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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2015 - Part 2



September 2015 - part 1 <--- September 2015 - part 2 ---> October 2015 - part 1


September 30, 2015


Duels - two sherried Littlemill

Everybody loves the bright and vibrant fresh Littlemills by the indies, usually ex-refill hogshead or barrel. But this time, we’ll have some rather heavily sherried ones…

Littlemill 25 yo (50.4%, OB, 1500 decanters, 2015) Four stars A fairly new official Littlemill by the new owners, bottled under the ‘Annual Release’ series. It’s a blend of the 1989 and 1990 vintages, 10 casks altogether, finished in 1st fill oloroso. Which might, in truth, be a bit scary… Colour: deep gold. Nose: the sherry speaks first, with a slightly oxidative style, some walnuts, a little tobacco, some bitter chocolate… Littlemill’s usual topical style remains a little muted, but you do ‘hear’ it if you listen hard. With water: improves a lot, with lovely whiffs of damp earth, mushrooms, and more walnuts. I like walnuts. Also a little leather, and oranges that are starting to sing louder. Mouth (neat): it is a pleasant combination of tart citrusy fruits and very tobacco-ish notes from the sherry. Pipe tobacco (not too dark) and tangerines, grapefruits and passion fruits (touches). Good body, and despite the finishing, it hasn’t quite lost the distillate’s original freshness. With water: quite some wood extracts, around menthol and pine sap. Perhaps a touch of wild thyme and even rosemary, which is ‘funny’. Finish: rather long, perhaps a tad drying now. Strong black tea and liquorice wood (flavoured with menthol). Comments: perhaps not one of these bright fruity Littlemills, but I find it more than good. Only the price may be a little less sexy, I’ve seen it at $2,628.95 (no typo) at The Whisky Barrel. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Littlemill and sherry, act two…

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.2%, Exclusive Malts for whisky.com.tw, Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #432, 204 bottles)

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.2%, Exclusive Malts for whisky.com.tw, Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #432, 204 bottles) Four stars and a half This baby is (well, was) a little cheaper at around one tenth of the OB’s price. Colour: mahogany. Nose: Littlemill wasn’t a big fat distillate, and indeed and once again, it’s the sherry that’s at work here, but the citrusy part is perhaps a little more noticeable than in the OB. Orangettes, or orange zests dipped into chocolate. Also some black tea. With water: a more chocolaty sherry after the OB, with less leather, but almost as much mint and earth. Mouth (neat): the orangettes are back! And blood oranges plus cocoa powder. I think this works very well, and it’s even got something, wait, Dalmore-ish (and more-ish). A touch of ginger and cinchona. With water: goody good, a little gritty at times, chocolaty, with some ‘dark’ oak. Eating a little piece of very black tobacco (while smoking an untipped Gauloise – if I remember well). Finish: long and chocolaty. Dry, but not drying. Comments: once again, it’s perhaps not extremely ‘Littlemilly’, but it’s cool sherried Lowland. Reminds of some Rosebank sherry of old. SGP:561 - 88 points.

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



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September 29, 2015


New Balvenie Tun 1509 vs. 25 SB

The new ‘Tun’ is here. We’ll have it ‘against’ the newish 25 SB, which is a little lighter, so we should first have the latter, but as the former might be younger, we’ll have that one first. Are you following me?...

Balvenie 'Tun 1509 - Batch No.2' (50.3%, OB, 8500 bottles, 2015)

Balvenie 'Tun 1509 - Batch No.2' (50.3%, OB, 8500 bottles, 2015) Five stars I’m calling this ‘smart NAS’. A blend of 32 casks of various ages and wood types. Well, 23 American oak and 9 sherry. I thought last year’s batch no.1 was excellent (WF 90). Colour: gold. Nose: in my book, Balvenie means mirabelles, and there certainly is some mirabelle in this, as well as apricots and acacia honey. Feels more or less like 15 years old on average, if I may, but I’m probably wrong. A few raisins and a few flowers as well, and three mint lozenges, and a drop of Sauternes. Must be the apricots. With water (not that it needs water): a wee whiff of young armagnac, with a faint grapiness, and the  rather overripe apples and bananas. Which can be very Balvenie as well. Mouth (neat): very, very, very Balvenie indeed. Apricots, mirabelles, sultanas, plus a touch of cardboard, perhaps, which isn’t a problem at all. A wee feeling of old sweet wine that got dry after many years in its bottle. A touch of aniseed and fennel, perhaps. With water: swims like a champ. Oranges coming through, as well as more honey. Finish: long, a little mentholated, with more mirabelles, apricots, and apples. Citrusy aftertaste, with tannins. Comments: feels a little younger, but that’s not a problem at all. Bright and very well composed, I don’t see why I’d change my humble score. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Balvenie 25 yo 1989/2015 (47.8%, OB, Single Barrel, cask #1864, 300 bottles)

Balvenie 25 yo 1989/2015 (47.8%, OB, Single Barrel, cask #1864, 300 bottles) Four stars A 500€ bottle, so more or less twice the price of the new Tun 1509 if I’m not mistaken, but there's much worse elsewhere. Everything is up! Colour: straw. Nose: Balvenie au naturel, rather light, a wee tad sugary (sugarcane syrup), with some banana and some mirabelles again, plus acacia honey (again) and a few fresh almonds. A very fresh, pleasantly lightish nose that I would even call ‘summery’. Develops on lightly cooked tarte tatin and custard, I’d say. Mouth: it’s well a very natural Balvenie, with little oak influence, and plenty of plums and custard, plus the faintest touch of rubber (nothing awkward). The age doesn’t feel at all, this could be twelve, fifteen, or twenty. No, not thirty. Finish: medium to short and rather light, with a little cider, mead, and simply sweet malt. A little cinnamon cake in the aftertaste. Comments: very good! But I preferred Tun #1509, which I found rather more complex. Nah, that’s got nothing to do with prices, cross my heart. SGP:551 - 87 points.

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



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September 28, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Balblair

Expect fruits and softness. Although, you never know… By the way, Bal Blair’s always been loved by what the general press – and G&M of course - calls ‘whisky connoisseurs’. Perhaps also because they always forgot to be as pushy as other bran… I mean, distilleries have recently become…

Balblair 2003/2014 (46%, OB)

Balblair 2003/2014 (46%, OB) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: these may be the limits of the concept of vintage bottling. It noses young. Not quite immature, and certainly polished and pleasantly fruity, but it’s no deep nose. Vanilla, sweet apples, a bit of American oak, and punto basta. Simple! Mouth: very good, for sure, but once again, the simplicity is slightly disappointing. More sweet apples, a little candy sugar, some vanilla, a little grass, and over to the taster. I insist, it’s good juice, and it goes down very well, but it’s lacking the depth and the complexity that other bottlings, including pretty young ones, used to display. Finish: medium, sweet, almost sugary. Sweetened breakfast tea. Comments: of course we love Balblair, but even if we won’t have one of the famous old official 1966s as the next one, I fear… SGP:441 - 78 points.

Balblair 26 yo 1965/1992 (44.4%, Cadenhead, 150th Anniversary, Authentic Collection)

Balblair 26 yo 1965/1992 (44.4%, Cadenhead, 150th Anniversary, Authentic Collection) Five stars Always with the same funny gimmick by Cadenhead, which consists in reminding us that this little whisky was ‘Matured in an oak cask’. I suppose they ran out of sandalwood? Or was that balsa? Colour: full gold. Nose: hurray! It’s one of those stunning ‘foresty’ old malts, with scents of undergrowth, moss after the rain, mushrooms, old cigars, wine cellar, old pu-erh tea… And there, coming out from under the leaves with the elves (wot wot wot?), the most extraordinary Balblairy fruitiness that does, indeed, remind us of the stunning 38 yo 1966 by the owners. I’ll keep this short, this ’noses’ like an old Yquem. We’re talking honeys, apricots, raisins, and all that. I’m impressed. Mouth: ex-tra-or-di-na-ry, despite a slightly excessive leafiness – yeah I have to find something bad to say about this one; don’t ask, that’s personal. Mint-flavoured toffee, overripe apples, the greatest artisan ciders, all these herbal teas, this fantastic oakiness that reminds us that oak that feels can be good in whisky (sometimes), more fudge, more honey… And at this strength, it’s very drinkable. That’s often the problem with Balblair, it’s too drinkable… Finish: long, but perhaps a tad drying and too leafy this time, which will make it lose one or two points in my book. Got you! Comments: this is exactly what we’re starting to miss more and more in contemporary bottlings – not especially from Balblair’s -, complexity. SGP:651 - 91 points.

