Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2009 - Part
– THE FIRST SIX MANAGERS' CHOICE
carefully selected sparring partners
– as always)
1993/2008 'Distillers Edition' (43%,
OB, OD 157.FT)
Finished in fino montilla casks. Colour:
full gold. Nose: starts on obvious
notes of walnuts, both fresh and old,
typical of some dry sherries, getting
then more coastal (sea air), with
also hints of bitter oranges and then
soft spices. Sweet curry, a little
cardamom, also smoked tea... A very
pleasant nose, rather unusual but
perfectly balanced. No obvious vinosity.
After fifteen minutes: more and more
on a combination of bitter oranges
and marzipan/walnuts, with a distinct
smokiness. Mouth: starts maybe a tad
less coherent than on the nose, with
a faint sourness in the background
but also some pleasant notes of orange
juice and even a little lemon. Notes
of roasted tea (I believe the Japanese
call that hochicha), cloves, then
more lemon marmalade. Elegant ‘sherriness’.
Finish: medium long, a tad salty,
orangey and gingery. A peatiness in
the aftertaste. Comments: I think
the Oban DE really improved since
earlier editions. Very nice freshness.
SGP:452 - 86 points.
2000/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.7%,
OB, cask #1186, 534 bottles)
This one was fully matured in bodega
sherry European oak. Colour: gold.
Nose: punchy and rather sharp at first
nosing, starting a tad grassy (fresh
walnuts again) but soon to get fruitier,
with some notes of fresh strawberries
and something sangria-esque that mingles
very well with these notes of walnuts.
Fresh oranges too. The coastal freshness
is well behind the whole. The fruitiness
gets then much more discreet and is
replaced with a rather superb combination
of espresso, marzipan and old leather,
with just whiffs of crushed tropical
fruits. Very elegant and kind of sexily
unsexy three-stage nose. With water:
it’s the youth that comes out
first, then more peat, pine resin,
kind of smoked leather, more coffee,
hints of damp earth and finally dried
fruits. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy,
zesty, powerful and smooth at the
same time. The sherry is maybe a tad
loud at the attack (it is a little
grapey for a while) but some beautiful
notes of mint flavoured chocolate,
oranges and smoked tea do kick in
after a few seconds and really balance
it. With water: perfect now, with
some salted and buttered caramel,
milk chocolate, pepper and that slight
lemony sourness that prevents it from
being too ‘rounded’. Finish:
very long, creamy, rich and very coating.
Chocolate and liqueur. Comments: at
£300, this young explosive Oban
is way too expensive but after a few
years of further bottle ageing (smoothening),
it may well overtake the famous 16
and 19yo Manager’s Drams. Very
high quality indeed, as expected,
but not to be rushed, it needs a lot
of your time. SGP:663 - 91
1997/2006 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks
of Scotland, sherry casks, 750 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: starts really
grassy and mildly smoky, dry and rather
austere in style despite a pleasant
freshness. Develops more on lemon
zests, wax and wet rocks, in a certain
sense not far from a late period Clynelish.
Hints of grapefruits and apple peelings.
Very faint graininess and just a little
porridge. Very nice if you like very
‘straight’ malts. The
sherry isn’t obvious. Mouth:
much sweeter and fruitier, rather
more exuberant even if one wouldn’t
say this is exuberant malt whisky.
A lot of apple juice and soft spices,
ginger, cinnamon… There’s
also more lemon coming through after
a while. A tad less elegant than on
the nose, I’d say. Finish: medium
long, with hints of tannins this time.
Cider and candy sugar. Comments: a
pretty good Teaninich. I liked the
nose a lot, the palate is maybe a
tad more, say indistinct. SGP:451
- 83 points.
Choice' (55.3%, OB, cask #9802, 246
Matured in rejuvenated American
oak. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re
well in the same family as with the
1997, with exactly the same kind of
grassy and lemony nose, but there’s
also more oak and vanilla. Notes of
plantain, fresh almonds and then white
berry fruits (gooseberries, white
currants). Gets then more and more
aromatic but always a tad rigid –
pleasantly so. Young rum ‘arranged’
with bananas and vanilla. With water:
the oak comes out even more. Ginger
and warm sawdust. Mouth (neat): punchy,
creamy, very vanilled, very ‘modern’
in style, reminding me of Glenmorangie’s
Artisan or Astar or of Glenlivet’s
Nàdurra. Huge sweet oaky notes
and notes of apples in the background.
With water: extremely sweet, vanilled,
mildly honeyed and citrusy. Finish:
long, more on plain oak, tea and a
little white pepper. Comments: modern,
engineered, not exactly a young sweet
oakbomb but close. It’s pretty
good but had I tried this baby blind,
I’d have never, ever said it
was a bottling by Diageo. SGP:641
- 84 points.
1990/2009 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail,
for LMdW, cask #6964)
Colour: mahogany (dark oloroso!) Nose:
pure, liquid chocolate at first nosing,
then we have more oranges, both fresh
and dried, as well as a good deal
of ‘good’ sulphur (that
is to say sulphur that’s closer
to gunpowder than to, err, rotten
eggs or H2S). Gets then very gamey
and even a tad acetic (balsamico but
also soy sauce). Old walnut liqueur.
A spectacular dry sherry monster on
the nose, for lovers of the genre
only. Mouth: I’m sorry, this
is no whisky, it’s plain old
ueber-fortified sherry. Maybe they
should double-check their bond book,
mistakes can always be made ;-). But
good it is! Finish: long, luscious,
chocolaty and jammy. Chocolate-coated
prunes in Armagnac. Blood oranges
in the aftertaste. Comments: another
spectacular sherry monster, very extreme
but, most curiously, rather balanced
and not sour. I like it better than
earlier versions. SGP:541
- 88 points.
Choice' (58.2%, OB, cask #10552, 480
Matured in sherry European
oak. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s
more the oak than the sherry that
strike first here, the whole being
a little closed at first nosing, but
it gets then rather chocolaty, even
if less so than the 1990. Quite some
prunes as well, slightly overripe
strawberries, the oak gets then bigger
again. Tapioca, flour, gingerbread.
Also little kirsch, then flowers such
as peonies. A profile that’s
a little hard to pin down (maybe I
should try harder!) With water: it
gets much fresher, cleaner and pleasant,
on raspberry liqueur, jasmine tea
and these whiffs of roses that can
sometimes be found in Linkwood. Keeps
developing on hay, ginger and just
a little shoe polish. Mouth (neat):
starts really powerful and rather
kirschy again, a little rough. Eau-de-vie,
strawberries and quite some black
pepper. With water: once again, it’s
much better after having been reduced
down to +/-45%. A lot of spices (cloves
and pepper first, then nutmeg and
cinnamon), crystallised oranges, nectarines…
Finish: rather long, clean, fruity,
with the pepper lingering in the background.
Comments: one of these sherried malts
that really need water, but then they
become very good. What’s sure
is that Diageo didn’t take the
easy way out when selecting this one.
SGP:441 - 86 points.
1970/1993 (54.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky
Society for Japan, #106.1)
Colour: gold. Nose: weird!
Rather powerful but also unexpectedly
smoky and smelling like some bean
and bacon soup (or something like
that). Goes on with small cider apples,
dry chenin wine, something such as
sorrel or even cooked spinach, then
aniseed and even a little mint, lemon,
old books, wet newspaper… Hmm,
hard to make up my mind, it’s
so unusual. Is this nice? Let’s
see what happens with water. With
water: gets much more farmy and even
more vegetal, even after fifteen minutes.
