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46)
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40)
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34)
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45)
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89)
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56)
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51)
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330)
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204)
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11
4)
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98)
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136)
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642)
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69)
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51)
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59)
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4
53)
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115)
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5)
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529)
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6)
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30)
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96)
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139)
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44)
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44)
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74)
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67)
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(
214)
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5
75)
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49)
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239)
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37)
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124)
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3)
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56)
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88)
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3)
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66)
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5)
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113)
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37)
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5)


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2005
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Feis Ile
Special
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1 - 2
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1 - 2
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2004
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1
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1
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1
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1
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1
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Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
2
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Scotch Legal Announcement


 

 

May 18, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


Some Laphroaig,
for my son

Last week we welcomed our son, Arthur MacRaild, into the world and our family. If it's ok with you, we'll mark the occasion by indulging in a few celebratory notes from my favourite distillery: Laphroaig.
Angus  

 

Laphroaig comes in for quite a bit of flak these days, and there's much about what the current owners do with it that I'm not too sure about to be honest, but the core distillate remains excellent. Most importantly the standard 10 year old is still a whisky which I find both pleasurable and evocative to drink in a pub or social setting.
Laphroaig was also my Dad's favourite dram, and the whisky that put the hook in me for whisky enthusiasm more broadly. I have no idea whether my kids, Molly and Arthur, will give two figs about whisky as they grow up, but as a very lucky and very happy dad, I'm hopeful and thrilled to toast their future with my favourite malt.

Biberon

 

 

First up is a what I consider a pretty provocative official bottling. On the rear label it says:

 

 

"Our first Elements edition explores experimentation with mashing and fermentation styles to reveal an unexpected new dimension to our signature style… Using two different types of wort and mashing in old and new style tuns, Elements 1.0 finely tunes the process to create a non-chill filtered, 100% Islay malt with greater tropical fruit notes, without losing any of signature phenolic and maritime peatiness."

 

 

This is quite fascinating to me as I have spent pretty much the entirety of my short whisky career making noise about fermentation as an agent of character in Scotch Whisky.

 

 

We have also, more broadly as malt enthusiasts, been talking about this faded - or 'missing' - tropical fruit character in Islay single malts, for years now. Indeed, tropical fruits are arguably most famously associated with Bowmore and Laphroaig makes from the 1960s and 1950s; if you want to pinpoint exotic fruits and their most vivid manifestations in Scotch whisky, it's hard not to invoke these distilleries and decades.

Exotic

 

 

So, to see this distillery's official owners adopting this language explicitly and associating it in the same sentence as something as geeky as mashing and fermentation is pretty revealing in my view. This isn't something that would have happened 10-15 years ago. It makes me wonder whether the cumulative weight of discussion in our culture about the phenomena of older style production characteristics and flavour profiles is beginning to be noticed, and perhaps even responded to, in these companies?

 

 

But, let's check the whisky itself and see if it isn't just marketing doublespeak…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laphroaig Elements 1.0 (58.6%, OB, 2023)

Laphroaig Elements 1.0 (58.6%, OB, 2023)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: I find it quite obviously 'Laphroaig' but in a more modern way than an old style way. It's more about the medicines, TCP, iodine and seashore characteristics. I would not say this is in the same arena as the tropical fruit bombs of the 1960s and 1970s. Having said that I do love the rather intricate mix of bandages and medicines, increasingly complicated coastal, mineral and seashore qualities and rather brusque, punchy salinity. It's a very good Laphroaig with a clear voice! With water: very much on seawater, sandalwood, mineral salts, brine and anchovy paste. Perhaps some pretty sharp citrus fruits too.

 

 

