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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2008 - Part 2
       
September 2008 - part 1 <--- September 2008 - part 2 ---> October2008 - part 1
 

September 30, 2008


WF’s concert review department never sleeps! While Nick was in Shanghai, it’s fellow Malt Maniac and guest music writer Luca Chichizola who sent us this excellent review of a R.E.M. gig in Torino…
CONCERT REVIEW by Luca Chichizola
R.E.M.
Isozaki Olympic Arena, Torino, Italy, September 27th 2008
As the fellow Maniacs probably have understood, when it comes to travelling I am quite a lazy person. I like to see places, but I don’t like spending hours on a plane, train or car… especially if I have to travel alone. So when some friend tells me that he travelled 500 Kms for attending to a concert in some distant place, I don’t feel much envy for him: in his place, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the show after such a long trip. remtorino
One notable exception was my 2006 Depeche Mode concert in Manchester, but that’s another story… and after all, it was Depeche Mode (sorry, Serge!). So when after many years one of the big names of rock comes to play in my hometown… no, wait, not only in my hometown, but right across the street from my house, well… missing the occasion would have been a crime.
There’s been a time when I used to hate R.E.M. (when they were constantly overexposed on MTV) thinking they were boring and overrated, and there’s been a time when I suddenly found myself loving them and listing them as one of my favourite bands. Now I am no longer exactly a fan like I used to, but I still like their music: their early “indie” albums from the ‘80s still have a unique charm, and their early-mid ‘90s ones are great classics of my generation. Sure, after drummer Bill Berry chose to leave the band in 1995 some spark was lost: what followed were a melancholy and experimentally minimalist (but also a bit boring) album, an enjoyable but overproduced and slightly stale one, and a complete misfire (“Around the sun”, a yawner of epic proportions).
When all hopes were lost, R.E.M. surprised everyone this spring with the release of “Accelerate”, which sounded like the band had travelled 25 years back in time to recover their post-punk/garage/indie rock band origins. Eleven extremely short songs, mostly fast-paced and tight, raw and energetic. The critics raved and welcomed this new burst of energy from the “old timers”, sometimes even hinting that this was one of their best albums ever. In my opinion, it was a bit of an exaggeration: “Accelerate” sounds good and invigorating, but it’s little more than a rehash of the classic R.E.M. style. A competent rehash, written and played with unexpected enthusiasm, but not a masterpiece like “Automatic for the people”, “New adventures in Hi-Fi”, their debut “Murmur” or the underrated “Fables of the reconstruction”. Accelerate REM
As expected, this concert would feature many songs from “Accelerate”, but what really attracted me was that in all previous dates of the tour R.E.M. had played lots of songs from the old albums (including some that they had almost never played live in the past decade or even longer) spanning their complete career from 1981 to 2008. Ok, I was sold: tickets, please!
After a quick pizza (onions and gorgonzola for me!) at home with my friends Umberto and Manuela, we reached the PalaIsozaki: it’s the biggest covered sports arena in Italy, and it was built for the 2006 Winter Olympics. As such, it’s a very modern venue: a shame that only few concerts took place here so far (the only international names up to yesterday were Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Ennio Morricone), simply because the organizers usually choose Milan for this kind of events. Anyway, we took our seats and waited for the support band (We are the scientists, an indie group I knew nothing of) to finish their show. The audience seemed kind of civilized, compared to other rock shows I have seen: many middle aged couples, quite a bit of grey hair, some elegant and pretty young girls. After all, R.E.M. are popular, but their appeal seems to strike a chord mostly in free-thinking liberals, well-educated and generally “quiet” people (no, not exactly “nerds”, although there sure was quite a bunch of them). No traces of long haired bikers, or of funny faces like the straight-out-of-the-Addams-family goths I had in front of me at the Depeche Mode concert I mentioned above. Good, a nice relaxing evening, then… but also some sort of a (visually) boring audience.
REM
Anyway, the concert starts on time at 21:05, immediately revving up at full speed: the band is hot and lively, performing with the usual great enthusiasm. The result is that the first song (“Living well is the best revenge”, from their last album) kicks some serious ass, as do the following ones: an old favourite like “Begin the begin”, that great electric rocker called “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” and the equally loud and gritty “I took your name”. Wow, the age of R.E.M. ranges from 48 (singer Michael Stipe) to 52 (guitarist Peter Buck), but they still can pack a punch! The music is vibrant and youthful as ever, and Stipe (dressed very elegantly in a coat and tie) dances around the stage with his unmistakeable jerky and disjointed but graceful movements. No time is wasted in talk except for a “Grazie!” at the end of every song, and then the train keeps rolling at full speed. Even slower songs like “The great beyond” are played in a slightly faster and more dynamic version than in the albums, and the audience soon warms up. Maybe the political references to the incoming American elections (Stipe is a passionate democrat) are wasted for an Italian audience, but it’s very nice nonetheless to hear a live performance of old vitriolic classics like “Ignoreland” and “Exhuming McCarthy”.
And the show goes on, at a frantic pace: only the choice of the very minor and little-known “Animal” seems completely out of place, while it’s a great pleasure to hear old gems like “Driver 8”… and even a little throwaway song like the recent “I’m gonna DJ” becomes a thumping and thunderous arena rocker when played live. At the middle of the show, while Peter Buck keeps being his usual impassible self and Mike Mills just smiles, Stipe starts getting a bit talkative: he chats with the audience, recalls funny anecdotes of the last time he came in Torino as a tourist, jokes on how tired the band is after such a tour and how coming to Italy has a nice relaxing effect on them (maybe thanks to the food and wine?). And then they start playing again with the same passion… “She just wants to be” ends with some very energetic electric guitar soloing, much better than in the studio version, and “The one I love” sets the audience on fire singing along with Stipe during the chorus. Not only that, but the members of the Italian fanclub start waving sheets of paper with the silhouette of a naked woman… a clear homage to Peter’s Rickenbacker 360 guitar that was recently stolen (and then luckily “found” again) after a concert in Helsinki. A very loved guitar, as Buck started playing it in 1982 on their debut album and never replaced it: very fitting that the homage from the audience was staged during “The one I love”!!! REM
After sixteen songs, the pace slows down and becomes meditative: first with “Until the day is done”, and then with a touching acoustic version of Kurt Cobain’s homage “Let me in” with all the band gathered around the piano: so much better and more intimate than the distorted and buzzing album version! After this lovely moment, it’s time to rock back again with four more songs: as predictable, the highlight is the final one, a rousing version of the anti-military “Orange crush”, with the audience clapping thunderously in pace with the marching rhythm.
The band then leaves the stage without further notice, but on the projection screens a sheet of paper appears and a hand scribbles “Encores?”, at which of course the audience reacts with ominous screaming, clapping and stomping of the feet. And so here they come back on stage, to perform their recent single “Supernatural superserious” and then some of their all-time favourites: “Losing my religion”, a superbly fast and dynamic version of “Walk unafraid”, the unmissable arena rocker “It’s the end of the world (and I feel fine)” and of course the usual lively rendition of “Man on the moon”. What a great way to end a concert: they had never really lost steam for 27 songs in approximately two hours, but the encores were really a treat!
Overall the concert was very satisfactory: sure, the acoustics of these sports arenas are never top notch and Michael Stipe’s voice sounded a bit distant during the louder songs, and I personally feel that the arrangements would have been more effective and clean if Buck had been the only guitar player, without the backing from an additional musician. Stipe did his best to make the show involving: perhaps his stage presence is not as commanding as some other lead singers, but no reason to complain. REM
The choice of songs was interesting: apart from the handful of landmark classics and from the cuts from the new album, the setlist was accurately compiled to include some almost forgotten gems. Not the usual “best of” singles to please the casual fans: on the other hand, a wide array of great songs which only the TRUE fans love (and as a matter of fact often love even MORE than the hit singles). Personally I would have loved to hear some stuff from their first two albums, maybe even “Gardening at night”, or some more songs from “New adventures in Hi-Fi” because they are perfect live material due to their raw edge… but, again, complaining about such an extensive and at times unexpected setlist would be unfair.
Good job Michael, Mike and Peter… and see you (hopefully) soon in Torino again! - Luca Chichizola

Aberlour 14

TASTING – TWO 14yo ABERLOURS

Aberlour 1989/2004 (56.8%, James MacArthur, Old Master, cask # 12198) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather spirity, yeasty and fruity (porridge, apples and pears), with a little smoke and hints of coffee and milk chocolate. Typical young Speysider without much cask influence. With water: gets extremely porridgy. Ensilage and yoghurt. Mouth (neat): pure apple and pear juice with a little cinnamon. Hints of bubblegum, jelly beans… Slight grassy sourness. With water: more of the same but with a better balance. Added grassy notes. Finish: long, on cider apples and white pepper. Comments: not particularly interesting I‘d say but perfectly quaffable, why not with ginger tonic. SGP:431 – 78 points.
Aberlour 14 yo 1992/2008 (58.2%, OB for LMDW, casks 235/8641, 150 bottles) A vatting of first fill bourbon and sherry. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s the sherry that plays the first part here, with rather heady notes of peonies and orange liqueur but the bourbon wood is well here as well, with quite some vanilla and whiffs of newly sawn oak. Maybe a bit brutal, let’s add water right away. With water: gets much more complex, with very nice notes of palo cartado this time. Balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, slight beefiness, walnuts and Havana cigar. Way nicer with water! Mouth (neat): funny how it’s more the bourbonny side that strikes first on the palate, with a huge spiciness and quite some vanilla. Pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and tea tannins. With water: less development than on the nose, the rather heavy woodiness still dominates a bit. Coffee dregs, cinnamon, walnuts, roasted haelnuts and tobacco. Finish: long, rather balanced but a tad drying. Comments: another modern-style single mal, very well made but with a rather huge oak influence. Very good but at 139 Euros for a 14yo, one may prefer the best batches of A’bunadh. SGP:452 – 87 points.
 