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



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September 27, 2015


Sunday malternatives,
hunting cognacs part deux

You may remember that last Sunday, some Scots from a certain remote peninsula – who lives on a remote peninsula, I’m asking you - have taught some French a saddening lesson. Today we have to try to retaliate ‘over the Auld Alliance’! D’accord, mes amis?

Landy XO 'No. 1' (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Landy XO 'No. 1' (40%, OB, +/-2015) Not too sure about the ‘LOL’ packaging, it’s a little fishy. And the prices are all over the place, 100€+ in the UK, 60€+ in continental Europe… I had found the VSOP okayish a while back (WF 76). Colour: amber. Nose: old style cognac, full of raisins, honey, and caramel, plus a little leather and tobacco. Light. Mouth: are we just trying some kind of spirit? Caramel, fudge, honey, liquorice allsorts, and the obligatory raisins. Thin body. Finish: short, caramely, raisiny, honeyish. Comments: very disappointing, there’s absolutely nothing happening in this one. Sure you can have this with food… SGP:331 - 60 points.

Yeah, this doesn’t start too well… Let’s try another XO…

R. Delisle XO (40%, OB, cognac, grande champagne, +/-2014)

R. Delisle XO (40%, OB, cognac, grande champagne, +/-2014) Two stars and a half I don’t know who these people are, I’m sorry. Maybe just a brand. Colour: amber. Nose: ah, pretty nice. Sure there’s quite a lot of toasted bread and pastries, and this is very ‘old style’, but at least there are distinct fruity tones, such as raspberries (very vivid, very nice) and, just like almost always, ripe peaches. And williams pears. So, I’d call this ‘pleasant’. Mouth: it’s good, polished, easy, cake-y and tobacco-like, with some praline and honey. You’re feeling a little sugar, perhaps, but other than that, I do enjoy all this… chestnut honey. Really easy, smooth, and yet pretty characterful old-style cognac. Finish: not long, of course – let’s not exaggerate – but these notes of pastries, croissants, and brioche work well. Comments: it’s probably too smooth, light, and ‘commercial’, but honestly, it’s well made and you could quaff this while ready a book or watching TV. Something easy. SGP:431 - 78 points.

Let’s raise the bar…

Frapin 20 yo 1991 ‘Château de Fontpinot’ ( 41.2%, OB, cognac, Grande Champagne, +/-2012)

Frapin 20 yo 1991 ‘Château de Fontpinot’ ( 41.2%, OB, cognac, Grande Champagne, +/-2012) Four stars and a half I really like Frapin/Fontpinot’s XO, so our hopes are deep now. Fontpinot is the house’s own estate. Colour: deep gold. Nose: of course. Immediate complexity – quite an achievement – with many flowers and several herbal/oily touches, such as chlorophyll and menthol. Goes on with mirabelles, redcurrants – which is uncommon – and a touch of vanilla (but not vulgar whore-ish vanilla like can be seen somewhere else) and a blend of old papers and cinnamon. All good, all nice. Mouth: just the right balance between soft commercialness (!) and mindboggling ‘rough complexity’. Good, I may have to explain that. On the one hand, it’s soft, rounded, easy cognac, and on the other hand, as soon as you start digging, you’ll find many tiny flavours, around waxes, flowers, dried fruits, and herbs. Almost more a game than cognac. Finish: medium, rounded, honeyed and cake-y, with a roasted aftertaste. Toasts. Comments: someone clever must have been working on this cuvee. Some kind of master blender, perhaps. Right, that would rather be a maître assembleur. Perfect cognac. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Château de Triac 'Reserve de la Famille' (40%, OB, Tiffon, cognac, single estate, +/-2014)

Château de Triac 'Reserve de la Famille' (40%, OB, Tiffon, cognac, single estate, +/-2014) Four stars and a half Said to be a blend of own-estate 40 to 60 yo cognacs. If that is right – and sure it is – we should be in for a treat, especially since the reputation of the Tiffon/Braastad house is very high. Colour: bright amber. Nose: relatively light and unassuming at first nosing – this could be cider – but once you nose more deeply, many tiny earthy and herbal notes rise to your nostrils. Needs concentration and focus, but then it’s rewarding. Peonies, orange zests, mead, cigars, tinned apricots, a few drops of old Bourgogne, both white (Meursault) and red (Chambertin, or black cherries)… Almonds… This is very delicate old cognac. Mouth: oh goodness… Amazing profile, exactly between herbalness, fruitiness, and waxes. Sure it’s a little too light (40% vol. come on, that’s way too 1980!!) but the complexity is fabulous. Again, you have to concentrate on it (as Charlie Parker would have said) but then it does deliver. In fact, at this strength and power, we’re rather between a spirit and a wine. Praline, cashews, cherries in liqueur, candy sugar, chocolate, a few raisins… And apricots! Finish: a bit short, but clean, praline-ed, nutty, and honeyed. Comments: glorious old cognac, with an amazing complexity, but I’m about to start an online petition (oh no, not another one) titled ‘to hell with 40% vol.!’ Good idea or not? Okay, right, right… But some are getting away with murder… SGP:441 - 88 points.

Delamain 1963/1995 (40%, OB, cognac, Grande Champagne)

Delamain 1963/1995 (40%, OB, cognac, Grande Champagne) Four stars Delamain are the epitome of a no-BS, quality-only, highly reputed French house. It’s probably the brand that you’ll see the most in ** or *** Michelin restaurants. But does that mean something? Let’s see… Colour: dark amber. Nose: Vishnu Brahma and Shiva, what a nose! Adios easy fruits, welcome tiny and complex oils, greases, and essences. Old Partagas, leather saddles and bags (by some French supposedly artisan makers), old liqueurs, quinces, figs… And then strawberry wine from Pfalz, garden peat, glazed chestnuts… Wow wow wow, I’m sure Napoleon was drinking the same. Mouth: it got a little dry – but it’s an old bottle indeed – and perhaps did it lose a part of its brightness, but I enjoy this grapy, chestnutty, slightly smoky, and pretty tea-ish style. Nowhere to be found in contemporary cognac! Finish: drying, a little. Tobacco and toasts. Comments: again, it’s an old bottle. I adored the nose, and found the palate a little dry. Delamain’s one of the greatest names in Cognac anyway! SGP:461 - 85 points.

Five is not enough, sic will be perfect. One last one… Let’s choose it carefully. Very, very carefully. And I mean, carefully…

Croizet 1914 'Bonaparte' (no A.B.V, OB, Fine Champagne, +/-1960)

Croizet 1914 'Bonaparte' (no A.B.V, OB, Fine Champagne, +/-1960) Two stars Yeah, on the label, the B with wings, it’s well Bonaparte, not Bentley, even if this cognac house used to be extremely popular in Great Britain. I agree, Bonaparte himself has never been very popular over there. It’s said that Croizet had only one cask of this very famous and emblematic 1914 vintage. So, an historical bottling! Oh and have you noticed that while some Scots are busy with their last pre-WWII whiskies, we prefer to deal with pre-WWI cognacs and armagnacs? No half measures! One last thing, a 'fine champagne' is a blend of grande and petite champagne, with a minimum of 50% grande champagne. Colour: amber. Nose: same feeling as before with pre-WWI cognacs, those used to be sweeter and rounder than contemporary offerings. That may be bottle ageing, but I doubt that, because with Scotch, bottle ageing usually makes the spirits drier, not sweeter. So there’s a feeling of old PX and other sweeter wines, with a faint mustiness and some stale-ish dried fruits. Let’s be honest, even if this is historical, it’s not too great. Apologies to my grand-grand-grand-fathers. Mouth: good, sweet, rounded, slightly liqueury, but getting too syrupy. I mean, it’s a thrill to be able to taste these old vintages, but organoleptically speaking, they can be too monodimensional. Orange liqueur, raisins, more raisins, and perhaps raisins. Seriously, this is not very good, and it’s not a bottle that went flat, the spirit remained fresh and vibrant. It’s just pretty poor. Finish: shortish, very raisiny. Cheap pastries that you could buy anywhere in the middle-east these days. Comments: I could well sing you the Marseillaise or La Madelon, this will remain some pretty poor old cognac. And again, it was not bad OBE, I swear, croix de bois, croix de fer, si je mens, je vais en enfer. SGP:541 - 70 points.