Quite some camphor, eucalyptus and
that wee metallic note that suggest
and old bottle effect. It IS very
nice! Mouth (neat): superb attack,
very lemony and spicy at the same
time, ultra-zesty and magnificently
sharp. Too bad it gets then a little
too ‘green’ and even astringent
(grape pips, lime), but the zestiness
is spectacular. With water: more liquorice,
soft spices, a little mustard and
always a lot of lemon. Finish: long,
too bad it gets a little too drying
(tea tannins). Comments: superb old
Cardhu until the finish, where it
loses points. SGP:642 - 89
Choice' (57.3%, OB, cask #3362, 252
Matured in bourbon American
oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we aren’t
very far from the SMWS when undiluted
but this one is more compact, rather
cleaner, with less ‘whacky’
aromas and more finely chiselled lemony,
waxy and mineral notes. Also quite
some vanilla from the bourbon wood
but it’s still elegant and ‘natural’
(no oakbomb). Then ginger, lemon zests,
a little paraffin and a very faint
chalkiness. With water: gets much
grassier, with also added notes of
milk chocolate and a little more lemon.
And less vanilla. After a good five
minutes: superb citrusy notes, with
much more oranges and clementines.
Mouth (neat): it’s funny how
this one tastes just like the 1970
at first sipping, only coated with
more vanilla custard and fudge that
make it rounder. Lemon pie. With water:
yes! Zesty, complex, citrusy, nervous…
Superb. Finish: long and with exactly
the same profile. Fantastic citrusy
notes and just a tiny-wee oaky touch
(ginger). Comments: I had the 1970
as #1 until the palate with water,
where they were equals, then the MC
easily overtook the 1970 at the finish.
SGP:641 - 91 points.
8 yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead's
Colour: white wine. Nose: typical
of these very high-strength Speysiders
where almost all you get is coffee
and grass. It’s the alcohol,
baby… Quick, with water: smells
like a cow stable, even after a good
fifteen minutes of breathing! Certainly
a little too newmakish. Wet hay, horse
dung… Gets then very grassy
again. Green apples. Not an easy one!
Mouth (neat): bigly lemony and immensely
grassy, on the verge of being bitter.
Once again, water is mandatory or
you can say bye-bye to your throat
(and probably anything below it).
With water: good, sweeter, very creamy,
tasting like some orange liqueur doped
with a little black pepper. Finish:
long, sweet, fruity, slightly bubblegummy,
with a peppery aftertaste. Comments:
very good on the palate when diluted,
otherwise a tad sharp and neutral
at the same time. SGP:551
- 82 points.
Choice' (57.1%, OB, cask #6802, 240
in bourbon American oak. Colour: white
wine. Nose: it’s not an extravagant
malt whisky when undiluted but it
does show a little more character
than the 1987 indeed. Whiffs of vanilla,
fresh mint leaves, lime and a little
rhubarb. Also ‘green’
apples. With water: even more menthol,
liquorice, hints of cinchona, fern…
The vanilla faded away whilst the
grassiness got bigger, until the vanilla
got very big again after fifteen minutes.
Glimmering vanilla? Mouth (neat):
much, much easier to sip than the
1987 when unreduced, even if it’s
some hot whisky indeed. Creamy mouth
feel, on lemon coated with white chocolate
and vanilla sauce. Apple compote.
With water: now it tastes more or
less the same as the 1987, maybe a
tad less grassy and a little more
vanilled. Finish: long, sweet, nervous.
Strawberries. Comments: tastes young
but this ‘responsiveness’
is most pleasant. It does not have
the faint meatiness than other Mortlachs
often display. SGP:551 - 84
Elgin 17 yo 1991/2008 (54.6%, James
MacArthur, cask #2598)
A 'single barrel… matured in
sherry wood'? What can that be? A
sherry-treated barrel? Colour: gold.
Nose: a punchy, rather vinous (vin
jaune) and slightly dirty start on
cooked wine (sauce), gravy and obvious
sulphur. No, it isn’t as horrible
as it sounds, but it’s extremely
potent and noses just like a 65% whisky
so let’s add water right away.
With water: more walnuts, more vin
jaune (flor) and more herbal tea.
The sulphury notes got more discreet.
Whiffs of wet moss and a faint smokiness.
It got seriously nice! Mouth (neat):
the sherry is big but it’s rather
cleaner than on the nose. Grape juice
and bitter oranges. With water: even
creamier, nicely orangey, nervous,
citrusy and even lemony. Water really
improved it. Finish: long but most
bizarrely, the fruitiness vanished
and it got very herbal and tea-ish.
A true harlequin of a malt! Comments:
a very ‘funny’ one that
doesn’t stop changing. Entertaining.
SGP:452 – 85 points.
Elgin 1998/2009 'Managers'
Choice' (61.1%, OB, cask #3678, 534
Matured in rejuvenated
European oak. Colour: straw. Nose:
powerful of course but also cleaner,
straighter and rather more coherent
than the 1991, starting with whiffs
of wood smoke and quite some fresh
almonds plus a little paraffin, then
hints of sherry and Seville oranges.
But that’s all I can get at
more than 60% abv. So, with water:
alas, it got a little dry and rather
grassy. Maybe not the best swimmer
ever? Hints of old papers and maybe
a little ham. Wait, it does take off
after a good ten minutes, with more
mint and something that smells like…
absinth? Also leather and more ham.
Mouth (neat): powerful of course,
oily, rather rich, half peppery, half
vanilled and half sherried ;-). It
seems that it’s very good now
but let’s not take chances.
With water: aaaah, now we’re
talking! It’s not that it got
very complex but it’s much fuller,
creamy, fruity and spicy. Bitter oranges,
citrons and pepper, vanilla and rum…
a very good combo. Finish: long, on
the same notes, with maybe a little
more ginger in the aftertaste. Comments:
a very good Glen Elgin that’s
a tad tricky to handle at such high
strength, since it seems to swim better
on the mouth than on the nose. So
to speak! SGP:451 - 86 points.
conclusion: the young
Cardhu and Oban are clearly ahead
of the pack in my opinion and indeed
of stellar quality. The Glen Elgin
and Linkwood are very good as well
but maybe just a little less ‘outta-this-world’.
The Mortlach may lack a bit of the
distillery’s usually splendid
profile (an unexpected choice of cask
in my view) whilst the Teaninich is
very good but a little too ‘modern’
for my taste. Globally, all six are
I just had Davin and Krishna, two
Malt Maniacs, at home and let them
try the whole flight. They both scored
each approx 2 points above yours truly.
Maybe I was in a slightly negative
mood when I came up with my own scores
and maybe I just couldn't prevent
myself from being influenced by the
heavy prices. Shame on me! ;-)
- Recommended listening:
I don't know why I was feeling like
listening to Art
Blakey's very, very
March again. Maybe because it's
so good, or maybe because it was
the jingle of a famous French radio
show that I never failed to listen
to when I was a kid... Please buy
Art Blakey's music.
McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
long for Twitter! ;-))
Whisky Live Paris just closed its
doors and all I can say is that it
was a huge success. There are more
and more international visitors, which
says long about the event's ever-growing
reputation abroad. And many thanks
again to Astrid, Martine, Dave, Geert,
Giuseppe, Govert, Hans-Henrik, Hideo,
Ho-cheng, Luc, Marcel, Olivier, Philippe,
Sukhinder, Thierry and Ulf. You were
ANOTHER GO AT BOWMORE 1982
Let me admit that I’ve always
been in rather big trouble with
these 1982 Bowmores. I’ve
tried seven different casks so far
and scored them from 59 to 79, except
one, cask #85030, which I liked
much better (86). Please note that
I haven’t tried cask #85033
(b. 20087, 211 bottles) for the
US, which, according to a friend
over there, is totally out of this
world. It’s a matter of taste
anyway, especially with styles that
are so particular, so let’s
be brave and try five more without
any water, maybe some kind of light
will come out of one or two of them.