September 29, 2008


Brora 25

TASTING – TWO BRORAS

Brora 22 yo 1983/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Sherry butt, DL566, 224 bottles) 1983 is an interesting vintage at Brora’s because after quite some years of relative ‘unpeatiness’, we’ve always found the 1983’s to be quite peaty, as if the old distillery had willed to send a phenolic farewell to the world before being closed down for good. Colour: amber with salmony hues. Nose: beautiful at first sniffs, extremely smoky and sort of ‘sooty’, with very big notes of gunpowder (like when you smell the barrel of a gun that was just shot). All that settles down a bit after one minute or two, leaving more room for some fine sherry notes. Chocolate, blackcurrant jam, orange marmalade, butter and ginger. These notes’ youthfulness may suggest more a finishing than full maturing but I’m most probably wrong. Anyway, this Brora is very “dual’, pure smoke on one side, pure sherry on the other side. Very, very big dram. Mouth: yes, very big, with the sherry striking first this time (jars and jars of orange marmalade) and the smokiness trying to keep up. Notes of very strong black tea, liquorice, salmiak, toffee and prunes, with also quite some pepper and cinnamon. Rough and explosive. Finish: very long, even more concentrated, with even heavier notes of liquorice. Comments: quite monstrous if we may say so. Spectacular in any case, not for the fainthearted (as they say). SGP:666 (devilish indeed) – 88 points.
Brora 25 yo (56.3%, OB, 3,000 bottles, 2008) Exit our beloved 30yo, here comes the new 25yo! Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is more delicate than the 1983, which suggests an earlier vintage(s). The smoke is sort of shier but also more elegant, the whole being more complex for sure. At random we get notes of fresh bitter almonds (quite a lot), white wine (Sauvignon), wet leaves and mushrooms (a walk through the trees, really), cloves and ginger, smoked tea (lapsang souchong)… Gets then a little fruitier (ripe apples and pears), grassier and even a tad mustardy. With water: gets a bit farmier (wet hay) and maritime as well (drying kelp on the beach), with also hints of fresh mint. Mouth (neat): starts unexpectedly fruity (granny smith) but it’s soon to get rather smokier, with big notes of fresh walnuts and crystallised lemon zests together with hints of liquorice, horseradish and green pepper. Gets then grassier and “pleasantly acrid”, if you see what I mean. With water: it’s here that it gets closer to the 30yo’s, with the kind of ‘majestic austerity’ that we like so much in most Broras. It is to be wondered if they didn’t sort of ‘dope’ this one with one or two casks of older spirit. Just a wild guess! Finish: long, grassy, smokier now, with these very idiosyncratic notes of mustard and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: we had feared that the new 25 would not hold a candle to the 30; we were wrong. But please give it time and, most importantly, don’t forget to add a few drops of water to it to unleash its full ‘Broraness’. SGP:265 - 90 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
 
 
MUSIC – Recommended listening: If you’re not against highly repetitive extragalactic electronica (or whatever they call this), you may have a go at Tranquilizer.mp3 by Jon Marshall aka Fat Jon, The Ample Soul Physician, and then buy his music (thanks for the tip, Arthur) Fat Jon
 

September 28, 2008


Ardbeg Blasda

TASTING - TWO LIGHTLY PEATED ARDBEGS

Ardbeg 'Blasda' (40%, OB, 2008) ‘Not a true Ardbeg’, ‘why only 40%?’, ‘too expensive’, ‘weird sounding name’… What didn’t we already hear or read about this new version! But as always, the (well, our) truth will be in the glass… By the way, one can read on Ardbeg’s website that it’s ‘peated to an average of just 8 parts per million phenol (8ppm) compared to the more usual 24ppm.’ Ah, we had thought the regular Ardbegs were peated to 55ppm, unless they’re talking about the phenols in the spirit, which would mean that the Blasda’s ppm in the malted barley would rather be around 15, which wouldn’t be too far from Bowmore’s (+/-20ppm). Pure speculation, eh! But enough ramblings, let’s try it… Colour: white wine. Nose: gentle and a tad shy but oddly enough, the first things we get are peat smoke, ashes and soot. Gets then rather lemony, extremely clean and fresh, with notes of lemon balm, green apples and kiwi. Also used matches and quite some iodine. Anybody expecting a virtually unpeated Ardbeg will be disappointed here! Mouth: rather light but not weak, at least at the attack. Quite some peat again, and then the very same notes as on the nose (green apples, quite some smoke, lemon…) Too bad the middle is weaker, it really drops… Finish: short to medium, fresh as a baby’s mouth, with an interesting return on full peat in the aftertaste. Comments: again, there’s quite a lot of peat and it’s very, very good whisky, but it would have deserved to be bottled at 45 or 46% in my opinion. Somewhat lacking body on the palate. SGP:336 – 83 points.
Ardbeg 1981/2005 'Kildalton' (52.6%, OB, 5ml from 'The Peat Pack') This one never came as a ‘full bottle’. We really liked the earlier 1980/2004 version a lot (90). Colour: gold. Nose: extremely unusual, starting on bold notes of cocoa and tinned sardines. I’m not joking. Then there’s quite some vanilla, herbal tea (more like camomile), yoghurt and lemon juice. Very far from displaying the Blasda’s cleanliness on the nose, and certainly much less peaty. Gets finally more ‘Ardbeg’, with more maritime notes (not only sardines, yeah, yeah), a little tar and more green apples than in the Blasda. A tad bizarre, sort of ‘undecided’. Whiffs of menthol do come through after a few minutes. Mouth: good body and good mouth feel, creamy and lemony but with also some weird notes of C-vitamin tablets, Sprite, wood tannins… Not my cup of malt at all. Fast forward… Finish: long but prickly and lemony. Ginger ale, gin fizz. Comments: we liked the 1980 a lot, but we don’t like this 1981 too much, even if the nose was very okay. The Blasda is much better – and peatier - in our book. SGP:433 – 77 points.
Bonus: Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB Committee 2008, 5000 bottles) It was about time we published our own notes for this baby! In case you don’t know, the Corrywreckan is a huge whirlpool that one can sometimes hear when on Islay. We heard it once, in any case. Colour: full gold. Nose: yes! We don’t want to sound like f*****g purists but Ardbeg is better at making Ardbeg. There’s as much smoke, iodine, tar, wet wool, wet clay, oysters and fresh walnuts as possible in whisky. With water: even wilder, with unexpected notes of green olives. And we love green olives… Mouth (neat): even better than on the nose. Very thick, very creamy, peaty, lemony, kumquatty (wot?), bergamotty (hey?) and rather salty. Prototypically Ardbeg, kind of a bigger Airigh Nam Beist. With water: just sumptuous. Probably one of the best young Ardbegs we ever tried (we take it for granted that it’s not an old Ardbeg.) Finish: as long as a Fidel speech. Amazing peat/pepper combo. Comments: a winner despite its slight roughness. SGP:369 – 92 points. Ardbeg Corryvreckan
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Peru's very brilliant Susana Baca singing a sad but soulful Maria Lando.mp3 (from The Soul Of Black Peru, 1995). South Anerican pathos... Please buy Susana Baca's works... Susana Baca
 

September 27, 2008


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FESTIVAL SPECIAL: THE RHYTHM FESTIVAL - Part Two

Twinwood Arena, Bedford, August 29th, 20th & 31st, 2008.

The Saw Doctors
The Saw Doctors
There’s nothing quite like being woken up by the gentle “psssssst” of a ring-pull being lovingly teased from the first can of the day, is there? It’s Sunday, it’s been raining most of the night, and Scrumpy Jack and Scrumpy Pete are getting fuelled up for the day ahead while reviewing the previous evening.
Actually it’s just Pete – Jack’s inside their van cooking up a mess of breakfast. “I said, those Saw Doctors were shite. Irish folk music bollocks. I mean, what you need is a real rock band with attitude to get the crowd going. Like the Levellers. They’re good. No, two eggs, three sausages. Black pudding. Where are the other cans? By the way, did you ever figure out why your Shirley left you? I’ve never got why Maureen walked out on me. Any fried bread?”
It has to be said that the Doctors (the self-styled “Irish super group”) can polarise opinions, although what was masquerading for a mosh seemed lively enough.
I’d been dragged there on pain of not enjoying myself otherwise by the Photographer, who as it happens had spent much of the afternoon seeking Doctors guitarist and singer Leo Moran. Down there, it was Gaelic Football shirts, waving arms, “to be sures”, and tuneless singing along. The set was the usual stuff, to be sure: all safe, no surprises, included the truly awful ‘Chips’ (“vinegar tears, salt in my wounds and the ketchup like my poor bleeding heart …”) and a brief tribute to Glen Miller (I did mention that he made his last, and of course fateful, flight from here, didn’t I?).

