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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2007 - Part 1
August 2007 - part 3 <--- September 2007 - part 1 ---> September 2007 - part 2

September 14, 2007

We often had problems with young Auchentoshans, which we feel are/were either too caramelised (the OB’s) or too ‘simply’ fruity and porridgy / yoghurty (the uncaramelised IB’s) for us. Let’s see if we’ll change our mind...
Auchentoshan 12 Auchentoshan 12 yo (40%, OB, square flat bottle, early 1980’s) We already had the 43% version and didn’t like it too much (68). Colour: gold. Nose: a rather mineral and even smoky and ashy start, which is unexpected. Gets then more buttery and fruity (tinned pineapples). Hints of lychees and mint and then cereals and caramel. More menthol arising with time. Much nicer than other batches of these old Auchentoshans. Mouth: quite bold, very malty despite triple distillation, cereally, slightly toasted and much less fruity than on the nose. Gets very dry, which is odd I think. Quite cardboardy. Finish: pretty long but too dry and malty, reminding me of some strong beers. Not my taste but it’s still a little better than other old versions I think. 71 points.
Auchentoshan 9 yo 1992/2001 (46%, Signatory, UCF, cask #6229, 331 bottles) Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: very typical of a young Auchentoshan. Milk, porridge, yoghurt and tinned fruits (oranges, pineapples). Mouth: grainy and fruity, on pears, apples and plums. Kirsch? Tastes more and more like fruit eau-de-vie, or newborn armagnac (what they call ‘blanche’ over there). Hints of almond milk. Finish: quite long, still very fruity, with notes of distillation, quite some pepper and a little porridge. I guess one could drink this like vodka (now that we’re mentioning that, the finish is like a Zubrovska’s). 71 points. Auchentoshan 9
Auchentoshan 8 yo 1992/2001 (46%, Signatory, UCF, cask #7726, 348 bottles) Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: similar at first nosing but develops towards much more citrus notes. More expressive but sharper. Hints of seltzer, aspirin. Maybe a little more oak but there’s little of it anyway. Mouth: almost the same as cask #6229, maybe just a tad bolder and cleaner. Finish: all on pear spirit this time, with hints of oak and white pepper. A tad better. 73 points.
Auchentoshan 10 yo 1992/2002 (46%, Signatory UCF, cask #6251, 318 bottles) Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: a little softer, smoother and better balanced than the 8yo’s, thanks to further ageing I imagine. Hints of ashes again, pear spirit, apple juice, sweetened yoghurt. Not much character but the cleanliness is pleasant. Mouth: just the same again, very little differences this time. Maybe faint hints of curry and a little more vanilla. Finish: same as the second 8yo. Pear spirit, oak and white pepper. 73 points.
Auchentoshan 1991/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Cask #481) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re still in the same vein but it seems that further ageing worked its magic here. More vanilla, more fruits (less pears and apples but more strawberries and rhubarb as well as ripe kiwis and tinned lychees). The same whiffs of menthol as in the old official 10yo. Now, we’re still closer to new fruit or wine spirit than to well aged malt we think. Probably from a fairly inactive cask. Mouth: again, it’s similar to the previous ones, including the 8yo’s, just a bit rounder and softer again. The porridgy notes have partly vanished, there’s a little more vanilla, hints of grenadine, orange cake and grass... Quite pleasant actually. Finish: a little longer, rounded, orangey, with a little candy sugar. It got better while doubling its age when compared with the 8yo’s: 75 points. Now you can calculate how much time it would need to fetch 90 (c’mon Serge, maturation is anything but linear!) Quite far from the stellar 1983/2004 by the same bottler (90!)
Auchentoshan MMcD Auchentoshan 25 yo 1981/2006 (55.7%, Murray McDavid Mission Gold, enhanced in mourvèdre casks, 350 bottles) Mourvèdre is a spicy yet rather austere grape variety from the south of the Rhône valley, it’s the main (sometimes the sole) ingredient of red Bandol. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the wine that talks first but in this case, I guess it’s good news, as it seems to me that Auchentoshan really needs good cask support. We do have these ashy and flinty notes again in the background but other that that it’s all on blackcurrants (including the buds and even the leaves) and cherry stalks, just before the spirit unexpectedly fires back (orange squash and pear spirit). An amusing version.
Mouth: yes it’s funny, the malt tries to tell you something (pears) but the wine is soon to overwhelm the whole, albeit in a pleasant way, as we have the same blackcurrant / cherry / orange combo happening (including the respective jams), with maybe just a faint rubber and notes of tawny Port. Finish: frankly ‘jammy’ now, reminding me of what we call ‘confiture de vieux garçon’ (a jam made out of various fruits and fruit spirits plus cloves, Chinese anise and just any other spices you feel like adding). A good example of a finishing that probably improved the original liquid quite a lot. 80 points.
Auchentoshan 31 yo 1966/1997 (45.1%, OB, cask #509, hogshead) This one should tell us a different story. Colour: gold. Nose: quite amazingly, the pearish notes are still there but sort of coated with a very elegant oakiness (certainly not of the varnishy / antique shop / newly sawn plank type). We’ve got even more menthol now, orange liqueur, a lot of vanilla not unlike in a bourbon, thuja box, fir honey and milk chocolate. All that noses younger than 31yo. Goes on with a little coconut and church incense as well as white pepper and touches of nutmeg. Very lively and complex. Mouth: really excellent! Superb attack, rather unusual in fact, with lots of resin sweets, mint, chocolate, roasted nuts, nougat... Gets even more honeyed after a while, with a permanent oaky underline of the highest grade. Gets quieter after the rather wham-bam attack, more candied and classically jammy (orange marmalade). Very classy. Auchentoshan 1966
Finish: maybe not as long as expected, reminding me of the greatest arracks, on notes of dates and a little apricot jam together with ‘true’ vanilla, with a resinous aftertaste. Complex and excellent, high-grade wood. 90 points. (thanks, Ho-cheng).
Auchentoshan 1973 Auchentoshan 29 yo 1973/2002 (55.8%, OB, Sherry, cask #793) Colour: amber. Nose: this one is even punchier but not pungent in any way, starting on ultra-clean sherry, all on sultanas, figs, old rum and overripe bananas. Another whisky that one could mistake for rum. Goes on with quite some coffee, milk chocolate, orange blossom water getting then much more resinous, not unlike the 1966. Quite superb I must say, even if no distillery character manages to shine through as far as we can tell. Mouth: there’s the same resinous notes at the attack, it’s almost as if you drank fir liqueur. The sherry is more discreet now and it’s the wood that does all the talking. Quite some tannins, grape skin and pips... Gets a little drying I must say. Notes of strawberry and fig jam, hints of aniseed. Not as great as on the nose.
Finish: long but still quite woody and drying. It seems that the spirit did nothing but extract cask components, including the former content. Brilliant whisky on the nose but quite unbalanced on the palate in my opinion. 79 points (for the nose).
Auchentoshan 17 yo 1987 (61.5%, OB, cask #1659, 552 bottles, sherry butt) Colour: paler amber. Nose: the first impression is ‘more wine, less oak’. Rancio, various sweet wines (Rivesaltes, white Port), cherry stalks but also quite some rubber and notes of sulphur. Too much wine for my tastes anyway, it’s strange that it didn’t mingle with the spirit a little better over 17 years. Or is this a finishing? Reracking? With water: oh, that released a lot of sulphur and heavy notes of cooked wine as well as cooking herbs (bay leaves, lovage, juniper berries). And oyster sauce? Mouth (neat): quite better, slightly salty, nutty, sherried and honeyed, but it’s too hot, let’s try it with water. Right, it got fruitier, quite jammy, slightly salty but not really interesting. Finish: long, saltier, more cereally, with a lot of wood. 77 points. Auchentoshan 1987
Auchentoshan 1988 Auchentoshan 16 yo 1988 (58.9%, OB, cask #4445, barrel) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely shy after the sherried versions. A little butter, a little oak, a little apple juice and basta. Maybe hints of fresh hazelnuts. Let’s give it a little more time... Yes, that works, there’s a delicate smokiness arising, cold ashes, flint stones, ‘hot hay in the fields in august’, this rather heavy minty note again, kumquats, smoked tea... Quite superb I must say, but don’t forget to give this one time. With water: it gets grassier, on green tea. Interesting notes of lettuce. Mouth (neat): punchy but drinkable, with a lot of mint again but, alas, also some rather aggressive tannins. With water: too bad, it got simpler, without any of the great notes we found on the nose. The finish is medium long, much more on apples, pears and fruit eau-de-vie, just like some of the much younger versions we tried at the beginning of this session. And maybe notes of fresh mushrooms. But what a nose! 82 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Janis Joplin and her Kozmic blues.mp3. Yes, yes and yes... Please buy her music. Janis