(And thank you Jonny)



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September 24, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Bruichladdich

These simple little sessions can sometimes go wrong. Especially when a much older bottling is actually much younger and was bottled at a much lower strength. Ooh my head…

Bruichladdich 12 yo 2002/2015 (64.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #588, 233 bottles)

Bruichladdich 12 yo 2002/2015 (64.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #588, 233 bottles) Four stars and a half A very high strength, but remember Bruichladdich rather fill at 70% vol. instead of the usual 63 or 63.5%. Colour: straw. Nose: first question, first answer, is there any peat? Yes, but just a little, that works just like pepper on a steak. Other than that, it’s rather less blocked than I had thought, and the trademark melons and white peaches do come through despite the 64% vol. Quite some vanilla as well – but let’s not push our luck. With water: a little sea air indeed, some grass, a little porridge, and rather more grapefruits instead of melons. Very fresh Bruichladdich, very lovely. A little clay as well. Mouth (neat): it’s very strong, do not quaff more than half a drop just like that, that’ll just burn your throat. Indeed, that’s what I just did ;-). Cough, cough… With water: excellently zesty and lemony, with a solid mineral and vanilla-ed foundation. It’s kind of fizzy as well (Schweppes, quinine) and Id even swear I can find ‘ideas’ of gin and juniper. Really very straight, and excellent. Finish: long, zesty. Lemon and chalk plus grass and grapefruits. Sancerre-y! Comments: impressive whisky, a bit in the style of the latest official 10 (first batches) but with more punch. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Bruichladdich 10 yo 1965 (95° proof, OB for Samaroli, +/-1975)

Bruichladdich 10 yo 1965 (95° proof, OB for Samaroli, +/-1975) Five stars A very rare early bottling by Maestro Silvano Samaroli. 95° proof UK translates into approx 54.2% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, a wonderful chocolaty sherry at first nosing, with growing notes of shoe polish and coal, perhaps echoes of when Bruichladdich was peated. The freshness is there too, rather with apple peelings this time, and the old-skool side takes off after five minutes, with engine oils, wet concrete, carbolinium, and quite a lot of black earth. A little game and tobacco from the sherry as well, but the style remains pretty ‘fino’ despite the chocolate. Mouth: madre de dios! Some selection! I’m not saying it’s as ‘high’ as Samaroli’s famous Glen Garioch 1971 or Springbank 12, but we’re not very far. Exceptional notes of bitter oranges, more smoke than in the nose, the most precious peppers, and all things even remotely phenolic, although this baby wouldn’t disperse itself. Remains compact and focused, in an impeccable manner. Perfect strength and body. Finish: very long, with a greasiness and a mineral waxiness that hint at old Clynelish. We shan’t complain! Comments: just superb. Only drawback, no surprise here, that was to be expected from Sig. Silvano Samaroli. Bang! SGP:462 - 93 points.

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



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September 23, 2015


A little bag of Glenlivets

This and that, really. I don’t feel like I should tell you stories anyway, let’s just have them. We’ll try to add old ones!

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1980)

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1980) Four stars and a half Always interesting to (re)try these older bottles, especially given that Glenlivet never stops changing/expanding. Colour: gold. Nose: really very light. Hay, meadows, one or three almonds, and some bread. In fact it’s rather complex, but so delicate and evanescent… Some green tea brewed by some Chinese tea master – but this would be the tenth water. Mouth: light, but great. More oomph now, more tea, oils, syrups… Especially orgeat, or barley syrup. A little chlorophyll, a touch of antiseptic, some wax for sure… Well, in fact, it’s great, you just have to give it a little time – and oxygen. Finish: medium, grassy, mentholy. Great earthy aftertaste. Comments: not much to do with contemporary offerings for sure. But as always, that may come from some excellent bottle ageing, you never know. Pssst, these old 12s can be just superb, and they’re very cheap at auctions. But ssshhh… we haven’t spoken together. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Glenlivet 'Nàdurra Oloroso' (48%, OB, batch #OLO314, 2014)

Glenlivet 'Nàdurra Oloroso' (48%, OB, batch #OLO314, 2014) Three stars We tried another batch of this Nàdurra that lost its age earlier this year, but it was a cask strength version. Colour: gold. Nose: fine, malty, roasted, brioche-y, bready, nutty, and raisiny. And malty of course. Growing notes of walnut wine. This is not unpleasant at all, it’s just a little, well, ‘malty’.. Mouth: : good, creamy, honeyed, pretty easy, and yet not dull, with some custard, raisins, orange cake, mead, caramel, and toffee. Actually, the toffee part never stops growing, and in the end, this baby’s become a true toffee bomb. Finish: extremely toffee-ish and malty. Very pleasant honeyed signature. Comments: a rather thick dram, nutty, honeyed, malty… And very toffee-ish. Nothing to complain about, even if it’s not very complex, and feels a bit ‘seasoned’. Good. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Glenlivet (Minmore) 42 yo 1973/2015 (40.2%, Cadenhead, small batch)

Glenlivet (Minmore) 42 yo 1973/2015 (40.2%, Cadenhead, small batch) Four stars and a half I remember a 1973 under the Chairman’s Stock banner that was very OK, but perhaps a little bland. Let’s concentrate. Colour: straw. Nose: the oak’s doing all the talking after all these years, but the good news is that it’s some delicate, subtle, and rather restrained American oak. That translates into some coconut oils, soft vanilla crème, acacia honey, and plenty of meadow flowers, first buttercups, then dandelions and company. The bees would love this! The whole remains a little fragile, perhaps, I’m really curious about the palate… Mouth: it is an old lady, soft, with a lovely oak that may work just like crutches here. Indeed the spirit’s only whispering, while some soft chocolate and praline are talking a little louder. What I really enjoy is this wee smoky side, but that would rather be wood smoke. Cakes, forgotten tobacco pouch, very old Sauternes that’s lost a part of its oomph… In fact, it’s like some very old white Bourgogne that refuses to die. Moving. Finish: surprisingly active and lively, just like these old actors that are still very good on stage - but never listen to their interviews! Becomes a little tropical, with tinned pineapples and even bananas flambéed. And blood oranges. Comments: how to rate this old lady? Shall we even dare rating it? SGP:541 - 88 points.

While we’re having fragile ones…

Glenlivet 1965/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Glenlivet 1965/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail) Two stars How many glories have we already found under this unassuming label by G&M? To think they still used it only three years ago – and may well still be using it. These bottles are what Morgan is to cars – timeless gems. Colour: pale gold (amazingly light). Nose: no, wait, it’s a little tired, perhaps a notch too metallic and cardboardy, and certainly lacking fruits and spices. Hello? Someone in there? We’re actually nosing damp earth, or wandering throughout caves or even catacombs. Scary, isn’t it. Mouth: better, but it’s not one of the best. Rather too herbal and grassy, cardboardy, and simply tired. On the other hand, there are many oils and liqueurs that came straight from the wood, including myrtle, citron, ginger, eucalyptus, balsam… Finish: rather short, and too woody. You have to enjoy herbal things! Bitterish aftertaste. Comments: a good example of a cask (or a series of casks) that went flattish and probably too tired. But the price was insanely low, so no one should start to complain! SGP:351 - 75 points.

Another rollercoaster of a session. Let’s try to find heavier old stuff…

Glenlivet 33 yo 1981/2015 (51%, Signatory Vintage, for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #9464, 175 bottles)

Glenlivet 33 yo 1981/2015 (51%, Signatory Vintage, for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #9464, 175 bottles) Four stars and a half Last year’s sister cask (#9460) was excellent (WF 89) so we’re having deep hopes. While there's life, there's hope anyway. Colour: pale amber. Nose: a tiny wee bit of pencil shavings at first nosing, then an avalanche of dried fruits and soft spices. Figs, dates, raisins, Christmas cake, dried bananas, dried pears, also milk chocolate… With water: vanilla, sponge cake, butterscotch, custard… Not extremely ‘sherry’, but who cares? White chocolate. Mouth (neat): goody good. Feels a bit younger than it is, but that’s the wonders of refill wood. Baklavas and sweet wines from the Loire valley (botrytised chenin blanc, if you wanna know everything) plus dates and, always, some chocolate and some straight oak, pencil-shavings-style. Yeah I know that would rather be cedar wood. With water: water works. Becomes brighter and fruitier, loses its cedar-woodiness, and starts to display topical fruits. Well, a few of them. Finish: medium, rather clean, on a fruit salad. No excessive cinnamon, that’s cool. Got to love refill. Touches of menthol, cinnamon and aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not the most memorable, but very good, honest, very solid old malt whisky. And the price is fair. And you can drink litres of it. SGP:451 - 89 points.