Leo Moran and fan
But the crowd, to be sure, were loving all of it – all of it except the thoroughly inconsiderate video cameraman that is, clearly some third-rate amateur who’d never worked at a gig before. Who the jerk was I don’t know, but most of us spent more time looking at his arse than at the band (not by choice), until the Doctors’ management managed to get him off the stage. It was almost enough to ask for a rebate on the price of our tickets, to be sure. Of course, Jozzer, who’d just turned up for the day with Trizza, had a characteristically contrary, yet sober and thoughtfully-crafted opinion.
He wrote as follows: “ …the Saw Doctors catalogue is riddled with small-town jingoism at its worst. Mundane, one-paced and shallow pap. Singing about the stars in the night skies over some nothing town in Eire doesn't work for me…the lead singer would be OK busking - ideally in a small town in Eire. The drummer made Animal from the Muppets seem like a sensitive, talented percussionist. The preening lead guitarist had no idea how talented he was. If you're around my age, you'll remember The Barron Knights, an 'hilarious' group of buffoons who used to parody current hits - with about 3% of the wit and charm of Weird Al Jankovic.
When the Saws all swapped instruments during a number, I yearned for the comedic genius that was The Barron Knights. The culmination of the Saws' act was, of course, a medley of their hit. When it came I wasn't sure it had, until the stargazers around me went even more delirious. I could Google it now. But I really can't be bothered. And by the time I came to write it up I'd have forgotten it. It's that sort of song. If only the Saws had come from Skibbereen, it would have been moderately more amusing and hopefully more difficult to write songs about.” Ouch, to be sure!
A sun drenched Saturday
A sun drenched Saturday...
We were agreed upon Saturday afternoon’s sun-drenched set by an unusually garrulous Jah Wobble (who pointedly refuses to have any ‘friends’ on his Myspace page), who performed a crowd-pleasing set drawn from his extensive dub-drenched oeuvre, and in a very unassuming way provided the musical highlight of the day, if not the weekend.
With Neville Murray on percussion, Clive Bell on pipes and all sorts of stuff, Chris Cookson on mesmerising guitar, vocalist Liz Carter (?), they featured some of Wobble’s English Folk song material, and tunes such as ‘Visions of you’. Towards the end he reintroduced Mrs Wobble who’d been on the stage for the first two pieces: “Oi oi, here’s the missus, so we’ll do some more of that Chinese dub stuff.” Mrs W was playing, with some dexterity, the Guxheng, or Chinese zither, the instrument at the heart of Wobble’s latest venture, named imaginatively ‘Chinese Dub’. He’s been touring this during the summer with a Chinese orchestra, singers and face-changing dancers, to rave reviews. And despite an occasional studied indifference to the audience, Wobble’s playing, like the band’s, was of the very highest order, not least on his encore (“Would you like some English folk music played in a curiously good way, or a 7-4 groove thing?” he asked the audience). We got the groove thing, complex, hypnotic, and something that even Robert Fripp would have been proud of. One point to note – for all his maverick sensibilities, Mr Wobble left the festival ground driving a battered grey Ford Mondeo. I might have hoped for something more. Jah Wobble
We’d also witnessed on Saturday a less-than-impressive set from a moody Delroy Williams, former backing singer and agent to Desmond Dekker, with a set of fairly well-played but badly-sung (“he’s so flat he should be making pancakes” said Jozzer) reggae standards, ranging from Dekker’s ‘007’ to ‘The tide is high’.
And following Jah Wobble the rowdy Mike Sanchez Band who worked the audience pretty well with some tight boogie-woogie playing. Just right for six-thirty in the evening. The Pretty Things, who were also victims of the comedic cameraman, demonstrated that for all their reputation of supposed menace, they were really never anything more than a good quality R&B covers band, reminding me of the shameless propensity of many sixties bands to rip off the work of US blues artists. Of all the Festival acts they also seemed the worst mixed. And before the Doctors took to the stage, we’d observed the distressing sight of a pair of septuagenarians - one with a hearing aid - grooving out to Stackridge’s opening number on the Alternative Stage in their Zimmer frames, exotic cigarettes in hands (I’m not making it up). Shouldn’t they all be being looked after somewhere?  
Mike Sanchez
Mike Sanchez
First of the British bands on Sunday were Ricky Cool and the Hoola Boola Boys. With his unlikely haircut and painfully irrepressible good humour, Ricky probably wasn’t quite what the damp crowd needed, struggling as they were to come to terms with the previous night’s hangover and the morning’s first three or four pints.
Ricky Cool
Ricky Cool (L) - Beer stocks dwindle! (R)
Up on the Alternative Stage, Juicy Lucy played to what I swear was the same crowd, now atrophied, that had been watching Stackridge on Saturday. Not even the voluminous guitar of Mr Fish, echoing from his Marshall stacks (yes – Marshall stacks!) in an attempt to cover for the absent and sadly invalided front man Ray Owens, could rouse them from their deathly torpor. Indeed the only real sign of movement was from the bar, as beer stocks around the site began to run low and speculators started stacking up in advance of a shortage. And sadly we missed Geno Washington due to “an administrative error”. The Zombies touring band played the main stage, fronted by Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, and turned in a pretty lively set, comprising a small selection from Odessey and Oracle, and then a mixture of their hits and Argent’s. Unwittingly they facilitated one of the nicest moments of the weekend when guitarist Keith Airey ripped into the lead riff of ‘God gave rock and roll to you’, when for the first time in three days the much-put-upon young and very hard-working stage crew burst into huge grins of recognition and barely-restrained air guitar.
It wasn’t long after this, as far as I could tell, that the beer ran out, causing consternation all round. We watched the excellent Richie Havens and then as the rain fell retired to the Whiskyfun Festival van, as the tones of Nine Below Zero battled against the downpour. And even Scrumpy Jack and Scrumpy Pete seemed somewhat subdued by the rain when they returned later to finish off their nightcap of a few twelve packs and a packet of peanuts. And despite part-promoter Jim Driver’s cheery optimism, how this nicely-conceived event can run again next year I fail to see. Some bands didn’t show up, others seemed pretty miserable, many of the facilities were not as described, the food was very poor, the beer ran out, the security guards were somewhat heavy-handed, and the crowd was as sparse as last year – albeit they were all having fun. Next year – well, let’s see. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick).
Rod Argent
Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent
Listen:
Jah Wobble's MySpace page
Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
 
Inverleven

TASTING – TWO INVERLEVEN

Inverleven 30 yo 1978/2008 (50.6%, From Huntly to Paris, Duncan Taylor for LMDW, cask #1876, 212 bottles) Duncan Taylor already issued quite few excellent Inverlevens from 1977, 1978 and 1979 and it seems that the stocks aren’t exhausted yet. Good news! Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts slightly smoky (wood) but is soon to get very lemony, almondy and herbal. Lemon squash, verbena, fresh butter, ashes and lemon balm. Another ‘riesling’ whisky, so to speak. Very fresh at first nosing but gets then maybe a bit more spirity, simpler and oakier. Maybe water will revive it? With water: yes it worked, the whole getting now rather beautifully austere. Grass, wood ashes, rubbed lemon skin and almond milk plus notes of lily of the valley. Mouth (neat): rather concentrated, fruity and almost sugary, all on lemon drops and icing sugar, with a few tannins from the wood flying around. Not too complicated but rather pleasant, except that it does taste rather younger than 30yo. With water: more spices from the wood (ginger, white pepper) and more citrusy notes (grapefruits). Finish: medium long, mid-herbal and mid-citrusy. Comments: fresh and clean, an anti-peat and/or sherry monster. SGP:461 – 85 points.
Inverleven 29 yo 1979/2008 (56.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #5666) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re quite close to the 1978 a first nosing but the whole gets then much more bourbonny and vanilled, with hints of orangeade, bubblegum and strawberry drops in the background. It’s almost as if it was an 8 yo malt. With water: oh, now it smells just like some oak-matured Vicks Vaporub! (didn’t you say no ads, Serge?) Gets back to bubblegum after that. Mouth (neat): thicker and richer than the 1978 when undiluted, with a better oakiness (notes of curry, green tea, a bit of varnish, vanilla…) Very pleasant notes of orange blossom water (oriental pastries.) With water: really resembles the 1978 now, only quite woodier. Finish: ditto. Maybe a tad drying, but there are always these pleasant notes of strawberries. Comments: another very good old Inverleven, but my all-time fav is still cask #1878 by the same bottler. SGP:441 – 84 points.
 

September 26, 2008


Glen Grant 1955

TASTING
TWO 50yo+ GLEN GRANT

Glen Grant 50 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Book of Kells', +/-2008) From a refill butt. Colour: deep amber. Nose: rather expressive but not really explosive, starting on roasted chestnuts, chocolate and orange liqueur, with quite some wood in the background. Far from being plankish, that is. Goes on with more winey notes such as strawberry and raspberry jams with also hints of fresh mint and something slightly toasted and smoky. Gets quieter after a moment, loosing a bit of steam but with also more minty notes. Also hints of verbena, almond milk and whiffs of empty wine barrel. Very elegant altogether but not a big dram. Mouth: a rather dry and oaky attack, maybe lacking some body even if the general profile is very pleasant. Chestnut crème, bergamot and caramel plus nutmeg and cinnamon (loads). Thinnish middle, alas. Finish: not too long, as expected, but balanced and clean, with no overly woody tones (but quite some tannins). Hints of salt as the signature. Comments: I don’t know how this one would have been, had it been bottled at a higher strength, but at 40% it’s a bit thin on the palate. Fading away? SGP:231 – 84 points.
Glen Grant 1955/2008 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, cask #844, 87 bottles) From a first fill sherry hogshead. Colour: mahogany. Nose: this is completely different. Much bigger, richer, with quite some oak again (varnish) but also loads of dried fruits, walnut liqueur, orange marmalade, angelica and unusual hints of chalk in the background. Gets then immensely chocolaty, smelling almost like, err, a whole chocolate shop. Almost like pure chocolate liqueur mixed with raspberry ganache for a while, getting finally back to more ‘walnutty’ notes, with a beautiful dryness and hints of beef bouillon and soy sauce. Amazingly alive at 53 years of age, but the sherry does a large part of the job. Mouth: big tannins with various herbs and a big spiciness. Green tea, mastic, marzipan, dried cardamom, white pepper, chives, oregano (very unusual in whisky methinks) and peppered chocolate. Gets drier and drier, with little fruitiness except orange zests. Big oak. Finish: long and very oaky and tannic, with quite some ginger and rather huge notes of thyme and pine needles (ever ate some?) Comments: for lovers of ‘good but heavy’ oakiness. Very, very good globally but we liked the nose better than the palate. SGP:362 – 88 points.
Stephane

STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
proposes his Autumnal malt cocktails

Cocktail #2:
"Berries and Nuts"

Pour into a whisky tumbler:
- 8 cl Macallan 12 yo sherry
- 1 cl crème de myrtilles (blueberry liqueur)
- 1 cl crème de marrons (chestnut liqueur)
- 1 dash Amaretto
Add 2 or 3 ice cubes, stir and decorate with one lemon slice, a little winegrape and any autumnal berries and nuts.
Variants: You may use other sherry-typed malts instead of the Macallan, e.g. Glenfarclas, Glendronach...
For more intense sensations, try also the Macallan 10 yo cask strength.
Berries and Nuts
MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have some very minimal yet delicate piano playing by Marilyn Crispell (with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian), here doing Annette Peacock's Open, to love.mp3.Quite exceptional methinks, please buy Marilyn Crispell's music, even if (or because) it's sometimes a bit challenging. Marilyn Crispell
 