September 13, 2007

Miltonduff Miltonduff 12 yo (43%, OB, 1990’s) We’ve tried this one several times in the past but never gotten around to writing notes… Colour: pale straw. Nose: all grains, fresh apples and pears, porridge, malt and dandelions. Typical middle-of-the road single malt, rather flawless but not really interesting, getting quite cardboardy after a moment. Mouth: very sweet, grainy, sugary… Quite some body but the profile is a little unbalanced. Too grainy I’d say. Grenadine syrup. Finish: medium long, maltier, a little toasted, cereally… In short, very average. 73 points.
Milton-Duff 12 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Genova, early 1980's) Miltonduff – or Milton-Duff –, just like Glen Grant, used to be a very big name in Italy in the 1970’s and 1980’s I believe. Colour: straw. Nose: much more interesting! Big fruits (the usual apples and pears but also notes of passion fruits and certainly lychees) followed by quite some incense, old roses, orange blossom water, muscat wine… Extremely demonstrative! Also hints of white chocolate, ‘a pack of marshmallows that you just opened’, strawberry flavoured lollipops... Quite sugary in fact, quite unusual and spectacular. Keep the children away! Mouth: not in the same league, alas, for we just have these bubblegummy notes remaining, tinned lychees, ‘cheap’ Turkish delights… Gains a little steam with time but the whole resembles more a fruit liqueur than malt whisky. Finish: better again, rather long, maltier, a little nutty, but nowhere near the very interesting nose. 78 points.
Milton-Duff Glenlivet 5 yo (40%, OB, Italy, 1970's) Bottled by George Ballantine & son (Rings a bell)… Colour: straw. Nose: much less extravagantly fruity, much more on grains and porridge, but also with a little smoke, ashes, toasted bread… Nice freshness I must say but little happening here. Maybe faint hints of ham? Mouth: good news, it’s much, much better on the palate. Much less shy although maybe a little more sugary than fruity, but with nice notes of orange sweets, tinned pineapples, simple ‘hotel’ honey (unidentified provenance and flowers but does not run – welcome to the modern world), a little praline, peanut butter… Milton-Duff
More and more oomph actually, it’s not the same whisky as on the nose at all. Also big malty notes. Finish: unexpectedly long, sugary, malty, honeyed and ‘good’. 79 points (for the palate, obviously).
Milton-Duff 13 yo (43%, OB, Salengo Import, Screw cap, Ballantine bottle shape, late 70's) Colour: gold. Nose: oh this is nice! Much nicer, in any case. Loads of overripe apples, vanilla pods and rhubarb pie, with a little oak in the background and quite some spearmint, green tea (uninfused), shoe polish… A different dimension. Also dried mint leaves and chamomile. Excellent freshness like in the 5yo, except that there isn’t only that freshness. Slight smokiness (coal). Mouth: amazingly creamy, almost thick body. Really powerful. Starts on mint liqueur and quite some salt, as well as cooked apricots (without too much sugar) and apple pie. Almost like well-made pastries. Croissants? (excuse my Frenchness). Gets rounder and sort of appeased with time, still quite toasted that is. Amazingly full bodied, in any case. Finish: extremely long, more liquoricy and salty. A rather stunning beast at just 43%, and no signs of OBE whatsoever. 88 points.
Miltonduff 15 yo (46%, OB, Special Distillery Bottling, +/-1998) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one starts very grainy, very malty and slightly dusty, with just hints of lilies. Then we have more and more old wood plus a little mint. Something bizarrely watery and a little soap (err, soapy water). Hints of liquorice. Not too great I’m afraid. Mouth: a rather meaty, beefy attack with quite some old wood again and then a very shy middle. Quite some caramel, that is. Gets even woodier with time. Finish: medium long, curiously prickly, tannic, woody, drying… Not ugly but quite disappointing, this one. Alcoholised tea? 73 points.
Miltonduff 38 yo 1966/2004 (41.3%, DT Peerless, cask #1011, 178 bottles) This one was probably distilled roughly at the same time as the official 13yo. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not a ‘fruity debauchery’ this time, rather a delicate mix of flowers from the fields (our usual dandelions and buttercups but also a little lily of the valley) with white peaches and bananas, all that spiced up with a little wood smoke and, just like in the 13 yo, notes of spearmint and shoe polish, all that making for a rather perfect balance. Gets suddenly bolder, with quite some orange squash and a rather beautiful oakiness (whiffs of farmyard as well). Great nose, very appealing and sort of crystalline. Mouth: not as woody as I had feared but not really bold either, rather delicate again, polished, all on very ripe fruits and jams such as plums, melons and very sweet oranges. Notes of pollen and light honey. Not too much character I’d say but it’s very, very pleasant. Finish: not very long but enjoyably soft and ‘softly fruity’, like a mixture of banana and apricot juices. And no specific woodiness that I can get. Very good and highly sippable. 88 points. (and thanks, Hans)
Miltonduff 1966/1990 (61.4%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola, 75cl) A 1966 again. Colour: mahogany. Nose: but what a great sherry! Demonstrative is too weak a word; this is an explosion of sherry. Typical assortment of raisins, cooked fruits (strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries) and flowers (peonies or some orchids) but it’s really too powerful, water is needed. With water: a fantastic vinosity! Winey notes can be a problem in whisky but it’s all pleasure here. Old high-end Sauterne (I had old Raymond-Lafons that smelled almost exactly like this Miltonduff), overripe apricots, quinces, dried pears, dried longans… Add to that a little tar and a little ginger for good measure as well as hints of chives and parsley (and soy sauce) and you get a fab ‘sherried’ nose. Mouth (neat): extremely thick, rich and concentrated but absolutely not cloying or too fat. Just too powerful to be enjoyed when undiluted… So, with water: all in keeping with the nose! All fruits of the creation (most crystallised or dried), all soft spices and all herbs, a beautiful oakiness, a totally perfect balance and a finish alike. Totally exciting and eminently drinkable. 94 points. (and thanks, Johan)
Miltonduff 1994/2006 (55.8%, Norse Cask, 329 bottles) The only recently distilled expression of Miltonduff we’ll have today, should be interesting. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, there are resemblances indeed even if this one is much ‘younger’. We have the same notes of flowers from the fields (dandelions and gang) plus a little honey and pollen, plus ‘rounded’ fruits such as bananas (not big, bold, ‘obvious’ ones) and tinned pineapples. Whiffs of wood smoke as well, coal, ashes… Not complex at all but balance is already achieved. Mouth: all fruits and light honey. Finish: same. Perfect all-round, sweet and fruity whisky that’s flawless but won’t really make you scratch your head. Typical 80 points malt I think.
MUSICRecommended listening: Yeah, we’re in 1968 today and Françoise Hardy sings her popular Comment te dire adieu.mp3 (lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg). No, Jimmy Sommerville didn't compose that one. Please buy Fançoise’s music, she’s still recording wonderful songs. (photo: FH and a friend). Francoise Hardy

September 12, 2007










Craoi na Móna (40%, Berry Bros & Rudd, 2007) Craoi na Móna means "heart of peat" in Gaelic, so this is peaty, probably from Cooley’s. By chance we have both the official Connemara NAS and the 12yo on our desk, so we’ll have the opportunity to compare them. Colour: white wine (paler than the officials). Nose: similar to the official 12 and certainly less ‘simple’ (albeit pleasantly simple) than the NAS; less focus our comparison on the 12yo from now on. Actually, the BBR is a tad less bold, but just as fruity and smoky as the 12. Apple skin, paraffin, birch smoke, almond milk... Less on cider apples than the 12. Gentler and rounder in fact. Mouth: again, this one is softer and gentler than the 12 but the general profile is more or less the same. Light peat, quite some salt, oyster juice, apple juice, hints of liquorice... We’re not quite used to 40% ABV anymore so the body is a bit thin perhaps. Finish: rather short but ‘cleanly peaty’ and still quite salty. I’d put this one just between the official NAS (75) and 12 (79), so let’s say 77 points. A good, gentle introduction to peat.
Power’s Gold (43%, OB, John Power & Sons for Martini & Rossi, France, 75cl, bottled 1970’s) Colour: straw. Nose: wow, truckloads of fresh walnuts, apple peelings and wax at first nosing. Quite beautiful even if not really bold. Much less cereally and caramelly than other old versions we could try. Rather clean but not especially ‘Irish’ (but my sense of Irishness may be twisted). Hints of peat, wet clay, green cigars like they make in Indonesia, green tea... An excellent surprise I must say. Mouth: alright, it’s not as suprisingly good as on the nose but still very pleasant, waxy and nicely ‘green’ (nut skins). And then we have the expected fruitiness (hints of dried pears, oranges). Gets more bitter with time, burnt bread, liquorice sticks... Finish: not too long but always in the same direction. Hints of strawberry liqueur. A good ol’whiskey, certainky not toothless. 83 points (and thanks, Jean).
Cooley 10 yo (59.8%, Cadenhead, 222 bottles, bottled 2003) Colour: straw. Nose: raw peat, coffee, bitter almonds and alcohol. With water: it got all on raw wool, wet dog, lots of apple peelings and even more bitter almonds. Quite simple but perfect ‘raw’ profile. Mouth (neat): peaty and very lemony (lime), ultra-grassy, with also loads of fresh hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. Very good I must say but the high alcohol makes it a little too sugarish when neat. With water: now it got excellent, just excellent. Perfect balance between peat, resins and grassiness. Finish: maybe not extraordinarily long but still perfectly balanced, with a slight saltiness. This will hold a candle to many youngish Islayers. 86 points.
Cooley 12 yo (59.7%, Cadenhead, 234 bottles, bottled 2004) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little less raw, more complex, fruitier and more expressive (liquorice). Better wood as well I think. With water: well, this got quite fantastic I must say. Still a little simple but marvellously waxy and a little resinous / medicinal as well. Great notes of high-grade Chinese green tea (if I write ‘rolling clouds’ you’ll say I’m showing off, won’t you?) Mouth (neat): better balanced than the 10yo, earthier but even hotter despite similar ABV’s. Excellent mint and camphor, though, as well as fresh nuts again. With water: Ardbeg, go out of this body! Finish: longer than the 10yo’s, perfect. 88 points.
Cooley 14 yo (58.7%, Cadenhead, 222 bottles, bottled 2006) Colour: pale gold. Nose: even better when nosed neat. More fragrant (bold notes of roses), honey, orange marmalade, lots of vanilla. And the big peat underneath the whole. With water: a little more marked by the oak than the 12 but roughly in the same vein. More vanilla that makes it smell rounder. But beautiful... Mouth (neat): very close to the 12 when neat, but with extra-complexity. Is that salted liquorice? ‘The good side of aspirin’, cinchona... With water: just excellent, with more wood, more spices (is that curry?) Finish: this one is very long, with quite some added peppery notes. Very active cask it seems, good idea not to have waited any longer to bottle it. Well, it seems that the peated Cooleys get really superb with age – some of them, in any case (we’ve had a 13yo by the same bottler that wasn’t even near these three wonders). Worth hunting down anyway methinks. 90 points.
BY THE WAY, we just stumbled upon this rather funny new blend named Feckin Irish Whiskey. Well, isn’t this a good way of appealing to the yoof? They say it’s ‘a whisky for the rogue in all of us’, but also that it’s a ‘smooth blend’. Holy fudge, darlin'! (via liquor snob) Feckin
MUSICRecommended listening: Let’s listen to More than this.mp3 today, but not Roxy Music’s version, rather Charlie Hunter’s (featuring Norah Jones – that was in 2001 on Hunter’s CD ‘Songs from the Analog Playground’). Yes I know this is very easy music but please buy Charlie Hunter’s music... Charlie Hunter

