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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2017 - Part 2

       

November 2017 - part 1 <--- November 2017 - part 2 ---> December 2017 - part 1

 

November 30, 2017


Whiskyfun

Young Ledaig

I say nothing about Ledaig, because last time I did, I caught a shovelful for that. So, yeah, we’re trying some Ledaig again… Or perhaps this, Ledaig’s a peated version of Tobermony (not kidding).

Ledaig 2005/2017 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, Hermitage wood finish, 4,100 bottles)

Ledaig 2005/2017 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, Hermitage wood finish, 4,100 bottles) Two stars and a half All right… Some finishing in some big red wine wood (I suppose that wasn’t white Hermitage)… Colour: apricot. Nose: so bizarre… Lapsang souchong and raspberry juice, old wood, muddy stuff, blackberry jam, wet dogs (sorry, dogs), strawberries… This really feels like two whiskies in one. Mouth: so funny indeed. Sam feeling of having two distinct parts, the smoky malt on one side, and a red berry cocktail on the other side. It’s not that it doesn’t work – actually, it does – but it’s just not what I’m looking for in my whiskies. Neither do I need this in my Hermitages, by the way (no kiddin’, S.) Finish: medium, surprisingly clean, and funnily in sync this time. Smoked raspberry jam. Comments: I don’t know, I really don’t know what to say. Oh, this, it was not a very smoky Ledaig. SGP:653 - 78 points.

Another option from G&M’s, perhaps…

Ledaig 2004/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, first fill and refill sherry hogsheads, casks # 16600503-16600506)Ledaig 2004/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, first fill and refill sherry hogsheads, casks # 16600503-16600506)

Ledaig 2004/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, first fill and refill sherry hogsheads, casks # 16600503-16600506) Five stars Colour: hay. Nose: bam! Pure oily peat, golden barley, sunflower oil, smoked butterscotch… It’s amazing to see how Ledaig got cleaner throughout the vintages. I get little sherry here, but I do get vanilla, and then more and more smoky mezcal. Love that. With water: that old tweed jacket after having spent a whole evening near a bonfire on the beach. Mouth (neat): that distillery near that cross on that shore on that island. Wonderful grapefruits, tar, smoked fish… With water: amazing grapefruits, tar, kippers… Finish: same for a long time. Brine-y aftertaste. Comments: I’m trying to remain very elliptic. Great smoky whisky, though. SGP:557 - 90 points.

Ledaig 2005/2017 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky)

Ledaig 2005/2017 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky) Five stars A simple feather light label, that’s perfect. Colour: gold. Nose: the cask has been active, this has got butterscotch, croissants, vanilla, also peat smoke, lit cigar, creosote, burnt parsley, roasted pecans, a touch of natural rubber… So not our average Ledaig, but this works greatly. With water: flabbergasting. Yeasty/smoky, as if they had distilled some manzanilla. Mouth (neat): amazingly sharp, millimetric, blade-y, lemony, smoky, and herbal. Caraway, chives, aniseed, juniper, all that being smoked to the bones. With water: perfect. What a spirit! And a superb wee sourness in the back, as in a great chenin. Blanc, that would be chenin blanc. Finish: long, very race-y, elegant, with just the right amount of lemons and peat smoke. Comments: ssshhh… SGP:467 - 91 points.

Ledaig 10 yo (57.4%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon hogshead, 2017)

Ledaig 10 yo (57.4%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon hogshead, 2017) Five stars A very small operation this, more boutique-y than the boutique-y boys, but I’ve tried some very good ones already. Plus, the labels are lovely. Colour: white wine. Nose: essentially young Ledaig, that is to say gathering bitter almonds, smoked tea, brine, sea shells, and hessian. And that old tweed jacket. With water: brine, smoke and lemon juice, that winning combo. Mouth (neat): amazing. Pure crystalline, and yet fat and oily, lemony, mezcaly peat. There. With water: so good! Finish: long, tarry, smoky, lemony, brine-y. A song that we all know well. Superb verbena in the aftertaste. Comments: OK I’ll say it, why isn’t modern A****g like this? Smashing, brilliant, fantastic… But yeah, ssshhh… SGP:457 - 91 points.

Hmm, I get the feeling that we could try to do a Ledaigathon, what do you think? There’s plenty of them, so this is a good occasion… Well, in that case, better try the official 10 before it’s too late…

Ledaig 10 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2017)

Ledaig 10 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars and a half I last tried this expression in 2012. I appreciated it… moderately (WF 80). Colour: white wine. Nose: fine, light, with whiffs of carbon paper and new leatherette, new plastic bags at the supermarket (banned in France, though), lemon zests, smoked tea, and coal/soot. It’s not big, but I think it’s cleaner than its earlier inceptions. Mouth: no, it’s good, really. It’s lacking a part of the lemony side that works so well with many young indies, but on the other hand, there are nice notes of coffee and vanilla, from the wood, most probably. That’s the problem with most distillery owners, they tend to overdo the oak part. But we’re fine here, it’s, well, a very fine dram. And hey, let’s remember that earlier official Ledaigs had been terrible, feinty, butyric, gym-socky, puk… Ok, ok, we’re all done here. Finish: medium, brine-y, a tad sour. Comments: a very, very fine Ledaig, for sure. It’s just that the thousands of indie bottlers around us are having even better ones these days. Only IMHO, of course. SGP:456 - 83 points.

Good, more next time...

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ledaig I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 29, 2017


Whiskyfun

A couple of Strathisla

Both indies, especially a new very old one from G&M’s racing team. G&M have always done a lot to promote Strathisla, haven’t they?

Strathisla-Glenlivet 20 yo 1997/2017 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles)

Strathisla-Glenlivet 20 yo 1997/2017 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: many orchard fruits (gooseberries and greengages, then apples and white peaches), as well as a little bubblegum and syrups. A wee touch of rubbery malt in the background, but I’m sure that’ll go away and quick once water’s been added. With water: indeed, that went away, while the whole got very barley-y. Barley water, sweet bread, maize… Mouth (neat): feisty, fruity, Gueuze-y, perhaps a little ‘too much’? More bubblegum, stewed peaches, and something really hot. Overcooked jam? With water: a little more citrus, always welcome. Finish: medium, very sweet and Haribo-y. Comments: it’s as if it was missing five or ten extra-years of maturation. It’s very, very good, but I think these restless fruits are staying in the way for a little too long. SGP:641 - 82 points.

Strathisla 1960/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Vintage, sherry butt, re-issued 2017)

Strathisla 1960/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Vintage, sherry butt, re-issued 2017) Five stars My year! We’ve already tried quite a few 1960 Strathisla by G&M, many have been excellent. And of course, we all love this marvellous old label that never changed and, hopefully, never will. Colour: coffee. Nose: amazingly rich, and yet elegant. I’m finding prunes and menthol at first, then hints of walnut stain, cedar wood (cigar box) and black tea, then rather fruit ganaches, cherry liqueur (guignolet), and some soft game. Grouse? A little Spanish ham as well, and let’s make it 5-bellotas! And while we’re at it, there are also whiffs of proper old PX from Jerez de la Frontera. A marvellous nose, and no over-oakiness that I can detect for the meantime. Mouth: some superb oak, which translates into walnuts, black tea, liquorice, and indeed a little cedar wood. What’s amazing is that it doesn’t seem to have lost one single ounce of fruit, as I’m finding a lot of tamarind, prunes, black raisins, and various kinds of big and small oranges, including the bitter ones. All that works in perfect sync, and tends to lead to a splendidly chocolaty middle. Finish: long, almost fat, fruity, with a lot of pipe tobacco, and no drying oak, even in the aftertaste. Bags of prunes. Comments: did you notice that this baby’s more than 50 years old? SGP:551 - 91 points.

Perhaps a bonus?

Strathisla 40 yo 1977/2017 (48.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, Book of Kells, refill American oak hogshead, 191 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo 1977/2017 (48.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, Book of Kells, refill American oak hogshead, 191 bottles) Five stars TWE have been firing on all (12) cylinders this autumn, haven’t they! Oh and that Book of Kells label, what a glory!... Colour: gold. Nose: I’m a bit surprised, since we’re rather used to those full-sherry old Strathislas by G&M, while this one’s very clean, almost millimetric, with pink bananas and ripe apples, as well as some very fresh orange cake and the subtlest honeyness. Wee whiffs of mushrooms, moss, humus, then peaches… A very elegant nose, very complex, but in these kinds of instances, the palates could be a little more tired, let’s see… Mouth: not at all. This is almost some perfect old artisanal cognac, with these bright peaches, apricots, and tiny fruity herbs. Or those flowers than you can eat, hibiscus, perhaps primrose, pansies… Extremely to my liking, this, partly for it’s quite unusual. Finish: medium, superbly honeyed, slightly liquoricy/mentholy, and a little balsamic in the end. Comments: a great one, rather unlike any other, from one of those difficult vintages. Many stranger ones have been distilled around 1977-1980 all over Scotland, if you ask me, but this one’s sublime. SGP:661 - 92 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Strathisla I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 28, 2017


Whiskyfun

Another little bag of undisclosed whiskies

As they come...

Speyside 16 yo ‘Black Friday’ (54.6%, The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, 582 bottles)

Speyside 16 yo ‘Black Friday’ (54.6%, The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, 582 bottles) Four stars and a half Of course I’m late. Black Friday was November 24th, but between us, I must confess I don’t really appreciate these kinds of commercial stunts. Black Friday, St. Patrick, Father’s Day… Bah… Colour: gold. Nose: sure it’s lovely, with cakes, brioche, vanilla, apple compote, and perhaps a touch of ripe kiwi. Fine, very fine. With water: orange cake! A must! Mouth (neat): perfect, I have to say. Sultanas, honeys, stewed pears, more brioche, and above everything, a perfect maltiness. With water: gets creamier, fuller, never rough, with a perfect maltiness, oranges, barley syrup, and more sultanas. Finish: medium, pastry-like, with oranges and apples tangoing in the aftertaste. Comments: I was too busy last week, I just couldn’t try this baby on time. But better late than never! Excellently Ballindallochian and, I’ve heard, sold out (in a flash). SGP:551 - 88 points.