September 25, 2008


White Bowmore

TASTING – TWO OLD BOWMORE

Bowmore 36 yo 1972/2008 (48.8%, The Prestonfield for LMDW, cask #3881, 565 bottles) We’ve very fond memories of a 1965 Bowmore and of an earlier 1972 in the same series, so no need to say that we’ve got high expectations here. Colour: gold. Nose: an exceptional start on cappuccino and toasted cake, then gunpowder and grapefruits, then coal smoke and green tea, with a constant waxiness in the background (lemon scented candles.) Notes of wet wool, bitter oranges, ‘new leather’ and earl grey tea (very obvious here). Absolutely typical of these vintages when Bowmore got less exuberantly fruity and rather smokier as well. Beautiful grassiness (uncooked asparagus). Much less wham-bam than the Bowmores from the 1960’s and rather austere in fact, but wonderfully complex. Mouth: starts peatier and smokier globally, maybe just a tad cardboardy at the attack but getting rather cleaner and more in line with the beautiful nose after that. Lemon zests and marmalade, grapefruit, barley sugar, faint hints of violet sweets (very good here), very ripe redcurrants, then pepper, salt… The whole isn’t really big but very complex indeed. Needs time. Finish: medium long, on something like smoked lemons, should that exist. Quite some nutmeg as well and maybe just hints of cardboard again. Comments: one of the best of the vintage, mid-peated. Needs attention and concentration, that is. SGP:535 – 91 points.
Bowmore 43 yo 1964 'White Bowmore' (42.8%, OB, 732 bottles, 2008) After the legendary ‘Blacks’, here’s the new ‘White’, assembled from six bourbon casks (retails for 3,300 Euros a bottle). Colour: gold, not white (but white wine isn’t white either, is it?) Nose: amazing, in seven letters. Fantabulous notes of tropical fruits (where to start? Mangos, grapefruits, passion fruits, kiwis, god knows what else…) mingling with a very ‘Indian’ blend of spices. Cardamom, caraway, ground ginger, nutmeg, green curry… Stunning, really. There’s also these very maritime notes (kelp, iodine, wet beach) and these floral ones (lilies and peonies, beautifully heady here.) An amazing whisky – no, rather a perfume from the very best makers’. Mouth: frankly, I had thought it would all happen on the nose, but it’s not the case at all. Superb attack all on passion fruits (my mum would say “buy passion fruits, it’s cheaper”) and then mastic-flavoured Turkish delights, a little roasted argan oil, lemon pie, all kinds of soft spices, high-end lemon squash and, as expected, notes of oak, with a very pleasant and subtle bitterness as a signature. And there’s well a little peat lingering somewhere… Finish: probably not extremely bold but amazingly clean and straightforward for a short while, getting then very subtle and complex again. Whispers, but whispers for a very, very long time... … … Comments: is this an “anti Black Bowmore”? Probably, as it’s very subtle, complex and maybe sometimes a tad ‘diaphanous’ but always very wonderful. And what a nose! The epitome of elegance as far as whisky is concerned. I’d even dare to write that it’s (almost) worth its heavy price tag. SGP:644 - 95 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Trans-global Underground's first CDs and very big sound had really impressed me when they came out ten years ago or so. Their lyrics as well ('Let's swing with this thing' - yeah!) Let's listen to the very joyous Delta Disco.mp3 again and then buy their music if we didn't already.

Trans-global Underground
 

September 24, 2008


Stephane

STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
proposes his Autumnal malt cocktails

Cocktail #1:
"Peaty Martini"

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
- 6 cl Bunnahabhain Toiteach
- 1 cl dry vermouth
Shake, then strain into a cocktail glass. Drop one olive stuffed with anchovies and one little vinegar onion. Decorate with one pickle, one onion, one tomato slice, and maybe one little chunk of smoked ham or even a shrimp... for hungry people!
Variants: substitute the Bunna with any other young peaty malt of your choice, dry, vegetal, bourbon-typed rather than sherry. E.g. young Caol Ila or Bowmore, or other versions of young peaty Bunnahabhains (by Signatory and so on).
You may also add one dash of lime juice.
Peaty Martini
In the series "the bands we just know nothing about at WF", here's a very interesting new CD review by MM's Luca.

CD REVIEW by Luca
METALLICA - DEATH MAGNETIC

Elektra Records/Warner 
This might be a biased review, as I have grown as a teenager listening repeatedly to the first four groundbreaking Metallica albums… Metallica in my opinion have practically invented the thrash/speed metal genre in the early ‘80s, reaching unprecedented heights in fury, anger, energy but also in musicianship. These guys were stylish and creative even when playing the fastest, heaviest and most brutal songs: below the grittiness there always was extremely solid composition and structure, a great taste for an epic sound and even for introspection. Metallica
Their debut “Kill’em all” was raw and unpolished (though invigorating and infectious), and with the eerie “Ride the lightning” and the punchy “Master of puppets” they reached perfection: two milestone metal albums, as influential today as twenty years ago. “And justice for all” was a bit too over-elaborate but still a masterful record, while the following “Metallica” (the “Black album”) already showed some signs of decline. While excellently crafted and inventive, it was clearly targeted at a larger audience: some ballads, a mellower and catchier “MTV-friendly” sound which would appeal even to casual listeners.
Nothing bad in this, if it weren’t that this new commercial approach (courtesy of producer Bob Rock) went slightly out of hand with the following two albums. “Load” and “Reload” were very slick and polished, almost overproduced, but also very ordinary, disposable and often uninspired southern hard-rock albums, almost devoid of thrash metal influences. Listenable and with a handful of genuinely good tracks, but horribly unfocused and heavy to digest as a whole. The albums sold very well, but longtime fans were appalled. A feeling which was possibly even made worse by the release of “St. Anger”, an album which effectively was a 100% return to heavy metal, but which also was unabashedly and even deliberately UGLY. Ugly in sound (those awful tin can drums…), ugly in mood and themes, ugly and repetitive in songwriting, ugly in its relentless buzzing aggressiveness. Raw and uncompromising… but also barely listenable: only twice have I bravely stood to listening to that album from start to finish in a single session. So forgive me if my expectations for “Death magnetic” were low, even if the band had promised a true return to form and to their classic stripped-down sound thanks to the new producer Rick Rubin (a name which should ring some bells).
The tracklisting is consistently good, with many songs exceeding the seven minutes mark like in old times: a sign that they have returned to the traditional complex metal structures instead of throwaway radio friendly songs? Well, sort of: the approach is certainly no-prisoners-taken trash metal almost from start to finish, with a couple of slower moments and the welcome return of a healthy dose of totally crazed virtuoso solos from the great Kirk Hammett (who had unfortunately never been allowed his signature style in “St. Anger”) plus some classical/Spanish acoustic guitar bits like in the best tracks from their earlier albums. But it must also be said that the album is lacking in powerhouse songs like “For whom the bell tolls”, “Master of puppets”, “Damage Inc.”, “Battery”, “Sanitarium”, “One” or other equally legendary classics. On the contrary, it focuses on fast, powerful and very skilled but somewhat all similar songs: all equally pleasant, angry, headbanging and very tasty, but without peaks of true genius.
Not to mention the lyrics: not always inspired, which can also be said of James’ voice… he still sounds passionate in what he does, but perhaps not as convincing, powerful and spotless like 20 years ago. Same must be said about Lars Ulrich’s drumming: bombastic, lightning fast and frantic, he does sound better than in St. Anger but stills lacks creativity and finesse. But after all, lack of subtlety has always been his real shortcoming from the very beginning of the band. Metallica
Some tracks do stand out, indeed: “The end of the line” is hard, bluesy and quite exciting, and “The day that never comes” starts out melodic, touching and mellower than other songs on the album before turning absolutely frantic and furious. “All nightmare long” is another fine cut: fast and aggressive, with some powerful rhythm guitar and double pedal drumming. And guess what? After the powerful Morricone-tinged “Unforgiven” and, some years later, that bland carbon copy called “Unforgiven II”… in “Death magnetic” we get a ballad called… “Unforgiven III”!!! Luckily it’s not another simple rehash of the original like II was, and follows a different melodic line although there obviously ARE similarities, but while pleasant it still never reaches the emotional intensity of the 1991 classic. A problem common to many of the tracks here, which at times sound even a bit boring in their “predictable perfection” in spite of all the efforts by the band.
At the end a handful of questions remain. Is it really a return to the good old Metallica? Did they really succeed in throwing away the cheesy, forced and ill-attempted efforts to sound modern and trendy? Does the album deserve to stand with their old classics without embarrassment? Or, more simply, is it at least a good record? Very briefly, and in that order: mmmmhhhh / yes / are you crazy? / definitely yes. Given the very low expectations… it’s a much better album than I thought possible, but at the same time I can’t manage to get completely excited by it. It is a good Metallica album, quite classic in sound and song structure (finally!), exactly what the die hard fans were asking for, but it also completely fails to innovate on any level… or simply to sound even moderately “fresh”. It is pure unadulterated fast, invigorating, dynamic, skilled and enjoyable metal, but it’s also predictable and overlong, with few flashes of originality or greatness. It could have been much worse, but also much better. Probably it’s also a matter of personal taste, as in these years my musical preferences have shifted towards other genres (including more arty, sophisticated, subtle, innovative and flamboyant metal bands like Opeth and Dream Theater), and maybe if “Death magnetic” had been released 15 years ago I would have welcomed it differently and with more enthusiasm. But it’s also true that when I listen to “Ride the lightning” and “Master of puppets” they still raise a chill to my spine today after many times, a feeling that “Death magnetic” rarely seems to evoke. Even when some passages start to get involving… there always is a thought in my head which says “but haven’t I heard this before?”, not to mention that the vocal hooks (a strong point of their earlier releases) are often weak. If I had to make a comparison, I would say that “Death magnetic” is style-wise a VERY scaled down smaller relative of the somber “And justice for all”, but certainly less inspired and virtuosistic (AJFA was so musically complex that some songs were reportedly almost impossible to play live without committing too many mistakes!). For 2008 it’s a good effort by an aged band from which as things go would probably be unfair to ask more. So let’s rejoice in the small pleasure of finally having at least another almost-old-school Metallica album… even if it’s not exactly a masterpiece.
Score: 73 (and please buy Metallica’s music unless you really want to piss them off like in the old days of Napster… even if the mixing of the CD is affected by awful clipping and distortion which make it sound no better than MP3s: another victim of the “loudness war” that has ruined many rock/pop albums in recent years). - Luca Chichizola

Glen Albyn

TASTING
TWO OLD GLEN ALBYN

Glen Albyn 1968/1991 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, old map label) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is superb, starting right on top notch wood, bitter oranges, old piece of furniture that’s just been polished, cigar box, leather… Also quite some coffee and toffee and an unexpectedly high peatiness. A lot of torrefaction. Close to some old Cognacs. Mouth: round and assertive, not weak at all, maybe a tad more ‘wacky’, as Glen Albyn can be in our book. A lot of beef bouillon, chives, slightly overripe oranges, toffee, Armagnac-soaked prunes… Finish: long, on plum pie and wine brandy. Comments: excellent, even if more so on the nose. SGP:453 – 88 points.
Glen Albyn 25 yo 1964/1989 (58%, Signatory, cask 942-943, 750 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ha, this starts right on beef bouillon, oxtail, mint and even goat meat. Wacky indeed, especially since it goes on with hints of Comté cheese and old barrels, then coffee-schnapps and lovage…Very entertaining if not very classic. Not to pour to your ‘non whisky neighbours’! Now, the palate could be disastrous, let’s see… Mouth: no, this isn’t bad at all. Powerful and very meaty, with a lot of very, very ripe fruits, prunes (huge), well hung game, chicory… What’s sure is that there's always something happening in any Glen Albyn! Gets a little rounder and softer after a moment, but there’s also a very faint bitterness (taste of still, rubber and burnt fruits.) Nothing too embarrassing that is. Finish: long, still powerful, a little rough again and more caramelised. Tangerine liqueur. Comments: a big Glen Albyn and a very unusual whisky, anything but boring. SGP:562 – 85 points.
 