September 11, 2007



MUSICRecommended listening: Rock, Onic & Bob, who claim to be the 'baddest banjolele band in Brighton' do The sun goes down.mp3. Excellent, please buy their music. Well, actually, they give it for free...

Macallan-Glenlivet 17yo 1962/1979 (80°proof, Cadenhead's for Samaroli, 360 bottles) This one is famous for having been a totally unsherried version. Colour: white wine. Nose: really fresh, fruity and flowery, with no sherry indeed. Very unusual (at the time, that is). Quite some wood smoke, but it’s also very mashy, grainy, porridgy... Very nice hints of fresh mint leaves, though, as well as grape juice. Hints of cod oil, ginger tonic, soda water... Well, this one isn’t really exciting I’d say; although there are also very nice notes of earl grey tea, various herbal teas... Mouth: sweetish-weakish attack, with the mint upfront, something slightly camphory, then lavender sweets, a little tar... Gets dryer and even cardboardy after a moment, and not much middle. Fades away even when you still have it in your mouth. Finish: short, still a little cardboardy, but with that pleasant mintiness and also a faint oiliness. A vanishing unsherried Macallan, interesting but rather unsatisfying. Now, the nose was very nice in its own way. 79 points.
Macallan-Glenlivet 15yo (80°proof, G&M Licensed, Gold Label, mid 1970’s) Colour: amber. Nose: immediately smoky again (wood smoke) and toasted, with notes of roasted nuts and fresh putty. Quite resinous indeed. Gets even smokier with time, with also quite some toasted bread. Very faint soapiness in the background. Gets more winey after a moment, with notes of strawberry jam and blackcurrant syrup. Very nice nose, ancient style. Mouth: much, much more body than in the 1962. Very smoky, toasty and resinous again, with classic sherry in the background, that takes the lead only after quite some time. Sultanas and Corinth raisons, armagnac (a lot), prunes, milk chocolate... And prune-filled chocolate like they make in Austria (I like that a lot!) Excellent body. Finish: rather long, sherried and toasted, very classic. This one has still lots to tell us. Excellent, 90 points.
Macallan 1958 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, early 1970’s) This one is a 15yo according to the presentation box. Nose: ah, now its the antiques shop version. It starts all on beeswax, furniture and leather polish, linseed oil, leather... Really beautiful. ‘Grandma’s cupboard’, old schooner’s deck, roasted nuts, toasted brioche... A superb dryness before we get more fruits such as dried dates and figs, dried bananas... Also quite some coffee and toffee. High-end fruitcake. Perfect old Macallan. Mouth: starts a bit like the 15yo but gets then thicker, creamier, more sherried. In short, bold. Loads of Smyrna raisins, fruitcake, prunes, blackcurrant jelly, quince, raspberry liqueur, orange liqueur, a little mint, a little camphor and a little eucalyptus (nutshell: cough syrup). Perfect. Long finish, warming, coating, almost hot after all these years. A radiant old Macallan. 93 points. (and thanks, Luc)
Macallan 1954 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, late 1960’s) Colour: dark gold (paler than the 1958). Nose: probably less sherry than in the 1958, but even more elegance. More straightforward, more mineral, ashy, beautifully metallic, flinty... Also more on mint / eucalyptus, old turpentine, linseed oil... It’s only after a few minutes that more definite notes of sherry come through, sultanas, rum, gooseberries... Superb notes of leather polish as well. Again, extremely elegant. Mouth: totally fantastic. Stunning balance and stunning complexity, fresh fruits, sherry, oak and malt. Thrilling mouth feel. Let me give you just a sample of all you get in this one: sultanas, tangerines, wax, fir honey, very old pu-erh tea, Russian tobacco, mint drops, old rancio, smoke... right, right, the rest will be censored by WF’s integrated anti-maltoporn brigade. One of these bottles that helped to build the Macallan’s legend I think, and further proof that not only old whiskies that are dark in colour are fabulous. 96 points. (and heartfelt thanks, Bert V.)
Macallan 29yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory, cask #1058, 256 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: this is rather interesting, it smells just like if you had vatted the 1958 with the 1954 (no I won’t try that, I’m not that crazy). A little bit of bother worlds, the sherriness with raisins, blackcurrants and fruitcake, and the minerality with ashes, flints and metal polish. Funny notes of peanut butter, high-end empty red wine barrique. Something quite farmy, animal... (wet hay, hare). Totally beautiful again even if a little less ‘idiosyncratic’. Mouth: quite some extra-zing thanks to the extra-3%. Superb smoke, Corinth raisins, prunes, armagnac, resin, funny hints of sage and thyme, chestnut honey, strawberry and blackberry jam... Juts a tad tannic, which can happen with single casks but rarely with large vatting such as the officials that we just had. The drawback of artisan work I guess. But otherwise it’s superb whisky, typically Macallan. Finish: quite long, mostly on sherry and fruit liqueur, with just a little rum. Totally excellent Macallan by Signatory Vintage. 93 points. (and thanks, Alexandre)

September 10, 2007

MUSICHighly recommended viewing: this fantastic brand new clip by Bob Dylan. He’s got a message for you, don’t miss it. Seriously, it’s really great Web marketing by Columbia records, kudos to them. LOL ! Dylan
Port Ellen


Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2006 (51.8%, Douglas of Drumlanrig) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very typical but even more crystal-clean yet slightly buttery. Green apples, peat smoke, sea water and lemon juice. Goes on with newly cut grass, green tea, lime juice, wet hay, moss... Really sharp and raw but very pleasantly so. Whiffs of fresh mint, fennel – or is it dill?

Mouth: sweeter but quite explosive, all on apple skin, salt and big bold peat, with quite some pepper but not too much and a sweeter ‘citrusness’ (or is it ‘citrusity’?) Tangerine sweets, ‘Mexican lemon and tequila sweets’ – with the worm (note that I spat it out when I tried this), over-infused green tea, more pepper... Excellent and very direct, even if not monstrously complex. And no flaws. Finish: long but maybe a tad sugary now, which tastes a bit odd here. Too bad, it could have made it to more than just 89 points in my books. But it’s a great example of a very ‘natural’ Port Ellen.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2006 (60.4%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #2461, 644 bottles) It was about time I tried this one! Colour: gold. Nose: smoother and rounder than the 1983, even at 60+%. More vanilla and more lactic notes, and maybe less peat. Hints of liquorice sticks, roots, wet earth, apple peelings... With water: something slightly chemical arises, not exactly sulphur, rather something like new plastics (brand new Renault ;-)) Also whiffs of asparagus cooking water, cabbage... Cheese? I wouldn’t say it’s flawed, at all, just quite ‘different’ from what we’re used to. Maybe one shouldn’t add water to this one but you can’t down a 60% whisky just like that, can you? Things settle down after a while, though, the whole getting more porridgy. ‘Peated mashed potatoes’. Mouth (neat): much, much closer to the 1983 now, only bigger, hotter and a little more peppery. Very similar profiles but water is really needed here. With water: it changes, on orange tonic, Schweppes, aspirin, something a bit chalky and quite some salt. Definitely mineral, with the wood’s spiciness slowly arising (mostly white and black pepper). Finish: long, definitely on peat and pepper, with something interestingly Taliskerish. A different Port Ellen, maybe not one to buy if you never had any before but a very interesting variant. 87 points.

