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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2011 - Part 2

November 2011 - part 1 <--- November 2011 - part 2 ---> December 2011 - part 1


November 30, 2011


Two new independent Bruichladdich


Bruichladdich 20 yo 1991/2011 (50%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: an interesting nose, somewhat medicinal at times (rather on aspirin tablets) and with a lot of violet sweets as well (Toulouse violets, not quite Parma violets). Behind all that, some very ripe melon, peaches, grass and a little fresh mint as well as a delicate (and faint) briny character. Or is that seaweed? An interesting nose, quite uncommon. With water: I’m not sure water does it much good. It’s rather a faint soapiness that comes out and that won’t easily go way. More porridge too. Mouth (neat): funny how the notes of violets are back, together with other fruit drops, oranges, cranberries (very vivid)… Also peaches again, apples… In short, it’s all on North Western fruits, in a certain way. With water: a delicious fruit salad. One of the fruitiest Laddies I ever tried! Finish: medium long, very fruity. Ripe apples. Comments: I have a fondness for this kind of profile, as it’s got all the markers of the distillery without any clearly noticeable wood influence. That alone is worth two or three extra-points in my book. Too bad the nose didn’t swim well – so to speak. SGP:652 - 87 points.


Bruichladdich 9 yo 2002/2011 (57.7%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon wood, 179 bottles) Four stars and a half So this was distilled under the new regime. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s quite interesting that it’s rather softer than the 1991 at first nosing, in spite of the higher strength. Also rather cleaner, more mineral, phenolic, with a peatiness that’s growing bigger and bigger after a few seconds. Some soot as well, coal, mint… With water: a flying peatiness with a lot of menthol and cough syrup. Very peaty now. Mouth (neat): big peat straight ahead, ashes, soot, lemon liqueur and litres of gentian eau-de-vie. Great, fresh earthiness. With water: unexpectedly Laphroaiggy, maybe just a notch ashier. Finish: very long and even peatier, with some lemon as well. Brine. Very excellent. Comments: indeed, very Laphroaiggy, this. Hmm, is that PC? SGP:358 - 89 points.


Whiskyfun fav of the month

November 2011

Favourite recent bottling:
Benriach 40 yo 1971/2011
(49.8%, OB, hogshead, cask #1947, 229 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Bowmore 1969/1978
(58%, OB, for Giaconne, Frechio & Frasa Import, sherry, cask #6635, 300 bottles) - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:

Ledaig 1998/2011
(61.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask ref #11010, 258 bottles) - WF 91

MUSIC - Recommended listening: let's have a good slice of heavy greasy blues today, with Preacher Boy And The Natural Blues doing Dead, boy. Please buy Preacher Boy's music.

Preacher Boy

November 29, 2011


Tasting four very different Cragganmore

Cragganmore Mo or

Cragganmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (46%, Mo Or collection, release #27) Three stars and a half A new Holland-owned bottler. Lavish packaging, very John Player Special vintage 1975 ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: starts fresh and flinty, with some lime in the background and a zestiness that grows bigger and bigger. Nice whiffs of crushed lemon balm arising, as well as a little dill and other fresh herbs. Also a bit of chalk. A nice profile that cannot not make us think of Bladnoch. Oh, and unexpected wee touches of… gherkins? Samphire? Mouth: powerful, raw and natural. There’s quite some lemon again in the attack – and grapefruits - but otherwise it’s rather ‘natural’ again, with little oak influence (little vanilla) but some growing notes of mint drops and liquorice. Pleasantly fresh and sharpish. Finish: medium long, still lemony, with a slightly grassy aftertaste. Orange drops. Comments: a rather brisk, much pleasant young-tasting Cragganmore in my opinion. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Wemyss Malts 1989/2011 ‘Lemon Grove' (46%, Wemyss, Speyside, butt, 371 bottles) Three stars and a half This is Cragganmore. Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re obviously very close to the Mo Or, very, very close. Maybe this is a notch more lemony and a trifle less mineral, which makes it a tad more ‘expressive’. Oh well… Mouth: exactly the same feeling but we’re even closer to the Mo Or. No I’m not being lazy. Finish: same. Maybe a little more pepper and mint, and maybe even a little salt. Comments: ditto. Very pleasant freshness. SGP:651 - 84 points.


Cragganmore 11 yo 1999/2011 (55.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS11012, 298 bottles) Three stars and a half Younger and darker – so from wood that was much more active I guess. Colour: amber. Nose: this baby reeks of new oak/bourbon at first nosing, with a lot of vanilla, maple syrup and coconut. Goes on with more cocoa powder and straight oak (‘good’ plank), pencil shavings, overripe apples and something delicately floral. Roses? Mouth: oily, rich and intense. Rye? Seriously, this tastes much more American than Scotch. So, it’s funny indeed, with a growing spiciness (ginger galore!) and even more maple syrup and ‘oak’. Gingerbread, hints of Guinness… Finish: long, more on orange marmalade and even more candied ginger and lemon. Peppered toffee in the aftertaste. Comments: ultimate bourbon maturation, I’d say. Tastes (almost) like (good) bourbon. SGP:630 - 83 points.


Cragganmore 19 yo 1992/2011 (53.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1425, 249 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: starts more or less like the 1989s but becomes rather more grainy, porridgy after a few seconds. Then there’s more grass, malted barley, custard, lemon, hay… Another natural one, very pleasant despite a slight lack of character. Mouth: again, it’s almost like one of the 1989s, only with more oomph and maybe even more lemon. Perfect zestiness, keeps improving. More liquorice, grapefruits, a little fresh coriander… I like it more and more. Finish: long, fresh, candied and fruity. A top-notch lemon marmalade and one or two strawberry drops. Comments: excellent, right halfway between ‘silent wood’ and ‘loud wood’. Do you understand what I mean? SGP:641 - 87 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: so you wanna have more genuine rock and roll? Would Jack Bruce and Robin Trower do? It's called Lives Of Clay (from their CD 'Seven Moons') and it's, well, eternal. Please buy these luminaries' music.

Bruce Trower

November 28, 2011


Tasting two old Lochside


Lochside 46 yo 1964/2011 (42.1%, The Whisky Exchange, single blend, cask #8970, 139 bottles) Five stars After the delicious 1965 by Adelphi (WF 90), here's another old 'single blend' that was married at birth. Remember, like Ben Nevis, Lochside used to make both grain and malt in the 1960s. Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, we’re much on old grains or bourbons here, with little maltiness that I can detect. That means bags of coconut and vanilla and then even more coconut (dried and grated). Behind that extravagant profile, a little rosewater, white chocolate, maybe touches of mangos and passion fruits and then a growing ‘sawdustiness’. Frankly, had I nosed this blind, I’d have said it’s an old grain from first fill bourbon wood – or maybe a Bounty bar ;-). Now, don’t get me wrong it’s certainly not botoxed old whisky!

Mouth: now we’re talking! The malty part is bigger while the oak’s maybe a tad greener and bitterer, but on the other hand, the fruitiness is perfect. Papaya, ripe star fruit, apples, mangos, then more milk chocolate, praline, tangerine juice… And the freshness is pretty amazing at 46! Finish: probably not very long and a little more bourbony again but it’s all clean and fresh, with something rather ‘pure pot still whiskey’ in the aftertaste. Comments: a really funny dram, very old Scottish grain on the nose and quite Irish on the palate. Quality’s high anyway. SGP:631 - 90 points.