September 23, 2008


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FESTIVAL SPECIAL: THE RHYTHM FESTIVAL - Part One

Twinwood Arena, Bedford, August 29th, 20th & 31st, 2008.

No need to worry, Serge – the Whiskyfun van is back on the road, all cleaned up and as right as nine pence. We’ve driven it through the pretty Bedfordshire countryside, where I notice many fields of barley are as yet unharvested, to the Twinwood Stadium, home of the Rhythm Festival. We were so impressed by this unusual setting for a Festival last year when we just came for a day – it’s an old air-base with a wonderful semi-natural auditorium at one end – that we thought we’d come for the whole bash this time. At times I doubted the event would go ahead – it must have made a big loss last year, and with so many festivals this year and rumours of poor sales everywhere it wouldn’t have surprised me if this one got pulled like a number of others. But we’re here, nicely parked on what I guess was part of the old runway (now grassed over) with lovely views down across the valley on one side, and of our neighbours gathered around their fold-away table on the other.

Rythm Festival
As it’s Friday, and it’s almost four o’clock, they’re acting out the famous English Scrumpy Jack tea ritual, which appears to involve the consumption of several cans of the aforementioned beverage along with some of Mr Kipling’s Assorted Fancies. On the van we’re preparing dinner – but don’t worry Serge, there’s no signature dish tonight.
It’s an interesting line-up – no one exactly new or cutting edge – that’s not what the Rhythm Festival does, but an eclectic collection of vintage acts from both sides of the Atlantic, with a particularly strong American contingent over the three days.
Some were big hits – some less so, but all seemed a trifle bewildered by the relative paucity of the audience. Partly it’s because there simply aren’t that many folk here – and also because the site can easily swallow up thousands of bodies and still seem like one of those deserted RAF camps that used to feature heavily as sets for early episodes of the Avengers. There are three ‘stages’: the main auditorium which never feels more than about a third full; the Alternative Stage, mostly hosting the British bands such as Wilko Johnson, Hey Negrita, Stackridge, Neville Staples and Geno Washington, then the tented Marquee Club Stage, which at one point on Saturday hosted the smallest audience of them all. The principle attractions seem to be the bars, as almost every empty Nissen Hut (that is, those that aren’t decked out with period equipment and rather odd people dressed as Second World War soldiers and airmen) seems to be full of beer kegs, a few tables and chairs, an occasional DJ and hordes of people. It’s as if the organisers are on a responsibility-free mission to make as much profit as they can from booze, and many of the participants seem only too happy to join in. Rythm Festival
Talking of drinking reminds me not only of Scrumpy Jack and Scrumpy Pete, who disappeared in search of something called Gwynt y Ddraig, but also the feisty (or was it ‘kooky’?) Michelle Shocked – not that she was drinking since she doesn’t now, but she did in her bad marriage when her husband drank, and she drank, but you’ll be glad to know that’s all over (as, thank heavens, so was her set soon afterwards) and now she’s met a great guy and is very happy. Performing solo she also sang some of her nice songs (so that’s who played ‘Anchorage’), but probably should have followed her own oft-offered advice, “Don’t talk too much now, Michelle”.
She was by no means the best, or worst, of the US performers over the weekend. Sadly the latter accolade rested somewhere between Saturday’s Quicksilver Messenger Service and Sunday’s Jefferson Starship, both of course great names from the acid-tinged San Francisco of the late 1960s. The Quicksilvers, who I remember with some affection having been played their first album at great length (do you remember Dino’s song?) by a school friend who’d arrived in Oxfordshire from the West Coast with albums by them, Moby Grape, 13th Floor Elevator Company and others under his arm, were not much short of a shambles.
Michelle Shocked
Michelle Shocked
Faced up by original members Gary Duncan on guitar, who looked like a fully-paid up member of rock and roll’s walking dead, and Dave Freiberg (should that be ‘Friedhead’?), who Jozzer said reminded him of his Nan, they were woefully under-rehearsed and out of touch, inflicting lengthy latinesque guitar solos on a largely unimpressed audience, and eventually literally ground to a halt half-way through ‘What About me’. Later as we queued for tea we could see some arm-waving recriminations backstage between Friedhead and Duncan. But Friedhead had a second chance singing with Jefferson Starship, with the newly-recruited Cathy Richardson as the band’s latest Grace Slick replacement, led by a rather disinterested chain-smoking Paul Kantner.
This was on a damp Sunday afternoon and the crowd was shrinking by the minute. The set was divided between their classics (“We’ll try not to fuck up White Rabbit for you …”) and material from Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty (“we’ve got a new album out of folk songs and other old shit …”). Time has not treated their songs well, and much of their their new material also seems very dated in a clichéd Californian way - faux radicalism combined with sentimental environmentalism and piano riffs designed for TV golf shows makes pretty sorry listening. The worst moment was when Kantner left the stage (“I’m going to look for MI5 agents in the audience”) and Friedhead sang the maudling ‘Cowboy on the run’ – “Sometimes I dream of a world without war: people laughing in the sun…”. Ugh!
Paul Kantner
Paul Kantner and Cathy Richardson
Far more to the audience’s liking were New York’s Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, who, with not a grey hair amongst them, kicked off on the main stage on Friday and Sunday. The early morning rain hadn’t cleared when they started their second set, but they patently won the hearts of the damp and characteristically weather-defiant audience with their eclectic selection of Irish jiggery, swampy country and western and the odd King Crimson tribute. And as they played their final song, ‘Alice inside’, I was tempted to wonder if every American singer didn’t have a Neil Diamond somewhere within them.
Stax veteran Steve Cropper, partnering with the Animals, also won some spurs, although he was almost upstaged by Blockhead and sometime Animal Micky Gallagher, who certainly showed he had a Booker T somewhere inside him. Gallagher’s keyboard playing (he’d played briefly with the original Animals when Alan Price left) was absolutely outstanding, and as he and Cropper gelled during their Friday night set, Cropper blasting out his trademark riffs, they gradually left original drummer John Steel, bass and vocalist Peter Barton and guitarist John Williamson firmly in the shade. They were followed by Big Star, fronted by the legendary Alex Chilton, all floppy hair, creased chinos and sports shirt and sports jacket. As one of the real highlights of the weekend Chilton was justifiably puzzled by the diminishing crowd that almost evaporated in front of his eyes in favour of the timeless cockney charms of Chas and Dave. After all, this is the man who brought the world the fabulous Box Tops, with songs like ‘The Letter’, Cry like a baby’ and ‘Soul Deep’. Big Star was his commercially unsuccessful venture into power-pop but now regarded as hugely influential on a later generation of musicians.
Steve Cropper
Steve Cropper and Micky Gallagher
This all seemed to be lost on the Twinwood audience, and thus, not surprisingly, the band lost a bit of interest themselves. A shame, as they had apparently played a blinder at Shepherd’s Bush a couple of nights before.
But it was a real elder statesman who made the final transatlantic contribution to the Festival. A man whose remarkable contribution to Woodstock (have you watched it recently?) must nonetheless follow him around like an albatross: Richie Havens. It was Sunday afternoon, and by this time the clouds were dark and low, but in his short set Mr Havens just managed to keep them at bay. He was gracious and charming, engaging and egregious, accompanied by a wonderfully sensitive guitarist, Walter Parks, and for a few songs, cellist Stephanie Winters. I was astonished to watch his guitar playing close up – a most unorthodox technique, but simple and effective. I understand from the Rhythm Festival Forum that some people didn’t like it, but we thought it almost an hour of perfection, with an eclectic selection of songs including ‘All along the watchtower’ (and an amusing story about its composer), ‘Freedom’ (of course), ‘Won’t get fooled again’, ‘Licence to kill’, and as an encore his unlikely and unintended disco hit (as recorded by Odyssey) ‘Going back to my roots’.
Richie Heavens
Alex Chilton and Richie Havens
And as he sang his final song, the long-threatened rain (the forecast had promised hurricanes, hail, a plague of locusts, toads etc.) began to fall, and we retreated to the comfort of the Whiskyfun Festival van. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick).
Listen:
Richie Havens MySpace
 
Ardbeg double

TASTING
ARDBEG 1974 DOUBLE BARREL

Ardbeg 1974/2007 ‘Double Barrel’ (44.9%, OB, cask #3145, 250 bottles) According to Geert, who’s a great Ardbeg (and shrimp croquettes) collector, there’s been three different versions of the double barrel case and this is the one for mainland Europe. We’ll spare you any further comments on the packaging, the goodies, the prices and so on. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on bold notes of green walnut and cider apples, with also hints of shoe polish and warm butter, and develops more on linseed oil, dried apricots and mangos as well as hints of old leather and Virginia tobacco. Gets more resinous after that (pine needles, retsina). Also notes of vines and fir cone ash, used matches... Very elegant and complex, not a wham-bam 1974 Ardbeg. Mouth: starts unexpectedly soft (vanilla, buttered fudge) but gets then very peppery. ‘Explodes’ on ginseng, gentian roots tea and dried mushrooms, with a beautiful bitterness. Finish: medium to long, more on oily peat and ashes, with touches of dark chocolate and quite some salt. Comments: again, not really a big 1974 despite the spicy burst on the palate but a complex and elegant one. SGP:457 – 90 points.
Ardbeg 1974/2007 ‘Double Barrel’ (49.9%, OB, cask #3524, 250 bottles) Colour: dark gold. Nose: this one is bigger, more powerful and much more compact, sort of closer to the Provenances. Starts on dried pineapple slices, lemon balm and ginger, with a rather huge peatiness, getting then more resinous and almost tarry. Camphor, eucalyptus, pine resin, seaweed… In short, classic! Mouth: classic indeed. Huge medicinal notes in the attack, almost brutal but with fine notes of dried fruits in the background. Kumquats and lemon marmalade. Goes on with tea (tannins) and ginger. Very beautiful. Finish: long and dry, grassier, with a lot of green tea, tar and ginger. Comments: again, classic 1974 Ardbeg, our favourite. SGP:368 - 93 points. (And many thanks, Thierry.)
 