Mystery Speyside 25 yo (45%, Billy’s Whisky Barrel for G&B Whiskyfest Ostende, 2017)

Mystery Speyside 25 yo (45%, Billy’s Whisky Barrel for G&B Whiskyfest Ostende, 2017) Four stars and a half Most sadly I couldn’t attend this year’s edition of the Ostende whisky festival. And yet, I could get some of their special bottlings, including this mysterious one that, I’ve heard, was infused with shrimp croquettes. Colour: white wine. Nose: good distillate, good moderately active cask, good length of maturing, and thus a perfect profile, as fresh as it gets, with this feeling of ‘a walk throughout an orchard’, plus touches of mint and fresh bread from the baker’s. Mouth: the parentage with the ‘Black Friday’ is totally obvious. Honey, ripe apples, barley, a pinhead of marmalade, and a little grape pip oil. Finish: rather long, with a very remote smokiness, some wax, a little green pepper, and more oranges than on an orange tree (pfff…) Earth in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good again. Well done Belgium! SGP:551 - 88 points.

Orkney 17 yo 2000/2017 (55.2%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead/PX, 366 bottles)

Orkney 17 yo 2000/2017 (55.2%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead/PX, 366 bottles) Two stars and a half This baby was finished in PX, something that I do not always enjoy – but there’s been exceptions, so let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: funny! You do get the PX, with some roasted sultanas, but you also get fumes, leatherette, and above everything, a lot of smoked ham. Coal tar, moscatel. This is a style I’ve not encountered very often in the past, let’s dig deeper… With water: gets cleaner, also spicier. Notes of rye, caraway… Mouth (neat): really creamy, and really unusual. Curry, ginger, moscatel, cinnamon, ripe strawberries, caraway… This is a true UFW (that would be unidentified flying whisky). With water: goes into several directions. Finish: medium, on peppered strawberries. Comments: I’ve first tried the wackier one amongst North Star’s new whiskies, you know. The others are much more… great, whereas this one was more… unlikely, but then again, only a personal opinion, as always. Try to try this very unusual baby! SGP:651 - 78 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all undisclosed malts I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 27, 2017


Whiskyfun

Three new top Highland Park

Aren’t Highland Park firing out new whiskies almost every week these days? This time it’s called ‘Full Volume’, perhaps does it go to eleven? And then we’ll have one or two more…

Highland Park 1999/2017 ‘Full Volume’ (47.2%, OB, bourbon)

Highland Park 1999/2017 ‘Full Volume’ (47.2%, OB, bourbon) Four stars For once this baby does not contain any sherry, it’s 100% ex-bourbon. The box’s shaped a bit like a Marshall amp, while the obligatory story goes like ‘the Master Whisky Maker ensures that every individual wave of flavour finds its perfect place in the beautifully harmonised final spirit.’ And why not!? Colour: white wine. Nose: a typical, slightly porridgy, slightly smoky, and partly honeyed and orange-y start, with then a growing earthiness, quite some raw malted barley, some light pipe tobacco, and certainly not too much vanilla (phew!) Tends to go towards orange juice and tonics. Mouth: very good! Starts with mint and green tea, while the oranges and tangerines are soon to join in, with also a little camphor and angelica. Lemon zests, drops of lapsang souchong, lemon pie… All fine, and the strength is perfect. I’m glad it’s not actually on ‘full volume’, we’re not having a Spinal-Tap moment. Finish: medium, clean, rather subtle, with a touch of salt and more oranges. Comments: an official that tastes like some very good independent, and that’s because there’s no sherry. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Highland Park 28 yo 1989/2017 (45.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles)

Highland Park 28 yo 1989/2017 (45.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles) Five stars More bourbon, what could go wrong? Colour: straw. Nose: so plainly and utterly similar! Just a tad rounder, perhaps a tad more buttery, and probably with a little more vanilla. The rest is almost identical, aroma for aroma. And guess what, we shan’t complain… Mouth: this time it’s more blade-y, sharper, cleaner, and tenser than the official. More lemon, smoke, smoked tea, brine, light wax, passion fruits, Ricola… It’s all just splendidly zesty and bright. Finish: long, well-chiselled, zesty and coastal, coated with tangerine jelly. Comments: I never quite manage to resist this kind of profile. A perfect natural old HP, just out this month. I know what I’d do… SGP:552 - 90 points.

Highland Park 1995/2017 (53.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #1498, 251 bottles)

Highland Park 1995/2017 (53.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #1498, 251 bottles) Four stars and a half There was a very good HP GM 1995 for TWE last year. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rounder yet, rather with raisins and cakes this time, and this leafy thing that often comes from sherry casks, beyond anything raisiny. Some menthol too, menthol cigarettes, peach leaf tea, then more humus, earth, and the obligatory heather honey. With water: gets more barley-y, malty, and slightly yeasty (which I always enjoy). Mouth (neat): speaks bourbon rather then sherry this time. Some rather sublime notes of fir honey, granny smith, a hint of sandalwood, and always this humussy earthiness. With water: a tad rounder than the 1989, but this zestiness is perfect. Do they grow lemon trees on Orkney? Don’t laugh, I know where to find some in Scotland! Finish: medium, perfect, with honey, brine, and granny smith again. Works a treat. Comments: tops! SGP:452 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 26, 2017


Whiskyfun

Malternatives of Gascony

Indeed that would be armagnac. Well, armagnac in French, and Armagnac in English. Ha. Bas-armagnac this time, to be more precise…

Marcel Trépout 8 ans d’âge ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Marcel Trépout 8 ans d’âge ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half It is said that the Palais de l’Elysée are presenting some of their visitors with bottles of Marcel Trépout armagnac. The estate is located in Vic-Fezensac, in the Gers region, but as often with armagnac, you’ll find contradictory stories on the web. For example, is this own estate or rather ‘négociant’ armagnac? Hard to find a reliable answer… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a fresh and fruity one, with notes of sultanas and nectarines at first nosing, then rather grasses, leaves, and stems, then rather liquorice and touches of menthol. Some easy and fresh young armagnac, but there isn’t much oomph. So far. Mouth: it’s got this gritty roughness that’s typically armagnac, the leafy notes playing first fiddles this time, then we have notes of oranges and peaches, with a thin layer of liquorice. Relatively simple. Finish: rather short, but clean. More liquorice. Comments: a good fresh armagnac, not very broad, rather in the apéritif style. SGP:551 - 79 points.

Castarède 8 ans d’âge ‘Folle Blanche Brut de Fût’ (52%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #76, 2017)

Castarède 8 ans d’âge ‘Folle Blanche Brut de Fût’ (52%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #76, 2017) Four stars Castarède is a highly reputed house in Mauléon d’Armagnac. This is 100% folle blanche from their own estate (Château de Maniban), and bottled at natural cask strength. Colour: deep gold. Nose: whiffs of pencil shavings at very first nosing, as well as a little coffee (roasted beans), then sultanas and apricots, which is just perfect. A few notes of stewed vegetables, then flowers. Rather honeysuckle and hawthorn. With water: a wonderful honeyed development, this baby loves water. Maple syrup, preserved apricots… Mouth (neat): punchy and even heavy, thick, with a Macallany side (if I may), some cakes, more raisins (Corinthians), and roasted and caramelised pecans. A touch of tar and smoke. With water: cancel that thing about Macallan, this is well some creamy, fruity armagnac. Rather high class. Finish: rather long, with touches of triple-sec and a drop of pepper liqueur. Chestnut honey and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: this one’s plainly malternative. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Domaine de Charron 2007/2017 (46.6%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #53)

Domaine de Charron 2007/2017 (46.6%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #53) Four stars and a half This is 100% baco this time. This small estate in the Landes region only do natural cask strength. A favourite in the house… Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is a style that’s a little less traditional, with rather more oak influence, more spices (cinnamon) and, perhaps, more ‘malt’. This works a treat, with notes of spicy croissants, sawn cherry wood, and a pack of thin mints. Not obligatorily After Eights. Mouth: fantastic! It’s exploring new territories, with some sage, wormwood, eucalyptus, vanilla, more thin mints, spearmint, blood oranges, butterscotch, bourbon… This really is different. Perfect body. Finish: very long, spicy, coating. Pink pepper, prunes, mocha, marmalade… Comments: some exceptional, perfect young armagnac that might outshine many a Scottish malt whisky. Blind, naturally. SGP:562 - 89 points.

Domaine d’Ognoas 2000/2013 (46%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Domaine d’Ognoas 2000/2013 (46%, OB, Bas-armagnac) Three stars and a half This domaine is located in Arthez d’Armagnac. This is 70% ugni blanc and 30% folle blanche. Colour: amber. Nose: lovely, really, with touches of parsley and lovage at first, then some notes of well-polished rosewood, various honeys, preserved cherries and peaches, and some lighter kind of pipe tobacco. This is very elegant, we might even call it a little more ‘cognacqy’ than ‘armagacqy’. Hope I’m not ruffling any feathers… Mouth: I was wrong, this is clearly armagnac, with gritty notes of stems, grapes, green coffee, then peaches and apricots, and lastly, some slightly syrupy liqueurs. A wee sucrosity in the background, triple-sec, honey…. Finish: medium, rather grassier. Raisins, prunes, and grass. Oranges in the aftertaste, which I always like a lot. Comments: just super-good, if a little less ‘focussed’ than the Charron and the Castarède. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Domaine de Baraillon 1988/2013 (45%, OB, Bas-armagnac, folle blanche)

Domaine de Baraillon 1988/2013 (45%, OB, Bas-armagnac, folle blanche) Four stars From a little house in Lannemaignan. Apparently, this was bottled at cask strength, but remember they distil and fill the casks at approx. 52% in Armagnac. Colour: coffee. Nose: oh wow! An amazing round of chestnut honey, coffee, chocolate liqueur, and, well, dry old oloroso. Again, we’ve known old Macallans… Also wet earth, morels, and something game-y. Well-cured ham, rancio, cigars… Indeed, oh wow! Mouth: it’s huge, it’s totally old-school, it’s beautifully oaky, and it’s full of pine resin and dry ground black chocolate. You could say brandy de Jerez, but those are usually much sweeter, while this is bone dry. Finish: long, full of black bitter chocolate, coffee, and roasted chestnuts. Do you know Underberg? Comments: a little extreme, perhaps? Nah… SGP:371 - 87 points.