This calls for more old Lochside, but rather 'pure' malt this time (haha, I haven't got any other single blend anyway…) This baby was bottled more than 20 years ago…


Lochside 22 yo 1966/1989 (43%, Signatory, casks #7253-7255, 800 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the same whisky at all, which was to be expected. Starts with something slightly metallic and goes on with more mangos, cut grass and green tea as well as a little grapefruit. Then more lightly resinous notes, fir liqueur, lemon balm and spearmint. All that is light, rather complex and pretty delicate, quite far from other Lochsides that were so madly fruity. Mouth: it’s got some aspects of the glorious 1966s, with these delicious notes of tangerines and oranges, then more kumquats and quinces, with a great wax behind all that. Then more green tea and touches of ginger (liqueurs). Really full bodied at just 43% vol. but let’s remember this isn’t old whisky, so it’s kept a lot of ‘vibrancy’. Finish: unexpectedly long, even more citrusy. Touches of banana liqueur and eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: less intriguing than the old blend but almost as great. Not as ‘explosive’ than other 1966 Lochsides, though (such as Jack Wiebers’ or Murray McDavid’s). SGP:651 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: no Steely Dan, rather some brand new stuff by some very experienced jazz slingers. The pioneers of French jazz-rock, no less, around André Ceccarelli and Jannick Top. And on vocals, Mr Alex 'Santana' Ligertwood from Scotland. The band is called Troc 2011 and the tune we'll have today is 'Feel the Spirit'. Please buy Troc 2011's new CD!


November 25, 2011


New Glenallachie 1973 vs. 1974

It’s great that there are a few old Glenallachies around as the distillery used to be virtually unknown until now. Right, untasted.

Glenallachie 73

Glenallachie 1973/2011 (44%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask ref #11018, 125 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: how unusual! Imagine a blend of slightly overripe coconut milk with some sweet vegetables such as cooked beetroots or even artichokes. Sounds unlikely? Well, it is but it’s globally superb and very ‘funny’, always a quality in my mouth. Develops on slightly more ‘regular’ notes such as roses, mead, litchis and gewürztraminer and just a faint chalkiness in the background. Very unusual indeed, beautifully so… Let’s only hope the palate will match the nose, this could be a winner. Mouth: once again, this is highly amusing. Starts with a lot of sweetened grapefruit juice (make that pink grapefruit), goes on with more dryness and even something slightly acrid (apple peelings, walnuts) and develops more completely on green banana, green tea and a kind of citrusy oak (what?) Finish: medium long, lemony, with a little oak in the aftertaste. Comments: much fun here, even if the nose was rather more enthralling than the palate. SGP:641 - 91 points.


Glenallachie 1974/2011 (49.4%, The Whisky Exchange for The Whisky Show, sherry wood) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: a completely different register, this one displays much more sherry at first nosing, rather towards gunpowder, struck matches and bitter chocolate, then more notes of rubber bands and coffee, and then a wide range of herbal and tarry/phenolic notes that border on very old balsamic vinegar, with a lot of parsley thrown in. Then more ham, beef jerky, bacon and… chocolate. I think this is superb dry oloroso. Very dry! Mouth: oh yes! Well, if you’re firmly against gunpowder, you may leave us now, but I must say that the combination of that gunpowder with walnut liqueur, bitter chocolate, liquorice and espresso coffee works quite magnificently. And I enjoy these very small touches of lemon juice and icing sugar that are playing with the tips of your tongues very much. Finish: long, a tad sweeter. Stout. Wonderful black pepper and chocolate plus lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect dry sherry on a discreet distillate. Very equivalent quality in my opinion, I see no reason to give this baby a different score, even if the profiles are very different. SGP:462 – 91 points.
PS: Glenallachie is really climbing up the echelons of anorakdom these days, thanks to the indies!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Wayne Horvitz' The Front (from 'Miracle Mile'). Please buy Wayne Horvitz' very singular music.


November 24, 2011


Tasting a few Scottish islanders

Jura Elixir

Isle of Jura 12 yo 'Elixir' (40%, OB, 2011, 35cl) Three stars and a half Exclusive to Sainsbury's in the UK, this new 'Elixir' pays ‘homage to local folklore which says that the island water, which goes into the whisky, has life-prolonging and mystical health-giving properties’ (Quote from the PR). Well, in France they would jail you if you even remotely suggest this kind of thing for any alcoholic drink (as a maker or retailer)! Colour: full gold. Nose: reminds me of several recent official Juras, with these notes of orange zest, ginger and dried flowers at first nosing. There’s also a feeling of sherry, a slight rancio, some pepper, gingerbread, brown sugar and distant whiffs of hay, farmyard… And then the brown sugar is back.

Mouth: rich, maybe just a tad rubbery at some point, dry, with some cinnamon and walnuts, caramel, mocha, cloves and… more cinnamon (and pepper). Good body despite the low strength. Finish: medium, with this spiciness again and quite some black tea. Ginger and a little salt in the aftertaste. Comments: not sure this will make you live forever, but I think it’s good enough for seizing the day. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Wemyss Malts 1991/2011 ‘Honey Spice (46%, Wemyss, Islay, butt, 743 bottles) Four stars An excellent series in my opinion, but will this Bunnahabhain stand the distance? There are so many independent Bunnahabhains around these days… Colour: pale amber. Nose: a rich yet elegant sherry, rather dry, all on leather and oranges at first nosing, with a pleasant minerality in the background (sand, clay). Then more spices (cinnamon, cardamom) and a sherriness that goes more and more towards fino. Also distinct whiffs of sea air that gives this baby a Bruichladdichness. Ahem. Mouth: excellent balance right from the start, with a sherry that’s more on raisins and orange zests this time, plus these coastal notes yet again. Quite some pepper as well, ginger, tonic water, earl grey tea and a little mead to round all this off. Finish: medium long, with the spices a little louder. Comments: I like this Bunny quite a lot. Nice personality, rounded but not too rounded. Good sherry I think. SGP:552 - 86 points.


Ledaig 1998/2011 (61.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask ref #11010, 258 bottles) Five stars Many amongst us remember last year’s Ledaig 1998 by MoS, which was a tad unlikely yet so excellent. Colour: dark gold. Nose: extremely leathery, sooty and farmyardy. It’s like… smoky ink? Glycerine? Or distilled lapsang souchong tea? The fumes from Ardbeg’s company car? Fresh carbolineum? With water: as usual with these sherried peat monsters it’s the gamy side that comes out. Also touches of brand new plastic pouch, or even tyre. Mouth (neat): impressively big and ‘coherent’ at the same time. Sooty/smoked orange zests sprinkled with tar and liquorice liqueur. Ahem. With water: perfect now, sweeter, earthier as often, rooty, citrusy and very playful. Water’s best friend. Finish: very long, a notch saltier, with some wasabi in the aftertaste. Comments: not particular about details but impressively good. Many of these youngish Ledaigs from sherry wood are wee miracles in my opinion. SGP:557 - 91 points.


Highland Park 30 yo 1981/2011 (52.2%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon wood, 198 bottles) Five stars I think this is infused with magic mushrooms (or only morels?) Well, that’s what the label is suggesting ;-). Colour: white wine, which is very pale at 30 years of age. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these wild, austere and mineral HPs. No easy shtuff but lovers of the genre may adore this. Some wax, maybe dill, paraffin, ‘old oils’ (including linseed)… Very interesting! With water: lemon oil and other oils. And some peat. Mouth (neat): brilliant profile on crystallised grapefruits and many ‘citrusy’ spices and herbs. Lemon verbena, lemon balm, spearmint, then more liquorice, wax… Gosh this is go… to my liking. With water: yeah yeah yeah. More earthy tones and even more complexity. Finish: maybe not the longest ever but it’s perfect. Phenolic and waxy lemons. Comments: the splendours of one of the greatest distillates kept for many years in old naked refill wood. Makes many ‘modern’ whiskies taste lumpish and even vulgar by comparison. As close to old Clynelish as any other ‘active’ whiskies can get (that’ll do, S.) SGP:463 - 93 points. PS: let me remind you that I’m very fond of this style of ‘austere/waxy’ malt, and that it’s a style that’s probably not very consensual.