September 22, 2008


Glen Mhor

TASTING
TWO 1975 GLEN MHOR

Glen Mhor 32 yo 1975/2008 (43.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #4034, 208 bottles) One of the three rather ‘wacky’ Inverness distilleries that got closed in the early 1980’s (Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor, Millburn.) A sister cask (#4031), bottled last year, was in our opinion fabulous on the nose but was pure ‘oak infusion’ on the palate. Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: wow, this is as smoky as whisky can get, even on that particular Hebridean island, but it gets then curiously soapy and cardboardy, like when you smell pure paraffin. Beyond that there’s quite a lot of apple juice, walnuts, pencil shavings, graphite… As almost always, this Glen Mhor just couldn’t smell like ‘regular malt whisky. Also hints of ale, leather and ham. Mouth: ah, there is some oak of course but it’s nowhere near ‘oak infusion’ this time. Big, rather complex, very earthy, with notes of gentian, liquorice, tea, then pepper and cloves… No meaty/beefy notes this time. Gets finally very lemony and very grassy, which was unexpected. Finish: long, zesty, even more lemony. That is to say not very ‘Glen Mhor’, but who cares, this is very good. Comments: surprising, and surprisingly good. Gosh, Glen Mhor’s lovers will kill me. SGP:662 – 88 points.
Glen Mhor 30 yo 1975/2005 (51.2%, Glenkeir Treasures, 270 bottles) This was bottled by Douglas Laing for The Whisky Shop in the UK. Colour: gold. Nose: this is rather the beefy kind of Glen Mhor at first sniffs but it gets then closer and closer to the ‘Rarest of the Rare’ in style, that is to say waxy and mineral, with quite some ink, graphite, and then a little cheese (say, gouda.) Gets then smokier, with also hints of aniseed and dill. Unusual? You bet! Mouth: a dry and slightly cardboardy attack, with waxy and mineral notes. Gets then very grassy and almost bitter (some stouts, not all.) Notes of caramel. Gets finally maltier but the bitterness never quite disappears. Finish: long, a tad less bitter again but very austere. Comments: not bad at all but the grassy bitterness kind of wrecks it all in my opinion. SGP:272 – 77 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: I guess it's no secret anymore that we're huge fans of Brian Auger, and consequently of Julie Driscoll. But beyond their famous high energy organ+vocals works, there are also some wonderful and peaceful piano ballads such as Lament for Miss Baker.mp3 (1967). Be quick, Julie Dricoll's part is very short and right at the beginning ;-). Please buy Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll's musics! Driscoll Auger
 

September 20, 2008


TASTING
A BRETON SESSION

Just like not only the Scots play the bagpipe, not only the Scots distil great malt whisky, and in both cases we have excellent evidence coming from Brittany (Bretagne). But let’s focus on whisky, as we could gather two new samples from Glann ar Mor distillery, one unpeated, and the other one peated.
We’ll try the unpeated version ‘against’ the Whisky Breton that’s sold by French hypermarket Carrefour.

Pipers
Pipers. Who's Scottish and who's Breton?
Glann ar Mor Whisky Breton ‘Reflets de France’ (40%, Warenghem for Carrefour, France) Colour: pale straw. Nose: pears, vanilla and dust/paper, with a little porridge in the background. Gets even a tad ‘chemical’. Pass… Mouth: weak, grainy, a bit dusty but drinkable. Notes of apple juice and just touches of cinnamon from the wood. Finish: short, getting sugary. Comments: again, this is drinkable and it isn’t flawed at such, but it’s not for us malt aficionados. SGP:320 – 50 points.
Glann ar Mor (single malt, cask sample, distilled July 2005) A three years minus a few days old sample, so almost whisky officially. Colour: white wine. Nose: obviously another story, even if it is a little pear-ish at first sniffing. Much more oomph, and that doesn’t only come from the higher alcohol. There is quite some ginger and vanilla, probably from the wood, then the expected notes of ale and muesli, as well as something maritime that reminds us a bit of Clynelish and Pulteney. Develops slowly but surely, gaining ‘wideness’, with more grassy and leafy notes. It’s rather complex spirit but let’s see what gives with a little water… With water: it got much more phenolic and even farmy, with hints of ‘modern Bowmore’ (not Bowmore from the 1980’s, mind you) despite the absence of peat. Hints of clean cow stable, mint, dill, coal smoke... Frankly, it’s as if there was a little peat in there, maybe 5ppm. But there isn’t any! Mouth (neat): definitely more mature on the palate than on the nose. Big fruitiness encapsulated in fine oak. Ripe apples and pears, white peaches, gooseberries, touches of ginger, strawberry drops and a little paprika. Very, very clean, no more notes of ale/beer. With water: really super! Full, coating, fruity, spicy, peppery… Finish: medium long, with a very pleasant peppery and gingery burst. Comments: all we can say is ‘well done’. It really tastes like an excellent Highlander (which isn’t really a surprise, as it’s made like a Highlander, except that the pot stills are direct-fired), with no ‘foreign’ notes whatsoever. It’ll be a winner at 6 or 7 years of age, no doubt, and is already extremely enjoyable at 3 years old. Definitely the best non-Scottish/Irish/Japanese malt I ever tried, by far. SGP:553 – preliminary score at +/-3yo 85 points (off commerce at this moment). Update: a first expresion will be launched in 'selected markets' in October but there will only be +/-320 bottles, so you may have to be quick...
Well, I agree it wasn’t such a good idea to try the unpeated Glann ar Mor against whisky that isn’t in the same class at all, so let’s change methods for the peated Glann ar Mor. We’ll do something we never did before, that is to say compare it with home vattings of various expressions from single Scottish distilleries, all composed by our friend Matthias.
Matthias’ Caol Ila Mix (+/-50%) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh, maritime, almondy, mineral, with a rather grassy peat smoke. Green apples, ashes. Typically Caol Ila of course, that is to say extremely nice and rather zesty. Mouth: fruity, peaty, smoky, lemony and very, very clean. Extremely drinkable. Finish: long, clean, very zesty. Comments: extremely good. Keywords: ‘ashy peat’. SGP:347 – no points (off commerce).
Matthias’ Ardbeg Mix (+/-50%) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is a little heavier and rather fruitier as well (apples, apple peeling, lemons.) More iodine than in the Caol Ila, the whole being a little heavier and (pleasantly) sourer and yeastier. Bigger smoke as well. Mouth: again, oilier and fattier than the Caol Ila, saltier as well. Also earthier, but not much, much peatier and smokier. More body but the Caol Ila is a tad more elegant in my book (albeit a little simpler.) Finish: very long, peaty and fruity (fresh apples), with a lot of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good again. Keywords: ‘liquoricy peat’. SGP:448 – no points (off commerce).
Matthias’ Port Ellen Mix (+/-52%) Colour: gold. Nose: similar peatiness but more tarry and even a tad rubbery/sulphury. Maybe slightly metallic as well. The least ‘polished’ and maybe also the least balanced of the three Islayers. Mouth: again, this is rather less ‘clean’ than the Caol Ila and the Ardbeg. Most of all, there’s much more tar and much more liquorice, as well as less fruit. A little caramel. Finish: very long, more orangey (there must have been some sherry casks in the vatting.) Comments: a tad more difficult. Some may say a tad less ‘commercial’. Keywords: ‘tarry peat’. SGP:538 – no points (off commerce).
Glann ar Mor ‘Peated’ (single malt, cask sample, distilled april 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is very interesting. Different from the Islayers yet not that different. A little less smoke and peat but more fruits (pears, pineapples, apples), with also faint bubblegummy notes and a little vanilla. Hints of varnish. The whole is extremely clean and zesty, and already quite mature (not completely mature, of course, but already drinkable.) Hints of ink, ashes and wet limestone. More smoke coming through after a moment (wood smoke, but also coal.) A very impressive baby whisky!!! Mouth: well, it’s amazing that this youngster manages to ‘dialog’ with the three very heavy hitters we just had. The main difference with them comes from the fruitier (and, again, more bubblegummy) notes that we find here – no wonder, it’s barely 2yo, but other than that we’re well in the same league, which is totally amazing. We can’t wait to see how these very fruity notes will evolve. Also little notes of fruity beer (gueuze and so on), which was expectable at 2 years of age. Finish: long and very playful, the big fruitiness and the rather big peatiness mingling very well. Comments: no doubt whatsoever that this will be a winner once it’s completely mature. Four words only: watch Glann ar Mor! When a very young spirit is as clean yet full bodied and 'wide' as this, it’s always very good sign. SGP:627 - no points (off commerce).

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: in the true tradition of Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan (or Ross), or of the Double-Six, here's Les Saisons du Plaisir.mp3 composed by Gabriel Yared (from the OST of Mocky's rather colourful - look at the bill - movie Les Saisons du Plaisir.) I like these vocal fireworks! Please buy these good people's music and movies.