A last one…

Château de Lacaze 1975 (49%, Bordeneuve, Bas-armagnac, +/-2017)

Château de Lacaze 1975 (49%, Bordeneuve, Bas-armagnac, +/-2017) Three stars and a half This house is located in Eauze. They bottle and distribute various estates. Colour: amber. Nose: right, just as in whisky, age brings complexity. In this case, we’re finding a rather intricate combination of earth and old nuts (no, I’m meaning hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts…), then a rather drier honey, cane syrup, raisins of course, and many pastries. A light rancio, and a pinhead of Marmite plus a touch of mint. Perhaps a little camphor as well. Mouth: totally and plainly old armagnac, with this gritty side (crunching grapes) mingling with oriental flavours, rosewater, Turkish delights… And then the expected earth, cigars, prunes, toffee, marmalade… Finish: rather long, a tad oaky ‘of course’, and rather more mentholy and pine-y. Cinnamon, clove, and pepper in the aftertaste. Quite a lot of clove, and quite a lot of cinnamon. Earthy black tea. Comments: flies high, but as in many an old armagnac, the oak started to show. But as they say at whisky clubs, I wouldn’t drink Loch Dhu instead. SGP:461 - 83 points.

(Merci beaucoup, Francesco!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Armagnac I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 24, 2017


Whiskyfun

Bowmore adlib

It was about time we tried some Bowmore again. Because Bowmore is a must-taste at any serious blogging entity, whether it’s independent or industry-embedded. No?

Bowmore 17 yo ‘White Sands’ (43%, OB, +/-2017)

Bowmore 17 yo ‘White Sands’ (43%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars This is exactly not what Bowmore are doing, but we’ve noticed that some distillers were launching a new, for example ’15 years old John Smith Edition’, only to drop the age statement a few months/years later, coming up simply with a ‘John Smith Edition’. Many people will be completely fooled – but of course not us, eh! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s relatively round and even fattish for Bowmore, with rather more custard and syrups than usual, and more sweet oak and soft fruits. So do not expect any peaty or coastal blast, although it does have such notes. Kelp, smoked fish… It’s just soft and rather discreet, a trend that can be spotted elsewhere on the island. Mouth: really soft, but well balanced. There’s some fresh oak, with vanilla, coconut water and pineapple (that pina colada effect from active American oak), then quite some soft sunflower oil, and just a touch of salt/brine. Finish: medium, fruity, easy. Comments: totally not one of our beloved blade-y Bowmores, and it does feel a tad ‘lab’, but it just won’t infuriate anyone. Very easy on the smoke. Good easy Bowmore for everyone. SGP:643 - 81 points.

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017)

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017) Four stars Still the older livery. An arch-classic Bowmore. Some periods have been difficult (terrible in the early 2010s), but I noticed very recent batches were recovering fast. There’s also a newish ‘deep and complex’ version around, but that should not suggest the regular 18 is neither deep not complex. Well, I suppose, let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: no f**** lavender that I can detect, those years were over when this was distilled. Phew! Smoked oranges, blond tobacco, dried kelp, blood oranges, a little olive brine, and just a little caramel ‘from the pan’. Mouth: do I notice some nods to Lagavulin 16? Same kind of orange-y, leathery, tobacco-ish, salty arrival, then many oranges. This is much peatier than that White Sands, much fuller, and much more assertive, as they say. Finish: rather long, full, on some kind of salty oranges. Comments: full form again, I do confirm. Well, only a personal opinion, as always. And adios lavender, and adios violets. SGP:555 - 87 points.

Bowmore 10 yo 'Tempest' (54.9%, OB, Batch #6, 2015)

Bowmore 10 yo 'Tempest' (54.9%, OB, Batch #6, 2015) Three stars and a half Yes I’m late. Remember, the Tempests are all ex- 1st fill bourbon cask, but I thought quality had dropped a bit between batches 1 and 4. Colour: straw. Nose: not complex, even a little simple, but there’s a nice balance between the mango-ish side and smoky/briny one. Sauvignon Blanc. With water: easier on the tropics and with more Islayness. I’m meaning burning seaweed and such. Now a little coconut remains there, and that’s the oak. Mouth (neat): maybe a bit heavy on the oak indeed. A lot of pinesap and vanilla, then chamomile and verbena, then smoked/salted lemon juice. Actually, I really enjoy this. With water: yes, really good, just a little simple. It’s rather the sweet oak that speaks out, but that works. Its just that you don’t feel much ‘time’. Finish: medium to long, certainly quite American-oaky. Pineapple in the aftertaste (see…) Comments: there is a wee feeling of whisky ‘made in the lab’, but technically speaking, it’s perfect. SGP:545 - 83 points.

I few want some sharper ones, we’ll have to go to the IBs, as always…

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, cask #12765, 341 bottles)

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, cask #12765, 341 bottles) Five stars This one shouldn’t be doped. Colour: white wine. Nose: they’ll call me Nostradamus one day. Indeed, this is much closer to the spirit, sharper, cleaner, better chiselled, with more brine, smoke, oysters, hessian, and just anything from the ocean. Including diesel oil and old tarry ropes. With water: … and Islay mud after the rain. So, every day ;-). Mouth (neat): impeccable. Brine, lemon, smoke, mezcal, and rather more medicinal notes than in other Bowmores. Antiseptics. With water: no literature needed, this is perfect Bowmore, close to the distillate. And the distillate being splendid, why hide it behind planks? I mean… Finish: medium, clean, zesty and salty, all perfect. Comments: what it’s not is ueber-complex. But in cases such as this one, nobody should care. After all, it’s only 14. SGP:457 - 90 points.

Let’s try this close sister…

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks # 815801-815810, 3615 bottles)

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks # 815801-815810, 3615 bottles) Four stars and a half From this lovely series by Ian McLeod, formerly known as Chieftain’s Choice. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, I’m wondering why the distillers themselves do not have such bottlings. Crisp, pure, and close to the distillate. Distillers => distillate, wouldn’t that make sense? But enough with those stupid rants, this is just classic, very nice, fresh, and coastal Bowmore. Smoke, leaves, lemon, seawater, shells… Mouth: this is simply fully Bowmorean. Bowmoresque? Bowmory? Lemons, seawater, kippers, and lime and grapefruits. Perhaps one drop of passion fruit juice, for the record. I could drink the whole batch, seriously. Finish: medium, a tad saltier. Excellent. Comments: … it’s like if you owned a new 911, you wouldn’t add any tuning accessories, would you? SGP:457 - 88 points.

Bowmore 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11590, 291 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11590, 291 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: there. With water: there. Mouth (neat): there. With water: there. Finish: there. Comments: seriously, this is another well-chiselled, yet rather (even) more angular than others Bowmore, with chalk, lemons, smoke, citrons, and, most importantly, many sweet and fruity herbs. There’s some fresh apricot jam, something that’s rarely to be found in Bowmore, in my meagre experience. The whole’s extremely good. Just totally love it (I think you made your point, S.) Also love the medicinal side (antiseptics, again – this will cure you). Bottles of this needed. SGP:557 - 91 points.

Bowmore 30 yo (56.1%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, refill hogshead, 507 bottles, 2017)

Bowmore 30 yo (56.1%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, refill hogshead, 507 bottles, 2017) Two stars and a half We’ve already found some superb whiskies in this series by HL, but a 30 yo Bowmore that was bottled this year may contain some of those foul vintages… Ah the 80s! Shall we find some FWP (copyright Brian)? Or not? Colour: gold. Nose: well, the answer is yes and no. There is this feeling of ‘a new pack of lavender sweets’, and perhaps even a little air freshener, and even raspberry gums, but the rest survived, with nice notes of old ropes, musty wine cellar, and heather honey (loud and clear). With water: chalk and incense, with a cologne-y side. Mouth (neat): really a matter of taste. Smoked heather and lavender, burnt herbs… Not too sure, really. With water: raspberry syrup, whacky herbs, scented soap. Finish: quite long. Orange syrup and more lavender stuff, plus toothpaste for kids. Comments: probably one of the best within those vintages, the problem is that I just hated those vintages at Bowmore. We found the lame duck within the Kinship series! (remember, a personal opinion only, some friends really like this period). An acquired taste, as they say; well as far as I’m concerned, I never quite acquired it. SGP:643 - 78 points.