All right, we’ve already been to Jura, Islay, Mull and Orkney today… maybe it’s time to fly to Skye? And have a real oldie this time? There are many new whiskies in high season but let’s not forget our beloved antiques…


Talisker 1958 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, black label, +/-1980) Five stars There were various versions of the 1958 by G&M, especially versions at different strengths. Colour: gold. Nose: what’s interesting with these old ones, is that they combine two vast ‘areas’ that are seldom combined in modern whiskies in my opinion, namely peaty/smoky aromas and plain fruits. It’s really the case here, and we have indeed a style that’s not far from the old Laphroaig 10s (Bonfanti anyone?) or some Bowmores. The complexity is immense and not to be seen in modern whiskies. So, we have many herbs, fruits, oils, waxes, flowers and polishes. Hundreds. The only problem is that it’s maybe a tad too weak… But better a tad weak but complex than big and monodimensional if you ask me.

Mouth: excuse me your honour, it’s not weak at all now! Starts on ‘peated sultanas’ and develops on myriads of tiny flavours, smokes, ashes, waxes, fruits, spices, salt, syrups, resins, herbs extracts. And as often with old peaters, there’s this ‘cough syrup effect’ (CSE, yep that just came out). Finish: maybe not the longest ever but there’s a perfect resinous smokiness. Comments: excellent but that was expected (it’s from an impeccable source and couldn’t be a fake). And it’s amazing that whisky that was bottled at only 40% vol. thirty years ago could still be this big. In short, an ode to good old ‘unromantic’ twist-caps. SGP:555 - 92 points.

PS: I hear you, there are whiskies from other islands. And Scotland itself is part of an island anyway, isn’t it. We’ll try some other islanders soon…

MUSIC - Recommended listening: maybe not for every ears but very brilliant, it's Ken Hyder's Talisker playing the third part of their Pibroch in Three Parts, called for Albert Ayler. That was on their 1979 LP 'Land of Stone'. And yes, in case you didn't notice, Ken Hyder is a Scottish jazzman ;-). Please buy all of his music! (and thanks, Dave).


November 23, 2011


Hi-flying, four old official Highland Park

So after the fantabulous 1964 (WF 94) and 1970 (WF 92), and a 1968 that I think I never tried, here are two brand new Orcadian HPs, a 1976 and a 1971. For good measure and because this is Whiskyfun, we'll throw two other official vintages in… UPDATE: I've deleted one note since it was quite obvious the sample had been contaminated (thanks, friends).

HP 76

Highland Park 1976/2011 (49.1%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 893 bottles) Five stars From a mix of thirteen butts and hogsheads. Yes, obviously, thirteen casks should mean more than 893 bottles but remember you do not have to empty a cask when using it. Colour: gold. Nose: probably one the most delicate and vibrant herbal teas ever. Serious, it starts all on chamomile and maybe rosehip (and possibly hawthorn and lime-blossom tea), with then more pine tree and marzipan, with this kind of resinous/almondy feeling that some old whiskies can display. There’s also a little bacon showing up after a little while, maybe from the butts, and finally more fruits, especially green melons and white peaches, as well as discreet whiffs of… sangria? After a good fifteen minutes: more resinous notes, cough syrup… But it remains rather elegant and delicate. No wham-bam HP so far. Mouth: much more compact and starting rather on wood spices and many things mentholated, before it becomes more candied, that is to say more on honeydew and orange marmalade. The almondy notes are back as well, marzipan, candied lemon zests… Finish: medium long, clean and soft, with an oak that’s well there but always kept at a distance. More orange marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: of course it’s excellent. Maybe not as immensely complex as older ones, but both the softness and the freshness are impressive. The exact definition of a 90-whisky in my book. SGP:551 - 90 points.

HP 74

Highland Park 31 yo 1974/2006 (45.4%, OB, exclusive to the Distillery's visitor centre) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s bigger whisky, with a kind of bigger sherriness (but it’s absolutely no sherry monster), more dried fruits, figs, kumquats, honey… The ‘official’ strength is lower but it’s got more oomph for sure, which doesn’t mean it’s ‘better’, for that matter. There’s also something more briny, with touches of olives and maybe anchovies. A very intriguing nose, I’m very curious about the palate now... Mouth: once again it’s heavier than the 1976 despite the lower strength. I think the oak’s a little louder too, with more obvious cinnamon for instance, but behind that there’s a pretty wonderful range of citrus fruits, both fresh and candied, as well as these notes of honeydew that we already had in the 1976 (nope, that’s not quite heather honey). Mint and liquorice. Finish: rather long, with a playful lemony signature that sort of lifts the whole. Comments: I think the oak shows a wee bit in this one but quality remains very high. SGP:561 - 89 points.

HP 71

Highland Park 1971/2011 (46.7%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 657 bottles) Five stars This one has been composed from a selection of 17 casks. Great news if you ask me, that means that the distillery still owns at least 17 casks of 1971 ;-) (yes, unless they emptied one or two for this baby). Colour: pale amber. Nose: wha-wha-wha! Ever tried the ‘John Goodwin’ or even the recent 50yo? Anyway, this is extremely complex and every time you give it a short sniff, there’s something else that starts to tease your nostrils. One time it’s ham and bacon, the other time it’s a fruit salad, then it’s rather an old style mint liqueur, then it’s old polished wood, then Virginia tobacco, then figs, then old pu-erh tea, then hay and humus, then smoke and tar… It’s quite incredible, kind of pointillist so to speak, but not ‘fragmented’ at all. There is a big picture! Fantastic nose. Mouth: it’s almost brutal! Amazing… So what do we have? Cardamom and cloves, Seville oranges and kumquats, baklavas and Turkish delights, smoked tea and tar liqueur, honeydew and propolis, cinnamon and nutmeg, liquorice wood and green tea… In short, almost everything. And what’s quite striking is that the oak is never invading and always an asset. Mind you, this is 40yo (or is it only 39yo?) Finish: very long, creamy, the oak being a tad louder but that was to be expected. Comments: just excellent, although the nose was even more impressive than the palate. SGP:561 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some rock and roll today. I must say the first time I listened to Wayne Baker Brooks' She's Dangerous, I thought 'OMG, Mark Bolan is back!' Anyway, great glam sound, please buy Wayne Baker Brooks' music.


November 22, 2011


WF 7500


No milestone
Nothing too important, as I don’t think this should mean much to anybody, but it seems that today we're having our 7,500th tasting notes for this measly website called whiskyfun.com (that some cool reader called 'a true pirate website' the other day - I liked that). And it seems that not even my liver did notice. So, let’s put the trumpets away, cancel both the fireworks and cheerleaders, and move on if you don't mind.
PS: but friends, to my amazement, WF's figures are still rising relatively sharply this year. Aren't we all mad?
PPS: yeah I know that glass is inappropriate.