Saisons
 

September 18, 2008


Millburn

TASTING
TWO MILLBURN

Millburn 1972/2006 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail) Colour: straw. Nose: very interestingly flowery, with notes of lily of the valley on top of orange blossom and fresh almonds, as well as fresh putty. This half-floral, half-resinous profile is rather unusual but it works well here, especially since it’s complemented with very nice whiffs of wet stones, chives, and suddenly ultra-big notes of fresh strawberries and the liqueur made thereof. Right, it does get a tad papery after a moment but the whole never falls down. Mouth: well, may I write ‘Glen Mhor by G&M?’ The great bottler issued a lot of various Glen Mhors in the past and we always felt that all were rather different from most versions by other bottlers, including officials. Something rather indescribable, with kind of a meatiness that’s sometimes very beautiful, and sometimes not, but that’s always there. Smoked ham dipped into pineapple sauce? Anyway, it’s very good this time. Finish: long, with more spices and a slight ‘cardboardiness.’ And quite some salt. Comments: like its neighbours Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn, Millburn is sometimes, say ‘bizarre’, but what’s sure is that the three of them are never boring whiskies. This one isn’t for sure – what’s more, it’s very good. Recommended. SGP:552 - 87 points.
Millburn 31 yo 1974 (52.3%, Cadenhead, sherry, 246 bottles) From a bourbon cask. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much grassier at first nosing, austere, smelling almost like newly cut grass and salad. Nice freshness, that is (obviously). This one may need water, so, with water: that brings out quite some mustard and then a rather sumptuous fruitiness (kumquats, tangerines, grapefruits.) Close to perfection now. Mouth (neat): as much as the nose was austere when undiluted, this is a wonderful palate. Strong, nervous, perfectly oaky, smoky and fruity, zesty (truckloads of oranges)… Great! Also a perfect grassiness here, with quite some green tannins that keep it very lively (but never astringent.) Green apples and liquorice wood. With water: becomes somewhat antique, whatever that means. Notes of wax, nuts, old wine, praline, honey… Finish: medium long and maybe a tad oaky but still quite sumptuous. Comments: this one needs time to develop, and quite some water as well, but then it gets quite stunning. Very ‘authentic’, miles away from modern, easy-sexy whiskies (I know you see what I mean). Congrats to Cadenhead’s for having sourced and/or filled this, whenever they did it. SGP:653 – 92 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: maybe the epitom of early Brasilian 'loveboat lounge music', the delicious Astrud Gilberto doing Zé do Norte's Meu Pião.mp3 in 1977. Yeah, a bit second degree but you should really buy Astrud Gilberto's music.

Astrud Gilberto
 

September 17, 2008


TASTING – THREE DALMORES

Dalmore 40
Dalmore 40 yo (40%, OB, 2007) Priced at £1,300 but comes with a huuuuuge leather-covered box. Well… Colour: amber. Nose: superb, starting all on smoke, ashes, fruitcake and orange marmalade, very elegant and assertive at the same time. Goes on with quite some chocolate, old Rivesaltes or Maury, chocolate cake, herbal tea (camomile), ‘arranged rum’ with banana slices, chestnut honey… It’s got quite some oomph at these ‘meagre’ 40%, as often with Dalmore – we think that Dalmore is one of the malts that stand lower ABV’s best. Gets ashier over time. Beautiful sherry for sure… Mouth: starts more on orange peel and vanilla but gets then fruitier, in the same way as on the nose. A lot of dried fruits (figs, bananas, papayas, dates) and then notes of ‘smoky’ honey (chestnut). Gets then a tad oakier with quite some toffee (and chocolate fudge) but there’re always Dalmore’s trademark oranges in the background. This is excellent. Finish: medium long but coating, honeyed, chocolaty and orangey. Comments: great whisky as almost often with old Dalmores. We can’t even imagine how high this would go, had it been bottled at 45% or more. SGP:633 – 91 points.
Dalmore 17 yo 1990/2007 (59.7%, Adelphi, cask #7327, 590 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: almost as ashy as the 40% at first nosing but gets then much more vegetal, waxy and grassy, a little rough in fact. Pungent. Let’s add water straight away… With water: ah yes, water makes wonders here. A little wood smoke, then fresh orange juice, hints of chicken bouillon, ham… Gets meatier and meatier, in a beautiful way. Even notes of parsley. Unusually and nice. Mouth (neat): hot and spirity, but what’s in the background should be nice. Huge notes of ‘new kirsch’. With water: barley sugar, orange marmalade, ginger and strawberry pie. Very good, even if there aren’t any beefy notes anymore here. Too bad (not that we love beef, but these kinds of notes can be quite spectacular in some whiskies). Finish: rather long, a tad simpler but with an excellent smokiness. Comments: a dram that needs water. Extremely interesting on the nose. SGP:462 – 86 points.
Dalmore 17 yo 1988/2005 (59.3%, SMWS, 13.36, 588 bottles, 'Tea and marmelade') Colour: pale gold. Nose: very punchy and very chocolaty, the kind of chocolaty notes that often come with very high ABV’s. Also coffee (same comments) but not much else. With water: unlike with the 1990, water doesn’t work at all here, as the whole gets plastic-like and even a little smelly (gym socks). You’ll have to wait for quite a long time before it gets a little cleaner (but very yeasty). Mouth (neat): as hot and spirity as the 1990 but less kirschy. Anyway, this isn’t meant to be sipped at cask strength, so, with water… Much better now but it’s a little late, isn’t it! ‘Smoked oranges’ and black tea (indeed). Finish: long, orangey and peppery. Comments: parts of this malt are really ‘twisted’ in our opinion, but other parts are really nice (the palate when diluted). SGP:361 – 75 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: one of my favourite discoveries of the past twenty years as far as jazz trios are concerned, Finland's Trio Töykeät. Let's listen to them in their very enterntaining Another Ragtime.mp3 that was on their CD called 'Sisu', and then please buy these brilliant people's music!

Trio Toykeat
 

September 16, 2008


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
ALABAMA 3 ACOUSTIC AND UNPLUGGED
The Roundhouse, London, August 12th 2008

Alabama 3
We’re back at the Roundhouse for another of their series of intimate nightclub-style evenings. I guess the thinking behind these is that it’s difficult to fill a big venue in August – what with the holidays, and multiple festivals every weekend.

But the formula isn’t quite right here. In the first place, as I have said before, you simply can’t make the Roundhouse seem small. Then the layout is all wrong – we’re at tables, but they’re not nightclub tables, they’re function (or even, dare I say it, ‘banquet’) tables. There are six of us around a table big enough for a dozen, and any self- respecting nightclub owner would have us at a table a third of the size. So there’s almost more table than people, and the atmosphere suffers accordingly. Not that Jozzer, Trizza and the rock-chicks seem to mind as they work their way through bottle after bottle of pink and rather tasteless wine (“It was hot” says Jozzer a few days later, as if that’s an excuse) . But Alabama 3’s Larry Love does. “I don’t play no motherfucking chicken in the basket shit for you motherfuckers” he splutters, to the delight of a largely adoring audience, “motherfucking chicken in the fucking basket gigs!” he snorts to himself with amiable derision.

Alabama 3
From top to bottom:
Larry Love, Rock Freebase, Nick Reynolds aka Harpo Strangelove and Devlin Love
Readers may remember that when we last saw Mr Love with his full band he seemed, let us say, somewhat the worse for wear, so I’m delighted to report that the Roundhouse, intimate or not, witnessed him with his acoustic outfit, in scintillating form, even if his newly-acquired grey beard did give him an unexpected (and not very long-lasting) aura of venerable gravitas. The acoustic band are as good as ever, driven by Rock Freebase’s pulsating slide guitar and Nick Reynold’s harmonica. I have to say the guitar playing is as simple and uncluttered as it could be, ‘though I don’t quite know how Mr Freebase manages it (have a look here to see). The charmingly diminutive Devlin Love’s powerhouse vocals give the quartet additional drive as they work their way through a set including ‘Converted’, ‘Woke up this morning’. Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Bullet proof’ (“for all the ladies with Saturday night specials in the audience”), ‘Two heads’, ‘U don’t dance 2 techno’, ‘Too sick to pray’, ‘Let the caged bird sing’, ‘Up above my head’, ‘Monday don’t mean anything to me’ and ‘Johnny Cash’, at which point I gave up taking notes, largely due to the genteel mayhem that was breaking out around me. Oh yes – and there was an encore including ‘Love will tear us apart’, not perhaps the best choice.
And thinking about it, great fun though it was, the gig could have been unremarkable had it not been for the orange-juice-drinking Mr Love’s garrulous good humour. He had a lot to say on a variety of everyday subjects: binge-drinking women (could he have been looking at our table – by this time the girls had given up glasses and were using straws?); the hugely irritating and perky pop-chanteuse Kate Nash; MDMA (‘Monday don’t mean anything to me’); bi-polar disorder; not surprisingly Johnny Cash (the A3 have contributed a track to Johnny Cash Remixed, produced by John Carter Cash and for release in October), and of course God (it seems Love, aka Rob Spragg was brought up in a Mormon household, or so I read somewhere recently).
And it’s funny to hear Love’s gloriously improbably southern American accent descend into his native Welsh brogue (he was brought up in various south Wales Valley towns). And when he gets really excited (perhaps it’s his medication) he can barely get all the words in his head out of his mouth. He is thoroughly captivating, ending the evening navigating between the tables, encouraging members of the audience to attempt Johnny Cash impersonations. Sometimes you just want to go out and have some honky-tonking fun, and simple though it is, it really doesn’t come much better than this. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen:
Alabama 3's M
ySpace page
Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
 