Quick, some kind of redemption, hopefully…

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2017 (56.6%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, hogshead, cask #HL13390, 263 bottles)

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2017 (56.6%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, hogshead, cask #HL13390, 263 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: there, some perfect, very vertical Bowmore, with lemon grass, smoke, mercurochrome, seaweed, lemons, kippers, linseed oil, and seaweed (you’ve already mentioned seaweed, S., time to say night-night). With water: aluminium can and kiwi juice. Mouth (neat): wonderful, impeccable, thrilling, amazing (I have to make compensation for the Kinship’s score, you know). Seriously, it’s the most bitter one, and one of my favourite. We’re bordering manzanillaness. With water: perfect smoke, lemon, and ‘stuff’. I could drink the whole batch (once I’m finished with the Chieftain’s). Finish: medium, clean, zesty. Notes of green olives, that is nice. Perhaps a little lavend… I’m joking. Comments: simply perfect, and perfectly simple. Goodnight. SGP:456 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bowmore I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 23, 2017


Whiskyfun

Craigellachie, as many as we can, with a breathtaking ending

Yeah well, not really. But Craigellachie a.k.a. Craig’ is another name that we’re seeing more and more often in all corners of the whisky world, especially at the indies’ who seem to have plenty these days. And let’s not forget that the owners are doing a tremendous job with it these days…

Craigellachie 2008/2014 (46%, Spirit & Cask, cask #1441)

Craigellachie 2008/2014 (46%, Spirit & Cask, cask #1441) Three stars A fairly young one to prepare our palate… Mind you, it’s five or six years old! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: a baby whisky indeed, nicely malty, simple, well balanced, with some vanilla, shortbread, and stewed apples. Elementary and good. Mouth (neat): good, cake, sweet bread, custard, drops of orange juice, a touch of grass, hints of lemon… Indeed, elementary and good. Finish: medium, nice, lemony, malty, grassy. Comments: the fact that they have millions of such casks sleeping over there in Scotland does not detract from the fact that this a jolly good, flawless, easy spirit, worth a very good score in my book. But what was it again? SGP:441 - 82 points.

Another youngster…

Craigellachie 9 yo 2007/2016 (48.6%, Maltbarn, sherry)

Craigellachie 9 yo 2007/2016 (48.6%, Maltbarn, sherry) Four starsColour: golden straw. Nose: tons of cornflakes and popcorn, then butterscotch and shortbread. Add a spoonful of acacia honey, one of custard, and a good chunk of white chocolate, then perhaps a wee glass of late-harvest pinot gris. There. Mouth: indeed, in some cases, excellence knows no age. Not saying this is very complex, but balance and ‘general feeling’ are pretty perfect here, thanks to a good sherry cask. Some raisins, more butterscotch, more custard, orange zests, biscuits, a touch of caraway (sign of some rather active wood) and then more lemon. Lemon will save many a dram. Finish: medium, full, rather on lemon tarte. With meringue, s’il-vous-plaît. Comments: an excellent well-cared-of youngster. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Craigellachie 11 yo 2006/2017 (60.7%, Single Cask Collection)

Craigellachie 11 yo 2006/2017 (60.7%, Single Cask Collection) Three stars and a half More data to come. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: really raw, with some cut grass, exhaust fumes, paraffin, apple peel, lanoline… And some cane syrup in the background. A little mysterious, this. With water: nice touches of pineapples, all-Vitamin fruit juice, fresh pastries… Some youth shows, but that’s all right. Mouth (neat): pure lemon and apple juices, fifty-fifty. With water: another one that’s pleasantly elementary. Apple juice, lemon rinds, muesli. Finish: same, with good length and freshness. Green tea in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: perfectly palatable, flawless, and simple. How many casks again? SGP:551 - 83 points.

And now a flight of 21 yos…

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry butt, cask #13740, 587 bottles)

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry butt, cask #13740, 587 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: artichokes and used matches a first sniffings, then a lot of tobacco (both pipe and cigars), then much more marmalade, raisins, leather, and a very large walnut cake. With water: older walnuts, malt, leather, and a little pine wood smoke. Or cones. Asparagus. Mouth (neat): that some sherried Craigellachie would resemble some Macallan won’t surprise us. That’s totally the case here, with these leathery prunes and raisins, a rather extravagant mentholness (hey!?), and a bag of quinces and kumquats. I like this palate much better than the nose, I have to say. With water: kumquat-forward! Finish: rather long, oloroso-y, on a sweet bitterness, Seville oranges, spicy chutneys… Comments: not the smoothest ex-butt whisky ever, but it does deliver. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (59%, Hunter Laing, First Editions, sherry butt, cask #HL13305, 282 bottles)

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (59%, Hunter Laing, First Editions, sherry butt, cask #HL13305, 282 bottles) Three stars From a sister cask, I suppose… Colour: amber. Nose: no copy-and-pasting allowed on Whiskyfun, that would be too easy, but frankly, this is extremely similar. Same start on used matches, same development on tobacco and walnuts… Let’s say this one’s a little more mushroomy and earthy. With water: game and old balsamico, cooked oysters, black pudding, vase water… Not too sure it swims well, to tell you the truth. Mouth (neat): really, we’re very close, this one being just a little more extreme. For example, there are also metallic touches, as well as even more walnuts, which makes you think of some kind of very old fino sherry. With water: careful with water! Gets disjointed, should you add too much of it, two drops are enough. Finish: long, drying, on tea and chocolate. Comments: I think I liked the very good OMC better. Let them do any reduction themselves! SGP:362 - 82 points.

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11769, 290 bottles)

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11769, 290 bottles) Four stars and a half This one should be cleaner, according to the much paler colour… Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes, cleaner, and brighter, and much more on herbal teas. Honeysuckle, dog rose, chamomile, star anise… This is totally lovely! Including the sultanas and the dried apricots that are sitting on this cake. So to speak. With water: grandma’s pear cake. Dried rambutans. Mouth (neat): even more pears this time, bags of pears of all kinds, including these very specific notes of williams pears. Never found this many pears in any whiskies, Glenfiddich included. With water: more pears, with some fudge and toffee. I rather love this. Finish: medium, a tad sharper, but the pears keep singing. Comments: you would almost believe this is williams pear eau-de-vie matured for decades in a very good cask. SGP:551 - 88 points.

More, please…

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2016 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11343, 504 bottles)

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2016 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11343, 504 bottles) Five stars Well, not sure we’ll find that many pears in this one… Colour: pale gold. Nose: no, not pears this time, rather pine resins and saps, that famous walk in a forest with many mushrooms, old books (Jean-Paul Sartre, how about him?), and some kind of old white Bourgogne that would have gone a little off-track. With water: oh, parsley and lovage! I’m a sucker for those in whisky! Mouth (neat): oh good, very good! Bright, a tad mentholy and ‘properly bitter’ at first, then cake-y, but we’re talking oriental cakes. Baklavas, makrouts, angel hair,  all that… It is wonderful, I think. With water: perfect, waxy, very complex, with many herbs and many soft spices. Finish: why does it have to finish? Anyway, the finish is perfect. Comments: isn’t it great, when you’re exploring these large series, to come across some pure gem that could have gone un-noticed? SGP:461 - 91 points (I’ve added one point to make sure that this will get noticed, ha-ha).

I had thought the OB that we’ll have as the last Craig’ today would have won it, and easily. But after the latest DL, I’m not too sure about that anymore…

Craigellachie 18 yo 1999/2017 (54.1%, OB, Exceptional Cask Series, barrel, cask #302656)

Craigellachie 18 yo 1999/2017 (54.1%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Exceptional Cask Series, barrel, cask #302656) Five starsTremble, mere mortal… Colour: pale gold. Nose: what? Chalk? Limestone? Damp clay? Plaster? This is completely different, from another register, and yet I love this kind of nose that I would call ‘Sancerre-y’, and when I say Sancerre, I’m meaning Chavignol. Wine geeks will understand… So, chalk so far. With water: a superb mineral nose indeed. This is whisky for wine people. I mean, white wine people. Mouth (neat): oh my god, this is Prost vs. Senna. Custard and high-end cider mixed with crushed chalk, plus some macha tea. Ooh, a close call, for sure, as this is magnificent. With water: it’s going to be a tie, but it’s about time you’d call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. Finish: long, splendid, greatly chiselled, mineral and lemony. A little vanilla in the aftertaste, but hat is all right. Comments: there’s an Old-Clynelish quality to this wee Craigellachie. Exceptional Cask? No marketing, plain truth. Who said ‘for once’, who? SGP:452 - 91 points.

I know, I know, okay, an older OB…

Craigellachie 31 yo (52.2%, OB, batch #04-6137, 2016)

Craigellachie 31 yo (52.2%, OB, batch #04-6137, 2016) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s simply got more tiny aromas from longer aging in good wood, in this case wee flowers and a few lactic smells. Don’t get me wrong, this is pretty perfect. I especially enjoy these notes of wormwood, genepy, chamomile, cumin seeds, hay… With water: metal polish, old copper coins, rhubarb, cress… The kind of notes that only come with proper aging! HInts of pineapple and coconut, that must be the cask. Mouth (neat): superb, really. It’s all on herbs, and we’re really getting into tinier ones this time. Borage, woodruff, celery, sweetgrass, wild carrots… This kind of profile is rare, and should be cherished. We could take care of that, Bacardi… With water: gets Thai. Seriously, we’re having Thai food now, with this superb bittersweet and spicy style, in all elegance. Finish: rather long, getting a tad oaky now, which will make it lose two points in my book. Dura Lex, sed Lex. Comments: so yeah, same score yet again. Superlative whiskies, lets’ just hope that their famous neighbours will manage to produce this perfect kind again in the future, because at the moment... SGP:561 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Craigellachie I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 21, 2017


Whiskyfun

Two whiskies of Jerez

It’s while in Jerez last week that beyond the terrific finos, palos and amontillados (not too forget Sanlucar’s manzanillas, a proper steal at between 6 and 10€ a bottle), we came across some rare whiskies ‘made’ by some of the larger bodegas. Of course, we couldn’t not try them…

Nomad Outland Whisky (41.3%, OB, Gonzalez Byass, blended whisky, +/-2017)

Nomad Outland Whisky (41.3%, OB, Gonzalez Byass, blended whisky, +/-2017) Three stars and a half A strange idea, some Scottish blend finished for one year in some PX casks, right in Jerez at Gonzalez Byass instead of in Scotland. Does that make it a Spanish whisky? Not too sure, but it’s advertised as ‘breaking the unwritten rules of whisky’. Colour: amber. Nose: rather fresh and rounded, with notes of ripe pears, pear liqueur, a little caramel, ad getting drier after five seconds, rather on hay and English tea (breakfast blend). A rather pleasant nose, not too fluffy. Then rather walnut cake, with some toffee and fudge. Mouth: really nice, on mocha, cappuccino, raisins, fudge, a touch of nutmeg, bergamot, a wee bit of caraway… Good work by Gonzalez’s own Richard Paterson, Antonio Flores. Finish: unexpectedly long, on pear cake, raisin, and a little cinnamon. Salted butter fudge in the aftertaste. Comments: some excellent surprise, and without any cloyingly sticky PX notes (whisky’s newer botox). SGP:551 – 84 points.