But remember, it's all a matter
of personal taste (I insist!)
26 yo 1982/2009 (50.4%, Duncan Taylor,
Rare Auld, cask #85072)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: the expected
whiffs of geraniums are well here,
together with hints of wet clay, orange
zests and lemonade. A little smoke
and just hints of seawater. Cut flowers.
Not unpleasant (no ‘chemical’
perfume) but it’s still typical
of that era at Bowmore. Mouth: hugely
’82 Bowmore! Violet sweets,
salt and cranberry juice. Orange syrup.
This is very sweet but balance is
kept. Tastes more and pore like strawberry
drops, or these Swiss bonbons called
Sugus (I’m sorry, you probably
don’t know them). Finish: Comments:
extremely sweet and perfumy. A style
of its own, not my cup of malt at
all but I would not say this is flawed.
SGP:734 - 78 points.
26 yo 1982/2009 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor,
Rare Auld, cask #85031)
gold. Nose: much less geranium and
more peat, vanilla and sea water.
Lemon zests, oysters. The flowery
notes grow bigger over time (more
dandelions than geranium or lavender).
A nice, rather cleaner version from
a more active casks or so it seems.
After 15 minutes: some porridge and
yoghurt. Mouth: the same notes of
lavender sweets and strawberry drops
with a little more wood around them.
Kiwi drops, Haribo bears, a little
pepper. Medium peated. Finish: long
but a tad more ‘chemical’
now. Tang? Comments: a slightly bigger
version of cask #85072 but it’s
also a little less clean. SGP:654
- 76 points.
26 yo 1982/2009 (53.5%, Duncan Taylor,
Rare Auld, cask #85057)
gold. Nose: similar to cask #85072,
with added notes of fresh strawberries
and pineapples. Cut grass, overripe
oranges. More oak as well (sawdust,
ginger). Mouth: very similar to the
other ones. Juicy fruits, violet sweets,
strawberry drops, orange drops, coriander,
kiwis… I must say this one is
much cleaner and straight than the
others. The best so far – in
my view of course. Finish: long, with
the notes of violet sweets getting
even bigger. Orange blossom water
and quite some salt too. Comments:
this one has no ‘chemical’
notes, I like it. SGP:654
- 83 points.
26 yo 1982/2009 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor,
Rare Auld, cask #85068)
Colour: gold. Nose: once again, we’re
close. This one is a tad shier, more
on cut flowers. A little more pepper
in the background as well as oranges.
Mouth: god this is punchy! Lemon drops,
pepper, strawberry drops, pepper,
violet sweets, pepper, orange squash,
pepper, salt, pepper… Also a
little mint and more violets/lavender
than cask #85057 again. A fruity brute.
Finish: very long. Violet sweets and
pepper sauce plus rather more peat
than in the others. Less clean than
the previous one, which is still my
favourite. A few ‘chemical’
notes – when I write ‘chemical’,
I’m thinking of these cheap
sweets that one can find in any supermarket,
or of liquorice allsorts and such.
Comments: a fruity brute indeed. It’s
rather good actually. SGP:745
- 79 points.
26 yo 1982/2009 (54.9%, Duncan Taylor,
Rare Auld, cask #85064)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: this
one is cleaner and fruitier at very
first nosing, but there’s a
lot of geranium arising, orangeade,
perfume, rubber bands… Very
typical. Rubbed orange zests. Gets
more coastal after a while. Mouth:
once again, the fruitiness is big
and the notes of ‘chemical sweets’
even bigger. Lavender sweets, basil,
rubber, smoked tea, fir honeydew...
Finish: long, candied and very ‘lavendery’.
Crystallised oranges, lemon zests,
a bitterness in the aftertaste (zests).
Gin fizz. Comments: another beast
that’s not flawed at all, only
very typical. The most lemony of them
all. SGP:745 - 80 points.
- Recommended listening:
odd? Some very rare French psychedelic
pop from the late 1960s, with due
echoes and spacy trippy effects,
Papyvores. It's called
Papyvore and it does remind
us of Nino Ferrer indeed. Please
buy Les Papyvores' music.
– FIVE YOUNG CLYNELISH
10 yo 1997/2008 (46%, Coopers Choice)
coopers Colour: straw. Nose: super,
clean, sharp, grassy and waxy Clynelish,
with little fruitiness – almost
none, actually – but a minerality
that’s fantastic. A little vanilla
and hints of green bananas that make
a late arrival, as well as a little
lemon and just hints of roses. Mouth:
excellent, rather earthy, leafy, rooty
and of course waxy, with some orange
zests and hints of cinchona. Funny
notes of orange soda, slightly fizzy.
Lemonade. Finish: rather long, with
a little more pepper and a very waxy
signature. Comments: a classic, true
to the distillery’s original
character as displayed in the 14yo
OB. SGP:352 - 86 points.
1995/2006 (46%, Eilan Gillan, Hogshead)
Colour: white wine. Nose: much shyer
than the 1997, dry, more on damp clay,
cut grass, porridge and maybe hints
of white cherries. Very austere and
not very sexy. Hints of pears as well.
Lacks ageing, it seems. Mouth: much,
much nicer than on the nose, despite
a slightly excessive greenness here
(walnut skin, lemon zest). Then lemon
marmalade, gooseberries and various
other slightly underripe fruits. Finish:
long, still green, peppery, maybe
a tad too bitter. Comments: indeed,
not a very sexy version but Clynelish
aficionados should like it. A variant.
SGP:272 - 80 points.
12 yo 1994/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid
for Malts&More, Bourbon/Pedro
Ximenéz, cask #PX 12371, 712
Colour: amber Nose: well, it’s
hard to find any of Clynelish’s
markers at first sniffing, but Clynelish
isn’t a trumpeting malt whisky.
We’re rather on a lot of orange
marmalade and gunpowder, with an unusually
huge honeyness growing bigger and
bigger. ‘Cynelish’ comes
through after a little while, with
some wax and that minerality. It’s
also a little vinous. Purist would
say this is too far from the distillery’s
character but I must say the end result
is much pleasing – so far. Mouth:
thick, rich and very unusual. Notes
of orange liqueur, walnut liqueur
(or nusswasser as we say over here),
the whole gets more bitter and a little
drying. Tar, ginger wine, something
like tamarind? Not quite as nice as
on the nose I’m afraid. Finish:
long but more like cold over-infused
black tea. Comments: I liked the nose
but the palate isn’t as balanced.
I’d say ‘experimental’.
SGP:371 - 74 points.
16 yo 1993/2009 (56.5%, Alambic Classique,
refill rum barrel, cask #9754, 156
Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, this
is dry and austere again, and close
to the Eilan Gillan in style. Damp
clay, chalk, ginger tonic, grass,
pepper, green tea… A very sharp,
‘unsexy’ version. I like
austerity and self-restraint in my
Clynelishes but this one goes a tad
too far. Unexpected whiffs of rum
after a few minutes, overripe apples.
With water: ouch, it smells like aspirin
now! Also very unusual notes of fresh
basil and coriander, then iron. Mouth
(neat): plain lemon juice with pepper,
and in that sense very spectacular.