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



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September 22, 2015


Three Laphroaig, from cheap to expensive

No we shan’t try the small 21 yo, and neither shall we try the new 32 yo, that may come a little later. Or not, because there are now almost thousands of new bottlings every months, so we just can’t taste them all!

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars Is that possible? Last time I ‘officially’ tried a contemporary Laphroaig 10yo OB, that was in, hold on, 2006? Shame shame shame… Anyway, the 10 at 40% did not have a huge reputation at that time, while the one at 43% - so export - was gathering much more light. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: oh, Islay! It really smells like when you’re approaching Port Ellen while the maltings are functioning – minus the strawberry yoghurt, perhaps. It’s certainly more smoky than both medicinal and coastal, and yeah, the main thing you get is ‘peat smoke’, in its purest form. Not really complex whisky, but it works just like Proust’s madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past. Mouth: pretty monolithic once again, but there isn’t only peat smoke this time. Some salt for sure, some lemon as well, not much antiseptic or ‘licking new bandages’, and quite some olive brine. I find it very clean, not that weak despite the low strength, and very, very quaffable. And very ‘Islay when you’re driving along… etc etc etc.’ Finish: perhaps a little short, and even abrupt. Great for a few seconds, and then, its almost the Mariana Trench. Three caudalies? Four? Comments: in case you’re wondering, one caudalie is one second of the finish of a wine or a spirit. So the longer the finish, the more caudalies there are. SGP:348 - 82 points.

Laphroaig 14 yo 2000/2014 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask ref #10741, 357 bottles)

Laphroaig 14 yo 2000/2014 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask ref #10741, 357 bottles) Four starsColour: white wine (no caramel this time). Nose: much more brutal than the 10 OB, and that’s not just the strength. And yet I wouldn’t say there’s much happening, it’s rather alcoholous, a little medicinal indeed (mercurochrome), and a little chalky. Wet chalk. Much less smoky than the OB. With water: cancel that, the smoke comes out now, loud and clear (so to speak). This very, very ‘kilny’. Mouth (neat): no, really, there is a lot of smoke on the palate. Loads of peat smoke – wasn’t Nigel Tufnel their Distillery Manager in 2000? And drops of limoncello, plus a little rhubarb syrup, perhaps. You just swallowed cigar ashes. With water: yes, really very ashy. Plus the usual lemon and brine, but once again, not a huge medicinal side. Finish: long, sharp, ashy and salty. Another one that I’m finding pretty mezcaly, perhaps they will grow agaves on Islay with global warming, who knows. Peat-smoked Islay mezcal, doesn’t sound too bad, eh?! Comments: just like the 10 OB, it’s rather simple and pretty narrow. But what it does, it does really well. SGP:358 - 86 points.

Laphroaig 23 yo 1991/2014 (52.6%, OB, first fill sherry and refill hogsheads, 5,000 bottles)

Laphroaig 23 yo 1991/2014 (52.6%, OB, first fill sherry and refill hogsheads, 5,000 bottles) Four stars An expensive bottling from last year that you can now find for from 300 to 500 Euros, depending of the smartness of the retailers (I won’t tell you who’s smart on the long run). Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s not one of the complex old Laphroaigs, the style is already quite modern, even if there is, for sure, something medicinal and something earthy this time, all for the better. Green olives, seawater, perhaps even pickled gherkins, then the usual peat smoke and lemons, as well as touches of fino sherry and even vinegar (in a good way). Unless it was fino or manzanilla, the first fill sherry did not impart much, well, sherriness. With water: perhaps wet dogs (we’re sorry, dogs) and old kelp drying on a remote beach? Mouth (neat): a bit of drying oak in the arrival, which makes your tongue stick to your palate, then this very smoky, lemony and Laphroaigy development, not complex, but just very satisfying. With water: bizarrely, it does not swim too well. Takes on or two drops, but not a splash, which makes it a little ‘sawdusty’. Finish: rather long, and brinier than before. A very faint sucrosity in the aftertaste – was that the sherry? Comments: very good, just not my fav Laphroaig of all times. Perhaps just a little ‘simple’. SGP:457 - 86 points.

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


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September 21, 2015


Glen Garioch fair and square

Some names come in waves at the Indies’. There used to be a lot of Highland Park, Laphroaig and Caol Ila just two years ago, while these days we’re rather seeing a lot of Bunnahabhain, Glen Keith, or yes, Glen Garioch. It’s not that we’re going to complain, those are great names and quality’s usually very high. Also good opportunities to taste these distilleries ‘as nature intended’, so ex-barrel or refill, and not finished or rejuvenated or whatever – like some officials are doing only too often. Anyway, lets have a few newish Glen Gariochs. We’ll try to do it a little quicker, but whenever I say that, I fail pretty miserably. As the famous Scottish whisky expert Jock McVoltaire would have said, ‘Aye, I’m writing long tasting notes because I’ve got no time for short ones. Now would you please pass me that gin & tonic!?’

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2014 (52.5%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 142 bottles)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2014 (52.5%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 142 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: how perfect! As zesty and mineral as natural Glen Garioch can be, with lemons and gooseberries, clay, a touch of paraffin, a wee whiff of coal smoke, and perhaps a little… mezcal. Some maguey-y Glen Garioch! With water: typical Glen Garioch once again, some massive saponification happening when you add water. But after just five minutes, the soap is gone, and you’ve got a perfect mineral and sooty malt. Notes of raw wool, but no wet dog (it’s your lucky day, dogs). Mouth (neat): beautifully mezcaly, zesty, mineral and grassy, with this very particular acridness that works so well in Glen Garioch. A lot of oomph, this is whisky for the open. With water: the fruits are coming out, essentially grapefruits and other tart citrus. A little roundness from the barrel. Finish: long, and earthier. I cannot not quote gentian. Comments: truly excellent, but perhaps not very easy. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Are all 1993s a little austere? Let’s check that…

Glen Garioch 1993/2014 (54.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, bourbon, 192 bottles)

Glen Garioch 1993/2014 (54.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, bourbon, 192 bottles) Four stars The wood was more active, the colour’s darker. Colour: pale gold. Nose: bang, even more austere than the Maltbarn, while I had thought it would be rounder because of its golden dress. Fresh mint leaves, clay, grass, liquorice wood, and just a touch of aniseed. Maybe a little shy, let’s see… With water: soap! Let’s wait… zzz… Good, it’s gone again, but a little putty remains there. Mouth (neat): a big beast, with a feeling of peat – while there shouldn’t be any, or very little. Lemon-flavoured macaroons, lemongrass, green peppercorns, not too ripe gooseberries, and perhaps a little rhubarb. Indeed it’s all pretty green. With water: creamy, almost thick. Lemon blossom honey, grass, lemon curd… Indeed the cask was more active. Finish: rather long, on artisan limoncello, perhaps. Comments: impossible for me to tell you which one I liked best so far. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Another try at 1993

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2015 (56.4%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, 250 bottles)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2015 (56.4%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: very close to both previous ones, but this one’s a wee tad more citrusy, with perhaps (even) more grapefruits. Between a dry Jurançon and a great Muscadet. Zing! With water: Mouth (neat): we’re so very close once again, but I tend to like this even better. Perfect lemon and earth – and myriads of tinier zesty flavours. With water: dry chenin blanc from Loire. I know this is not winefun.com, but his Glen Garioch reminds me of François Chidaine’s Vouvrays, or of Eric Nicolas’ Jasnières. Stunning wines for fair prices – they’re just hard to find. But back to whisky, this Lady of the Glen, not Mademoiselle from the Loire Valley… Finish: we’re close again, very close, extremely close. Comments: there’s this smidgen of, of what again? A je-ne-sais-quoi, perhaps a perfect balance, worth one more point in my book? SGP:561 - 88 points.