Valdespino ‘Malt Whisky’ (43.5%, OB, blended malt, +/-2017)

Valdespino ‘Malt Whisky’ (43.5%, OB, blended malt, +/-2017) Two stars This is a blend of +/-80% Spanish malt whisky (DYC?) with +/-20% Scotch malt, further aged in truly old ex-solera oloroso and palo cortado butts for around ten years. Not bespoke seasoned sherry casks! Colour: gold. Nose: surprisingly light, cake-y, dry, with notes of cornflakes, cut grass, and a little burnt caramel. It’s easy, rather simple, and rather in blend territories instead of malt. Reminds me of VAT69. Mouth: rather fair, with cereals, touches of molasses, toasted bread, a little chlorophyll. Gets then dry, grassier, a little burnt. Burnt bread forgotten in the toaster, walnuts. Finish: medium, dry. More grass, burnt caramel, toasted bread. Comments: quite good, but dispensable. To be sipped while in Jerez, while admiring some of those wonderful black sherry botas. SGP:351 - 74 points.

 

 

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November 20, 2017


Whiskyfun

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild, back from Jerez
Angus  

Notes From Jerez...

It is testament to the quality and character of the sherries we tasted in Jerez that the whiskies really took something of a back seat throughout the week we were there. And what a week it was! For all the bluster and marketing gruel spooned out about sherry casks by the whisky industry, if you want to truly understand what a 'sherry cask' is in terms of modern whisky maturation then you should go and visit Jerez and its remarkable winemakers.

 

The difference between a traditional sherry cask and the journey they undergo - the 'curation' if you like - and the brand new, wood technology laden cheap Oloroso seasoned examples, is quite staggering. If they even actually come from the sherry producing region at all.  

 

However, the trip was not a negative one. If anything it was celebratory and revelatory in the truest senses of those words. We all came away with deep and lasting impressions about the beauty of the various traditional types of sherry produced there and the skills and passion of the people that make them. As a trip it was both humbling and profound; joyful and, as ever with these mini adventures, far too short!

 

 

The following is a selection of some of the sherried whiskies that various friends brought along to open on the trip. We had discussed making a list or some notes for the numerous terrific sherries that we tried but we felt that perhaps it would not have done the liquids due justice.

 

 

Glen Olo 10 yo ‘Old malt whiskies’ (no less than 75 proof, El Vino & Co Ltd., bottled 1970s)

Glen Olo 10 yo ‘Old malt whiskies’ (no less than 75 proof, El Vino & Co Ltd., bottled 1970s) A rare bottling from the 1970s by London based wine merchant El Vino. At the time they had their own sherry casks which they would fill whiskies into. There are some Bunnahabhains and Highland Parks out there as well with a similar label. I assume from the label wording that this must be a blended malt - although whether it was fully matured in El Vino’s sherry casks or just finished I’m not sure. Colour: Teak. Nose: Polished leather, stewed prunes, figs, überchocolate, praline, mole sauce. It’s a deep, bassy, richly earthy and minty sherry. These kinds of thin after eight mints with touches of garden peat, forest mulch, wet leaves and cocoa powder. A rising sootiness with time along with some aromas of burnt fir wood.

 

 

Mouth: Again superbly rich, herbal and resinous. A beautifully nervous and bristling sherry character. Some notably peppery notes and a little chilli heat. The kind of old school, ancient sherry cask style which is totally extinct in whisky these days. More bitter dark chocolate, dark fruit compote, Guinness cake and crushed pecan nuts. Some graphite, espresso, walnut oil, a lick of creosote and some pine resin. Finish: Long, with a soft and lingering earthiness, sultanas and some rather spicy, vigorous tannins. Comments: If it’s a finish there is no sign of it whatsoever. Majestic old style sherry and a surprisingly powerful and muscular palate. Although the mouth does remain slightly too bitter which prevents it from going over the 90 mark but it’s a fine, old style sherried dram. SGP: 452 - 88 points.  

 

Port Ellen 28 yo 1978/2006 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, 212 bottles) Port Ellen 28 yo 1978/2006 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, 212 bottles) Colour: Light amber. Nose: Coal hearths and welly boots. A big and pure Port Ellen character. Tar, fish nets, rope and a rather crystalline peat with hessian and various smoked fish notes such as kippers and smoked mussels in brine. Some lemon rind, wet beach pebbles and grilled oysters. Very coastal notes of dried kelp (always good to toss in some kelp as Marcel helpfully suggests) Serge follows this up with the rear right tyre of a 1976 Porsche 930 turbo after a lengthy session on the Nurburgring - I can’t confirm this personally but Serge has a high racing pedigree I’m told. Maybe it’s just the atmosphere but there’s also a hint of a rather potent Manzanilla. Saline, brisk and full of Atlantic vigour and ozone. With water: Creosote, much more earthiness - maybe even some hints of rancio or balsamico - then more mineral aspects such as wet gravel and beach sand.  

 

Mouth: Rather typically dirty, oily, fishy and great. A dead fish on Santa Lucina beach found by a Scotsman in damp socks (thanks Phil!). Elsewhere there is mercurochrome, TCP, smoked mead, peat oils and further dunnage notes of earth, hessian, camphor and lamp oil. A big Port Ellen, full of bluster, oils, salt, medicine and this ever-present grubby quality that is so typical of Port Ellen at these ages. Serge finds it veers a tad too close towards sweetness, however, he enjoys these elusive notes of a late-night, part time flamenco dancer (I don’t know either). With water: a few glimmers of green fruits, some more rope and hessian notes. More tar - tar liqueur - dried herbs and some cured meats. Finish: Lengthy, oily, tarry and inevitably earthy with that unshakeable and charming PE dirtiness. Comments: A rather great Port Ellen. It’s quite tough as so many of these casks are but it’s undeniably impressive whisky. The sherry and the whisky are perhaps not totally integrated, which is the only flaw of any real note. SGP: 347 - 90 points.  

 

Braes of Glenlivet 19 yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #9294, 658 bottles) Braes of Glenlivet 19 yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #9294, 658 bottles) Colour: Gold (or ‘Kumquat orange’ according to Jeroen). Nose: A mix of nuts - trail mix that sort of thing - barley, cereals, some buttered toast, some orange peel and some pleasingly light touches of wax and motor oil. Truth be told it’s somewhat boring. There’s also some milk chocolate, some Guinness (Serge drinks it by the flagon, you’d be surprised), bran flakes, golden grahams (clearly this is a breakfast whisky). With water: Greener and more floral with notes of crushed dock leaf, chocolate limes and millionaire shortbread.  

 

Mouth: It improves somewhat with these notes of beeswax, pollen, some sugar puffs, runny honey, a scattering of spices and then some green tea. With time some graphite oil, some dried herbs and a little bergamot. Pleasant but still a little mundane if truth be told. Although Serge finds some Export Guinness this time (he drinks the stronger stuff at weekends and during business meetings). I’d add a few mulling spiced as well. With water:  chocolate digestives, plums, orange oils and more sweet, baked goods. Serge says some kind of herbal tea but he is failing to identify which one. A short while later he declares it to be rosemary tea. Finish: A reasonable length. Jon declares it to be filled with notes of chocolate orange as he munches his way through a large slice of chocolate covered orange. There are some further notes of Darjeeling tea, liquorice, oatcake and a little flourish of chocolate. Comments: I remain somewhat unconvinced but Serge is adamant that it is ‘not too bad - seriously’. As he rightly notes: there are several notably superior sister casks which are quite a bit darker in colour. SGP: 541 - 84 points.  

 

Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #513-518) Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #513-518) A very rare one. We are excited. Colour: An aged mahogany castanet doused in VORS Oloroso. (Thanks to Phil and Jon for their peerless observations). Nose: Dense dried dark fruits - mostly dates and figs but also a few prunes. (Small figs, big figs, diced figs, figs from Turkey, figs from northern Yemen, dried figs, wet figs, old figs, figs with wifi, figs that might fly...) Dark chocolate, wet earth (possibly the earth underneath a fig tree) and a few dried herbs. Marcel suggests - incorrectly - that there may be sulphur. But he is, as you might well imagine, wrong. Maduro cigars, black olives, umami paste, Toscani cigars (I think Serge wants a cigar), a few hints of wild strawberry and eventually some sarsaparilla root. With water: a little softer and breadier in some ways but also fatter and more emphatic. More peppery, more fruity, more tertiary notes of toasted seeds and now also coal scuttles and hints of tar and lapsang souchong.  

 

Mouth: Huge, dense and dripping with treacle, bitter chocolate, earth, fig rolls, dates, muesli, strawberry liqueur, cocktail bitters and mulling spices. Some green pepper, salted liquorice, old pipe tobacco and aged balsamico. Also an intermittent and beautifully subtle rancio. Serge wishes to add the blackest of black pepper. Pepper and cloves. He thinks it is really peppery. With water: Beautiful! Wonderfully earthy, oily and alive with dried fruits, molasses, aged cognac, rum soaked sultanas and some caramelised Demerara sugar. Finish: wonderfully long and echoing with wet earth, dried leaves, coal hearths, balsamic, raspberry compote... the list goes on and on. Majestic! Comments: Not really a surprise, but an utter pleasure. Another of these poetic old sherry casks married with terrific distillate. SGP: 552 - 93 points.  