With water: very strange, something
like metallic oranges? Finish: rather
long, with more lemon and pepper,
but it’s still a bit unbalanced.
Comments: not sure this baby wasn’t
flawed. Nails? I’ll try to put
my hands on another sample just to
make sure, it’s a tad weird.
SGP:261 - 69 points.
1995/2008 (60.6%, Scotch Single Malt
Circle, Refill Sherry, cask #12780)
Colour: gold. Nose: almost silent,
only a little porridge, vanilla and
grass coming through. The high alcohol
probably blocks the rest. With water:
gets porridgy, grainy, a little sulphury,
slightly newmake-ish and very grassy.
It’s only after quite some minutes
that the trademark waxiness manages
to come through. Notes of grapefruits.
After fifteen minutes: gets great,
typical high-end Clynelish. Mouth:
full of promises at such high strength.
Lemon, pepper, wax, vitamin C tablets.
With water: good, balanced, flavourful.
Bitter oranges, honey and wax, with
a little more sherry. Finish: long,
even more on bitter oranges. Comments:
do not rush this one, it needs a lot
of time to open up. SGP:462
- 83 points.
- Recommended listening:
after Lambert, Hendrix and Bavan
(or Ross), Les
Double Six of Paris
played all reed and brass... with
their voices. That was in the early
1960s and they were extremely good
at it! please have a go at their
version of Meet
Benny Bailey and then buy their
REVIEW by Nick Morgan
Royal Festival Hall,
London, August 10th 2009
would wager that few of you reading
this have heard of the
National but if I’m
wrong, then I’m sure you won’t
hesitate to let me know. If you
are at all familiar with this cultish
outfit from Brooklyn then more likely
than not you’re a fan. And
not a “yeah I liked their
last album” sort of fan, but
rather a “I just can’t
wait for the new record to come
out, what, did you say they’re
playing a gig in London? Well I’ve
just got to get tickets for that…”
there are apparently a lot of them
around. Enough to sell out this one-off
gig at the Royal Festival Hall in
a matter of hours as far as I understand.
So for your Reviewer and Photographer,
it’s one of those uncomfortable
occasions, like being a neutral in
the middle of the Kop at Liverpool’s
Anfield ground, or the famous (and
technically now dismantled) Shed at
Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. And
thinking about it, a football ground
might have been a better venue for
the gig than the formal, sometimes
stuffy, and very seated RFH. This
was clearly an uncomfortable locale
for a band more used to playing the
Bowery Ballroom, with fans who, despite
the rather cerebral nature of the
National’s work, and regardless
of their English reserve (actually
the one shouting “Stand up you
fuckers. Fucking stand up” was
from Glasgow) were clearly intent
on celebrating its visceral side in
National have four albums to their
name, stretching back to 2001’s
eponymous debut. The last, 2007’s
The Boxer made the charts (number
68) but more importantly was a critical
triumph. I’m sure the T-shirt
buying hoards here have got all of
them, and the singles and EPs, and
the live podcast downloads. They’ve
probably pre-ordered the highly anticipated
forthcoming album (“I just can’
wait for the new record to come out,
what, did you say they’re playing
a gig in London? Well I’ve just
got to get tickets for that…”).
No doubt part of this devotion is
down to the charismatic frontman,
Matt Berninger, of whom more later.
some I’m sure is because the
National have a sound of their own,
built around the jousting guitars
of brothers Aron and Bryce Dessner,
which feature strongly in both new
and old material. When it works it’s
a nice trick, bouncing riffs and chords
off each other, building up complex
layers of sound reminiscent of the
incarcerated Mr Spector’s Wall.
But even in a relatively short gig
it runs the danger of sounding, at
least to the unconverted, a tad formulaic.
That, I think, is where the intensity
kicks in. For this is one of the most
intense and committed performances
I’ve seen for a while; if the
Dessner boys’ left hands had
meant blood-soaked fretboards they
wouldn’t have stopped playing,
you could see it in their eyes. And
you could see how it got to some of
the fans: “Stand up you fuckers.
Fucking stand up”.
I mention Berninger? Well, he is Mr
Intense. He has a peach of a voice:
think Nick Cave meets Scott Walker;
deep and brooding, reflective and
guilt ridden. He paces the stage liked
a caged animal, pulling and tearing
at his shirt and trousers, occasionally
pausing, fists clenched as tight as
tight can be, to stare into the distance
and howl or scream unimaginable torrents
of anguish. I’m not surprised
he needs a drink: chilled white wine
by the ice-filled glass full (at one
point he curses the fact that he’s
wasted five minutes trying to pull
a cork out of a screw-cap closed bottle
with his teeth), drunk like a man
rescued from the desert might greedily
gulp at a glass of water.
certainly drives his band and provokes
the audience (he provoked a fit of
boredom in the Photographer but that’s
another story), already so goaded
by their foul-mouthed Glaswegian,
that it’s easy for Berninger
to get them on their feet; at which
point, perversely, he jumps from the
stage to fill a vacant pew in the
front row. Love it or hate it, it’s
a remarkably powerful performance,
giving colour to the lyrics and melodies
of some interesting and well-crafted
songs like ‘All the wine’,
and set closer ‘Fake Empire’.
left during the encore. Your reviewer
was quite engaged, but the Photographer
pretty fed up with all the prancing
and cavorting, much of it from people
who were old enough to know better,
some of it frankly embarrassing. Anyway,
like I said, you probably haven’t
heard of the National, but I would
suggest you devote a few minutes to
listening to their material. And while
you’re doing that, why not look
out for Edinburgh’s The
Broken Records, who played a fantastic
and highly original support set. Should
you feel like being put through a
couple of cycles of an emotionally-
charged washing machine, then go and
watch Mr Berninger strutting his stuff:
it’s a hard act to follow. –
Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
– TWO SPEYSIDE (from Speyside
No, these aren’t
from Glenfarclas ;-), but from the
Speyside Distillery that isn’t
quite in Speyside according to some
sources (it’s in Kingussie).
Confused? Let’s try these babies…
10 yo 1996/2007 (60%, C&S Dram
Collection, hogshead, cask #788)
Colour: white wine.
Nose: white fruits and grains galore,
with a good deal of fresh almonds
and marzipan in the background. It’s
powerful but not explosive at cask
strength. It’s also a tad spirity
(cologne, medicinal alcohol) but the
rather clean profile works pretty
well if you’re not seeking something
very demonstrative. With water: it
doesn’t get any more complex
but notes of porridge and mashed potatoes
do come through. A tad neutral globally
but its clean, young malt whisky.
A little newmake-ish. Mouth (neat):
very strong, very spirity but rather
clean. Esthery, fruity (apples, pears)
and just a tad rubbery. Raw spirit,
with little cask influence. Water
is probably obligatory! With water:
clean, natural, very young malt whisky
with little character but good balance.
Orgeat syrup, almond milk and apple
liqueur. Finish: medium long, maybe
a tad more spirity and cologne-ish.
Comments: not unpleasant. The spirit
doesn’t show much personality
but it’s quite palatable. SGP:331
- 78 points.
1993/2009 (61.7%, Malts of Scotland,
sherry butt, cask #636, 180 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: very similar
profile, grains, cologne and almonds,
only with an added layer of raisins,
white wine and fresh varnish. I wouldn’t
say this works to well so far. Added
notes of vinegar and old wine cask
developing after a while. Volatile
acidity in whisky? With water: more
of the same, the winey notes getting
even bigger. Empty vinegar cruet.