So, what shall we have today? Well, I had planned to have some new Brora but due to unforeseen contretemps made in the UK, I've had to have a change of heart and thought we could have ‘the best of two worlds’ instead, so to speak. So, it’s going to be one of the very best malts ever (not just one of my favourites), Bowmore, a distillate that’s been changing a lot through the last decades and that’s back in full form since quite a few years. Then, we’ll select two bottlings that may symbolize what I like best in whisky, in other words, the main reasons why I keep updating WF as often as I can. The first whisky will be a Bowmore by a German bottler. In my opinion, the rise of the German bottlers (the Whisky Agency’s scuderia, Malts of Scotland, Jack Wiebers, Whisky-Doris, Alambic Classique, Whisky-Fässle or the SSMC to name but a few) is the best thing that happened to malt whisky in recent years. The way they do things is just impeccable and, I think – well, I’m sure -, always quality and passion-driven. They keep issuing strings of great whiskies in a breathtaking and no-BS way and I’d really like to pay tribute to them, especially to the most active ones these days, Carsten Ehrlich, Thomas Ewers and their respective gangs. Guys, you simply rock!

The second whisky we’ll have is another Bowmore, that was bottled for the most iconic whisky collector and retailer ever, the much moustachioed Eduardo ‘Baffo’ Giaccone, who sadly passed away fifteen years ago. What’s more, it’ll be a very young Bowmore, not even 10 years old, that spent 4/5 of its life in its bottle. Indeed, like many other whisky lovers, I still believe whisky keeps changing once bottled, albeit at a much slower pace of course. Because mind you, whisky just cannot be a dead product!

Eduardo 'Baffo' Giaccone ->

So, two Bowmore...


Bowmore 15 yo 1995/2010 (54.1%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 132 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: bronze/gold (nails in the cask?) Nose: it’s not extremely expressive in my opinion, maybe it’s a tad blocked and needs water? But other than that, it’s very pleasantly mineral, with all sorts of leathery/flinty notes. I mean shoe polish ;-), walnuts, tobacco, beach sand, liquorice, humus/mushrooms, pu-erh tea, orange peelings, quite some hay, pot-pourri… With water: as often with Bowmore, it got rather farmy in a way that could also be seen as ‘faintly chemical’ but that’s absolutely not unpleasant in this context, quite the opposite. Fertilizer? Mouth (neat): excellent! An earthy and lemony attack with a saltiness quick to kick in, more peat, leather, chewing tobacco, liquorice… Big and sharp at the same time. A little Cointreau to make the whole a wee tad rounder. With water: it got rather earthier, as expected. A little more leathery as well. Finish: long, on some kind of peated orange liqueur? Comments: pretty excellent. The marriage of peat and sherry isn’t always easy and sparks can sometimes fly in my opinion, but his one was very successful. No divorce. SGP:466 - 88 points.

Bowmore 1969

Bowmore 1969/1978 (58%, OB, for Giaconne, Frechio & Frasa Import, sherry, cask #6635, 300 bottles) Five stars Our official 7,500th. Only 9 years old, or maybe even 8, but, as I said… More than 40 years in glass. Colour: straw. Nose: oh, this is different! Imagine a good dose of diesel oil, ‘new car’ (well, new plastic or this ‘magic spritz’ that second-hand car dealers use to trick the customer), something very grassy or even cactussy, and then the most complex phenolic/mineral combo that anyone may ever find in any whisky. Grease, damp clay, graphite oil, lead, old engine… What’s striking is that there’s no single fruity note here, while older Bowmores from the same vintages are usually quite fruity. With water: big whiffs of bicycle inner tubes, then even more garage stuff (motor oil, grease, petrol…)

Mouth (neat): utter magnificence. Hard to describe. Or when whisky is both ‘focused’ and even ‘compact’ yet immensely complex. No modern youngish whisky can beat this. Some kind of secret elixir made by mermaids (ouch, and now I sound like those weird Bowmore ads from fifteen years ago…) Anyway, an astounding peat beast. With water: it was about time you called the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: very long, with this lemony and salty peatiness that’s so Bowmore – and so lovable. Comments: see, even young whiskies need time. What’s sure is that this is an utter glory that was most probably quite rough when bottled (so sad Signor Giaconne has left us, he could tell!) and that time in glass polished to perfection. A wonderful 7500th dram, in any case. SGP:257 - 95 points.


MUSIC - Recommended listening: don't we all love weird shtuff sometimes? Such as Gong's disco jazz from the late 1970s? That line-up of the famous band was lead by my former neighbour, the sadly deceased drummer extraordinaire Pierre Moerlen. Let's listen to The Organ Grinder (from 'Time is the key') and then buy all of Gong's music. And aaaah, the Polymoog!


November 21, 2011


Jerry Dammers’ Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra
The Barbican, London, November 18th 2011

You know how it is, Serge.  Some whisky lovers (the humourless Calvinistic sort with ‘No Fun’ tattooed on their foreheads) have strict and clearly-defined ways of assessing the merits of whiskies. 


Often based on a firmly-held set of misbeliefs, fantasies and fallacies, they nonetheless have an exacting and unbending  set of parameters against which the qualities of all liquids are mercilessly judged.  The same might be so for music, or even might apply to those pompous and po-faced panels of judges who inhabit the nightmare world of want-to-be celebrity ‘reality’ TV shows that dominate the drivel regurgitated on a nightly basis from ‘the box in the corner’.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Take last night for example.  As we climbed the steps to leave the Barbican Hall we had those two blokes behind us who always seem to be at gigs. Older than they wished they were, overweight, too much beer, not enough money, and unloved.  And always uncomfortably like Laurel and Hardy.  So the know-it-all was pontificating on the finer points of the Vox Continental organ, famously played by Jerry Dammers in his band The Specials: “you see, Neville, the first batch of 100 or so MKI Continentals had the "square top", covered in orange Rexine.  Red was introduced later, and UK organs were made with both Red and Orange tops.  Supposedly, a small number of very early Continentals were covered in Red and Blue, to match AC30 amps of the same colour.  Rexine was used to cover Continental tops, and came in orange, red and grey.  It was made by ICI in the 60s, and the brand name has since been taken over by F.J. Ratchford, Ltd., which sells it as a book-covering material …”. Meanwhile Neville was struggling to make himself  heard, with a single, and joyfully simple mantra;  “No, Brian, listen.  That was the best thing I’ve heard.  That was just the best thing”.  And Neville, like everyone else (except Brian, who might also have had ‘No Fun’ stamped on his forehead), had a huge smile on his face.  That smile, has I think, to be one of the best ways to judge outstanding quality.

Dammers’ Spatial A.K.A Orchestra has come quite a long way since we saw them play an equally special gig a couple of years ago.  Conceived as a tribute  to Sun Ra’s other-worldly, cosmic and cacophonous Arkestra, Dammer’s outfit initially focused very heavily on the works of Saturn’s most famous musician.  Two years on, and they have found a more individual identity, albeit one based on a very eclectic selection of material, ranging from Ra, to Duke Ellington, Dammers’ compositions new and old, and to Dvorak’s New World Symphony (viewers of British TV should think ‘Hovis commercial’).  Frankly it’s quite hard to keep up with the ever-changing material, genres, and the cast of musicians.  Vocals were provided by Francine Luce, poet Anthony Joseph, reggae veteran Johnny Clarke and even Edgar Broughton (remember him anyone?), delivering a frightening Beefheart pastiche. 

Jerry Dammers at the Royal
Festival Hall, June 2011

Solos flowed from pianist Alcyona Mick, the vibes of Roger Beaujolais and from the brass section including Denys Baptiste on saxophone and Robin Hopcraft on trumpet, while Finn Peters’ flute was at the heart of many of the arrangements.  At the back was a string section, a double bass, electric bass, two guitars, percussionists and the brilliantly powerful drumming of Patrick Illingworth (who on several occasions appeared to be about to explode).    And of course holding the whole thing together, just, was Jerry, fussing from one moment to the next, picking out soloists, leading the orchestra, fighting his microphone stand, losing his place in his sheet music book, and occasionally adding some incisive keyboards.