No more 1993 just now, this would become a chore, even if the whiskies are great. Hold on, unless we find a sherried one…

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2014 (59%, Adelphi, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #774, 501 bottles)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1993/2014 (59%, Adelphi, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #774, 501 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: is this supposed to be a (lovely) joke? This starts like an Enmore from Guyana, so yeah, rather high-ester rum. Bananas flambéed, sugarcane, olives, liquorice… And you would have thought this would have gone away, but not so, not so. Also pencil shavings and chocolate! What’s the recipe? With water: nice gamy notes, pemmican, tobacco… But those are to be found in good rum as well. Mouth (neat): no, it’s well whisky, but it’s not void of any sugarcane-y notes. Chocolate, a lot of marmalade (both orange and lemon), candy sugar… Now while the minerality’s not obvious, the very zesty, lemony profile does come through well and loud. Forgot to say, this is goody good. With water: a touch of ginger, and indeed minerals, clay, gravel, whatever. Plus bitter oranges. Finish: long, peppery, gingery, and orangey. Comments: another excellent one. I still prefer the ‘natural’ ones, but yeah, this is excellent – if a little controversial at times. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Let’s change vintage if you don’t mind…

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2752, 275 bottles)Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2752, 275 bottles)

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2752, 275 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this, is going to be quick. Perfect, with a medicinal side that hints at older vintages of Glen Garioch. Some kind of bridge-vintage? And there’s even the peat. Superlative so far. With water: barley, shoe polish. Mouth (neat): oh so gooood! Peat smoke, lemons, eucalyptus, green chartreuse, pepper liqueur, earthy teas… Everything’s perfect. Body’s perfect. Oomph’s perfect. With water: even more perfect. Stunning lemony earthiness. Finish: same, for a pretty long time. Comments: finally, I managed to write some short tasting notes! Great great bottle by Signatory. SGP:553 - 91 points.

Not the first great 1990 we’ve had, but let’s try another one and we’re done.

Glen Garioch 1990/2015 (56.7%, Usquebaugh Society, cask #7937)

Glen Garioch 1990/2015 (56.7%, Usquebaugh Society, cask #7937) Five stars Our Dutch friends don’t only produce gouda, tulips, weed, and tax shelters, they’re also quite good at selecting casks… Colour: full gold. Nose: there’s more oak in this one, more butterscotch, more fudge, more toasted brioche… The ‘problem’ is that it combines extremely well with the earthy/smoky style of the spirit. You’re drinking lapsang souchong while sucking fudge and smoking a Partagas. I said a Partagas. Some lemon may be involved somewhere. With water: mud, in a great way. Perhaps a little pipe juice. Mouth (neat): clearly the Signatory with more oak influence. All a matter of taste, and while I tend to prefer the sharper and cleaner styles, I’m finding this just as superb (hey, do you think that makes much sense, S.?). Loud applause. With water: softer notes, vanilla, raisins, dried apricots… And fudge! Finish: rather long, a little buttery. Buttered fudge. I tried an excellent one recently, I’ll give you the name, wait… Right, found the empty box, it is (was) called Mr Stanley. Comments: another exceptional 1990 Glen Garioch. Despite the fudge. And it’s a little moving to be reminded of Slim Cowell’s fantabulous bottlings of earlier Glen Gariochs. SGP:653 - 90 points.

To be honest, I don’t think there’s much better new +/-25 yo malt whisky around these days. These 1990s are jewels – perhaps not just for everyone, but jewels.

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



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September 20, 2015


Sunday malternatives,
hunting cognacs part un

After the pretty insane old armagnacs last Sundays, we’ll try a few of their cousins from the north, namely cognacs, starting with a little aperitif from a pretty large house, Hine.

Hine 2005 ‘Bonneuil’ (43%, OB, cognac, +/-2014)

Hine 2005 ‘Bonneuil’ (43%, OB, cognac, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Very expensive cognac, 125€ for a 9yo at 43%. Smaller houses and propriétaire will sell you similar ages – and hopefully quality - for one third of that price. Having said that, Bonneuil is Hine’s own vineyard, so this is cognac de propriétaire. Colour: pale gold (no caramel!) Nose: very pleasant fruity nose, with yellow peaches, then touches of custard and orange blossom honey. Rather develops on liquorice wood and fresh almonds, with a faint putty-like smell in the background. A touch of tobacco as well. Very pleasant indeed, with a lovely freshness and some complexity. Mouth: indeed it’s natural cognac, not boisé-ed and caramelised supermarket stuff. Rather sweeter and rounder than the nose suggested, and a little young as well (eau-de-vie). Some tobacco and a few grassy/gritty notes. Green apples. Perhaps a little acacia honey. Finish: rather short and slightly eau-de-vie-ish. Some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine on the nose, thought the palate was a little more mundane. Perhaps too young? At some point it made me think of Glenmorangie 10. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Grateaud Napoléon (40%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2015)

Grateaud Napoléon (40%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Cognac de propriétaire that’s around 8 years old. The price rather lies around 40€ a bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more powerful than the Hine, with first more raisins, then more honey, cigarette tobacco, and ripe Cavaillon melons (the orange ones). Much more happening in this. There’s also a little sea air, ala Bruichladdich. Very lovely nose! Mouth: once again we’re closer to the fruits, with a globally more powerful palate (feels like it’s stronger than the Hine), and very beautiful notes of melon again, peaches, juicy golden raisins, and various honeys. I find this truly excellent, and I’m sure this baby would make for a perfect aperitif (all cognac houses have always hoped that people would start drinking cognac as an aperitif instead of only a digestif!) Finish: medium, fresh, fruity. A touch of pineapple – and melons again of course. Comments: excellent lively young cognac, with perfect fruits. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Prisset VSOP (40%, OB, Petite champagne, +/-2015)

Prisset VSOP (40%, OB, Petite champagne, +/-2015) Two stars This one’s around 15 years of age, which is pretty old for a VSOP. These propriétaires are located in Jurignac. Colour: amber. Nose: a rounder Grateaud, I’d say, with more honey and jams, as well as more raisins. And yet it never gets heady, elegance is kept. Goes on with a little overripe banana, as well as a slice of orange cake. And yet another lovely nose, with perhaps less immediate freshness than the Grateaud. Mouth: a more traditional grapey and raisiny cognac, with a feeling of caramel that does not work too well for me. Some mead, more golden raisins, and a weaker middle despite nice touches of liquorice. Finish: short, perhaps a little flat. Comments: not bad at all, of course, but the palate was a bit in the middle of nowhere. Both the Hine and the Grateaud were more, say salient. SGP:630 - 70 points.

A younger one again…

Banchereau 8 yo Napoleon (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2015)

Banchereau 8 yo Napoleon (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2015) one star and a half I’m not sure this is cognac de propriétaire, it’s probably a blend, without any regional origin (such as Grande Champagne, Borderies and such). Colour: amber. Nose: not much happening, I’m afraid. All the previous ones were more vibrant and expressive, even the Prisset. A little cake and honey plus raisins, but that’s pretty all. Mouth: rather oaky and rough. Not bad at all, but probably a little forgettable. A little liquorice. Finish: rather short, on honey and liquorice, with a feeling of sugar. Oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: not much terroir in this, but it’s more than okay. Not very expensive anyway… SGP:531 - 68 points.

Another Napo please…

François Voyer VSOP (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015)

François Voyer VSOP (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015) Four stars This Napoléon gathers cognac from 12 to 20 years of age. Reduction is done 5% by 5%, each time after at least six months. Some say our friends the Scots should do it like that as well. Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, now we’re talking again! This baby’s very different from all the others, much more aromatic and almost tropical. Now all these blackcurrants and blackberries are not very tropical, but the mangos and pineapples are. A spectacular nose. Mouth: bang! Superb palate, full of the very same fruits, especially a lot of blackcurrant/cassis jelly. Which I love. Add baklavas, orange blossom, classic melons, and a rather soft vanilla from the oak (this baby starts its life in new oak for three years). Super good cognac, that reminds me of, say a vatting of middle-aged Tomatin and Benriach, 50/50. Finish: a little short, that’s the dreadful 40% vol., but very fresh and always very fruity. Comments: absolutely excellent. A shame that they don’t bottle at a higher strength (I know, I have a tendency to ramble). SGP:641 - 86 points.