Improves a bit after a good fifteen
minutes, with notes of cured ham and
wet straw. Kirsch. Mouth (neat): raw,
powerful, a little burning, spirity
and slightly bitter. Notes of Armagnac-soaked
prunes, Stroh 80 (high proof Austrian
rum). Not an easy dram for sure. With
water: less sherry, more raw spirit
and a spirit that’s close to
the 1996 in style, that is to say
fairly neutral. Some raw oak comes
through (green tannins, black pepper).
Finish: long but still rather spirity.
Reminds me even more of Stroh 80,
but it’s still better than Stroh
80 ;-). Comments: perfectly all right
but not more. I find it a little strange
that Malts of Scotland issued this
one, as all their previous bottlings
had been way above par in my humble
opinion. A way of getting their breath
back? SGP :431 - 75 points.
long for Twitter! ;-))
OMG! Not even the good people at The
GlenWonka (and not even with the
help of Damien Hirst) would have dared
issuing such laughable ‘bottlings’!
That’s right, these are middle-aged
single malts at 43% ABV, all bottled
in ‘Swarovski’ decanters
that even Barbara Cartland on acid
would have found… really too
for the prices, here are just a few
examples, please judge by yourself:
Laphroaig 17yo 43% 2,5 litre 3,500.00
Bowmore 15yo 43% 2 litres 2,900.00
Ardbeg 15yo 43% 5 litres 5,500.00
Ardbeg 15yo 1992/2007 43% 0.7 litres
in ‘Fabergé’ egg
… and so on (of course, it's
Right, this is most probably a joke
but let’s make things clear:
neither Whiskyfun, nor The GlenWonka
have anything to do with this flabbergasting
venture. Cross my heart, hope to die,
stick a needle in my eye! (and
– YET ANOTHER THREE CAOL ILA
approaching our 250th Caol Ila at
full speed – I’ve saved
a 1969 (the erotic year, said Gainsbourg)
for that occasion that should take
place before the end of the year.
It’s true that with 3.4 mio
LPA (litres pure alcohol), Caol Ila
is no small distillery, is it? (Now,
Macallan issues 5 mio LPA a year…)
Ila 12 yo 1996/2009 'Ciao All' (46%,
The Nectar, Daily Dram)
Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, it’s
one of these very pure, fresh, clean
and delicately smoky Caol Ilas. As
usual, we have whiffs of seashells,
cold ashes, wet stones and a faint
kipperiness that’s most pleasant.
Typical, to drink on oysters! Mouth:
full yet light, clean, a little salty,
perfectly balanced, medium peated,
with touches of iodine and, once again,
kippers. Also quite some lemon and
fresh walnuts for good measure. Finish:
long, salty, a little wilder and even
more coastal. Comments: a very maritime
young Caol Ila, totally flawless.
The problem may be that one could
well gulp down litres of this without
even noticing. And then, ‘Ciao,
all!’ ;-) SGP:356 -
Ila 17 yo 1992/2009 (46%, Whisky-Doris,
The Dram, 180 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: huge whiffs
of vanilla at first nosing, which
is rather unusual. They almost block
the spirit here, at least for a few
seconds. Then we get the trademark
light peatiness and all the smoky
and coastal jazz as well as notes
of olive oil. If you never tried a
heavily vanilled yet clean and fresh
Caol Ila, this one is for you. Pleasant
medicinal notes coming through after
a while. Mouth: we’re not far
from the 1996 of course but this one
is a tad more organic, salty and oomphy.
There’s a little more lemon
too, as well as apple peelings, the
whole being globally wilder than the
1996. No big vanilla on the palate.
Finish: long, with a good, rather
big peatiness and hints of plain seawater.
Comments: a rather wilder and peatier
version of Caol Ila, also more on
lemon-and-salt than others. Tequila?
Nah… But good stuff it is. SGP:457
- 86 points.
Ila 17 yo 1991/2008 (56.9%, The Single
Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask
#481, 302 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: almost blocked
when compared with the lighter ones
that we just had. Almost silent in
fact, but I guess water should unleash
the aromas. With water: guess what,
water did not work here, the whisky
did not change much. Mouth (neat):
this one is more extreme than both
the 1996 and 1992, and even more lemony
and salty. Big, punchy, almondy, coastal…
Notes of green apples. With water:
excellent, rounder than the younger
ones, more complex as well, with may
spices, crystallised oranges, salted
caramel fudge and notes of gingerbread.
At the peat and smoke department,
all is perfect. Finish: long, smokier
now, peaty and peppery. Perfect aftertaste
on salted almonds and lemon juice.
Comments: the excellent people at
The Single Malts of Scotland have
some great, great Caol Ilas and this
one is no exception. And best of the
best, this is whisky for drinka, not
for collecta! The only strange thing
is that the nose was rather low-key,
even when watered down. The palate
is excellent. SGP:456 - 85
McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
- Recommended listening:
warning, geniuses! Two griots, Momma
mint Dendenni and Seddoum ould Bowba
Jiddou aka 'the stars of
great Mauritanian music' play a
long piece that one could call 'Music
is always in my heart'. It was
found on this
fabulous website, via Twitter.
Yes, Twitter can be great.
– THREE 1979 CAOL ILA
Ila 1979/2009 (53.1%, Berry Bros &
Rudd, cask #4412)
I always liked this comment on BBR’s
website, about just any whisky: “maturity:
Ready, but will keep.” A wine
thing, for sure ;-). Colour: gold.
Nose: no sign of this baby being 30
years of age, rather a very clean
and fresh profile, all on fresh walnuts,
apple peelings and limestone, which
sometimes happens in middle-aged Caol
Ilas that lost part of their fire,
often for the better. Medium-peated.
More green tea after a moment, hints
of mercurochrome. Orange blossom and
vanilla. This one probably needs water.
With water: very beautiful, ‘the
scent of Islay’. Fresh peated
walnuts and the beach. Cough syrup.
Mouth (neat): excellent attack, on
these camphory and resinous notes
that scream ‘old Islay’.
I must say this one has something
of some old Ardbegs, with a beautiful
tar and some old spices and ancient
liqueurs (whatever that means). Some
salt too. Brilliant palate so far.
With water: a little less ‘old
Ardbeg’ but there’s quite
some salt left, and its medicinal
side too. The peat is rather big despite
its thirty years of age. Just great.
Finish: long, wide, doing the peacock’s
tale. Comments: this one is very ‘old
Islay’ – it was some cask!
Superb, one of the very best Caol
Ilas I could try in recent months.
SGP:356 - 91 points
(almost 92). PS: I never talk about
prices but imagine this total beauty
is sold for £69 you-know-where!
(update, £79 one day later.)
Ila 20 yo 1979/2000 (58.2%, Coopers
Colour: straw. Nose: rather more expressive
than the new BBR, but also more on
sour apples and even yoghurt. Cut
grass, lettuce, grapes, aspirin tablets.
Dry and austere so far, rather shy.
With water: nice but as it sometimes
happens with older Caol Ilas, there’s
kind an added dustiness when you add
water. Mid-chalky, mid-papery. Still
nice! Mouth (neat): punchy, starting
very earthy, rooty and leafy, and
in that sense very different from
the BBR. Crisp, lemony, sharp like
a blade as they say. Not quite too
hot but let’s see what happens
with water. With water: more lemon
and more salt. Kippers galore! Finish:
long, very salty and very coastal.