I read the comment somewhere that The Spatial Orchestra is winning Dammers ‘the best reviews of his career’, and quite rightly so.  It is a brilliantly-conceived piece of musical madness, defying wisdom and convention, and delivering in their place an exhilarating, joyful (despite the dark nature of many of the songs) and thought-provoking multi-sensory experience.  The wonderfully home-made props and costumes (somewhere between early episodes of Dr Who and Carry On films) help define the eccentric nature of the evening, while the brilliantly-chosen visuals, from clips of Sun Ra and fifties’ science fiction imagery, to a knock-out film on brutalistic concrete sixties’ architecture (filmed in France, I believe) by Anthony Stern add a sharp edge to the evening.  None more so than the opening and closing images (accompanied by the Orchestra’s interpretation of Dvorak) by Turner Prize-nominated artist George Shaw of his own home-town: the still desolate and depressed Coventry where Dammers was also brought up, inspiring his most famous song, ‘Ghost Town’.  But for all that it’s still a wondrous affair.  Like everyone else there (except Brian) I’ll be smiling for a long time yet.  Ninety-nine points. - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)


Tasting Clynelish 1982X2+1984

Whenever some new Clynelishes enter the house, I just can’t resist trying them (almost) immediately.


Clynelish 28 yo 1982/2011 (43.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland) Five stars This baby comes at an unusual low strength but hey, almost 30 years old already. I guess I should add the dreadful expression 'how time flies!' here. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the Clynelish I love, I guess they invented the expression ‘waxing lyrical’ for these Clynelishes. The mix of beeswax and candle wax is just staggering here. I’m so happy those great vintages are reaching the perfect ages these days. Okay, I know that’s all pointless babbling but frankly, this nose is simply perfect (Clynelish lovers ahoy!) Mouth: this isn’t whisky, it’s wine. I mean, it’s organoleptically close to some great Puligny, Riesling or to the best chenins, really. The problem is that it’s just as quaffable, which could lead to dangerous behaviours. I guess that’s why the bureaucrats invented alcohol units (are you done with your erratic babblings yet, S.?). Finish: let’s be honest, it’s not the longest Clynelish ever, and it tends to drop a bit, maybe because of the low strength. Having said that, better short and superb, right? Comments: please forgive me for those pointless tasting notes. SGP:363 - 92 points.


Clynelish 1982/2011 (53.7%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask ref #11015, 275 bottles) Five stars There's more and more great shtuff from Germany these months. Where will they stop? Anyway, for us mere whisky lovers, these bottlings are a constant source of joy. Colour: straw. Nose: oh no, another stunning 1982 Clynelish! Yet, it’s quite different from the TSMOS, rather less waxy (but waxy it is) and rather more on rocks, walnuts and curry, not unlike these adorable vins jaunes from French Jura. Whisky from bourbon wood that really smells like ‘flor’ – or rather fino sherry – how interesting! With water:  ginger tonic, linseed oil and lemon peels. Mouth (neat): everything’s in place, this is perfect. Wax, lemon, minerals. Enough said. With water: and there’s even a little honey and touches of ripe tropical fruits, 1972-style! Finish: long, wide, rich yet oh so elegant. And, of course, waxy. Superb limy and lemony signature. Comments: deciding between these two 1982 Clynelishes is too much for me. Both state-of-the-art malt whisky. SGP:463 - 92 points.

All right, after those new glories, why not have another, younger Clynelish from the early to mid 1980s for good measure? And a supposedly rather brutal one this time?


Clynelish 12 yo 1984/1996 (61%, Glenhaven, single cask) Five stars As you probably know, Glenhaven used to be an American independent bottler - now sadly defunct. Colour: white wine. Nose: look, the waxiness and the mineral side are well there, as well as a bigger earthiness, but it’s all a tad too powerful and maybe even a little cologny at this point. Let’s add water right away. With water: bang on! Beeswax, limestone, lemon peels, ink and smoked tea. Also touches of sulphur – but we’re not talking about that kind of sulphur. Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow, this is big whisky! Yet, there’s something entrancing, something that’s not without reminding me of modern Springbank. Such as this very peculiar minerality and these notes of horseradish… With water: utterly perfect now. The best use of water ever (in developed countries). Finish: long, zesty, full, excellently dry. Fresh walnuts and roots in the aftertaste, as well as a lot of marzipan. Comments: one of the best young Clynelishes I’ve ever had. Well done USA. SGP:462 - 91 points

That one called for yet another one, but it'll be the last one today, I promise!


Clynelish 17 yo 1990/2007 (52.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon barrel, 204 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: well, this is completely different from the early 1980s Clynelishes – and obviously from the 1970s Clynelishes. More brutal, more spirity, much more on plum spirit and apple juice, with also some grass and quite some porridge. In other word, an unclynelish Clynelish so far, one from the non-waxy era. With water: a little nicer, thanks to some pleasantly earthy tones. Clay and limestone. Mouth (neat): again, this is simpler and more on garden fruits than earlier - and later – batches. Very eau-de-vie-ish, and even a little burnt. With water: same. It got a little cleaner but frankly, nothing to write home about this time. Finish: medium long, with a saltiness. Salted apple juice? Comments: a fairly raw and spirity Clynelish in my opinion, not from the best periods. The exception which proves the rule? SGP:441 - 77 points.

(and muchas gracias to the two Toms)


November 20, 2011


A few newish Highlanders


Tullibardine 'Coume del Mas' (46%, OB, Banyuls finish, 2011) Strangely enough, the label states both 'Banyuls Finish' and 'Matured in Banyuls Casks' - in smaller letters. It must be a finished whisky. As you probably know, Banyuls is a very sweet wine from the south of France. Colour: light apricot. Nose: extremely strange. Tinned peaches and rubber (or cherry tree leaves?), porridge, Turkish delights, baby vomit (I know, I know), stale cider and brown sugar… Very unlikely in my opinion, let’s check the palate… Mouth: waaaah! Bitter and greenish, rubbery, becoming drying, with touches of blackcurrant flavoured Jell-O and cherry stem tea. Hard. Finish: long, rubbery and drying. Some raspberry eau-de-vie in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s great to experiment and to innovate, and some Banyuls can be as great as Tullibardine can be, but this is plain odd in my opinion. Not ‘natural Scotch malt whisky’, in any case, a kind of Donatella Versace of the whisky world. I think we’ll stick with other recent Tullibardines if you don’t mind, some are really excellent… (and let's have faith in the brand new French owners of the distillery!) SGP:461 - 55 points.


Wemyss Malts 1990/2011 ‘Caribbean Fruits’ (46%, Wemyss, Highland, hogshead, 320 bottles) Three stars and a half This is Glencadam – it’s interesting that there are quite a few independent Glencadams around these days, Berry Bros, for example, had a very good 1990 a few weeks ago. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh garden fruits all over the place as well as notes of gueuze (Belgian beer) and new oak. Becomes grassier, a tad tea-ish, with also whiffs of squeezed lime, almonds and maybe a little damp chalk or clay.

Mouth: nice attack on grassy fruits, lime again, grapefruit, then more ginger and cinnamon. Becomes rounder and sweeter over time, with a little maple syrup and more ginger – or rather ginger liqueur such as the one that’s so fashionable these days (no brand names, they said!). Finish: medium long, mainly on ginger and lemon zest. Comments: a good, nervous Glencadam with a lot of lime and lemon (yes, and ginger). SGP:451 - 84 points.