Let’s try a Grateaud again…

Grateaud XO (43%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2014)

Grateaud XO (43%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Hurray, 43%! Anybody who’s tried Laphroaig 10 at 40 and 43% know what the can mean. This XO is 30 years old, already a nice age, and the price is, cough, cough, 70€ a 70cl decanter. Yes that’s seventy Euros for seventy centilitres or a thirty years old cognac de propriétaire in a decanter. Colour: pale gold. No caramel! Nose: you know what, I’ve never nosed any old spirit that was so much of williams pears (apart from williams pear eau-de-vie and calvados from Domfrontais). That’s a little disconcerting at first, but not un-nice. Also a little metal (copper pan), and traces of olive oil. Disconcerting indeed, this could be either brilliant on our palates, or whooof! Mouth: a bit whoof, I’m afraid. A little tired, hesitating between these pears (and perhaps papayas) and some kind of style-ish green tea. Not too sure. But there are beautiful oranges and light honey as well, and in truth, should you take your time, this baby will restore the situation to normal, that is to say raisins and honey. Finish: medium, funnily herbal. And the pears are back. Comments: bizarre. Some parts are brilliant, others less so. Makes me think of Lady Gaga singing with Tony Bennett. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Good, we’ve had six cognacs already, let’s raise the bar…

Borderies 20 yo (58.4%, Jean Grosperrin, cognac, lot N 248, 315 litres)

Borderies 20 yo (58.4%, Jean Grosperrin, cognac, lot N 248, 315 litres) Four stars and a half This one was bought from a retired old propriétaire in Burie by independent bottlers Grosperrin. Oh and it’s cask strength, baby! But not too sure when it was bottled, probably not so long ago. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather dry at first nosing, relatively discreet despite whiffs of pineapple juice and pinot gris Vendanges Tardives. Perhaps roses? You can imagine that there’s a whole world beyond that – sounds a bit Tolkien, doesn’t it – but you just can’t reach it yet. So, with water: the butterfly came out of the chrysalis (oh come on), with many more floral notes, especially dandelions. Touches of white chocolate and toasted bread, as well as old Sauternes. And indeed, Alsatian Vendanges Tardives again. Hoppla! Mouth (neat): huge, citrusy, grapy, rather sharp, and then rather on fresh apples and quinces. Same feeling of ‘another valley beyond the mountains’. With water: wee touches of menthol and liquorice, plus a little caraway and honeydew. Another valley, but not quite another country. Finish: long, with some aniseed and other spices. Sweet curry? Comments: big cognac, rather firm and ‘fighting’. Excellent. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Let’s keep fighting…

F. Gacon XO (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015)

F. Gacon XO (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015) Two stars A propriétaire from Les Touches de Périgny, owning 40 hectares. This baby’s 50 years old – you read that right – and retails for cough, cough, 75.40€ a 70cl decanter. I guess the 40cts are for the decanter. Colour: amber. Nose: there, rancio! Meaning these very unusual smells that appear only in older cognacs, approaching old cigars and horse saddle. Yet, this remains fresh and lively, with as many peaches and melons as in much younger offerings, but this tobacco that arises makes it just superb. Reminiscent of a pack of Camels! Mouth: oh very very nice, smooth and yet firm and very much alive, starting on sponge cake and biscuits, and going on with notes of peach jelly and hay wine. Ever tried hay wine? It’s no raisiny cognac at all, but once again, the low strength represents a problem: it makes it frustrating. Nose-dives after five seconds. I’m not saying they should bottle at 60% vol., but 42 to 45% vol. would be welcome, because mind you, cognac’s not only for old uncles. Finish: very short, sadly. Loses many, many points here. Comments: a great old cognac that’s almost been murdered because of careless reduction in my opinion. A crying shame. SGP:440 - 76 points.

I’m almost crying indeed. Let’s try to take comfort from a last one, that we’ll try to choose very carefully…

Charpentier 30 yo (52.4%, Cadenhead, cognac, Petite champagne, 2015)

Charpentier 30 yo (52.4%, Cadenhead, cognac, Petite champagne, 2015) Five starsI hope these Scots won’t teach us lessons! I do not think that Charpentier are distillers, so this might be a merchant’s merchant bottling, so to speak. Let’s try it… At least, the strength is right! Colour: gold. Nose: malt whisky! I’m not joking, they’ve managed to select one cognac that smelled pretty much of malt whisky. Well, it smells much less of cognac than all the other cognacs we’ve just tried (which is why I never taste spirits as singletons, without any comparisons). So overripe apples, hay, barnyard, burnt wood, a little paraffin, and even a very remote smokiness. Plus stewed tropical fruits, perhaps guavas. With water: seriously! It’s quite great, it’s just… malty. It’s well known that the old Scots used to add brandy to their whiskies for improving prior to selling them, but the other way ‘round? Now indeed, these very fine notes of peaches… Mouth (neat): a Scottish cognac indeed. Starts like a malt, and develops like a malt. Vanilla and barley. Oh, did it spend a little time in an ex-whisky cask of some kind? That would be illegal – so we’ll never know, ha-ha – but it feels a bit like that. Apples, green melons… And very, very little raisins. Perhaps one tiny raisins? With water: same feelings, but it really gets complex. Herbal teas, menthol, citrons… And peaches. Finish: long, fresh, parfait. I mean, perfect. Comments: metanoical spirit or cross-genre distillate, I don’t know how to call this. What’s sure is that I find it quite superb. The Scots teaching the French a few lessons, this obviously isn’t rugby ;-). SGP:551 - 90 points.

Mixed feelings today, not all cognacs seem to be worthy malternatives. We’ll try to have more next Sunday (we’ve got some very old ones), stay tuned! In the meantime, whisky whisky whisky…



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September 18, 2015


A few independent Glenrothes

Glenrothes. In my book, that’s a byword for solid, honest, albeit sometimes overpriced, average-in-the-better-sense-of-the-word malt whisky from Speyside. What I’ve always applauded was the packaging, Glenrothes have been quick to understand that a ‘different’ packaging was important. When was that again, twenty years ago?

Glenrothes 1999/2014 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, PX, cask #W&M180, 1488 bottles)

Glenrothes 1999/2014 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, PX, cask #W&M180, 1488 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s seven in the morning. You’re going to your favourite café or bakery (while carefully avoiding any of these dreadful Starjunk places that are invading our cities), and you order one cup of ‘true’ café latte, two croissants, a few pieces of butterscotch, and one millionaire shortbread. You’re ready for the brightest day! Alternatively, you could have a nosing of this wee whisky. Mouth: lunchtime, you’re going back to your favourite bakery and… Okay, okay, okay. What’s sure is that this baby’s a little unusual, full of candied things and roasted stuff, with cashews and pecans, salty butter fudge, artisan maple syrup, and certainly good panettone. Wouldn’t the bottler be Italian? Finish: long, a tad grassier, chlorophilly (what?) and a tad acrid. Much grassier than before in any case. Comments: thickish stuff, very candied, and very well made. I know it’s not my fav’rite style, but they certainly did it right. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Glenrothes 1988/2015 ‘Marmalade Appeal’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 629 bottles)

Glenrothes 1988/2015 ‘Marmalade Appeal’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 629 bottles) Four stars Picture of a previous bottling. A brand new one by Wemyss, one of the few companies that seem to care more for the whiskies than for the branding or the packaging. There, I said it. Colour: pale gold. Nose: toasted oak galore at first nosing, crayons, then hay wine, hay jelly, white chocolate by a genuine Swiss chocolate maker (no name) and an amazing array of oriental flowers and pastries. Rosewater and orange blossom are ruling the place, of course. A little sandalwood as well. It’s unusual, it doesn’t feel totally ‘naturally Scottish’, but it’s just great. Mouth: isn’t it strange that I’m finding pencil shavings again? Certainly some chocolate, a good chunk of that deadly – but oh so excellent – middle-eastern thing called halva, and barley cake, brioche, and simply malt, Ovaltine style. Finish: medium, malty, chocolaty, and very cake-y. Comments: this is liquid cake. Some might find this convenient. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glenrothes 18 yo 1996/2014 (56.1%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #3140, 274 bottles)

Glenrothes 18 yo 1996/2014 (56.1%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #3140, 274 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: a pear cake. Or a pear pie. Covered with caramel, liquid fudge, custard, ganache, and chocolate sauce. This might be a little too ‘obvious’, but you cannot be against it. With water: oh, it doesn’t swim. Forget. Mouth (neat): just excellent. Malty chocolate, oranges (aplenty), and a wee feeling of kids’ cough syrup (cranberry syrup? Strawberries?) The oak’s spices are lurking in the background, though, there is some black pepper as well. With water: gets a little grassier, and I wouldn’t say that it swims like the secret son of Mark Spitz and Shirley Babashov. Nope. Finish: medium, barleyish, and malty. Comments: it’s good, it’s good, it’s good but it’s a wee tad boring, perhaps. Nothing to do with the excellent bottler, it’s just that the spirit is sometimes a little… zzz… zzz… zzz… SGP:441 - 82 points.

We'll have many more Glenrothes in the near future, stay tuned…
(and merci, Fabien)

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



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September 17, 2015


Five undetermined Scotch Whiskies,
some great

That’s right, blends. And most will be blended malts, according to today’s list. Shall we need parachutes?