September 9, 2007

Freaking This is strange. I mean, imagine you had bought a ‘silent’, virtually unknown distillery. Then you’ve revived the sleeping giant, put its name amongst the blue chips (some guys now collect Benriach just like they collected Ardbeg), and showed to an amazed world how great your whiskies are... And then you decide to launch wide flights of quickly enhanced wineskies. Port, Moscatel, Tokaji, Oloroso, Rum, whatever... What does that mean? Call me a biased traditionalist, call me an infuriating French ostrich, call me a retrograde wrongly zipped anorak or call me a know-nothing, but I just don’t get it. Many tried to convince me and I’ve heard many half-truths (and even insults), but I still don’t like wine in my whisky (and god knows that I love good wine). And as for the ‘wood excuse’, I’m sorry but many winemakers use the same kind of wood and sometimes the same barrel makers. Why would the whiskies taste so different then, if it was just for the wood? Yeah, yeah, different interplays... Anyway, let’s go for the New Big Lottery...
Benriach 29 yo 1978/2007 (52.2%, OB, Lightly peated, Moscatel finish, cask #4413, 216 bottles) Colour: deep amber with orangey hints. Nose: sweet wine and peat. Barrel. Farmyard. ‘Rich and luscious’ in a certain way but certainly winey. I don’t like this profile but it’s certainly well made. I wrote ‘technological’. Little distillery character. Mouth: ultra-sweet and uber-fruity. No thanks. Finish: long but in the same vein. Cloying. Maybe I’m excessive (apologies to the distillery, we absolutely adore their ‘natural’ products) but this just isn’t Scotch whisky I think. 65 points.
Benriach 29 yo 1978/2007 (52.5%, OB, Lightly peated, Tokay finish, cask #4416, 264 bottles) Colour: gold – apricot. Nose: less winey, more on apricots, butter, quinces and vanilla. Faint soapiness. Notes of wine barrels again. A little ginger and quite some oak. Little distillery character. Mouth: much better than the Moscatel but still very winey. Pineapples and peat. Extremely fruity. Nice premix. Finish: very long, getting even sweeter. The strongest pina colada ever? 78 points.
Benriach 31 yo 1975/2007 (53.7%, OB, Lightly peated, Port finish, cask #4451, 708 bottles) Colour: gold with salmony hues. Nose: typical Port nose. Strawberries and raspberries. Big-big grenadine. More peat than in the two previous ones but little distillery character. A cocktail. Mouth: interesting! Not whisky at all – not to mention malt whisky – but sort of enjoyable. Kind of a premix of raspberry liqueur with grenadine syrup plus a dash of pepper. Long finish, invading, coating, almost thick. Of course I haven’t the slightest right to decide on what’s whisky and what isn’t, but this just isn’t in my modest books. But it’s good high-voltage wine premix. 75 points.
Benriach 21 yo 1985/2007 (54.5%, OB, Richly peated, Oloroso finish, cask #3766, 666 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this is more to our likings. Big peat, vanilla, sultanas and yellow peaches. Simple but compact and rather satisfying. Very little sherry character and no vinosity. Pleasant cleanliness. Mouth: thick, creamy, fruity and very peaty. Tinned pineapples, blood oranges. This works, definitely. Finish: long, with an even better balance. All on pepper and orange marmalade. 87 points.
Benriach 22 yo 1984/2007 (54.2%, OB, Richly peated, Port finish, cask #4049, 288 bottles) Colour: salmony. Nose: again, this is much nicer than the 1975 we think. Much more straightforward. It’s as if the heavier peat had sort of dissolved the wine here. Good pepper, good smoke. The winey notes come out only after a good five minutes (empty barrel, wet wood). Pleasant meaty notes (smoked ham, smoked beef). Mouth: oh well, we’re ‘somewhere else’ again. Strawberry-flavoured tea, pepper, blackcurrant juice and pomegranates. Lychees. Finish: long again, like heavily peppered fortified sangria. Not bad at all I must say. Worth a try. 82 points.
Benriach 30 yo 1976/2007 (55.5%, OB, Richly peated, Port finish, cask #4469, 798 bottles) Colour: orangey – reddish. Nose: kind of a mix of both Port finished Benriachs we just tried. Obvious vinosity but it’s not unbearable. Once again, peat works as an anti-wine of some sort. Seville oranges, Fanta, pepper, Campari. ‘Pleasant’. Mouth: very close to the 1984, just a tad softer and rounder despite the slightly higher ABV. Ripe kiwis. Fructose, icing sugar, bubblegum. Finish: long but very sugary and uber-fruity again. Liquorice allsorts, jell-o, crystallised pineapples. One of the sweetest old whiskies I could try as far as I remember. Sincerely, I think this is excessive, but once again, just my opinion., no gospel and no bible of course. 77 points.
MUSICJAZZ - Highly recommended listening: I'm sorry, I haven't got any good mp3 of hers at hand but you should really go and throw an ear at pianist Joanne Brackeen's website. She's always been a favourite of mine and she'll always be. An utterly brilliant and creative lady of jazz - please, please, please but at least one of her CD's (for instance the recent Popsicle Illusion). Brackeen

September 8, 2007

Rugby - To our Argentinian readers, ¡felicitations!
Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London, 22nd August 2007
This was done on an impulse – or maybe it was the result of an as yet undiagnosed pizza addiction that’s slowly gnawing its way through my bones. Either way it’s the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho. We’re shoe-horned in next to a couple of tables who are getting along like a coach party on its way to Morecambe. On one there’s Kevin and his son Know-it-all-Nigel (aged 10), on the other Brian and Belinda. Nigel, who sensibly skips the Pizza and goes straight for the Triple Chocolate Glory (“mmm, I like it very much, Daddy”), is a guitar nut and probably headed for the school of rock. Chickens
He loudly informs his weary-looking father of a few salient rock facts – “Did you know Daddy, that Jimmy Page recorded the solo on ‘Stairway to Heaven’ using a 1958 Fender Telecaster that was a gift from his Yardbirds band mate, Jeff Beck, and a Supro amp? I like it very much”. Then he turns on Brian – “Do you play the guitar too?” “No” says Brian, “Actually it’s my 30th birthday and Belinda’s brought me here for a special treat (Birthday? Pizza? Just what sort of treat is this, Serge?). But I did try and play a long long time ago, but you know I could just never get the thing in tune. Bad ear I suppose”. “Oh” says Know-it-all, “But you don’t need to use your ears. I’ve got a Peterson VSS2 StroboStomp Pedal Tuner that Granny bought me for over one hundred pounds and it does it all for you. I like it very much. Don’t you have one?” And so it goes. By the time they leave, they’re swapping addresses and promising Christmas cards and Nigel, somehow, has avoided getting plates full of Pizza emptied on his head.
Max Factor
Max Factor ad
We’re here to see a very superior sort of tribute band – it’s jazz giant, legend, and virtuoso John Etheridge, of mid seventies Soft Machine (he’s here later in the week with his Soft Machine Legacy too) and Stéphane Grappelli fame, and his Zappatistas, featuring Annie Whitehead on trombone, Steve Lodder on keyboards, Simon Bates on saxophone, a wonderful trumpeter (not the regular guy) who’s name I confess I didn’t manage to get into the little black book. The band was put together by Etheridge (who’s about to tour the world with the Placido Domingo of the classical guitar, John Williams) and Lodder as a one-off in 1998, but since then they’ve played occasionally and recorded one album, the wittily titled ‘Live in Leeds’. I have to remark that I’m not a great Zappa fan (sorry Serge, it must be like saying that I don’t like motorbikes much, which I’m afraid I don’t) – I mean I can see the technical brilliance of his music, the accomplishment of his guitar playing (as a friend said earlier today – “he was a fantastic player, I mean he just sounded as if he could go on and on and on, which he often did”) and the sly edge wittiness of his lyrics but I just couldn’t get engaged. If you must know that’s also exactly how I feel about the Marx Brothers – I got the astonishing timing, the uber-surreal jokes, the wisecracks, but it didn’t really make me laugh. But Know-it-all has got his mouth stuffed with ice cream (silence at last!), I’m pizza replete, so I’m in a good enough humour for anything.
Serious Stuff
As are the band, hustled and bustled through the songs by musical director Lodder who sits at his keyboards like a Sergeant Major, barking orders and gesticulating at the band as he orchestrates their way through the songs. We may all be having fun, but it’s serous stuff, as Paul and Bruce in the front row (down from Walsall for a night in the big city – hello boys) found out when they navigated their way through the profusion of music stands and half-inched some sheet music (they tried to read it upside down at first – typical Brummies). And although various members of the band choose to sit out some of the other solos at the bar (leaving a gesticulating Lodder angrily staring into the crowd searching for them when it’s their turn to play) everyone turns in some pretty impressive playing – not least of course Etheridge, who uses Zappa's complex arrangements as a vehicle for some extravagant soloing. He’s good.
“Daddy, I think he’s rather good, but I’m not sure that he’s using his pinky enough in his fingering. Do you think I should tell him?” says Know-it-all, before Daddy eventually whisks him away as he yells “Daddy, I thought Mr Zappa used a Baby Snakes SG with a 23rd fret and phase switches and an onboard preamp, played through his Pignose amplifier. Why isn’t Mr Etheridge? And look at his pedal configuration, that surely can’t be right, he hasn’t got a Electro Wagnerian Emancipator or a Electro- Harmonix Big Muff….”
Well, for all that nonsense we enjoyed ‘Peaches en regalia’, ‘The grand Wazoo’, ‘Let’s make the water turn black’, ‘Eat that question’ (Etheridge was very hot here on a blues solo – “why play 3 notes when you can play 125?” said the Photographer), ‘Big Swifty’, ‘Zoot allures‘, ‘King Kong’, ‘Harry you’re a beast’, ‘Oh no’, ‘Lumpy gravy’ and ‘I am slime’. And some remarkable solo work from the brass section, and from quite excellent bassist Rob Statham. And after a chat with Paul and Bruce from Walsall we left happily into an unusually wet August night for home, with the sound of Serge’s favourite Mr Zappa, and some excellent musicians, ringing very pleasantly in our ears. - Nick Morgan (gig photographs by Kate)