Ardmore 19 yo 1992/2011 (46%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon barrel, cask #4652, 197 bottles) Four stars and a half Ardmore can be great and Whisky Doris’ bottlings are usually just as great. Colour: straw. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these dry, flinty and austere Ardmores. A lot of grass and even fresh asparagus (very different from cooked ones in the nose), then more pepper and even wasabi, a little soot, damp ashes, peat smoke… It’s not an Ardmore that’s monstrously peaty, but peaty it is. At the fruit department, the usual peaches and apricots but they’re rather shy here. Mouth: the peat is much bigger now, and the fruits as well. Very unusual combination of olive oil, ashes and apricot drops, then a little orange squash and mead. More pepper after that, as well as a little cider and an earthiness. Finish: quite long, on something such as… smoky apple and lemon juices? Also an unusual fizziness. The peat is even bigger in the aftertaste. Comments: another very zesty Ardmore of high quality, and funnily fizzy (well, with a feeling of fizziness that, perhaps, not everybody will like as much as I do). Champagne! SGP:455 - 88 points.


Teaninich 17 yo 1993/2011 (53.8%, Cadenhead, bourbon, 240 bottles) Two stars and a half There used to be a 12yo 1993 by Cadenhead that I found a little hard (WF 77) but maybe this one will be easier? Colour: straw. Nose: extreme grassy and flinty profile, not easy for sure. And whiffs of coal and gravel. As unsexy as malt whisky can be – so far. With water: same, it didn’t move a toe. Okay, a little ginger and tonic. Mouth (neat): not really easy either. Cider apples and pepper with hints of greengages in the background as well as some orange drops. With water: saved by the cavalry in the form of some very nice notes of fresh almonds, marzipan and roasted argan oil plus more orange, pineapple and barley sugar. Finish: quite long, going on with almonds and oranges plus pepper. Comments: frankly, it’s a difficult one (or maybe we should intellectualize this kind a little more) but water did it some good on the palate, for sure. SGP:362 - 79 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: pure genius, Tom Harrell and his Oasis (from 'The Art Of Rhythm' - indeed). Please buy anything by Tom Harrell (The Art of Rhythm is an absolute must.)

Tom Harrell

November 18, 2011


Tasting six recent 1998 Laphroaig by Malts of Scotland

First two sherry hogsheads, then four bourbon hogsheads.

Laphroaig 1998/2011 (52.5%, Malts of Scotland, Sherry Hogshead, cask #11007, 349 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: very rich, farmyardy and jammy, thanks to the sherry cask I guess. Cow stable and dried seaweed, then the expected medicinal touches, camphor, antiseptic and then quite some leather. Fairly extreme, so to speak. With water: well, water erased the sherriness, or at least most of it. This is classic Laphroaig now, very coastal, smoky, medicinal… and appealing. Mouth (neat): wham! Big, rich, sweet, honeyed, orangey and very spicy/smoky. Frankly delicious, it’s almost peated orange marmalade. With water: it’s the earthiness that comes out now, roots, gentian, liquorice, then salt… Finish: long, smoky and salty, with the orange marmalade back in the aftertaste. Comments: what to say? This is pretty perfect. The sherry isn’t overwhelming, at all, but it’s true that to overwhelm a fairly young Laphroaig, you have to get up early. Ahem. SGP:557 - 88 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2011 (53.4%, Malts of Scotland, Clubs, Sherry Hogshead, cask #11001, 125 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: a rather cleaner, less farmy, more coastal and mineral version, much more in the style of the officials such as the new 10 CS. Rather more lemon too. With water: strangely enough, water made this one less ‘clean and zesty’ than cask #11007, but it’s also closer to the grains, with a little porridge. Very ‘natural’ Laphroaig. More gunpowder after a while. Mouth (neat): this time we’re a little closer to the sister cask, with the same kind of peaty/jammy profile but it’s still on the sharper, zestier side. With water: excellent! Orange marmalade, smoked tea (litres of lapsang souchong) and ashes. Finish: long, with that feeling of ‘good’ gunpowder again. Comments: big Laphroaig for big boys. SGP:467 - 90 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2011 (52.9%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #5921, 297 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: much less wood influence in this one, obviously, and it’s even a tad newmaky, porridgy. Having said that, very young Laphroaigs can be most enjoyable if you like this very ashy, mineral and coastal profile and are not afraid of pears. Very straight, narrow, sharpy profile. With water: smoked porridge. Heavily so. Mouth (neat): sweet and nervous, with a lot of lemon, ashes, smoke and salt as well as notes of pears yet again. Very uncomplicated. With water: the rooty notes come out. Gentian, lemon and salt. Finish: medium long for a young Laphroaig. Pears again. Comments: it’s a rather youngish one that’s not lost all immaturity in my opinion. But the spirit is classy. SGP:357 - 85 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2011 (53.4%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #5920, 295 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: amazing that this one is so different from its sister cask. Despite a paler colour, it’s rather more mature and rounder, with superb whiffs of espresso coffee coming through, together with some lemon liqueur. With water: more farmyard, hay, kiln… A working kiln. Mouth (neat): creamy, lemony, earthy, rooty, smoky… A profile I like a lot, becoming ‘sharp like a blade’. With water: perfect sweet and smoky Laphroaig. Not the most complicated but the profile is perfect. Finish: long, ashier. Comments: excellent, exactly what we expect from a 12-13yo Laphroaig from fairly neutral wood. SGP:357 - 87 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2011 (56.4%, Malts of Scotland for Aquavitae 2011, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #11002, 135 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re somewhat between both previous ones but this has more herbs, mint and maybe a little more brine. A lovely nose so far. With water: kiln and farmyard again. Mouth (neat): same as above, really. Maybe a wee tad more bitter (Campari) – or maybe not. With water: more mentholated notes here, liquorice… An extra-dimension. Finish: long, very ashy. Pleasantly acrid, if you see what I mean. Comments: quite curiously, I think the peat was louder here, somewhat Supernova-esque. SGP:358 - 88 points.
Laphroaig 1998/2011 (59.8%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #5922, 144 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: very much in the style of cask #5920, which is normal I suppose, although there is a little more earth and wet sand, as well as fresh almonds. Very, very nice, maybe the most complex of them all (I mean, the bourbons). With water: ditto. Nice notes of a mineral Riesling (smoked, ha ha). Mouth (neat): indeed, the richest, the most citrusy and simply the most pleasing. Icing sugar and limoncello on a bed of ashes. With water: lovely profile, not far from the official CS in my opinion but maybe a tad ashier. Finish: long and very ashy. Walnut skins? Earth and roots in the aftertaste, as well as a little more lemon. Comments: simply perfect. SGP:457 - 90 points.

Okay, why not have two more by other bottlers for good measure…


Laphroaig 11 yo (57.5%, Waddel Hepburn for Slow Food Monza Brianza, Italy, 2009) Four stars and a half No indication of vintage on this label but hey, 2009-11=1998 - although it could be 1997 as well of course. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one has got rather more straight smoke as well as these touches of torrefaction/coffee that were already in cask #5920 by MoS. Then more grass and grapefruits. A very sharp version, very nervous and quite beautiful. With water: became extremely briny, with also quite some dry white wine and a little iron (tin box). Mouth (neat): ultra-classic briny, lemony, peaty and rather more medicinal than the others. Archetypical, as they say. With water: excellent. Salted and smoked lemon juice. Finish: long, very salty. Brine. Comments: all excellent, very salty Laphroaig. SGP:367 - 89 points.