Lindrum 12 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, 16,128 bottles, +/-2015)

Lindrum 12 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, 16,128 bottles, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Lindrum is a brand that’s always been to be seen in small French wine shops but quite bizarrely, I don’t remember having ever tried it. It’s said to be a blend of 70% Speyside, 24% Highlands, and 6% Islay malts. It’s been finished in Loupiac casks, Loupiac being a neighbour of Sauternes, so a sweet white wine. Colour: gold. Nose: the wine feels a bit at first nosing, with notes of old barrique and apricot pie, but it’s the peat that comes out first after that, before notes of kirsch and farmyard start to rise. A bit rustic, perhaps, but in a pleasant way. Mouth: indeed it’s quite smoky, and there’s a little sourness from the wine cask again. After that, raw malt, grass, ginger and bitter/sour herbs. Some porridge for sure. Finish: rather long, a tad aggressive, always on grassy porridge, with some liquorice wood and a little marmalade. Comments: the wine casks brought a sourness to this combo, but it remains a pleasant whisky, quite malty. Much less dried fruits than expected, given the finishing that was done. Tja, grape and grain… SGP:362 - 78 points.

Kiln Embers (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, 12,000 bottles, 2015)

Kiln Embers (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, 12,000 bottles, 2015) Four stars This new NAS is said to shelter twice as much peated Islay whisky than their Peat Chimney. Colour: gold. Nose: you just cannot not think of Islay Mist. This is very ‘young Islay’, and indeed it reeks of a working kiln, soaked barley, and a old fireplace somewhere near Bridgend. Behind that, rather peaches ala Ardmore, perhaps a small bit of pineapple, and a very pleasant earthy side. Autumn leaves and mushrooms – how timely. Mouth: some very young peated Islay in this, if I’m not mistaken. That works well because some rather more mature fruity whiskies are keeping it mellower than it could have been. So, tamed youth, and I do enjoy it a lot, really. Feels like some holidays on Islay. Finish: quite long, always young, smoky, and very ‘Islay’ indeed. Comments: I think this is very smart blended malt whisky, extremely well composed, using young Islay malt that you probably couldn’t quite sip as a single (not you, the whisky, ha-ha). SGP:455 - 85 points.

While we’re having blended peat…

The Peat Monster ‘Cask Strength’ (57.3%, Compass Box, 2,000 magnums, 2015)

The Peat Monster ‘Cask Strength’ (57.3%, Compass Box, 2,000 magnums, 2015) Four stars and a half While some are issuing 50 or even 35cl bottles, Compass Box are doing magnums. Well done, well done! The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary, two years ago, had been quite brilliant (WF 87). Colour: white wine. Nose: bing bang boom, this is ultra-chiselled, whistle clean, very mineral, smoky, zesty, and very Sancerre-y. Except that you also get muesli instead of grapes. Perfect so far. With water: oh raw wool, soot, exhaust fumes, old tools, perhaps a little tallow… A bit ‘Ledaig’ now, so dirtier but not in a bad way at all. Mouth (neat): lime, lemon, barley, smoked salt (ever tried that?) and mercurochrome. That style rings a bell, doesn’t it. The purity’s quite amazing, while purity’s not quite what we’re expecting from a blended product! With water: more grass, lemons, sooty things, ashes, angelica… Finish: long, and earthier. I’m asking you, who would add some lemon to a cup of lapsang souchong? The English? ;-) Comments: I find this very perfect, and since we’ll quaff much of this, a magnum is welcome. Now let me issue a warning, the very narrow bottle will not make for a worthy lamp stand once emptied. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Robust Smoky Embers 23 yo (54.3%, Cadenhead, Creations, blend, 2015)

Robust Smoky Embers 23 yo (54.3%, Cadenhead, Creations, blend, 2015) Five stars The last ‘Robust Smoky Embers’ (what a name) by Cadenhead we had tried was a 21yo, and a blended malt. This time we’re having a blend of Caol Ila 1991 and Invergordon 1991, both hogsheads. Might be softer than the Compass Box… Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh lovely. Soft and firm, with, hold on, smoked oriental pastries? Smoky honey? Kilned fudge? Seriously, could someone try to kiln vanilla fudge one day? I especially love the mentholy smoke, the notes of bergamots, and the almondy side (artisan marzipan). In this case, 1+1=3. With water: all things earthy, including earth. Cigars, mud, clay, pu-erh tea, a meadow on Islay after the rain (so, anytime)… But the malt killed the grain. Not that we shall complain. Mouth (neat): crikey, this works a treat! There is a wee roughness (raw kirsch) but I’m sure it’ll be gone once water is added. Perfect marmalade, smoked zests, white cherries, a touch of burnt herb… I’m telling you, this is the best use of a cask of 20yo+ grain whisky ever. With water: I was wrong, it’s still a wee bit rough/grassy, but once again, the barley took over. Finish: long, earthy, on smoked green tea. I know the Taiwanese would kill us if we ever tried to smoke one of their superb wulongs, but there, this is how that would taste. Comments: quite a brainwave, and one of the best blends ever. SGP:456 - 90 points.

To go on? That would be a bad idea. Unless we try an old blended malt ‘for the road’.

RM 20 yo (46%, OB, blended malt, Forbes, Farquharson & Co., 75cl, 1970s)

RM 20 yo (46%, OB, blended malt, Forbes, Farquharson & Co., 75cl, 1970s) Five stars Never heard of Forbes, Farquharson & Co. in Leith, all I’ve seen is that the company’s been dissolved. But they were quite ahead of their time, 46% vol., blended malt, modern design, no or little caramel… Let’s check their juice! Colour: straw. Nose: ah, competition, at last! This is akin to an Old Clynelish, or a kind of stronger and sharper version of the famous Glen Brora. Old coins, copper, metal polish, smoked hay, paraffin and plasticine, kippers, honeydew, cough syrup, menthol, liquorice, dead leaves, green cigars (like they make in Indonesia), shoe polish… I’m wondering if people had much less of a sweet tooth back in the days. What’s always great with these old whiskies is that the dreadful and utterly vulgar vanilla was almost always… absent. Mouth: exceptional, starting with star anise and tangerines, so fruity and lively, and going on with more polishy notes, putty, waxes… There simply must have been some Old Clynelish in this. Would you know anyone who used to work at Forbes, Farquharson & Co.? Finish: long, earthy, smoky, herbal, waxy, and simply delicious. Comments: a surprise for sure. That’s what’s great with old blends at auctions, you pay peanuts but it’s not monkeys that you (may) get! SGP:363 - 90 points. UPDATE: in fact it's an unblended malt, so a single, and possiby a Blair Athol or Dufftown since it's a Bell's kind of bottle - thanks Angus!

Only blends today, but what a session!



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September 16, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Benromach

Benromach 10 is one whisky that I'll follow through the years! There aren't many whiskies that I like to taste each and every year, but this time I will, because I believe Benromach are one of very few guardians of the authentic 'old style' of Speyside. And as the ‘old’ one, we’ll see if we can find something funny…

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: yes, it’s well the Springbank from the north (east). Can’t be Lochside anymore, can it? Shoe polish, old oils, gravel, waxed papers, smoked fish (a wee bit), mashed turnips and potatoes, eucalyptus, lovage – or rather Maggi sauce… There should be a word for this, let me check… That’s right, ‘idiosyncratic’. Mouth: yess. Teas (orange pekoe, if you want to know), more smoked fish, more shoe polish and other greasy/waxy things, a pinhead of wasabi, something stale (but very pleasantly so, imagine), more tea, and a growing leafy smokiness. As if they had used autumn leaves instead of peat to smoke their malt. What’s really cool is that some relatively active oak has been in use as well, which adds roundness and sexiness. Otherwise, I guess this baby would be a tad too austere. Finish: long, with a little salt, apple peelings, fresh walnuts, bitter oranges, and grass smoke. Comments: as I remembered it from last year, but perhaps even better. One more point! SGP:463 - 87 points.

So, the older sparring-partner. Why not one by the current owners of Benromach, bottled before they bought the distillery back in 1998 (if I remember well, no time for Google).