FZ and his SG: "Why play 125 notes
when you can play 500?"
Muchas gracias Nick. As we already discussed, the fact that musicians of such calibre (notably Etheridge and Lodder) built up a Zappa tribute band says a lot about what luminaries think of Zappa’s music. Even Boulez goes on playing Zappa! Even Zapatero! On second thought, maybe not Zapatero... But this is probably the best ‘Zappa’ website today. As for the young Know-it-all, wasn’t he kind of a little Muffin man.mp3? (play it loud!)... ‘He hung around till you found that he didn’t know nuthin!’ FZ forever! - S.
  It’s definitely a trend. After John Glaser’s or John, Mark and Robbo's blended malts, or even La Maison du Whisky’s assembling of two malts from different distilleries (not to mention several other examples), here are other small batch ‘creations’. Maybe not very appealing to hardcore malt fans (if it ain’t single it ain’t cool, baby) but we can’t see why true drinkers wouldn’t follow the path... Especially when the 4-letter magic word appears on the label (starts with a P, Sherlock...)
Tasty Creation n°7 Peat & Fruit (43%, Jean Boyer, vatted, 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: it doesn’t smell like single malt indeed! There must be some Caol Ila in this, or maybe Laphroaig, plus what should be a young Speysider. Maybe 20/80 or 30/70. The peatiness provides a pleasant bed for several fruits such as pears, gooseberries or fresh almonds. Vanilla creme. It’s also a little milky/mashy. Probably very young but not unpleasant at all, even if it noses like no other whisky we could try (obviously, Serge!) Mouth: very sweet and very fruity attack, the peat really being there as a spice. Tined pineapples, tangerines, papayas... Hints of oak, peat, a little porridge... Eminently, err, pleasant. Finish: medium long, clean, just as fruity and leaving your mouth as clean as a baby’s. This one does what it says on the label. Excellent value but again, for ‘drinkers’. 79 points.
Tasty Creation n°8 Sherry & Peat (43%, Jean Boyer, vatted, 2006) Colour: straw. Nose: much more peat here, a bigger smokiness, it seems that the proportions are much more towards Islay. Notes of almonds, bitter oranges, vanilla fudge, whiffs of fresh putty, a little mint... And then these milky/mashy notes again, signs of young age (or of inactive casks in some cases). This one is a little less clean than n°7 but displays more oomph. Oh, and also very nice notes of sugarcane and aniseed. Mouth: again, more oomph and more peat (and more salt) than in n°7. Peat and oranges, cloves, almonds, oysters and lemons... Pepper, even hints of horseradish. Gets bigger and bigger and peatier and peatier. Very good! Finish: rather long, with hints of sherry indeed now and lots of smoke, with also a little honey. Excellent creation (or am I just a hopeless peatophile?). 85 points.
Peat 2 Peat 10 yo (54.7%, Taste Still, vatted, 2007) Probably a vatting of two famous Islayers. Colour: white wine. Nose: punchier of course, starting right on wet wool, porridge and chalk. Great notes of pineapples in the background. Gets a little more maritime with time (fresh kelp) but also very ‘a visit at a distillery on Islay’. Very pleasant again. Mouth: raw yet not unbalanced, punchy and very peaty and lemony. Typical medicinal notes (camphor, eucalyptus, iodine). Also quite some liquorice sticks and gentian roots. Big earthiness. Not much else but I guess complexity wasn’t the game here. I guess the bottler wanted a true peat monster – well, he succeeded. Finish: very long, saltier now, with a lot of smoke, peat and strong liquorice. Another one for hopeless peatophiles, very well made. 84 points.

September 7, 2007

Via Luc Timmermans (Belgium)
Black Bowmore
Left, the Black Bowmore final edition,
right the new Black Bowmore (paparazzi shoot).
Rumour had spread like wildfire since a few weeks and now it's confirmed, they did it! After the first three editions of Black Bowmore, 1964/1993 (50%, OB, first edition, 2000 bottles, WF rating 96), 1964/1994 (50%, OB, second edition, 2000 bottles, WF rating 91) and 1964/1995 (49%, OB, final edition, 1912 bottles, WF rating 91), which quickly became iconic to all collectors, Bowmore is about to launch a series of three ‘colour’ releases (Black, White and Red). Here are the details of the new Black (to be despatched on October the 8th): 42 yo, 1964/2007 (40.5%, OB, from 5 oloroso sherry casks, 827 bottles – although the same sources also mention 804 bottles). Should retail at £2,000. We hope to be able to publish tasting notes soon... and that it's closer to the first edition rather than to the second or third, that are still cheaper on the collectors' market.
Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 8 yo (70° proof, OB, Grant Bonding, late 1960’s) Colour: full gold. Nose: punchy but very dry, malty, toasted and… err, dry at very first sniffs but really keeps improving after that difficult start. Lots of chocolate of all kinds and quite some honey. Also a little talc, paper… And quite some olive oil after a while. Not a big whisky on the nose but an unusual profile. Mouth: way more expressive! Big and somewhat oily, candied, really toasted (toasted croissants), very enjoyably malty, roasted, smoky… It’s not very complex but simplicity can be great. Finish: unexpectedly long considering a 40% whisky, still very ‘grilled’ and maybe just a tad bitterish now. Truly excellent. 88 points.
Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, Grant Bonding, Pinerolo, circa 1970) Certainly bottled before 1972, as 1972 was the year when Grant Bonding co. was closed, dixit Mr Glenfarclas himself (‘Luc Timmermans’ in civilian life). Colour: bright amber. Nose: much, much more demonstrative than the 8yo, almost extravagant, displaying an immense range of various honeys and pastries at first nosing and then developing on the same chocolaty notes as in the 8 yo plus a perfect composition of hints of camphor, Spanish ham (Iberico or something like that), old gewürztraminer from a good winemaker’s (Alsatian, obviously), dried mushrooms, pipe smoke and even peat smoke. Just a little OBE to make all that even better combined (very slight, very pleasant mouldiness). Perfection made whisky. Mouth: absolutely fantastic, partly similar to the 8yo (with a little more of everything) and partly more sherried, just like on the nose. Extraordinary flavours of very old sweet wine, camphor, eucalyptus sweets… And hat a body! An old Glenfarclas at full steam. Finish: long, still bold, almost restless on your tongue… And surprisingly salty! A truly fabulous surprise distilled in Banffshire, more than 50 years ago and perfectly matured, both in wood and in glass. I’d have loved to be into whisky when this came out. 93 points (and thanks Luc).
Glenfarclas 8 yo ‘105’ (60M, OB, mid-1980’s, 75cl) The first version of the popular ‘105’ I believe, when it was still a disclosed 8yo. Current versions are more around 10 years of age we’ve heard. Colour: full gold. Nose: there’s certainly less sherry than in the current versions at first nosing and it’s maybe a tad gentler, although that may come from OBE. But then it’s a winey tide, with all the strawberries, blackcurrants and peonies on earth. Actually, it smells like red wine at 60%, should that exist. Add to that just a little honey and whiffs of coal smoke. Rather spectacular but the palate will be the determining factor… Mouth: big, fat, thick, oily feel at the attack, with less wine and more honey, dried herbs (is that thyme?)… and then a true maelstrom of other herbs, fruits and teas. But where do those come from? At random, I get tangerines, kumquats, rose jelly, cardamom, coriander, apple compote… Quite amazing. And it doesn’t even need any water – well, I don’t. Also quite some spices, mostly of the peppery and mustardy kinds. Really lots happening here. Finish: ‘as long as a day without whisky’, going on and on, on the same kinds of flavours. Too bad the nose was a little less fabulous than the palate, otherwise this GF would have fetched more than just 90 points (I have the current ones at 88, which is still a lot considering its ‘positioning’). But let’s ask two indie bottlers what they think…
Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 21 yo (46%, Cadenhead, sherry wood matured, mid-1980’s) This one was bottled at a time when it wasn’t yet completely forbidden to use the distillery’s name on a label. Colour: gold – amber. Nose: something of the old 8yo, very punchy, smoky, toasted, malty and chocolaty. It was probably distilled around the same years. Also that interesting oiliness (olive but also motor oil) and faint whiffs of peat smoke. Slight waxiness as well. Same level of quality, same profile, it seems that the further 13 years of maturing didn’t change much to this one. Great whisky on the nose. Mouth: excellent attack, fruity, honeyed, slightly resinous… But it gets then maybe a tad too oaky. Lots of oomph, that is – who said minis don’t keep well? Gets also faintly rubbery and quite spicy (pepper and cloves – the wood). Finish; very long, not too drying actually… Nice balance despite the rather heavy tannins. Excellent, for sure, especially on the nose. 88 points.
Glenfarclas Glenfarclas 1965/2005 (48.5%, Scott’s Selection) We think we’ve heard that this one led to court actions, as the distillery’s name was used on the label, which is extremely unusual these days with Glenfarclas and certainly streng verboten. But we could be very wrong (please no lawsuits, we have no budget for that!) Colour: oh, this is completely different this time! Starts mostly on various herbs (I get thyme again as well as coriander indeed but it is soon to become very fruity, much fresher than the OB’s and that the Cadenhead’s in a certain way. Lots of dried tangerines. Ham. More peat smoke as well, it could be that this one is from an old peated batch actually. And again a little olive oil and motor oil! Just as great…
Mouth: a bit less ‘Glenfarclas’ (no sherry it seems, or only refill) but still very, very good. Ample, punchy, fruitier again (overripe apples, quinces), rather salty, liquoricy, peppery… The oak is well here but it never gets the whisky to be drying or too tannic. Slightly mustardy as well – but no peat this time I’m afraid. Quite hot I must say, at 40 years of age. Finish: long, maybe a little tannic and drying now, getting sort of herbal and tea-ish like most whiskies of its age. In short, a very ‘different’ but truly excellent Glenfarclas, certainly not a conveyor of bad publicity for the brand, quite the opposite. 90 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Pura Fé from Philadelphia. The song is called You still take.mp3. Please buy Pura Fé's music (but what a voice!) Pura Fe