Laphroaig 13 yo 1998/2011 (60.8%, Single Malt Collection, bourbon hogshead, 256 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a tad less expressive than the others but that’s probably the very high strength. And quite some coffee and even cocoa again. With water: it’s the first one that became frankly medicinal. Antiseptic and such… Mouth (neat): creamy and sweet and even sort of drinkable at 60% vol. Macha tea. Very pleasant lemony notes. Lime. With water: funny notes of icing sugar, fructose, lemon… then more pepper. Excellent. Finish: long, on seawater and lemon. Comments: a big Laphroaig, very peaty, chiselled yet complex. Peat heads will adore this. SGP:368 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a good chunk of hard blues by Taj Mahal (with a Prince - and even Beefheart - feeling). It's called The Car Of Your Dreams and it's on Phantom Blues. Please buy Taj Mahal's music (I'm sure you do already).


November 17, 2011

Three old Ben Nevis, the Monty Python of Scotch. Ahem.
Whenever I’d like to try something unusual and even ‘eccentrically unlikely’, I turn to Ben Nevis and, if possible, old ones. That’s exactly what we’ll do today…


Ben Nevis 40 yo 1967/2007 (43.4%, OB for Alambic Classique, sherry, cask #1278, 157 bottles) Four stars and a half Alambic Classique had a sister cask (#1780) bottled at 41yo that I liked quite a lot (WF 90). Colour: deep amber. Nose: I don’t know who decided to play that trick on us, but this smells just like some well-ripened Armagnac. I’m not making this up, this is almost old Bas-Armagnac, at least for a few minutes, before it becomes fruiter, more on bananas flambéed (with rum, aaargh – did you spot that other Monty Python reference?) and fig liqueur. Also a little strawberry jam, bacon, lovage (or Maggi) and whiffs of bicycle inner tube, what I’d call ‘good sulphur’. Very nice nose. Mouth: crikey, this is Armagnac yet again! Starts very grapy and even a little gritty/roughish, with a rubbery side and quite some herbal teas and bitter chocolate. Goes on with more tobacco and leather-like flavours, liquorice, cherry jam… And Armagnac. Oh! Finish: long and Armagnac-y yet again. I know this was a sherry cask but could it have contained Armagnac just before it was shipped to Bonnie Scotland? Comments: in fact, it’s not the first, nor the last time we’ll come across a very Armagnac-like sherried malt. Another very good malt to play tricks on your friends. SGP:462 - 88 points.


Ben Nevis 40 yo 1971/2011 (45.8%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, 188 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: right, this is completely different. Think chocolate-covered marzipan dipped in custard, litres of fresh putty, more fresh almonds, waxed paper and then something very estery that’s not often to be found in old glories, somewhere between kirsch, bubblegum and Williams pears. Finally, we get more and more peppermint, then varnish and nail polish remover. Yet another rollercoaster of an old Ben Nevis, does that come from the concrete washbacks that they were using at the time? Mouth: a very bizarre attack, very unusual and very much in line with the nose. That means we have putty again, bitter marzipan (I mean, not the heavily sweetened junk they sell in supermarkets) and then Williams pears yet again, as well as quite some bitter oranges and then more pepper and ginger from the wood. Much less varnishy notes this time. Finish: long, grassier. Almondy, with some lemon and more bitter grass in the aftertaste. Comments: another very unusual old Ben Nevis. It’s fun. SGP:372 - 83 points.


Ben Nevis 25 yo 1966 (59%, OB, +/-1991) Five stars An interesting very early old official Ben Nevis. Colour: amber. Nose: well, this is a much straighter and cleaner sherried Ben Nevis, with much more of what you’d expect from an old sherried malt whisky (although it wasn’t that old at time of bottling). Nutshell: raisins, prunes, kirsch, chocolate and Christmas cake. I think it needs water. With water: perfect now, much more complex and no less classical sherried malt. Ham, leather, tobacco, balsamic vinegar, cherry and strawberry (and blackcurrant) jams, hay, humus… all perfect. Mouth (neat): punchy, even brutal, eau-de-vie-ish and very chocolaty when naked, water is more than needed again. With water: great combination of some marzipany touches similar to what the DL had, with many jams and eaux-de-vie. Also quite some cinnamon on a plum pie. Finish: long, clean, all on a very fruity sherriness. Comments: a tad hard when neat but water does wonders. Marcel, you were bloody right. SGP:551 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: as 'accurate' as a just serviced Patek Philippe, this is Duke Ellington & His Orchestra playing an amazing slice of big band jazz called The Telecasters (from 1957's fabulous LP 'Such Sweet Thunder'). Please buy Duke Ellington's music!


November 16, 2011


Four more newish old Speysiders

Master 40

Speyside 40 yo (40%, Master of Malt, 2011) Four stars Low strength and a very moderate pricing, this undisclosed single malt was a hit earlier this year. Time to try it. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s interesting that this nose isn’t far away from some other old glories at low strength, such as G&M’s Glen Grants or Strathislas. Very beautiful notes of dried figs, dates and quince jelly, touches of honey and walnuts, old roses and polished wood and finally a little humus. All very classy, balance is perfect and the oak isn’t too loud. Mouth: as expected, it’s rather less wide and lively and pretty oakier but that’s all right here, especially because of some pleasant dried fruits and a nice spiciness (cinnamon). Paraffin. Touches of oranges as well. Finish: medium long, slightly tannic, with more cinnamon powder in the aftertaste. Comments: good stuff, a worthy digestif after some relatively light food. I would be eager to try this at 46% vol. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glen Elgin

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2011 (41.8%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts with whiffs of freshly sawn oak and notes of green bananas as well as some very nice floral notes (honeysuckle). Then more straight vanilla and nuts, ripe plums (greengages) and tangerines. Orange liqueur. It’s very fresh considering the age, maybe even a tad ‘feminine’ (don’t get me started). Mouth: drier and spicier, should I add of course, a tad greenish and tea-ish but it remains compact and very pleasantly fruity. Plums again, banana skin, orange drops and nutmeg. Oh, and cinnamon. Nice body at such low strength – and old age. Finish: medium long, with a little more mint. Tea in the aftertaste. Comments: a very, very fine old Glen Elgin that stood the test of time. SGP:451 - 86 points.


Longmorn 1975/2011 (46.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon bogshead, cask #3977, 122 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: starts slightly harsh, which was unexpected, and gets then as fruity and candy-like as Longmorn can be, but maybe not as complex. There’s also quite some vanilla from the oak… And a huge bag of fresh oranges. Becomes a tad earthier after a few minutes but also slightly dusty. Mouth: rich and creamy, even a little liqueur-ish, weren’t it for the oriental spices from the wood. I mean cardamom, ginger and lemongrass, then more citrus fruits, icing sugar, maybe a little mocha… And finally a little marzipan. No, a lot of marzipan. Finish: rather long, spicier now. Plum jam. Comments: high quality here, but I think we all know other Longmorns from the same era that were of even higher quality. Anyway, this is excellent. SGP:551 - 88 points.


Dailuaine 35 yo 1976/2011 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 148 bottles) Four stars and a half I remember James MacArthur had an excellent 1976 seven years ago. Colour: full gold. Nose: quite a fruit bomb at first nosing, with many jams and many syrups with a nice spice mix on top of all that (star anise, cinnamon…) Calms down after a few minutes (well, seconds), becoming a tad drier but also more complex despite a vanilla side that got louder. Lime-blossom, oriental pastries, cedar wood… Mouth: rich and creamy, with the kind of oakiness that’s both heavy and an asset to the whisky, if you see what I mean. Honey and oak, oranges and oak, milk chocolate and oak, vanilla and… Anyway, a very pleasant, fresh and creamy profile with an excellent fruitiness. Finish: long, more peppery and gingery. A lot of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: all much to my liking, Dailuaine is big whisky. SGP:652 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the crazy, pirouetting piano of Phineas Newborn Jr., with Sometimes I'm happy (from Look Out: Phineas Is Back, 1976, another gem from Pablo Records). Phineas was amazing, please buy his music.