 

Macallan-Glenlivet 29 yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1058, 256 bottles) Macallan-Glenlivet 29 yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1058, 256 bottles) Colour: Amber. Nose: A honeycomb. Pollen, beeswax, honeysuckle and wild flowers all caught up in a soft, undulating and superbly elegant waxiness. Many honeys and honeydews. Some mirabelle jam and quince jelly. Notes of green and mint teas, lamp oil, menthol, eucalyptus oil and then some beautifully subtle herbal notes which converge on old yellow Chartreuse. Goes on with mothballs, cough syrup, cherry tunes and various other subtle medical notes. Some tobacco leaf notes, a cigar humidor and an old pipe. Rather excellent and straightforward. Not overtly complex but all the flavours and beautiful and precise.  

 

Mouth: A cavalcade of honeys, resins, waxes, fruit compotes and crystallised fruit peels. More herbs, some old spice boxes, coal, earth, maraschino cherries and then more of these dunnage notes which also suggest paraffin wax and assorted green fruits. Maybe a little coconut as well. Feels again quite soft and straightforward but still very beautiful. At this point Serge apologises but he is finding figs again. Finish: Long and mentholated with more notes of aged tobacco and soft wood spices. Comments: Amazing old Macallan. The kind of bottle which is totally embarrassing to taste next to many of the modern bottlings. SGP: 431 - 93 points.   

 

Glen Albyn 34 yo 1967 (51.3%, Kingsbury, cask #3920, 239 bottles) Glen Albyn 34 yo 1967 (51.3%, Kingsbury, cask #3920, 239 bottles) Colour: Mahogany. Nose: A rather earthy sherry with many notes of precious hardwoods, cloves, cigar humidors, dried mushroom powder, tobacco leaf and a slightly salty note, reminiscent of an old Palo Cortado. Also rather meaty with notes of beef stock, marmite, cured pork and a background note of earthen floor and camphor. Really rather dense and organic with an elegant complexity that veers globally towards earthiness. There are fruits in the form of dark, dried fruits and various fruit compote. Some figs, which Serge will be pleased to hear I’m sure. With time some notes of old balsamico and farmyard emerge, which I find quite ‘Glen Albyn-ey’. With water: Ahh, more fruits! Fresh strawberries, more figs, some dates and then even something that alludes to medicine with these notes of distant cough medicine.  

 

Mouth: There is a strangeness to it undeniably. Notes of flat coca cola, soft green fruits, molasses and pomegranate syrup. But also a continuation of these earthy qualities. Some walnut wine, balsamic, flat root beer and more of these slightly salty marmite notes. A scraping of marmite across buttered, warm brown toast. With water: Now more raisins, treacle sponge, tamarind jam, more crushed nuts (ouch!) and more notes of cola cubes and cured meats. Finish: Long and converging on menthol, mint tea, motor oil, paraffin and some black pepper and black olives in oil. Some fading herbal notes as well. Comments: I think the cask was really great here and did a lot of the leg work, but of course 1960s Glen Albyn was also a bit more positively characterful than some of the rather more funky 1970s  counterparts. All in all this is rather delicious stuff! SGP: 432 - 91 points.  

 

Glen Mhor 20 yo 1965/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, Sherrywood) Glen Mhor 20 yo 1965/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, Sherrywood)   Colour: Amber. Nose: Moss, wet earth, walnuts, aged oloroso, coal dust, old leather, a little wax and some hessian. Time brings out more obvious notes of raisins, cognac soaked sultanas, Dundee cake and damson jam. Goes on with more cakey and earthy notes, some VSOP Armagnac, some brambles and a few delicate touches of metal polish and eventual mineral notes. Furniture polish, chamois leather, steel wool, toasted sunflower seeds and some dried rosemary. Mouth: More earth, dunnage, hessian, prune juice, coal hearths, balsamico and a dollop of raspberry jam. Goes on with herbal liqueurs, some old Benedictine, then orange oils and orange bitters. Some gravel, aged pinot noir, a leafy tobacco note, lapsang souchong tea and some very soft notes of bergamot and bay leaf. Some maraschino notes and maybe a sip of a decent Old Fashioned. Finish: Drying, long and full of aged Boal Madeira, game notes like cured Pheasant, throat lozenges, boiler sheds and a resinous, crystalised fruit note. Comments: Again, these Inverness distilleries were really hitting higher notes in the 1960s. This is another terrific old Cadenhead dumpy and a really benchmark example of Glen Mhor. A very muscular and satisfying old highland style, sherried dram. SGP: 431 - 92 points.  

 

Thanks to Jeroen, Marcel, Patrick, Phil & Simon, Jon, Thomas, Hans, Serge, Luc, Emmanuel and, of course, el papá: Olivier. Muchas Gracias Olivier!  

 

 

November 19, 2017


Whiskyfun

Extreme malternatives,
Caroni to the dregs

I’ll say it again, I’m tasting rum from a whisky lover’s point of view, and I just cannot avoid comparing them to Scottish distilleries, which may infuriate many good people. So in my very simplistic world, Neisson is Macallan, Foursquare is Springbank, Hampden is Ardbeg, Worthy Park is Lagavulin, Diplomatico is Loch Dhu ;-), and Caroni is Port Ellen. So let’s have a few Port Ellens… I mean, Caronis. And vertically, at that! But first, two ‘light’ ones, because remember, Caroni were making both high-ester ‘heavy’ ones and lighter, lower-ester ones. Although it’s not all about esters, but anyway…

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 ‘light’ (55.2%, Velier, Trinidad, 820 bottles)

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 ‘light’ (55.2%, Velier, Trinidad, 820 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: not much tar indeed, but a lot of shoe and metal polish, with a feeling of petroly riesling that I just enjoy a lot. Walnut cake, smoked beef, oxtail soup, and the largest chocolate cake ever. With water: rather more metal polish, old copper kettle, old coins, old Jaguar… Mouth (neat): high oak extraction, huge liquorice, and a touch of citrus. This is almost liquid liquorice, in fact – and I love liquorice. With water: swims like a champ, really. Perfect diesely oranges and a few ashes. Works a treat. Finish: rather long, rather on oranges and smoke, and at times you’d think of Lagavulin 16 (some older White Horse bottlings). Comments: well, light, everything’s relative, as Einstein used to say (c’mon S., that was weaker than weak.) I found less oak than in other 1982s, which is good of course. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘light’ (59.2%, Velier, Trinidad, 1227 bottles)

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘light’ (59.2%, Velier, Trinidad, 1227 bottles) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: a pack of little bretzels, and then mole sauce, walnut stain, barbecued steak (burnt, really), chocolate, black tea, fumes, carbon paper, and a handful of coffee beans. Should sum it up. With water: gets very dry. Basalt, ink, lapsang souchong, coffee… Mouth (neat): almost agricole at first sips, with oranges and always this chocolaty, almost cake-y side, but we do become much more petroly after a short while, with oranges that have macerated in kerosene (what?) and our beloved Jaffa cakes. Not heavy for sure, but not very light either. Some good coffee as well. Nah, it’s excellent. With water: smoky jams galore. Marmalade and cigars, in other words. Finish: long, coating, toffee-ish, rather smoky. Let’s keep using whisky references if you like, we could say this is akin to some lighter, easier Caol Ila Manager’s Dram. I agree, it’s not that light. Comments: you know what? I wouldn’t have told the masses about the ‘style’ of these Caronis. Was this really ‘light’? Brilliant bottle, oh and brilliant labels. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Caroni 20 yo 1997/2017 (64.8%, Silver Seal, Trinidad, cask #67, 212 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1997/2017 (64.8%, Silver Seal, Trinidad, cask #67, 212 bottles) Five stars This will be the only ‘young vintage’ we’ll have today, and I don’t even know whether this is ‘light’ or ‘heavy’ Caroni. Colour: amber. Nose: light, perhaps. A little alcohol at first (fruit eau-de-vie), then rather fermenting fruits and vegetables, light manure, French beans, a little brine… It’s only after a good five minutes that heavier notes emerge, such as coal tar and smoked ham. With water: fresh paint, putty, and tarmac. Probably not ‘light’ Caroni. Mouth (neat): bang. Diesel oil, gherkin brine, green lemons (not lime), tincture of iodine, fresh coriander, green wood… With water: love it because there isn’t any over-woodiness, which lets the distillate talk. And boy it’s got things to say! Tar, rubber, creosote, ashes, ink, tapenade… But it’s not stuffy, some elegance remains in the middle (kind of). Finish: long, a tad rounder, but this mixture of smoked water with lemon juice and olive brine just works. Comments: a clearer, more distillate-driven one. Probably European stock (as opposed to tropical stock). SGP:342 - 90 points.

So, we said the 1980s…

Caroni 22 yo 1984/2006 ‘heavy’ (54.6%, Velier, Trinidad, 580 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1984/2006 ‘heavy’ (54.6%, Velier, Trinidad, 580 bottles) Five stars Full tropical aging this time, and fully at Caroni’s. Colour: full amber. Nose: yeah well, this is a good example of some heavy Caroni that’s lighter than light Caroni. In truth this could be some excellent agricole, with bananas and roasted peanuts, plus notes of croissants au beurre (yep I’m French) and the faintest whiffs of cooked asparagus. Rose petals as well, blood oranges… With water: wonderful old perfume and notes of old garage tools, engine oil, and ten thousand carbon papers. Mouth (neat): not a lame duck at all, I just love this marmalade/petrol combo. It’s not very complex, but what it does it does it very well. Smoked oranges, bergamots, sweet curry, bitter chocolate and a liquoricy tar. Crunching tyres (don’t try that at home!) With water: more garage-y than ever, leather polish, motor oil, plastics… Finish: long, a tad acrid, and very petroly. Comments: it’s not complex, but I just love this garage-y style. Don’t some distilleries make biofuel as well? SGP:364 - 90 points.