Benromach 14 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, +/-1979)

Benromach 14 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, +/-1979) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: some dedicated whisky heads may have wondered whether the rebuilding and the subsequent change of processes at Benromach had altered the distillate’s character. This is not a definitive opinion, and even less an expert’s one, but I’d say ‘no’. Both whiskies, at rather similar ages, do display a similar profile, even if this one may have got a leafier style, and perhaps a little more caramel too. Goes rather more towards old books, antiques shop, old coins, and all that. Which may not be such good news as far as the palate’s concerned… Mouth: not quite, this is just as ‘modern’ Benromach as the new 10, with the same kind of mustardy, waxy, and smoky style. And the same notes of smoky tea, other teas, earth… Oh how I’d love to be able to try this at cask strength! Gets very dry, even leafier, and almost salmiaky (I’ve been awaiting a letter from the Royal Academy for ages, but they don’t seem to care about my totally broken English!) Finish: short and dry, like many older CCs. Must have been the spirit caramel… Comments: forget about the finish, all the rest has been pretty great, and perfectly un-modern. Certainly one of the better old CCs, I find it much better than the 14 yo 1968, but that one I tasted in 2004. SGP:452 - 88 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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September 15, 2015


Brackla, royal indeed?

Lousy teaser, I agree. But Brackla. Or Royal Brackla. A great name that only die-hard whisky freaks used to know of, until, perhaps, today. Indeed, after Craigellachie, Aultmore and Aberfeldy, Bacardi are now trying to re-launch Brackla. Of course, with a new retro packaging signed Stranger & Stranger (like anyone else in the booze industry does, or so it seems, but as the housemaid always says, if it works it works). Only one question though, why only 40% vol.? Is the spirit that big indeed? Let’s check that…

Royal Brackla 12 yo (40%, OB, 2015)

Royal Brackla 12 yo (40%, OB, 2015) Three stars and a half Colour: light gold. Nose: malty. Roasted nuts, marzipan, a touch of ink and carbon paper (remember carbon paper?), and some bread and brioche. I find it relatively dry, which I always find pretty enjoyable. No extravagant nose for sure. Mouth: well, it works at 40%, we’re not experiencing any immediate nose-diving because of some weakness, although I would add it’s still rather light spirit. The registry is very malty again, with an oiliness, some nuts for sure, a touch of honey, more marzipan, Ovaltine, chocolate-coated orange zests, and perhaps a drop of olive oil. Always love that, ever tried chocolate made with olive oil? Fun stuff. Anyway… Finish: very medium, but pleasantly oily, and always very malty. Perhaps a little peanut butter. Oranges and almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: not really a surprise, but a good surprise. I had feared it would be as flat as a flounder. I could really quaff this… SGP:441 - 84 points.

Quick, let’s try a ‘natural’ one at cask strength just to check ‘the spirit’. We’ll get back to the new range immediately after this one…

Royal Brackla 8 yo 2006/2015 (61.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, cask #310818, 300 bottles)

Royal Brackla 8 yo 2006/2015 (61.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, cask #310818, 300 bottles) Two stars and a half This is very young, isn’t it. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: yes, I get the almonds and the marzipan yet again. Those are markers. Other than that, it’s raw, very orchardy, with some porridge, muesli, and baker’s yeast. Very young indeed, but you get used to this. With water: more porridge, barnyard, wet wool… Very young! Mouth (neat): strong, clean, rather fat, sweet, barleyish malt whisky, with some lager and ale in the background. Fresh croissants from one hour ago, pink grapefruits. It’s good, you just have to be deep into malt whisky (emphasis on malt). With water: sweet barley, wine gums, Haribo’s best. The youth of this! Finish: rather long, very sweet, almost sugary. A little chlorophyll in the aftertaste. Comments: only a few years ago, the indies were offering these young whiskies for cheap within their ‘ultra-budget’ series. Like, 20 or 25€. Things have changed, they’re now asking 70€ for such a bottle. But indeed, it’s really good baby whisky. SGP:541 - 79 points.

Back to the new officials.

Royal Brackla 16 yo (40%, OB, 2015)

Royal Brackla 16 yo (40%, OB, 2015) Four stars Colour: light gold. All three, 12, 16, 21, bear the same colour – I wouldn’t do that. Nose: wait, now we’re talking. Oils and herbal teas, always great signs. Mashed potatoes with borage flowers – cool! – plus shortbread and lime tree blossom. Sounds unlikely, it is not. After that, some artisan butter and a few ultra-fresh walnuts without their skins. It’s a very subtle nose, requiring a little concentration, but it’s totally worth it. Hints of old-style mead, made by good sisters. Mouth: absolutely excellent. IPA (say Lagunitas – I’ve heard Heineken bought them, is that true?) plus fudge and caramel, with a subtle oily/herbal combination in the background. White asparagus, olive oil, a little marzipan just like in the 12, one bergamot, and a spoonful of genuine Swiss muesli. Plus a little candy sugar and custard to keep it rounded and mellow. Finish: medium, not short. Orange cake this time, and big time. Sponge finger cakes. Comments: I think I’ll have to put my gun back into the holster, these babies work at 40% vol. A total surprise – but Brackla’s Brackla. SGP:451 - 87 points.

On to the new 21…

Royal Brackla 21 yo (40%, OB, 2015)

Royal Brackla 21 yo (40%, OB, 2015) Four stars Pff, 40% vol., not even scared! Colour: light gold. Nose: we’re in old wine territories. White Bourgogne, something such as an old Meursault by a good house. That means that there’s a buttery fatness, but also a lot of elegance, around herbal teas, flowers, and high-quality wood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not woody at all, we’re rather getting oak oils, and yet it’s not mentholy as such (what are you trying to say, S.?). A perfect blend of herbal teas. No I won’t list them. Mouth: yes, it’s really good. In fact the low strength is a little frustrating here, even if it does not imply any excessive shortness (what?) Earl grey tea, bergamots indeed, lime tree tea, orange blossom water, sponge cake… In fact it’s very good, but I think I liked the 16 better on the palate, because of that lovely oiliness. This 21 may be, say less noticeable (writes this miserable taster while adding one point to the 16).. Finish: medium. Herbal teas, chlorophyll, bitter almonds. Softer marzipan in the aftertaste, with a touch of bergamot and rosewater. Comments: I don’t know if it’s the ‘royal’ part of the name, but one could well imagine some kind of king – but who’s still got a king or a queen? – having this in a crystal decanter somewhere in the second boudoir. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Good, who could have got a new high-power old Brackla? But of course…

Royal Brackla 30 yo 1984/2015 (54.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask)

Royal Brackla 30 yo 1984/2015 (54.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask) Five stars Frankly, I love the black label, but I find its golden counterpart really too Pakistani (with sincere apologies to our dear Pakistani friends, love you guys). Now, yeah, it’s what’s inside that counts, of course, of course… Colour: gold. Nose: it is totally amazing that this would be the official 21 with more power. As if owners Bacardi had bought back their casks from Cadenhead’s (no, I’m dead sure that’s not what happened, just a joke.) There’s a feeling of restraint power, quite unique in malt whisky, which makes that this is both powerful and light. Now some eau-de-vie-ish notes keep it a bit rough in spite of the years. Kirsch? Slivovitz? With water: we’re wandering throughout a barley field where someone would have planted mint and chives between the rows. Mouth (neat): utterly excellent, zesty and malty, with a grassy/oily backbone. Same strange feeling of simultaneous lightness and power, very funny, very interesting. Sexy and austere at the same time. With water: swims like a champ, gets zesty, citrusy, whistle-clean, but it hasn’t lost its inherent fatness. Sauvignon blanc and foie gras, if you like. And why not? Finish: long, scattering into many teas and herbs. The barley keeps roaring in the aftertaste. Comments: I really enjoy this feeling of civilised rawness. It’s a great dram, not totally easy, perhaps more for dedicated malt freaks. But there are enough of them/us. Not sure water is mandatory. SGP:551 - 90 points.

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



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September 2015 - part 1 <--- September 2015 - part 2 ---> October 2015 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Balblair 26 yo 1965/1992 (44.4%, Cadenhead, 150th Anniversary, Authentic Collection)

Balvenie 'Tun 1509 - Batch No.2' (50.3%, OB, 8500 bottles, 2015)

Bruichladdich 10 yo 1965 (95° proof, OB for Samaroli, +/-1975)

Glen Garioch 1990/2015 (56.7%, Usquebaugh Society, cask #7937)

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2752, 275 bottles)

RM 20 yo (46%, OB, blended malt, Forbes, Farquharson & Co., 75cl, 1970s)

Robust Smoky Embers 23 yo (54.3%, Cadenhead, Creations, blend, 2015)

Royal Brackla 30 yo 1984/2015 (54.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask)

Charpentier 30 yo (52.4%, Cadenhead, cognac, Petite champagne, 2015)