September 6, 2007

Benriach 34 yo 1972/2007 (49.7%, OB, Classic Speyside, Japan Only, cask #3580, 198 bottles) A brand new bottling, the appellation ‘Classic Speyside’ being used for unpeated versions, as opposed to ‘richly peated’ and ‘lightly peated’ (more about these ones in the coming days). Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts with an amazing freshness, all on ripe yellow plums and hints of eucalyptus and camphor. Quite fantastic I must say, uber-clean yet very complex, as it starts its development on notes of pinot gris, a faint smokiness (not peat, rather noble rot), kiwis, flowers from the fields, fresh apricots and apple liqueur (high-end manzana verde). Then we get a rather magnificent oak (newly made oak furniture), hints of heather honey, butter pears... A stunning Speysider, extremely elegant. Paprika
Mouth: well, there’s more wood and more tannins now, for sure. Not to the point where we could say that it went over the hill but still, the attack is a bit drying. But then it’s the expected cortege of apricots, very ripe melons, plums, pears... Too bad it gets even more drying with time (nutmeg, flour, tapioca). A lot of paprika as well. Finish: medium long, quite tannic and spicy, with the apricot in the background. Well, the nose was worth 93-94, but the rather woody palate pulled the whole down to, say 89 points in my opinion. But hardcore ‘nosers’ will adore this one.
Benriach Benriach 34 yo 1968/2003 (50.4%, High Spirits, Scottish Colourists, cask #2590, 410 bottles, 75cl) Colour: gold. Nose: quite superb again, punchier and quite rougher than the OB but in no way rough (it’s just that the OB was so elegant). More kiwis and even passion fruits and the same kind of oakiness. Green tea and apple skin, greengage, wet hay. Hints of mustard. Superb again but maybe not quite as magnificent as the 1972. Mouth: ha-ha, this one makes up for what it lost on the nose now. A fantastic fruitiness (tangerines, passion fruits, kiwis), soft curry and spices from the wood, oranges, orange liqueur... Sure it gets slightly drying after a while but less so than the 1972. Finish: long, bold, fruity and woody (okay, quite woody now) but it’s totally excellent whisky anyway. Do we get a little peat as well in the aftertaste? No less than 91 points.
Benriach 30 yo 1976/2007 (52%, OB for The Nectar, Belgium, cask #8080, 166 bottles, hogshead) Colour: gold. Nose: the profile is roughly the same as the High Spirit’' except that this one is a little less fruity, a little oakier and, above all, quite peatier (no peat monster though, it’s delicate, almost discreet peat, not too easy to notice). I don’t know if it’s the mixture of peat and ‘classical Benriach’ character but it really develops towards vegetal notes such as moss, fern, wild mushrooms, wet pine needles (‘a walk in the forest under the rain’). Benriach Nectar
Goes on with notes of cider apples, very fresh walnuts, Château-Chalon wine (or the very, very best finos). Maybe it’s a tad less demonstrative than the 1972 on the nose – and less ‘easy’ - but it’s of the same noble stock, no doubt. Mouth: okay, Benriach is best at around 30 years of age it seems but not later. Indeed, this one is perfect, there’s quite some wood of course but balance is still achieved here, which is quite amazing as the fruitiness, again, is less ‘obvious’ than in both other versions we just had. The first notes I get are high-grade green tea, quince, citron and lemon marmalade, then lots of spices but not of the ‘drying’ kind (beautiful cloves here) and then notes of very ripe gooseberries. Also hints of cinchona, chlorophyll, peppermint... The finish is very long, beautifully peppery, a little candied, with also notes of dried bitter oranges and a little liquorice. State of the art, bottled just at the right age I think. One of this autumn’s best new bottlings I think (together with the new Lagavulin 21yo and maybe a few others, we’ll see...), eminently drinkable at that. 92 points.
Aromas SHOPPING - A Spanish company called Hispanoamerican brokers sells these 'Natural Aromas To Make Liquors And Wines'. Their prose is very enlightening: 'Our company mainly involves the business of natural aromas, extracts or essences to make liquors and wines. We can supply aroma sirhach (wot?), cabernet and merlot, enocyanine (powder and liquid) to help make wines. Moreover, we can supply too, all products to make liquors like a brandies, whiskeys, vermouths, sangria, sherry, raisin, rum, vodka, and others...
The best aroma or essence is reserve oak essence. It is used to make old every liquor and you can guarantee to make always the same liquor with more years without to have the liquor in a oak barrels. We have been dealing in fine extracts since 1995 with very good reputation and achievements. Our company has built up professional staff and established it's own laboratory where we can help you technically.'
Only problem: the minimum order is '25 liters.'


MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: a great guitar and a great organ always remind me of the (great) Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith... And Sheryl Bailey with bandmate Gary Versace are no exception. Let's listent to a clip of their Death toll.mp3 (not Death march)... And then buy their music.

Sheryl Bailey

September 5, 2007








Aultmore 1973/1988 (46%, Moon 'The Sea', cask #4973, 348 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather restrained, starting on whiffs of hay and warm butter and developing (so to speak) on notes of beer (hops), porridge and asparagus soup. Something animal in the background (faint whiffs of horse sweat, hare). Not unpleasant at all but kind of dirty I’d say. Old walnuts, old clothes. Mouth: the attack is quite grainy and cereally but other than that it’s a little indefinite, grassy with hints of peat, herbal, vegetal (cabbage?) and slightly liquoricy. Not as bad as it sounds, it’s just that it’s hard to get specific flavours from this one. Slight pepper. Finish: medium long, grainy and grassy with salty touches. Really, this is good whisky but there much better bottlings by Moon Import. 78 points.
Aultmore 15 yo 1989 (55.8%, Norse Cask, 230 bottles, bourbon) Colour: straw. Nose: starts vanilled, bourbonny, quite spicy (ginger and curry). Quite some oak in this one it seems and not much distillery character – although I’m well incapable of recognising Aultmore’s character. Develops rather beautifully, that is, with strong notes of strawberry sweets (Tagada), hints of marshmallows, quite some olive oil and a little grilled tea (ho-chicha). Gets grassier with time. I like it. Mouth: good punch but probably less character except these bold grassy notes (and the olive oil again). The rather heavy oakiness brings its cortege of spices including cloves, nutmeg, pepper, paprika and this curry-like flavour that we already had on the nose. And ginger. Finish: quite long, still quite grassy, with a little apple juice and vanilla. Oak at work but it’s all very pleasant albeit not exactly ‘definite’. 81 points.
Aultmore-Glenlivet 1989/2003 (57.5%, Cadenhead, 228 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is much more austere, almost silent except for the alcohol. A little grass, a little apple skin, hints of wet cardboard... And then heavy notes of empty white wine barrel? Gets closer to the Norse cask after that, with the same notes of marshmallows. Gets more and more rieslingesque. Kiwis, lemons, wet stones... Not really sexy but keeps improving with time. Mouth: exactly the same whisky as the Norse Cask, just a tad sweeter and more powerful (the extra 2% make quite a difference here). Finish: longer but grassier. 81 points.
Aultmore 16 yo 1990/2007 (58.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #2536, 158 bottles) Colour: dark gold. Nose: almost exactly the same notes again (very grassy) except that it’s coated with sherry here. Whiffs of a freshly emptied wine barrel’s inside, quite some praline, ‘hare’s belly’, hints of cardboard... A little too hot at almost 59%, that is, let’s add water... Oh, this is funny, water almost killed the sherry, the malt getting much closer to the 1989’s we just had. Hay and candy sugar, hints of ham and game, white wine (not sherry, eh!), green tea... Mouth (neat): unexpectedly smooth despite the high alcohol and pleasantly fruity (first sultanas and dates, then kumquats and Seville oranges) but let’s try it with water as etiquette demands. Good news, water didn’t kill the sherry this time but it toned it down indeed. Sultanas, apricot pie, a little balsamico, pepper-flavoured chocolate (they have great ones in Spain), plum jam... Rather perfect balance. Finish: rather long, compact, candied, with ‘strong notes of strong honey’ remaining on your palate (chestnut). A pretty excellent Aultmore that reminds me of some Linkwoods but I couldn’t tell you why. 86 points.
< SHOPPING (it's a weird world) - Forget about Gleneagles, Glenlivet or Highland Springs, this is the ultimate water for whisky freaks! Rolling on the floor here... (via K!)
    MUSICRecommended listening: today is soul blues day with Mr. Sonny Rhodes, the disciple of the blues, playing Shoe on the other foot.mp3. Please buy the music of the man with the turban...
Sonny Rhodes