Local Barley

TASTING
TWO LOCAL BARLEYS

Springbank 1966/1998 ‘Local Barley’ (55.3%, OB, cask #498) Please note that the pictures aren't of the same casks. Colour: gold. Nose: the first feeling we get at first nosing is complexity. First there’s hints of old sweet wine (Sauternes) and then it’s coal smoke, gunpowder and flints, together with notes of smoked ham and faint hints of truffle. Gets then even smokier, with a little peat, something faintly maritime (sea breeze), roasted nuts, a little cough syrup (eucalyptus), hints of pine needles... More mint after that, wet moss, fern, cigar box… Keeps developing for a very long time, quite kaleidoscopic, with the notes of coal smoke and mint as permanent features. Amazing complexity. With water: keeps developing, this time more on turpentine and game, with even hints of beef stock. Mouth (neat): very big, rich, powerful, exactly cough syrup this time. Eucalyptus, camphor, mint, then ginger, crystallised lemon, pepper… Hints of tannins in the background, and quite some tar as well. Very big. With water: gets more on oranges and other citrus fruits, with a bigger spiciness as well. Finish: long, slightly salty, half orangey and half minty. Slight dryness from the wood. Comments: a very big and very complex dram, as expected, but maybe not one of the absolute winners that most other Local Barleys are. But let’s not be fussy… SGP:563 – 91 points.
Springbank 1966/1999 ‘Local Barley’ (55%, OB, cask #507) Colour: full gold. Nose: this cask is more nervous, directly minty and grassy, which means that it somewhat starts where cask #498 finished. Pine needles, eucalyptus, moss, antiseptic… There’s also a little more peat, and a lot of coal smoke again. Gets then richer, doing ‘the peacock’s tail’ on vanilla, various nuts, praline, coffee and wet hay. Extremely rich and extremely compact at the same time. With water: wonderful development, with everything from the forest. Mushrooms, moss, leaves, wet clay… Brilliantly brilliant! Mouth (neat): it’s close to cask #498 but once again, bigger and more oomphy. More spices, more grassy notes and even more tannins but with a perfect balance and no dryness whatsoever. Black tea and dried oranges, cloves, coconut liqueur, vanilla fudge, pepper… With water: oh yes! Significantly above cask #498 here, with quite some oranges again but also a lot of cough medicine, mint, liquorice, roots… Finish: very long, reminding me of a wonderful old Chinese tea, with a little candy sugar (no, we don’t put candy sugar in old Chinese tea.) Comments: one of the bottlings that kept building the Local Barleys’ legend. Too bad it’s so expensive nowadays. SGP:653 – 94 points.
 

September 15, 2008


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE COLD WAR KIDS

The Bloomsbury Ballroom
Bloomsbury, London
August 11th 2008

This is our first visit to the Bloomsbury Ballroom. It’s one of Vince Power’s joints, housed in the basement of Victoria House, a recently-refurbished 1930s office building, originally built for the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, which had begun life in the 1840s to help low-paid workers save for their funerals – it’s still the UK’s largest friendly society offering a range of financial services to its members.

Bloomsbury
Quite why they needed a ballroom isn’t clear (maybe it was for morally-uplifting lectures about funeral management) but when the building was redeveloped a few years ago VPMG leased the space and employed designer Shaun Clarkson, who’s worked on many of their venues (including the ghastly Pigalle), to give it the full Art Deco treatment. Actually it feels a bit more like a school assembly hall with twiddly bits on the radiators than an Art Deco triumph of the sort claimed by VPMG. But either way it’s not the décor that the folks in the bar are gasping at – open-mouthed with astonishment – but rather the exorbitant prices being charged for soft drinks and water, which is what this relatively sober Monday night crowd are mostly going for. They’re largely students, apart from the older, greyer and heavier blokes scattered around the audience who are all, strangely, scribbling into little black notebooks.
Cold War Kids
That’s probably because we’re here to see California’s Cold War Kids, whose second album is just about ready for release, so it’s a sneak preview of this new material (played, it has to be said, with uncompromising gusto) along with some old favourites from their debut album, 2006’s Robbers and Cowards. The Kids (mostly in their mid-twenties) have been going for about four years, and having toured almost without respite in the run-up to Robbers and Cowards had built a considerable fan base, amplified by a virtual blog-fuelled buzz. However it all went a bit wrong for them when one album reviewer ‘outed’ the band as covert Christians, subversively injecting religious messages into their songs, provoking something of an ill-informed backlash. The fact that three members of the band attended the same Catholic college may well account for a heavy use of religious imagery and language in some of their songs, but aside from that it’s hard to see why they might be any more closet-proselytisers than say Nick Cave, who’s not short of the odd biblical metaphor himself. What I would say is that for young men (albeit not Kids) their songs are surprisingly intense, mature and not a tad on the gloomy side.
And if you might think they’re difficult to listen to on disc, then that’s nothing compared with the live performance, which is one of the most disrupted and disruptive that I’ve seen for a long time. Although musically quite different it even puts the Gang of Four to shame – and is none the less compelling for that, in fact quite the reverse. Singer Nathan Willett’s voice is probably best described as “agonised” – seemingly a pleasantly twangy transatlantic rock voice, he pushes it to the edge with a wailing falsetto – like the characters in the songs, full of self-doubt and uncertainty. Cold War Kids
When he goes to the piano it’s more often to crash out some discordant notes than to pick out a melody, most of which are almost subverted by his wayward keyboards and the guitar of Jonnie Russell. He’s got a fantastic rich booming sound – no doubt in part deriving from the DeArmond pickups on his Harmony guitar (I can’t be sure but it looks like a Rocket) – but his playing is jerky, almost out of time. Which is how he moves, although it’s not as distracting as bassist Matt Maust, who roams the stage with spastic motions, careering at will into both Russell and Willett. It’s quite a performance, dense, very intense, very powerful and very impactful.
So if I knew their work better I might be able to tell you what they played off the new album, Loyalty to Loyalty, which is released any day soon. But I don’t, and they certainly weren’t helping by giving out song titles. Not enough time for that. But they did play more than half the stuff from Robbers and Cowards, perhaps a bit more poppy than the newer material, but sufficient for me to buy the album. And I’ll certainly get Loyalty when it’s released. So should you. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen:
The Cold War Kids' MySpace page
 
Dallas Dhu

TASTING
THREE DALLAS DHU

Dallas Dhu 32 yo 1970/2002 (46%, Coopers Choice) This one has quite a reputation, due to the fact that the excellent Dave Broom scored it 90 in Whisky Mag a few years ago. Colour: full gold. Nose: rather unusual and certainly ‘old style’, starting more complex than most more ‘modern’ whiskies. Scented candle wax, orange blossom water, metal polish, fragrant honey (orange), incense, ‘old wardrobe’, cigar box and vanilla fudge. Hints of smoke and then old white wine that matured perfectly well (it’s got something of a great old white Bourgogne.) Very complex and very elegant. High-end perfume? Even a little musk. Mouth: more classic but not less pleasant, very orangey, with maybe not too much body but that’s replaced with elegance. Milk chocolate, brioche, caramel and bergamots, tasting more and more like very good black tea. Tea-schnapps? The tannins are quite apparent but very silky. Finish: medium long, toasty and maltier now, with even more tannins but again, pleasant ones. And always quite some smoke and maybe just a faint soapiness in the aftertaste. Comments: a balanced and very elegant old dram. SGP:453 – 89 points.
Dallas Dhu 27 yo 1981/2008 (55.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #389) From a sherry cask. Colour: gold. Nose: probably a tad less complex and refined that the 1970 at first nosing but the overall profile is still great. More chocolate and coffee at first nosing, and then much more fresh fruits (big lemony notes). Fruit salad, almost fizzy and very pleasantly so. With water: gets even cleaner and zestier, all on lemons and grapefruits, with hints of coal smoke. Very beautiful, if you ask me, and stunningly fresh at 27yo. Mouth (neat): big, very fresh and quite lemony again at first sips, but it gets then very spicy and very oaky, in a most excellent way (a lot of oak isn’t always a problem!) So we have the expected cloves, a lot of cardamom, notes of lemon balm, lime, ginger… Very, very zesty dram. Even hints of tequila (of which we have vivid memories as we tried three of them a few days ago.) Most interesting! With water: zing! Clean, fresh, lemony, with also notes of green apples plus various mild spices from the wood. Finish: long, an extension of the palate. Comments: I wouldn’t say that this is exactly a surprise, but it sure isn’t a ‘regular’ Dallas Dhu, and one may wonder if they didn’t ‘mis-stenciled’ an old cask of Rosebank here. Come on, of course not! SGP:642 – 90 points.
Dallas Dhu 26 yo 1979/2006 (58.2%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, Bourbon/Guigal St. Joseph Blanc Casks, 240 bottles) Colour: deep orange. Nose: very interesting at first nosing, with distinct winey notes but this time they mingle rather pleasantly with the whisky, especially with the lemony notes that we already found in the 1981. Quite some wood smoke, toasted cake, spices (cloves and soft paprika) and very nice whiffs of wet wood. The white St. Joseph really shines trough here, which makes this malt very interesting to wine aficionados (white St. Josephs are usually big whites.) This works so far. With water: it still works. Hints of soot. Mouth (neat): it is hugely vinous and hugely lemony as well, the whole working like kind of an excellent pre-mix if you like. It’s funny how these lemony notes that we already found in the 1981 work well with the St. Joseph (very obvious notes of marsanne, the main grape variety there in the northern Rhône valley.) It’s to be wondered if these white Hermitage / Crozes / St. Jospeh casks wouldn’t work very well with Rosebank as well. Anyway, enough winey ramblings, let’s try it with water now. With water: it’s interesting to witness to which extent the spirit wins here (even if it’s in no way a wine vs. whisky fight.) Very good. Finish: long, maybe just a tad drying now. Comments: another excellent Dallas Dhu/St. Joseph. As always, it’s worth it to try any wine finished whiskies after their ‘neat’ counterparts. SGP:541 – 88 points.

September 2008 - part 1 <--- September 2008 - part 2 ---> October2008 - part 1


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

 

 

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

Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB Committee 2008, 5000 bottles)

Ardbeg 1974/2007 ‘Double Barrel’ (44.9%, OB, cask #3145, 250 bottles)

Ardbeg 1974/2007 ‘Double Barrel’ (49.9%, OB, cask #3524, 250 bottles)

Bowmore 36 yo 1972/2008 (48.8%, The Prestonfield for LMDW, cask #3881, 565 bottles)

Bowmore 43 yo 1964 'White Bowmore' (42.8%, OB, 732 bottles, 2008)

Brora 25 yo (56.3%, OB, 3,000 bottles, 2008)

Dallas Dhu 27 yo 1981/2008 (55.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #389)

Dalmore 40 yo (40%, OB, 2007)

Millburn 31 yo 1974 (52.3%, Cadenhead, sherry, 246 bottles)

Springbank 1966/1999 ‘Local Barley’ (55%, OB, cask #507)

Springbank 1966/1998 ‘Local Barley’ (55.3%, OB, cask #498)