Anchovies in a bottle? Comments: I
didn’t like the nose too much
but the palate is spectacularly salty.
Brine? SGP:255 - 84 points.
Ila 25 yo 1979/2005 (58.2%, Signatory,
cask #05/116, 244 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: big, wonderfully
mashy and organic. Cow stable, old
seaweed on the beach, then lemon juice,
almonds and a little milk. Wet limestone,
clay… High-end leather (Louis
Vuitton – and why not?) With
water: it’s its milky side that
really stands out now. Clean cow stable
and raw ‘natural’ milk
(not the junk they try to flog to
you at most supermarkets.) Slight
fizziness, lemonade, ginger tonic.
Mouth (neat): we’re extremely
close to the Cooper’s, only
a little more polished. ‘A lemony
bite’, still. With water: classic,
despite an unusual honeyness. A little
vanilla fudge, the rest is ‘usual’,
that is to say pretty good. Finish:
rather long, peaty and vanilled. Comments:
good balance, good profile, very good
quality but maybe not much magic.
Now, it’s true that it’s
always hard after a stunner such as
the BBR. SGP:356 - 86 points.
- Recommended listening:
one of the most revered masters
of jazz piano, Andrew
Hill, playing Retrospect
(from Verona Rag, 1980). LIke other
luminaries such as the late Don
Pullen, or Richie Beirach, I find
it utterly fascinating to follow
Andrew Hill when he's improvising.
Breathtaking! Please buy Andrew
– THREE OLD OFFICIAL MORTLACH
at super-high strength
1980/1997 (63.1%, Flora & Fauna,
Colour: straw. Nose: super-punchy
of course but less aggressive than
expected, starting on quite some wood
smoke (and BBQ) and notes of ripe
gooseberries and orange liqueur (any,
really). There’s some honey
too, as well as hints of cured ham
and a little tar. Discreet notes of
sherry. Superb nose at 63% I must
say, but let’s add water. With
water: develops all on rubbed orange
skin, then a huge meatiness. Something
like ham cooked in orange sauce, with
a little sage and cardamom. Sounds
good? Too bad it’s also a tad
dusty. Mouth (neat): super-punchy
once again, zesty, fruity, sort of
lighter than other Mortlachs as far
as the profile is concerned. Truckloads
of fresh oranges and just hints of
bubblegum, but that may come from
the high strength. With water: unusual
development on sorrel and coriander,
with something earthy/dusty. And lemonade.
It doesn’t seem to swim too
well. Finish: long, pulls itself together
again, with some ginger and orange
zests. Comments: a rollercoaster of
a malt, maybe not state of the art
but very entertaining. SGP:552
- 86 points.
20 yo 1978/1998 (62.20%, OB, Rare
Colour: gold. Nose: extremely punchy
once again, well in most Rare Malts’
style, that is to say close to the
distillate. Once again, there’s
quite some wood smoke but also much
less sherry and much more grassy notes
than in the F&F. Whiffs of vanilla
custard and orange cake, then a combination
of paraffin and kirsch (or any stone
fruit spirit) and maybe even a little
soap – or is that fresh almonds?
With water: oh, it shuts down, getting
grassy, mineral and very austere.
Mouth (neat): raw, powerful and kind
of gritty/tannic, with some lime in
the background. A little strange,
paraffiny and lemony. Unusual! With
water: better but still a little aggressive
and maybe too ‘green’
and grassy. Hints of oil, strong liquorice,
lemon syrup and various herbs. Thyme?
Finish: long, all on the same grassy
notes. Comments: not an easy-easy
Mortlach but quality is there. SGP:462
– 85 points.
22 yo 1972/1995 (65.3%, OB, Rare Malts)
Colour: gold. Nose: triple wow! Not
anaesthetic in any way at 65% ABV,
superbly honeyed ala old Glen Ord.
Fragrant, aromatic, complex…
Or so it seems because it really starts
to assail your nostrils after a few
seconds. Let’s not take chances…
With water: exceptional! Beeswax,
honey, fresh figs, wax polish and
a faint flintiness. The quality is
very high. Mouth (neat – with
caution!): bang! Sure it’s extremely
strong and certainly not drinkable
as such but take just one drop on
your tongue and myriads of citrusy
and honey notes explode on your palate.
It’s not whisky, it’s
fruit essence! With water: fantastically
balanced AND emphatically honeyed
and waxy. A whole beehive. Finish:
very long, with added spicy tones
(pepper). Comments: state of the art.
Most of these first Rare Malts were
exceptional whiskies. SGP:652
- 92 points.
a recent Mortlach:
16 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009)
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s certainly
different from the old OBs, maybe
a little fresher and certainly more
on fresh fruits, in this case pears
and ripe apples. Also very nice whiffs
of herbal tea (a little verbena, then
chamomile) and once again these slightly
paraffiny touches. Mouth: ho-ho, there
are many aspects that remind me of
the 1972 on the palate, chiefly the
oranges and the honey, the whole being
perfectly combined here. Notes of
baklavas, a little kirsch, Turkish
delights… Perfect ‘greasiness’
that keeps it bold and ‘Mortlach’
and counterbalances the fruitiness.
Finish: rather long, clean but, once
again ‘greasy’ (i.e. not
dull here). Some honey-coated strawberries
in the aftertaste. Comments: a marginally
easier version of Mortlach –
which can be such a great spirit!
Well done once again, Duthie/Cadenhead’s.
SGP:531 - 86 points.
- Recommended listening:
the late Alain
Bashung doing his doleful
yet colourful Tango
funèbre, a very 'Brellian'
piece. Please buy Alain Bashung's
– TWO 1968 LONGMORN
31 yo 1968/1999 (53.8%, Signatory,
Dumpy, cask #3464, 185 bottles)
Colour: full gold.
Nose: well, it is not one of these
uberfruity old Longmorns, it’s
rather one of thee waxy and leathery
ones, displaying an ‘old skool’
feeling that no modern whisky can
match. The problem is that as much
as I like those profiles, sometimes
the whiskies get too grassy and dry
and that’s what happened here
– or so it seems. Huge whiffs
of walnut skin, motor oil, green tea,
rhubarb and green apples, with hints
of rabbit hutch that do not work too
well. Maybe water will help? With
water: indeed, water helps big time.
It got much smoother without getting
dully round, much more organic (even
more) but also pleasantly resinous.
Also beautiful whiff of ‘a forest
under the rain’ (mushrooms,
moss, fern, pine needles, whatever…)
Mouth (neat): mucho better than on
the nose when neat, dry and very lemony
but balanced with a little honey.
It’s big whisky, rather concentrated.
Tea. Oily mouth feel. With water:
maybe not very complex but the balance
is perfect and these notes of ti-punch
and mojito are all pleasure. Finish:
long, lemony and grassier again. Comments:
not a linear, easy-easy Longmorn for
sure. Water is highly recommended
because it gets quite superb once
diluted. SGP:461 - 88 points.
38 yo 1968/2007 (51%, Single Malt
Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo
2008, #7.39, cask #907, 'Just Amazing',
Colour: dark amber with reddish hues.
Nose: starts much fruitier than the
31yo, but with the same rather austere
grassiness in the background. The
sherry is obvious but not monstrous,
the whole getting rather flinty, dry
and meaty. Beef bouillon, chocolate,
hay smoke and some dry raisins in
the background (Corinth). A little
mint. With water: typical old sherry
monster. More balsamico, soy sauce,
ham, leather and chocolate sauce.
It’s almost a whole meal. Mouth
(neat): excellent and very, very classic,
with a good punch and very pleasant
notes of barley sugar and even candy-floss.