September 4, 2007








Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB, for Cinoco, Belgium, rotation 1979) People sometimes ask me how we get to know when an old whisky was bottled. In this case it’s quite easy, as Belgian bottlings used to have the year of bottling printed on a back label. In other cases, somebody’s got a full case (lucky b...) and ‘rotation years’ used to be on those cases, especially cases for Italy. Colour: amber. Nose: oh, this is fab, another proof that bottle ageing goes so well with peat. The first thing we get is a blend of Havana cigar smoke and quince jam as well as a little cedar wood and faint whiffs of church incense, plus old leather polish and smoked roasted almonds. Quite entrancing I must say (let’s try to keep cool). The fantastic smokiness stays always there, unchanged, but all the rest keeps evolving, getting meatier at a certain point (game), then quite resinous (putty), then more leathery, then on very old herb liqueurs, then on coffee toffee... And finally on high-end (obviously) shoe polish. Absolutely amazing. And what a fabulous smokiness. A total absence of fruitiness (except for the quince jam), which further reinforces its compactness on the nose. Exceptional whisky. Mouth: ‘wow!’ Maybe not as powerful as we’d have wished but superbly dry and most amazingly winey at the same time, almost like a great amontillado or a vin jaune. Goes on with herbs (a little thyme, a little rosemary, a little bay leaf), walnuts, bitter oranges, mastic, pistachio oil, chlorophyll... It’s also a little ashy and certainly as smoky as it gets. Probably a little less complex as on the nose but truly beautiful. Finish: medium long but quite salty, toasted, still very dry, with an aftertaste on cough syrup and toasted brioche. A classic masterpiece, only the very slightly weakish palate prevents this one from reaching the 95 mark. So it’s going to be 94 points.
Lagavulin 21 yo 1985/2007 (56.5%, OB, 6,642 bottles) The 16yo has long been to Lagavulin what the 911 was to Porsche but we’re more than happy to see more variants coming out, especially since those are more Turbos than Boxters in our opinion... Okay, enough crappy analogies, let’s try this brand new 21yo, due for later this autumn (we already had a taste of a pre-vatting at the Islay Festival). It’s an important bottling, as it comes from Spanish sherry European oak casks only – not American oak like often with sherry. Besides, we’ve been told that there won’t be any other ‘full sherry’ versions in the future. Colour: full amber. Nose: what is striking are the obvious common roots between the old 12yo and this new 21yo. This one is more ‘direct’ at first nosing, though. Sweeter, creamier, immediately on peat plus sherry plus the assembling of both (if you see what I mean)... Simple? Indeed, but just for a few seconds, as it then starts to shoot aromatic arrows one after the other. Menthol, hazelnut oil, oxtail, prunes, orange marmalade, smoked ham, curry, mustard (hints), walnut liqueur. Slight hints of phosphorus (although not like a ‘simple’ bunch of matchsticks). And it goes on, getting wilder now... Game (just like in the old 12yo), eucalyptus (I know brands are not cool but I’d dare to say ‘Vicks’)... And then strawberry jam, sea water... Please take your time when you’ll try this one, the development is ‘very gradual’ but it’s really worth it. A fireworks show. Mouth: here’s the punch that the 12yo was lacking, but also a slight ‘brutality’ at the attack. A true peaty grip in fact and an extreme ‘ampleur’. Quite some pepper, walnuts, crystallised ginger, strong liquorice, tar, mint and eucalyptus sweets again (very bold!), bitter oranges... And a powerful smokiness. The saltiness grows bolder as well... No sulphur that I can get... Wood ashes, herb liqueurs (green Chartreuse – are you listening, O.?), Havana tobacco (like when you chew your cigar). Also hints of ripe gooseberries and dried longans. And sticky toffee pudding, of course. Finish: very long, concentrated, ample, salty and liquoricy – amusing how this one makes you thirsty. We also tried it with water, it got more on mint and eucalyptus (and oranges) but other than that the general profile stayed the same. Who said this was an important bottling? 95 points.
Lagavulin 15yo 1978/1993 (64.4%, Cadenhead) There are very little indie Lagavulins these days, at least by their names. Colour: pale straw. Nose: incredibly ‘noseable’ at such high strength and very, very farmy, although we also have the very typical Lagavulin smoke right there (tobacco, coal). And also this mint, eucalyptus again, wet hay, ‘clean wet dog’, antiseptic... The absence of sherry leaves more room for superb coastal notes as well, ‘a full plate of oysters’, metal polish, smoked tea... And also something slightly bubblegummy, pineapple sweets... More austere than its siblings, sharper and just as smoky. Superb again but let’s try it with a few drops of water... No changes, except that it got just a tad grassier. Really superb albeit much less sexy than its bros. Garbo? Mouth (neat): punchy of course but again, it’s bearable when neat, even if the fruitiness and sweetness are really huge now. Bold notes of apples, pears, pineapples, bubblegum that sort of overwhelm the peat and smoke, but that may well be the high alcohol. Quick, water... Again, that didn’t change much to this one, I’d say it got even fruitier and sweeter, which is a (minor) flaw here as it gives the malt ‘tastes of immaturity’. Gets also a little grassier. Finish: long but slightly too grassy now, with also kirschy notes that do not fit the peatiness too well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great whisky but I feel the sweetness was a bit excessive on the palate. And what a nose! 88 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: we have another blues slinger today, his name is Jay Hooks and he's playing Last stand.mp3 (not Achilles'). Please buy his punchy music... Jay Hooks

September 3, 2007

Hi. It is with emotional scars that we decided to resume WF's normal activity today, after having considered that after all, we're all more or less Michael Jackson's children or nephews as far as whisky is concerned, and that our humble and unlikely little web site is a very tiny part of his invaluable legacy that lives on, including, I hope, the bits about music, particularly jazz, as well as the very clumsy sense of humour that some of our distinguished readers seem to find on these modest pages.
The Michael Jackson tribute page will remain on Whiskyfun. Thanks to all our friends who added some very nice words. You can still add yours, please just click on Michael's picture at the right of WF's homepage.


The Spitz, Spitalfields Market, London, August 18th 2007

Well I know everyone’s going to say it’s been an awful summer –they always do, don’t they? But it’s been another blisteringly hot day in London and we’re crammed like sardines inside a tiny airless venue, melting.

