorice in addition. Comments: we could nickname this ‘a simple perfection’ – or ‘a perfect simplicity’? Ha, Nature! SGP:641 - 85 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: tablas, sitars, guitars and DJs: it's the Fareed Haque Group playing Gulab Jammin' (that's on 'Cosmic Hug'). Perfect for sipping Amrut methinks. Please buy Fareed Haque's music.

Fareed Haque

November 15, 2010


Tasting two superb Glenlochy

Imagine I could only formally taste eleven different Glenlochy until today! Shame one me. The good news is that Signatory had a new one a few weeks ago. We’ll oppose it to a very heavy hitter, in both senses of the words.

Glenlochy 29 yo 1980/2010 (52.8%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #2649, 265 bottles) Four stars and a halfThe very few 1980s I could try so far have been excellent (one Signatory, two Ducan Taylor). Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s one of these very flinty and waxy old Highanders, all au naturel and pretty unsexy. Wet rocks, grains, apple peeling, liquid paraffin, then more cane syrup and quite some fresh mint. Very little cask influence so the distillery’s austereness really shines through. With water: grassier, more austere… Grass and hay. Distant whiffs of cow stable, then a little fresh butter. Mouth (neat): perfect old style Highlander, very ‘accurate’, with fresh mint once again, grass, oils, bitter almonds, cardamom, a little coffee (beans) and that slight waxiness. Touches of lime. Full bodied. With water: fruitier and more resiny at the same time. Pine sap sweets, apple liqueur, pepper and touches of wasabi. Lovely profile but it’s maybe not for beginners. Bah, beginners don’t know of Glenlochy anyway. Finish: long, greener, more herbal, slightly tannic and bitter. Comments: this is a glorious old unsexy Highlander. Highly recommended, especially if you aren’t into heavy peat/vanilla/honey/sherry too much. SGP:362 - 88 points.

Glenlochy 13 yo 1974/1987 (67.3%, Sestante) Five stars You should know that there used to be also a version at 40% around. A while back, while I was a little thirsty, I asked my friend Angus to pour me a wee glass… Well, I had thought it was the 40%, while it was actually this 67.3%. I downed the wee glass in one gulp and all I can tell you is that my throat still holds a tremendous grudge against me for having done that! Colour: white wine. Nose: bang-bang! We’re close to the 1980, only sharper and rather zestier. Having said that, the high alcohol keeps your nose at a distance. With water (and I mean a lot of water): we’re extremely close to the Signatory. This has maybe something a little more acidic. Lemon juice, cider apples... Then more paraffin, lamp oil, candle wax… Mouth (neat): yahhh! With water: perfect and moving. All liqueurs including all herbal ones, Benedictine, Cynar (artichoke), a little pastis, restina wine… Very oily mouth feel. In the background: lime liqueur and even a little white tequila. Splendidly unmodern (wot??) Finish: very long, very lemony, maybe just a wee tad too bitter in the aftertaste. Comments: we’ve had many great whiskies recently and many high scores. No exception this time, only the bitterness in the aftertaste will prevent me from going even higher. Wonderful old style stuff. SGP:372 - 90 points (and many thanks this time, Angus!)

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: let's have a little Caribbean zouk from Haiti today, with Emeline Michel singing Moso Manman (that's on her 2000 album Cordes Et Ame). Please buy Emeline Michel'ssunny music.

Emeline Michel

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

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



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

Glengarioch 13 yo (57%, Duthie's for Samaroli, +/-1985)

Glen Keith 18 yo 1991 (46%, Sestante Collection, +/-2010)

Glenlochy 13 yo 1974/1987 (67.3%, Sestante)

Glenury Royal 37 yo 1973/2010 (42.1%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 187 bottles)

Macallan 1970/2010 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt for LMDW, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, cask #10031)

Octomore ‘3/152’ (59%, OB, 2010)