Milk chocolate, coffee. Gets just
a little drying. With water: once
again, a classic old sherried Longmorn.
There are (or were?) many, especially
at Gordon & MacPhail’s,
and the vast majority are of very
high quality. A sure bet. Finish:
long, maybe a tad Armagnacky (?).
Loads of prunes and bitter chocolate,
then lemon. Comments: once again,
a classic equation. It’s very
leathery at the retro-olfaction.
SGP:551 - 90 points. (with
heartfelt thanks to Konstantin)
McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
- Recommended listening:
Wesseltoft and his
'new conception of jazz' doing Somewhere
In Between in 1996. Is that
History already? Please buy Bugge
– THREE YOUNG GLENGOYNE (or
variations for sherry casks)
1998/2009 (54.5%, Malts of Scotland,
sherry hogshead, cask #1130, 292 bottles)
Colour: mahogany. Very dark colour
for a sherry hogshead, has it been
re-treated? Nose: not as explosively
sherried as the colour would have
suggested, but still classically toffee-ish,
with notes of prunes and dried dates.
Takes off after a few minutes of breathing,
becoming more candied and liqueury
(big notes of Mandarine Impériale).
It makes me think of some much older
sherried Glen Grants in a certain
way. With water: water really brings
out the oak, with whiffs of warm planks
(freshly sawn ones) and even a little
fresh putty. Gets back to raisins
and caramel after a few minutes. Mouth
(neat): very rich but not heavy, concentrated
but balanced, with many grapey notes
as well as some burnt chocolate cake,
chestnut honey, blackcurrant liqueur,
raisins, liquorice and… more
liquorice. Extremely rich, much richer
than on the nose when neat. With water:
classic oloroso-type malt. Reminds
me of green tea-flavoured chocolate.
Finish: long, less heavy now, rather
clean, with just a little menthol.
Notes of thuya wood in the aftertaste.
Comments: maybe not the most complex
Glengoyne ever but balance is already
achieved in this little sherry monster.
SGP:541 – 88 points.
1997/2009 (57.2%, Malts of Scotland,
sherry butt, cask #582, 314 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: certainly drier
than the 1998, starting more on cocoa
and bitter oranges and developing
on fruitcake and crème brulée,
with an obvious but rather beautiful
oakiness behind. Whiffs of leather
pouch and then a straighter vinosity
(chardonnay). Cognac. Once again,
it’s not overly expressive when
at cask strength. With water: just
a little sulphur, then more rooty
and leafy notes (and no more sulphur).
Gentian, liquorice wood, dates and
figs. Very, very pleasant. Mouth (neat):
starts slightly prickly and almost
fizzy, with some lemon juice and tannins,
then oranges and bitter chocolate.
Christmas cake, walnut liqueur. Rather
unusual I must say, let’s see
what happens with water: it’s
still slightly fizzy. Notes of ginger
and pepper, with a good deal of tannins.
Lemon marmalade. Finish: rather long
and maybe more complex, with other
spices kicking in as well as some
liquorice wood. Herbal tea. Comments:
the cask seems to have been extremely
active here. Very good Glengoyne,
a tad rougher than other versions.
I liked the hogshead a little better
even if it was more a classic sherry
monster. SGP:651 - 86 points.
14yo 1992/2006 (59.2%, OB for LMdW,
refill sherry butt #1811, 606 bottles)
Colour: full gold. Nose: most bizarrely,
it’s as if this one was lighter
than the ’97 and ’98 despite
its higher strength. Much more on
fresh almonds and walnuts, orange
blossom water, early grey tea and
leather, with also a little pine resin.
With water: superb development on
all things resinous and minty. Vicks,
white chocolate, cut grass, damp earth.
An unusual profile for Glengoyne.
Mouth (neat): starts a little like
the 1997, with an unusual fizziness
and notes of lemon, but gets then
more typically sherried, with notes
of crystallised oranges and then eucalyptus
drops, cough syrup and sultanas. Limoncello.
With water: more of everything in
the same direction. Lemon balm tea,
cough drops, marzipan. Finish: long
but just like the other two, it gets
significantly woodier in the aftertaste.
Comments: an other very good one.
As often, a very good refill butt
can beat the first fills! SGP:551
- 89 points.
long for Twitter! ;-))
Hurray, Johannes and Franc van den
Heuvel have not stopped improving
map of all Scottish distilleries
recently, and it's now close to perfection
in my opinion. A very useful tool
and some true maniacal work, well
worth thunderous applause! (and the
few seconds it needs to load - it's
- Recommended listening:
the great accordionist Daniel
Mille and his band
(and what a band!) playing a very
nostalgic and Bill-Evans-esque As
Rosas Nao Falam (from his 2006
CD Après la pluie). Please
buy Daniel Mille's music.
– TWO VERY QUAFFABLE 1983
Ila 25 yo 1983/2008 (46%, Jean Boyer,
Best Casks of Scotland, re-coopered
The excellent people at Jean Boyer’s
know how to select some young, clean
and delightful young malts but sometimes
they also find older casks. This one
is one of them. Colour: straw. Nose:
it’s an appeased Caol Ila, starting
all on seashells and marzipan and
developing on a rather subtle combination
of slight medicinal notes (a little
camphor, bandages), slightly overripe
apples, almond milk and these delicate
notes of old books than can be so
pleasant (when the writers are good,
haha!) It does remind me a bit of
the official 18 years old, but it’s
rather less buttery, and also a little
more mentholated. All pleasure so
far. Mouth: so very good, so quaffable!
The strength is perfect here and it’s
hard to refrain from downing your
glass as if it was a good white Sancerre.
Perfect balance between the citrusy
notes, the minerality, the coastalness,
the medicinality (enough with barbarisms!)
and the peat. Finish: medium long
but extremely clean. Perfect. Comments:
sneaky. Too drinkable. Enough said.
SGP:356 - 90 points.
Ila 25 yo 1983/2009 (52.7%, The Bladnoch
forum, cask #4806, 262 bottles)
The bottlings for the Bladnoch Forum
are always very, very fairly priced
and for that they deserve a medal.
The good news is that they’re
also very good. In short, excellent
value! Colour: pale straw. Nose: the
Jean Boyer was clean and relatively
soft on the nose whilst this one is
fierier, a little more spirity and
rougher. Notes of mercurochrome, green
apples, lime, ‘garden bonfire
under a drizzle’… Gets
then a little smoother and closer
to the Jean Boyer. Crabs, wet clothes,
seawater, whiffs of tarmac…
Nice it is! With water: no further
development, water is pretty unnecessary
here. Mouth (neat): sharp, powerful
but not brutal, peaty, peppery, salty,
lemony, coastal (right, kippery),
and smoky. A classic, as good as it
can get. With water: same. It’s
just more dangerously drinkable, just
like its buddy the Jean Boyer. Finish:
medium long but absolutely perfect.
The word ‘clean’ has been
invented for this one. Comments: just
like the Jean Boyer, it’s a
Caol Ila of which you could swallow
litres and litres, which makes it
a tad dangerous. Not for scatterbrains!
SGP:356 – 90 points.
- Recommended listening:
Clark and his Stuff
That Work (it's on Dublin Blues).
Please buy Guy Clark's music.
– TWO 1994 ARDMORE
Tasting sister casks is usually
rather interesting because that
pushes your nostrils and taste buds
to their limits, looking for nuances…
Which means that it can also be
pain in the neck. Well, it’s
all up to me I guess, I’m
not obliged to do it. A masochist?