We’ve rallied across from the West at speed in a Sweeneyesque vintage BMW (yes, I know they drove a Consul GT but believe me it just feels like we should be in the Sweeney) with our hot-rod companions for the night. We’re upstairs at the Spitz, “a bloody holiday camp for thieves and weirdoes”, nestled away in the corner of the remaining late Victorian buildings of Spitalfields Market in the East End – Gilbert and George are just around the corner in their Huguenot weaver’s cottage, and it’s Jack the Ripper heartland – the Ten Bells is just across the road. It’s sad that having built up quite a reputation for alt.music in almost every genre over the past few years the Spitz, with its very nice downstairs bistro (yes Serge, sad to confess, very good hamburgers) will be closing shortly – to be replaced, one imagines, by some sort of typically bland chain restaurant. In all likelihood, the music venue will close.
David “Honeyboy” Edwards
We’ve been entertained for an hour or so by veteran British blues player Dave Peabody, and for the last few songs of his set, by 3 Mustaphas 3 founder Ben Mandelson on mandolin. It’s very superior folk club stuff – Peabody has been voted ‘British Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year’ three times and it’s evident that he really knows his stuff – both musically and historically. But the longer he goes on the more I begin to get nervous. You see we’re here to see David “Honeyboy” Edwards. The blues singer from Mississippi. He was born in 1915. That makes him, by my reckoning, 92 years old. And the longer Peabody plays the more I worry that we’re being strung along, waiting all night for a ten minute less than cameo appearance from a performer way past his prime. I shouldn’t have worried.
After a short break Edwards takes the stage at about 9.30 and he performs for almost an hour and a half. He gets settled in his seat in the centre of the stage with Peabody to his left accompanying on guitar, and to his right on harmonica Michael Franks, founder of Edwards’ current record label, Earwig Records. They provide a subtle backing – Franks is very accomplished and plays in what I would call a narrative style, it’s a slightly laid back Little Walter. Peabody gently fills in here and there. Both struggle to keep up with Edward’s unfathomable timing – but they’ve done it before and know what to expect, or rather what not to expect, which is a sustained twelve bar structure. This is real “in the groove” hypnotic Mississippi bottleneck blues, with a Chicago twist (particularly after Edwards changes from acoustic to electric guitar – which is also when thankfully someone turns the air conditioning on). Edwards is, as they sometimes say, “in the place” and he changes chord at will.
If you want to know about Edwards you can read his autobiography, The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing, which comes highly recommended, and there’s also a film about him. He took to the road at the age of 16 beginning a career as an itinerant musician that lasted ‘till he settled in Chicago in the early 1950s. He travelled and played with the likes of Charley Patton and Tommy Johnson, Big Joe Williams (who was his musical mentor) and most famously Robert Johnson, who courted (if that’s the right word) his cousin Willie Mae. "He was a nice person," said Honeyboy in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, “he wasn't a hell raiser, but he loved whisky and was crazy about women: that was his downfall." Edwards, along with, some say, Sonny Boy Williamson, was at the house-party where Johnson was (by popular consent) poisoned having flirted drunkenly with the jook-joint owner’s wife. As such he has an indelible link with the roots, not just of the blues, but also of modern rock and roll – but it’s a point that he’s reticent about. “You can talk to Honeyboy after the show”, says Peabody, “and he’ll be happy to sign autographs, just don’t ask him about Robert Johnson”.
I couldn’t tell you all the songs he played – his groaning voice is quite mesmerising, more like a chant than singing, but it’s hard to make out the lyrics to some of the tunes. I could hear (I think) ‘Sweet home Chicago’, ‘Big fat woman’, ‘Shake ‘em on down’, and ‘Rolling stone’ (he plays ‘Chicago’ again when he takes up his electric guitar). But what with the heat and the lack of space you could just about think yourself back to a crowded cabin in the steamy Delta. Edwards
Edwards may not have been, or be, the best blues guitarist in the world but he carries the real spirit of the music and the place with him, and his performance is compelling – every minute of it. It’s also dignified and thoroughly understated. And when he does finally run out of steam he sits happily for another thirty minutes or so chatting and signing autographs on a rapidly diminishing pile of CDs for a crowd of excited admirers whose ages range from about sixteen to well above sixty. What a treat! - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick and kudos to Kate for the beautiful photographs. Let’s listen to Shake ‘em on down.mp3 by Honeyboy Edwards right away...
TASTING - It is with much surprise, while we were working on our indexes, that we found out that we had just written our 3000th tasting note for Whiskyfun (not taking into account the whiskies we’ve commented on for Maltmaniacs, nor simple scores). It’s not an achievement we’re particularly proud of, especially because of the very sad news of Michael 'The Master' Jackson's passing, but we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the friends who provide us with samples, the Malt Maniacs, all the skilful distillers and bottlers who make magnificent (and sometimes less magnificent) whiskies and, of course, our loyal liver that still seems to be in fairly good shape, thanks to all the wonderful drams that we remorselessly spat out. Some close friends or family members sometimes ask me when I’ll get fed up with all this madness. The answer is ‘not yet!’ so, en route for more usquebaugh! - S.
Just in case you don't know, the liver is this reddish-brownish thing on top of the rest. Aren't we viscerally into whisky?
Benriach 12






Benriach 12 yo 'Arumaticus Fumosus' (46%, OB, Peated Jamaican Dark Rum Finish, 1740 bottles, 2007) Laughing out loud! When some ancient Romans, some Jamaicans and some Scots get together, there should be something unusual coming out of it but sincerely, as with all these crazy finishings, felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas (sure, Virgil – S.). Please note that Arumaticus is not exactly dog Latin, it’s ‘rum’ instead of ‘rom’ on purpose. Clever, innit! Colourus: whitus winum. Nosus: it’s really the peatus that’s on, not the rum, and it’s rather clean and straightforward peatus in this casus. Quite some smokus, ashus... Gets more on mashed potatus after a while, soaked grainus, faint whiffs of wet doggus, wet woolus. It seems that the rum brings more leafy and earthy notus rather than candy sugarus and such. Not boldly complex but quite exquisitus I must say and very clean. Mouthus: okay, let’s stop that before we all get insane. The attack is quite punchy and very clean again, dry (still no candiness), very peaty, with the same rooty – leafy – earthy tones plus a little oak in the background. It’s only then that something that’s more like white than dark or golden rum comes through... Or grilled tea? Gets quite bitter with time, but in a rather pleasant way, reminding me of these famous hyper-strong herbal liqueurs such as Jägermeister. Finish: quite long, with even more of these bitterish notes plus quite some smoke again and kind of a roughness. Certainly different in style but still very ‘whisky’ – and ‘peat’. 81 points. 
Benriach 12 yo 'Heredotus Fumosus' (46%, OB, Peated Pedro Ximinez Finish, 3180 bottles, 2007) Not sure this Heredotus is the same as famous king Herodotus... Or does it have something to do with heritage? Colour: gold. Nose: sweeter and quite softer at first nosing, with indeed a little cane sugar this time (eh?) and much shier peatiness and smokiness. Even more mashed potatoes and grain in this one, the whole getting frankly porridgy after a moment, with even whiffs of horse sweat. Soft and wild at the same time. Mouth: punchier and peatier than on the nose, slightly salty, with also quite some liquorice and earl grey tea (heavily infused). Hints of stout, violet sweets, blackberry jelly. Again this bitterness (more old walnuts here). Finish: long, more ‘peaty and candied’. This one isn’t too winey, but one can feel it’s not ‘regular’ whisky and that ‘something’ happened. I liked the rum version’s cleanliness a little better I must say. 79 points.
Another Roman label we made 'just for fun' a few years ago when that famous ‘fake Macallans’ issue occured.
Benriach 12 yo 'Importanticus Fumosus' (46%, OB, Peated Port Finish, 2520 bottles, 2007) Do you spot ‘port’ in Importanticus? Colour: pale gold with salmony hues as often with Port finished whiskies. Nose: very close to the ‘sherry’ version at first nosing but gets quickly very different. A little peatier and funnily minty. Even farmier, not only horse sweat but also cow stable. Slightly rancid butter. Narguileh smoke. Much less Port influence than in many other Port finished malts. Mouth: punchy again, somewhat in between the rum and the sherry. Certainly cleaner and more ‘direct’ than the latter, but the Port is well here as such (blackcurrants). Nice notes of bitter oranges. Also a little spicier (quite some cloves and pepper). Eglantine. Finish: long, more ‘achieved’ and satisfying than the ‘sherry’ version, somewhat like smoky Port (strongly fortified of course). This is pleasant, actually, we’ve seen many more unbalanced wineskies. 82 points.
Benriach 13 yo 1994/2007 (55.5%, OB, Richly peated, Port finish, cask #26, 324 bottles) Colour: gold with salmony hues. Nose: extremely close to the 'Importanticus Fumosus', just more powerful and maybe a tad less farmy. Still a bit UFW (unidentified flying whisky) but certainly quite pleasant. Mouth: now it’s all to the power of 2, more peat and more Port. Wee hints of rubber. More winey than the IF (do they expect us to type the full name every time?), tasting more like peated whisky plus Port wine. Not bad at all, though. Finish: long, sweet and peaty, with a rather peppery – almost mustardy – aftertaste. Blackcurrant-flavoured mustard like they make in Dijon, Burgundy? Oh well, I guess we’d better get used to these ones... 78 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK are leaving Saint-Tropez

August 2007 - part 3 <--- September 2007 - part 1 ---> September 2007 - part 2

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



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

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1966/1997 (45.1%, OB, cask #509, hogshead)

Benriach 30 yo 1976/2007 (52%, OB for The Nectar, Belgium, cask #8080, 151 bottles, hogshead)

Benriach 34 yo 1968/2003 (50.4%, High Spirits, Scottish Colourists, cask #2590, 410 bottles, 75cl)

Cooley 14 yo (58.7%, Cadenhead, 222 bottles, bottled 2006)

Glenfarclas 8 yo ‘105’ (60M, OB, mid-1980’s, 75cl)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, Grant Bonding, Pinerolo, circa 1970)

Glenfarclas 1965/2005 (48.5%, Scott’s Selection)

Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB, for Cinoco, Belgium, rotation 1979)

Lagavulin 21 yo 1985/2007 (56.5%, OB, 6,642 bottles)

Macallan-Glenlivet 15yo (80°proof, G&M Licensed, Gold Label, mid 1970’s)

Macallan 1958 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, early 1970’s)

Macallan 1954 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, late 1960’s)

Macallan 29yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory, cask #1058, 256 bottles)

Miltonduff 1966/1990 (61.4%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola, 75cl)