November 15, 2011


Tasting six old Glen Grant

Glen Grant

Glen Grant 33 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/-1980) Four stars and a half An old no-vintage version, most probably distilled in the 1940s. At 40% vol., it’s a perfect starter… Colour: full gold. Nose: a fantastic combination of cigarette tobacco (say a pack of Camels), metal polish, humus and beeswax at first nosing, with much elegance and that ‘antique’ side that’s so pleasant in these old-old whiskies (old bottle of old whisky). Goes on more towards figs and milk chocolate, honey, ‘yellow’ (flor, vin jaune) and fresh mint, camphor and eucalyptus (yes, Vicks). Wonderful. Mouth: why were old whiskies at 40% vol. more potent that new whiskies at 40% vol.? That’s another mystery… Anyway, this one starts with a little dry tea and goes on with many dried fruits, something slightly leathery, touches of honey, gingerbread and then something faintly cardboardy (or unsweetened tea again). Loses steam a bit but that’s pretty normal. Finish: maybe a little short but some very notes of bitter oranges and cinnamon show off. Cinnamony and even slightly sooty aftertaste. Comments: excellent despite a palate that can be a tad too dry – hence a lower-than-90 score. SGP:362 - 89 points.

Glen Grant

Glen Grant 34 yo 1974/2009 (51.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16575, 179 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one has much more fudge, honey and cake (orange), then touches of mead and maple syrup. Develops more on fresh fruits (apples, gooseberries) as well as quite some vanilla, with a slight roughness behind all that and something a little almondy (kirsch). With water: more kirsch and other stone fruit eau-de-vie. Mouth (neat): all on garden fruits, the whole being nervous and a tad spirity again (yes, kirsch again). Honey sauce, toasted brioche. With water: became a tad more estery and oaky at the same time. Strong rosehip tea. Finish: medium long, on even more eau-de-vie. White pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: like many Glen Grants from those batches, it’s all a tad rough and ‘unpolished’ in my opinion, but it’s very good old whisky for sure. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Glen Grant

Glen Grant 36 yo 1975/2011 (50.7%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon, 127 bottles) Four stars and a half With strange mushrooms on the label. Magic mushrooms? We haven’t seen many 1975 Glen Grants so far… Will this be rather ‘1970’ or ‘1974’? Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it’s one of those ex-bourbon whiskies that smell a bit like ex-sherry (dry) at first nosing, which is something I enjoy. That means walnuts, gunpowder, leather, tobacco, cider apples, mint and just touches of ginger tonic. Niiiice. With water: more grass and leaves as well as touches of pineapples and bananas that come through after a while. That was funny. Mouth (neat): creamy and very, very fruity this time. Lemons and oranges in a gangue of pepper, ginger and cardamom. Oh, and strawberry drops. Pretty unusual. With water: what happens is the same as with the nose, more fresh and fruity, err, fruits. Pineapples… Finish: medium long, with a very nice combination of those fresh fruits with pepper and cinnamon. Comments: typical bottling by the Whisky Agency and gang. Either they are absolutely stellar, or there are very interesting. Well, this baby has a bit of both… SGP:551 - 89 points.

Glen Grant

Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry wood, 87 bottles) Five stars We’re much less in terra incognita with the 1972s. Many have been glorious! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s not a nose, it’s a sin. Stunning combination of thousands of dried fruits with dozens of spices and all things from a beehive. Honey, wax, pollen… And then the expected fruit jams. Plums. Excuse me, but wow. With water: and voilà, the mineral notes, tar, gunpowder, putty, propolis… It becomes even more complex. Mouth (neat): triple-whammy. Amazingly rich, jammy, honeyed, citrusy and delicately spicy. And chocolaty. The cloves are maybe a wee tad too loud but I’m really nitpicking. With water: less changes than with the nose. Maybe more herbal teas, as often. Quality’s extremely high. Finish: long, with the honeyed notes and the spices louder. Old pu-erh tea and earth in the aftertaste, as well as some cocoa and coffee. Comments: delightful. SGP:551 - 92 points.

Grant Scott

Glen Grant 1974/1999 (54.3%, Scott's Selection) Three stars and a half An older version, a good occasion to try it. Colour: gold. Nose: less oak, possibly because it’s younger than the others, and more earthy, humus-like tones. Other than that, some honey and quite some overripe apples and pears as well as, maybe, a faint soapiness. Water may straighten that out. With water: more mint and sawdust as well as more straight malt and grains. Porridge. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, starting a tad brutal that is. Burnt oranges? Other than that it’s pleasantly citrusy, with also notes of date liqueur like they make in the whole Middle East. Maybe the oak is a tad too loud now. With water: becomes fruitier, this baby swims much better on the palate. Also a little mulled wine (but white, not red). Finish: rather long, grassier this time. This baby kept changing. There’s even something slightly bubblegummy in the aftertaste, together with more spices (cloves). Maybe a tad bizarre… Comments: how would I put it… Maybe this Glen Grant is a tad too… unorthodox? But it’s interesting. You’re right, like many unorthodox things. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Glen Grant Bloomsbury

Glen Grant 27 yo 1975/2002 (58.7%, Bloomsbury Spirit, sherry cask) Four stars and a half Colour: deep amber/mahogany. Nose: powerful and pretty winey at first nosing, rather in a good way. Some rubber too, strawberry jam, prunes, chalk, chocolate… A big dram but it’s a little too aggressive for this sissy of a taster. So, with water: more gunpowder, leather, mushrooms, bacon, maybe touches of strawberry vinegar, old wine barrel… Mouth (neat): heavy fruity sherry, all on eaux-de-vie, sultanas and jams. Ultra-classic. With water: very good now, with tons of dried fruits, fruitcake, raisins, touches of aniseed and cinnamon, cloves, pepper… One to sip under the Christmas tree? Finish: long, with the spices more to the front and maybe something a wee tad metallic and gingery at the same time. Comments: all good, nearly perfect sherry maturation. SGP:652 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what, I hear some want more rock and roll? I would be happy to post the early Dr. Feelgood's entire discography but let's not do that... Why not some Pere Ubu for a change? Like the Texas Overture? Geniuses... Please buy Pere Ubu's and Mr. Thomas' musics.

Pere Ubu

November 2011 - part 1 <--- November 2011 - part 2 ---> December 2011 - part 1

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



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

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1966 (59%, OB, +/-1991)

Bowmore 1969/1978 (58%, OB, for Giaconne, Frechio & Frasa Import, sherry, cask #6635, 300 bottles)

Clynelish 12 yo 1984/1996 (61%, Glenhaven, single cask)

Clynelish 1982/2011 (53.7%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask ref #11015, 275 bottles)

Clynelish 28 yo 1982/2011 (43.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland)

Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry wood, 87 bottles)

Glenallachie 1974/2011 (49.4%, The Whisky Exchange for The Whisky Show, sherry wood)

Glenallachie 1973/2011 (44%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask ref #11018, 125 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1981/2011 (52.2%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon wood, 198 bottles)

Highland Park 1971/2011 (46.7%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 657 bottles)

Highland Park 1976/2011 (49.1%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 893 bottles)

Laphroaig 1998/2011 (59.8%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #5922, 144 bottles)

Laphroaig 13 yo 1998/2011 (60.8%, Single Malt Collection, bourbon hogshead, 256 bottles)

Ledaig 1998/2011 (61.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask ref #11010, 258 bottles)

Lochside 46 yo 1964/2011 (42.1%, The Whisky Exchange, single blend, cask #8970, 139 bottles)

Talisker 1958 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, black label, +/-1980)