13 yo 1994/2008 (52.5%, Exclusive
Malts, casks #335, 324 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this
could well be mistaken for an Islayer.
A huge smokiness (coal!), quite some
tar and even whiffs of lighter gas
at first nosing, the whole smelling
more and more like liquid tar. It’s
only after a good two minutes that
notes of walnut skin, apple peeling
and peaches do emerge, but there are
also whiffs of struck matches and
shoe polish. A big, big peat in this
Ardmore that goes to eleven. With
water: little changes, maybe a faint
cardboardiness. Water is not obligatory
here. Mouth (neat): bang! It’s
rare that a whisky is so similar on
the nose and on the palate. Tar, liquorice,
apple peeling and even more tar. Tar
liqueur? With water: very, very Islay
but less fruity and sweet than any
Ileach. Actually, it has something
of a Brora. This Ardmore is beautifully
austere. And a lot of string liquorice!
Finish: long and extremely tarry.
Comments: there are a lot of very
peated Ardmores (and some very lightly
peated as well) but I believe this
one probably outmatches all others
as far as raw peat is concerned. SGP:247
– 88 points (and
thank you, Herbert).
13 yo 1994/2008 (56.8%, The Single
Malts of Scotland, cask #65, 303 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: of
course we’re close to the Exclusive
Cask but there are differences, that
is to say rather less tar and straight
peat and more fruits such as peaches
again, even a little melon. It’s
also a little sootier, rejoining the
whiffs of plain coal that were so
big in the Exclusive Malts. Let’s
say tipped Gitanes whilst the other
one was plain, but it’s till
very peaty. Maybe this cask was a
tad more active. With water: once
again, it does not take water too
well. Got a little chalky and cardboardy.
Mouth (neat): we are even closer to
the Exclusive Malts on the palate
but once again, this one is a tiny-wee
bit fruitier. Maybe a little pear.
With water: same comment. A little
melon syrup? Finish: long, maybe better
balanced but less spectacular than
the Exclusive Malts in its own genre.
Hints of ginger tonic. Comments: excellent
but cask #335’s superb sharpness
and tar got the upper the hand in
my book. SGP:346 - 86 points.
THE ALTERNATIVE TASTING
REVIEWS by The Infrangible
Argumentative Bombardier aka Harvey
you used to think that WF's whisky
tasting notes were too irreverent,
unconventional or even quirky? Or,
as a famous whisky writer put it,
eccentric? Well, you've seen nothing
yet. Indeed, from now on and from
time to time, we'll offer alternative
yet poetic tasting notes and reviews
by our friend from Washington DC Harvey
Fry, aka The Infrangible Argumentative
Bombardier, starting right today with
his own views of the two Ardmores
that we just had. Please fasten your
seat belts... S.
cask #335, Scruffy Bird Malts, 13/94-08,
52.5%, 324 bottles
Hardcore cask #65, Kudzu Creatures,
13/94-08, 56.7%, 303 bottles
little known that when Dolly was cloned,
she came into being with some 334
other very deep-dish ewes. She was
in fact, the final fill in a run projected
for only 333. As it was, the erstwhile
(he expired with that wee extra effort)
progenitor, one Codswallop, apparently
couldn't stop until he'd (can ewes
be cloned from rams?) shot his wad.
Sad to say, only the 2 (enter sister
Lollypop) girls were strong enough
to make it to their teens.....just
short of a full third of a grand were
fed to Ol' Father Teacher.
it almost borders on the telekinetic
that another well known reviewer attributes
part of this peculiar (even for a
peaty Hardcore) twisted sister phenom
to a tired cask. Remember the numbers=
as there weren't any extra casks ready
to hand for the overflow, the stillmen,
looking high & low for any kind
of wood, actually found the last two
pieces of sad looking oak (casks)
lollygagging about amongst the flock
as they grazed away. #334 leaked badly
& had to be abandoned. #335 became
our dear Dolly. Now you know what
the Infrangible Argumentative one
can bring to the Whisky-Fun-History.
&, we're just getting started^
you'll soon discover, I'm not much
for the blow-by-blow flora& fauna
style of reviewing. If I can't make
it up as I go along, it's probably
not going to make you chuckle. Besides,
now that promising new research at
Santa Costanza DNA Lab is on the brink
of BRINGING BACK ALL of the LOST SMELLS
& TASTES OF THE AGES, the treasury
of infinite possibilities open to
the great noses & palates will
probably soon drive 'em babushkas.
If you have yet to get the picture,
think of ALL those THINGS collected
over time in THE BOGS! Q. what IS
PEAT? A. PEAT IS ALL those THINGS!
If you only count the 737, 921, 845
different species of clementined (dearly
departed) dinos & all the things
they (including each other) ate, EACH
IN ITS TURN ALL AT ONCE.......? Enough
fellow Whisky Friends, PEAT IS THE
POINT! SO, if you don't mind, we'll
cease dilly-dallying, dispense with
the trace amounts of squirrel food,
tooty-fruity delights + assorted dumpster
finds & proceed straight to the
main course. Though I'll give you
a most up to date numerical rating
for each at the end, from here on
please consider both of our beauties
as a single piece of Siamese Sushi=
two very concentrated cutie pies,
BADASS BLEACH BLONDE
GIRAFFES AFLAME, 'I WANNA USE ONE
A MY LIFE LINES'..... BABY NEEDS A
NEW PAIR A SHOES SWEETIE PEAT
BODY: DEEP SHEEP
MOSH PIT, YO' MAMMA'S ZUGZWANG
BOOTY CALL, BEAT YOUR MEAT, CHIMNEY
SWEEP STRAIGHT AT THE EYEBALLS PEATSICKLES
HEAD SWAPS, YOUR FUTURE IS A THING
OF THE PAST, TIE YO'MAMMA DOWN, GRANDADDY
COMMENT: FUGU, COO-COO-CA-CHOO,
ONE HAND CLAPPING, MARY-UP-A-TREE,
HOLD ME TIGHT AS A CROCODILE BITES
SUM UP: PEAT, REPEAT,
THREE-PEAT with DIM SUM
Hardcore cask #65, Kudzu Creatures,
85.9732100344 & 1/2 Points
DOLLY= Hardcore cask
#335, Scruffy Bird Malts, 52.5%, SGP:247
87.8787878787 & 7/8 Points
hadda mouse in his voice
& little doodads for eyes
it's said that his right lobe rang
as a stirrup rides
on one frogsleg
pound for a bell, lost in its tongue
from his ear & in his belly
pigs at gravesdin
old stuffed monkey
has the smell of generations
Fry, The Circle #1, Washington,
- Recommended listening:
the extraordinary Texan-Mexican
Hinojosa singing the
Llor (Let Me Weep). Please buy
Tish Hinojosa's music.
the index of all entries:
malts I had these weeks - 90+
points only - alphabetical: a heavy month!
Ila 25 yo 1983/2008 (46%,
Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, re-coopered
Ila 25 yo 1983/2009 (52.7%,
The Bladnoch forum, cask #4806, 262 bottles)
Ila 1979/2009 (53.1%,
Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #4412)
1997/2009 'Managers' Choice'
(57.3%, OB, cask
#3362, 252 bottles)
38 yo 1968/2007 (51%,
Single Malt Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo
2008, #7.39, cask #907, 'Just Amazing', 75cl)
22 yo 1972/1995 (65.3%,
OB, Rare Malts)
2000/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.7%,
OB, cask #1186, 534 bottles)