Caroni 22 yo 1983/2005 ‘heavy’ (52%, Velier, Trinidad, 20986 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1983/2005 ‘heavy’ (52%, Velier, Trinidad, 20986 bottles) Four stars and a half A huge batch this time, so one of the most famous Caronis, at a gracious strength at that. Oh and of course, when we write ‘Trinidad’, that would be ‘Trinidad and Tobago’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: all what’s to be expected, without any extreme aromas, which is logical with very large batches. Some metal polish, old rusty nails, carbon paper again, fresh concrete, fumes, then rather cedar wood and ‘new magazine’. Pleasantly dry. With water: shoe polish, really, plus cough syrup. Mouth (neat): excellent. Lemon, tar, brine, smoked water (that does exist, you can buy some online!), fish oil, almond and olives together in some brine, and a little oregano. In short, you could pour this over a proper Italian pizza (not the junk by large chains, mind you). With water: a tad sweeter and rounder. Our beloved Seville oranges are back (posting this while I’m in Andalucia, by the way). Finish: long, tarry, full, satisfying, just not totally and utterly complex. But I just love this style. Comments: not quite 90-material in my book, but we’re oh-so close! SGP:363 - 88 points.

Caroni 22 yo 1983/2008 ‘heavy’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 1500 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1983/2008 ‘heavy’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 1500 bottles) Four stars Full aging in Trinidad again. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather rounder, cake-ier one, lighter than some light ones. Could you smoke croissants? It’s much shier than the others, so far. Hints of turnips and celeriac. With water: some soft spices, curry, ginger, speculoos… Mouth (neat): not that light, much good, much lemony, much blade-y, with good tar and liquorice. Perhaps the simplest one so far, but as expected, it still works a treat. Big lemon. With water: the spices come out again. Indonesian goreng, satay, basil, lemongrass… Finish: rather long, with good tar, lemon, and more sharp Asian herbs. Thai basil and such… Comments: all fine, all very Caroni-y, just not the most emphatic of them all IMHO. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘heavy’ (62%, Velier, Trinidad, 1360 bottles)

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘heavy’ (62%, Velier, Trinidad, 1360 bottles) Four stars and a half Fully aged in Trinidad (and Tobago). Colour: amber. Nose: this time it’s rather the oak that’s speaking out first, with some vanilla, butterscotch, millionaire shortbread… Then chocolate, peaches and pears… Certainly not ‘heavy’, you could even think of Glenmorangie, if that rings a bell to you. Very softish… With water: some muddy, earthy aromas, but otherwise, it remains all softish and pastry-like. Marzipan, notes of new linoleum, leatherette… Mouth (neat): it’s another rum! Sharp lemons, gherkins, zests, grapefruits… You cannot make more blade-y and angular! With water: wonderful now, ink, petrol, lemon juice, almond milk. Perhaps even a little barley water. No? Finish: medium, a little more brine-y. Lemon juice and myrtle liqueur. Shoe polish in the aftertaste, this is Caroni after all. Comments: soft at times, roaring at other times, not really ‘heavy’ in any case, but it’s great rum. SGP:452 - 88 points.

So you want some heavy stuff?

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘heavy’ (77.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 123 bottles)

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘heavy’ (77.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 123 bottles) Five stars I totally love it that at 77,3% vol. (a personal record, I think, unless some Pappy-ish stuff…), they would have felt the need to add that this was bottled at full proof. So let’s burn our nostrils and taste buds.. I mean, let’s try to try it… Colour: amber. Nose: well, it doesn’t quite destroy you, hit you between your ears, and drill a whole into your head, not quite. Nail polish, acetone, and vanilla, I’d say. With water: tarry cakes and liquoricy teas. Shoes polish, lapsang souchong, ashtray, green olives, yellow peaches. What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): it’s a tad bourbony indeed, and gets then very petroly. In fact, this is rather brilliant, you just have to take half a drop at a time. Or M.?L+DY6 you’re DJGr”(gd system error::: dead. With water: wonderful, ultra-sharp, olive-y, brine-y, very lemony, blade-y, ultra-sharp, olive-y, brine-y, very lemony, blade-y, ultra-sharp, olive-y, brine-y, very lemony, blade-y… Right, right. Finish: I sometimes call these spirits ‘blades’. This is a Japanese sword as seen in Kill Bill. Right, a katana. Comments: it’s not often that very high strength spirits are very good, natural low strengths are usually much more complex in my experience. But there are exceptions, such as this Lemmy Kilmister of a rum… SGP:363 - 90 points.

Isn’t all this becoming a little too mad? Time to have a very last one, for the road?

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 ‘heavy’ (58.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 4600 bottles)

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 ‘heavy’ (58.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 4600 bottles) Four stars and a halfLook at this colour… Colour: coffee. Nose: some oak in there, but that’s rather cedar wood, cigars, dried flowers, humidor, prunes (and I mean well-ripened prunes), maraschino, liquoricy oak, new teak, thin mints, ristretto coffee, camphory embrocations… You get the drift, I suppose. With water: sublime! Old precious woods, the dashboard of an old Daimler, wood oils, cellulosic varnish, rosewood, thuja, freshly sawn fir wood, tiger balm… Mouth (neat): powah. Cedar wood, Havana cigar, menthol essence, Dutch liquorice, tarry salt, dried grapefruit zests (restaurants put them into their ovens, they’re quite tasty when thin and dried). With water: lemons! Lemon and menthol always tango very well, in my experience and opinion. Sure there is some oak, but we remain below any critical limits. Finish: very long, lemony, spicy, with a little ginger and a fistful of coriander seeds. Comments: this one was heavy, corpulent, and actually rather intrusive. Tends to try to take control, do not let him do that. SGP:462 - 89 points.

I think we need to stop now. See you tomorrow… (and thank you Cyril!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 17, 2017


Whiskyfun

More blends without any malt

That would be grain whisky. In other words, high-column neutral distillate plus ‘wood’. Indeed, in the case of grain, the wood makes the whisky, or so I’ve been told… Let’s have a few new(ish) ones, randomly, while remembering that by and large, I am NOT  a fan of grain whisky. So, with a few minor preemptive apologies, here we go…

Port Dundas 12 yo 2004/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular)

Port Dundas 12 yo 2004/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular) This baby was just bottled. Twelve years old grain whisky, not much hope to be had at WF Towers. Colour: white wine. Nose: hellllo? Anybody in there? Nothing, perhaps just a little light vanilla-ed sweet alcohol, Bacardi-style (talking about their rums). Hello? Mouth: no no no no no no no… This is empty spirit, this has nothing inside, and we’ve known vodkas that were more to our liking. Finish: none. Comments: Douglas Laing, I absolutely adore what you’re doing, your malts are terrific, your blended malts are smart and great and excellent, and full of humour and spirit at that, but these young single grains? They’re the Kenny Gs or the Leroy Newmans of whisky if you ask me. I know blends are down, but under a funny label, I’m sure you could make better use of these very silent spirits. I know, who am I, etc… Now, the official Port Dundasses from two or three years ago were even worse, I agree… SGP:420 - 65 points.
Invergordon 30 yo (55%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular) Two stars This is a  brand new one, we’ve haven’t got much data yet, I’m afraid (at time of writing). But for the sake of science… Colour: gold. Nose: why Invergordon’s always a little better, I don’t know. Vanilla, pencil shavings, butterscotch, sawdust. There. With water: more of all that. Sweet wood and sawdust, plus sweet maize and Kellogg’s worst. I mean best. Mouth (neat): it’s okay, sweet, maize-y, with some bubblegum, Starbucks’ café latte (I know, I know, apologies) and popcorn. With water: it would go down. More café latte, cappuccino, caramel, shortbread, vanilla… Finish: short, and very Starbucky (apologies again). Comments: it’s fair, it’s fair, but good sherry casks are always better in my opinion. Innocuous whisky for in-laws, I’d say. SGP:430 - 72 points.

Okay, let’s change country…

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky (40%, OB, South Africa, single grain, +/-2017)

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky (40%, OB, South Africa, single grain, +/-2017) one star and a half This was rather good when I first tried it back in 2013 (WF 75) but that one was clocking at 43% vol. while this is only 40. Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely light, with vanilla and croissants at first nosing, then more unusual aromas, such as broom and  hazelnut cream. Very light nonetheless. Wood glue. Mouth: very easy, nutty, almost Nutella-y, with some vanilla over a very light body. Very thin, but not repulsive. Finish: short, sweet, caramely, rather on cakes. Akin to some very light bourbons (no, no names!) Comments: goes unnoticed, but that’s already a great achievement. Not a proper sipper, for sure, but on a lot of ice, that should kind of work. SGP:320 - 68 points.

Aren’t we struggling a bit?...

Cambus 25 yo 1991/2017 (57.4%, Dram Fool, sherry butt) No pictures at time of writing, I’m afraid. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: Haribos and nail polish remover, plus something acetic that reminds me of… Hampden. No, really. With water:  fermenting vegetables, manure, dead animals… Mouth (neat): kind of good, but whacky and weird. Rotting turnips and kiwis, sour butter, mad white Beaujolais… What? What’s sure is that this butt hasn’t seen any sherry since, say 1920? With water: whaaaaat? Finish: medium, on plastic and more rotting vegetables. Sawdust and carrots, perhaps. Comments: I don’t know what to say, except that this is rather humorous whisky. Bottling a good joke, how smart is that? SGP:330 - 50 points.

Carsebridge 52 yo 1964/2017 (40.8%, Dram Fool)

Carsebridge 52 yo 1964/2017 (40.8%, Dram Fool) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: there, this is much better. Classic cappuccino and tropical fruits at first, then aged pina colada, coconut oil, then wild strawberries, wild raspberries, and I have to say that all that is rather subtle and sublime! Cranberry ice cream, perhaps? Mouth: hesitates for a few seconds, and gets then wholly pina-colada-ish, never too oaky, unexpectedly fresh and clean, and very delicately fruity. Wild strawberries again, that is sublime indeed. The whole remains slightly fragile, but it would never get off the road. An old Ferrari, in other words. Finish: unexpectedly long, and very tropical, with more coconut water, very soft pineapple juice, and probably a little papaya juice. Comments: a lady whisky that stood the test of time. One of the Helen Mirrens of whisky. Perhaps. SGP:530 - 88 points.

Dumbarton 30 yo 1987/2017 (52.1%, Single Cask Collection)

Dumbarton 30 yo 1987/2017 (52.1%, Single Cask Collection) Two stars All right, let’s remember that Dumbarton was a huge whisky plant, with gigantic column stills… Colour: white wine. Nose: glue and fruit jellies, plus ‘industrial’ chocolate. Mars bars, if you like. Touches of tropical fruits, guavas, papayas… But all that is very discreet. With water: no, water kind of kills it. Old plastics. Mouth (neat): nah, it’s rather good, it’s got more punch than others, and it’s got oranges. You can’t beat oranges in whisky, even in poor grain whiskies. With water: a few saltier tones, I don’t quite know where those are coming from. From the cask’s previous content? Finish: short, a tad flabby. Remember, this is grain whisky. Comments: not an easy session. Let’s put an end to this madness. SGP:530 - 75 points.

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November 16, 2017


Whiskyfun

A Blair Athol session

I know, Blair Athol and crazy are two expressions that do not go well together, but anyone who’s tried the old official Blair Athols will know that this malt whisky can be utterly splendid. Let’s have quite a few of them, more or less randomly this time…

Blair Athol 25 yo 1988/2014 (59.6%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butts, casks #6920+6924, 551 bottles)

Blair Athol 25 yo 1988/2014 (59.6%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butts, casks #6920+6924, 551 bottles) Two stars and a half It’s not unusual that with small batches, 1+1=3. We’re talking casks… Colour: amber. Nose: a touch of sulphur at first, then warm praline, cakes from the oven, burning fir wood, and roasted chestnuts. Not totally sure… With water: bizarre, bizarre, it is bizarre. Saltpetre, old oils, tin cans, earth and concrete, rotting oranges… Mouth (neat): a tad gritty and oddly earthy, then very gingery, a little sour, and more and more on bitter oranges. Not too sure… With water: better, but this sourness is a tad odd. Ginger, tonic water, hardboiled egg, Worcester sauce… Finish: rather long, rather unlikely. Tabasco, Campari, raisins. Comments: not too sure about this one… I find it rather un-Signatory, but let’s move on… SGP:462 - 78 points.

Let us insist…

Blair Athol 26 yo 1988/2015 (56.1%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, casks #6846, 624 bottles)

Blair Athol 26 yo 1988/2015 (56.1%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, casks #6846, 624 bottles) Three stars Always loved it that Signatory would tell it when it’s a ‘wine treated’ cask, while many other whisky people would just keep quiet… Colour: amber. Nose: treated or not, this is much gentler, rounder, better balanced, and… well, smoother. Milk chocolate, chestnut purée, apple pie, brioche… With water: whiffs of brake pads and plasticine. Mouth (neat): punchy, and really all on chestnut purée. They make a great one in Ardèche, France, you should try it. Some sweet pepper in the aftertaste, marmalade… With water: crushed raisins and more chestnut purée. I don’t think I’ve ever found this much chestnut purée in any whisky. Finish: medium, and, well, chestnutty. Really, believe me… Comments: still a bit unsure, but we’re making great progress. Interesting cask. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Let us further insist…

Blair Athol 26 yo 1988/2015 (57%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, casks #6804, 492 bottles)

Blair Athol 26 yo 1988/2015 (57%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, casks #6804, 492 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: peat in Blair Athol? Really? Bandages, milk chocolate, damp earth, garden peat, cigars… This is very un-Blair Athol, but we won’t complain, this is a very nice nose. With water: leather polish! Mouth (neat): a restless baby, with some smokiness, roasted nuts, Seville oranges, and quite some cinchona and pepper. Certainly not the average Blair Athol, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with this one. Sour apples in the background. With water: some leather and some tobacco. Finish: quite long, leathery, smoky, and totally un-Blair Athol. Comments: it’s true that Blair Athol and Signatory are close neighbours, so they may have access to funny stocks. Including peaty ones… Peat, really? SGP:453 - 83 points.

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2017  (51.2%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11788, 321 bottles)

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2017  (51.2%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11788, 321 bottles) Two stars Colour: full gold. Nose: a cleaner one, rather more ‘regular’, with raisins, touches of menthol… But it tends to get a little muddy, I’d say. Some metallic notes, some cardboard… With water: bizarre… Maggi, Marmite, rusty tin boxes… Mouth (neat): a little weird, on rotting bitter oranges, some Swiss cheese, some strange balsamico, raw kirsch… With water: not quite. Carbolinium, cardboard, sour cherries… Really not too sure… Finish: quite long sour, almost vinegary. Comments: it all started well, but this cask was really weird, in my opinion. Kind of acetic. How very un-Douglas! SGP:362 - 72 points.

We’re not having much luck with Blair Athol today, are we?

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2017 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, two bourbon hogsheads, 306 bottles)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2017 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, two bourbon hogsheads, 306 bottles) Three stars and a half If this doesn’t work, I give up. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very herbal and vegetal, with some fern, pine needles, cut grass, then an even more austere development, rather on shoe polish, sour apples… With water: ah, something’s happening! Maraschino, barley water, bitter almonds, pinesap… Mouth (neat): this is better, despite these wee notes of soap and Tennent’s lager. Some green pepper, many sour apples, fruit peelings, some kind of green wax, buds of Douglas-fir… With water: no, it wouldn’t swim. Well, not quite, do not add more than two drops, otherwise it would get flattened. Finish: medium; resinous, dry. Sour cider apples. Comments: another one that’s not very easy, and perhaps a little intellectual, but I rather liked it. In fact, I think it’s my favourite. SGP:371 - 84 points.

Blair Athol 23 yo 1993/2017 (58.4%, OB, Special Release, bodega European oak casks, 5,514 bottles)

Blair Athol 23 yo 1993/2017 (58.4%, OB, Special Release, bodega European oak casks, 5,514 bottles) Four stars Wouldn’t we love to know the name of that ‘bodega’? Colour: amber. Nose: this time, the OB’s having the upper hand, no doubt about that. Café latte, shortbread, roasted peanuts, a little compost, a drop of well-aged apple vinegar, then massive, and I mean massive notes of pine needles. This, I enjoy a lot. With water: chocolate and relatively mild pipe tobacco. Also some leather, and just one all-cereal bar. Marathon runners may enjoy this. Mouth (neat): perfect, sharp and tart at first, then wider, on fig jam and soft chilli (Espelette). Hits you hard, really… With water: careful, don’t drown it or it would become flat. Stay above 45% vol.! Lovely late-harvest Canadian cider, butterscotch, salted caramel sauce… That is really nice, I’m also finding notes of Golden Grahams or Fruit Loops. I know, I know… Finish: rather long, and very cidery. This is almost cold-distilled cider, to tell you the truth. Raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s not extremely easy, and that may be the European oak. Challenging, but very good drop. SGP:451 - 86 points.

 

 

Angus’s take:
Blair Athol 23 yo 1993/2017 (58.4%, OB, Special Release, bodega European oak casks, 5,514 bottles) Colour: Amber. Nose: A slight whiff of burnt toffee then we’re off into the realms of ginger and orange marmalade, sticky toffee pudding, roast chestnuts, hazelnut liqueur, even a little Nutella and some glazed cherries. A little dark chocolate, some wet earth, cocoa and a lick of balsamico and cured meats in the background. It’s a clean, vivacious and fruity/earthy style of sherry so far. With water: gets a little greener and shows some patisserie notes and warm granary bread. Also becomes more leathery with some notes of shoe polish. Mouth: A big delivery, all on Horlicks, sultanas, dates, raspberry jam, camphor, prune juice and even some frying smoky bacon. Goes on with a leafy pipe tobacco quality and more dark chocolate. With water: wild strawberries, molasses, earth, marzipan, a warm coal hearth, salted chocolate and a caramel wafer for good measure. Finish: Long and quite spicy with these resurgent earthy and chocolatey notes. Some elegant nuttiness as well and cherries again. Comments: I like it a lot. I think it will please sherry fans very much. Again, a very good composition where the wood and the sherry always have a voice but never quite dominate. SGP: 523 - 88 points.
 

 

More tasting notes Check the index of all Blair Athol I've tasted so far

 

 

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November 2017 - part 1 <--- November 2017 - part 2 ---> December 2017 - part 1


 

 

Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, cask #12765, 341 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11590, 291 bottles)

Craigellachie 18 yo 1999/2017 (54.1%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Exceptional Cask Series, barrel, cask #302656)

Craigellachie 21 yo 1995/2016 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #11343, 504 bottles)

Craigellachie 31 yo (52.2%, OB, batch #04-6137, 2016)

Highland Park 28 yo 1989/2017 (45.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles)

Ledaig 2005/2017 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky)

Ledaig 2004/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, first fill and refill sherry hogsheads, casks # 16600503-16600506)

Ledaig 10 yo (57.4%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon hogshead, 2017)

Strathisla 1960/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Vintage, sherry butt, re-issued 2017)

Strathisla 40 yo 1977/2017 (48.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, Book of Kells, refill American oak hogshead, 191 bottles)

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘heavy’ (77.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 123 bottles)

Caroni 23 yo 1982/2005 ‘light’ (59.2%, Velier, Trinidad, 1227 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1997/2017 (64.8%, Silver Seal, Trinidad, cask #67, 212 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1984/2006 ‘heavy’ (54.6%, Velier, Trinidad, 580 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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