Mouth: reminds me of a good older batch of the Cask Strength 10yo without too much intense wood influence. Wet rocks, kelp, hessian, raw iodine, oyster sauce and a wee glimmer of pink grapefruit. Very classical and classy in other words, close to the familiar modern house style I would say. Getting extremely umami, coastal and salty, with a superbly brittle and sharp peat smoke beneath everything. With water: becomes thicker, broader and more to do with camphor, tar, mineral oils, hessian and thicker peat smoke notes, although still lots of iodine and impressions of kelp and kippers. Extremely classical Laphroaig really. Finish: long, peppery, warming, tarry and peaty! Comments: I find this really excellent, but I also don't think it demonstrates what it claims to - I don't find it a particularly fruity whisky I have to say. To me this is an excellent modern Laphroaig that foregrounds the distillate and distillery character without any overt or vulgar wood that cloys or gets in the way of things. I don't detect overt tropical fruits, and perhaps that says something about the distinction between my own impressions - and expectations - of fruity Laphroaig, and those of the owners/producers. What it really leaves me with is the desire to talk to the people responsible for this whisky and ask them their own views on it and about their original motivations and methods. As it stands, I think it's a very good modern Laphroaig that is better than quite a few of the recent 10yo cask strength batches in my view; even if there's a lingering frustration that it's also another NAS bottling that reveals little about its inherent DNA or construction.
SGP: 467 - 88 points. 

 

 

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit import, 70cl, early 1990s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit import, 70cl, early 1990s)
This shouldn't take too long, these batches are 'well kent'… Colour: gold. Nose: gorgeous, creamy, layered peat smoke that has a tangible fatness and feeling of texture about it. Underneath that those familiar things like dried mango, pink grapefruit, smoked and herbal teas and wee glimmers of passion fruit and kumquat. Pure class! Mouth: very focussed on tea, that is smoked teas like Lapsing Souchong, but also green tea with lemon, exotic fruit teas and herbal teas. I wonder where this impression comes from? There's also beach foam, hessian cloth, aniseed and anchovy paste. Very savoury and showing a beautifully, dry and complex peat smoke flavour. Finish: long, peat, elegantly drying, herbal and with more dried exotic fruits throughout. Comments: all present and correct! What witchcraft was afoot in these days?
SGP: 566 - 91 points.

 

 

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, 1 litre, early 1990s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, 1 litre, early 1990s)
This one should take even less time, in theory… Colour: gold. Nose: same profile, but perhaps even fruitier! Slightly less of this creamy and fat impression, and more on brightness, sharp fruits, tropical notes, wee crisp peat smoke and crushed seashell impressions. Love it! Mouth: wonderful 'total engagement', which is to say a profile that satisfies every craving: salty, fruity, sweet, smoky and also texturally impressive. In short: dried exotic fruits, saline coastal freshness, rich peat smoke and many subtle umami complexities that involve green olive, capers in brine, anchovy paste, iodine, camphor and seawater. In truth, we could probably have cut and paste the above note for the Spirit Import 10 yo, but of course that would be outrageous cheating! And it would have deprived us of tasting this one too. Finish: even longer, but notably saltier and drier, salt cured fish, brine, bone-dry peat smoke, pink sea salt and grapefruit acidity. Comments: such deadly whiskies these old Laphroaigs, they should probably be illegal.
SGP: 566 - 92 points.

 

 

Laphroaig 27 yo (51.2%, Elixir Distillers 'Director's Special', 1st fill barrel, 210 bottles)

Laphroaig 27 yo (51.2%, Elixir Distillers 'Director's Special', 1st fill barrel, 210 bottles, 2024)
Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: we aren't too far away from the old 10 in many regards. Lots of tangerine, grapefruit and lemon, a feeling of smoked citrus fruits, crystallised citrus peels, smoked mead, smoked olive oil, lots of lovely things that have been gentle smoked with peat essentially. Evolves with more focus on medicinal embrocations, bandages, kiln smoke, Maggi seasoning, hessian cloth and a background oak spiciness. With water: sharper, more coastal, more mine ral and also a little more sooty with hints of charcoal alongside beach pebbles. rock pools and dried seaweed. Mouth: you do feel the age here with a little assertiveness from the oak, but the peat holds out rather remarkably with some beautiful peppery and salty notes, lots of familiar tarry flavours, dry phenolics, aniseed and salted liquorice. Add to that some smoked beers, more hessian and tarred rope. With water: excellent! Claws back this assertive salty side, with some further notes of juniper, tea tree oil and camphor. A few distant notes of dried exotic fruits such as mango and pineapple too. Those various teas are all back as well. Finish: long, nicely salty and drying with soy sauce, tar, pickled tarragon and iodine. Comments: totally excellent mature Laphroaig that shows its age in a very attractive fashion. Only these ever so slight hints of oak spiciness will prevent me going higher.
SGP: 466 - 90 points.

 

 

Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.4%, Signatory Vintage for Wu Dram Clan '3rd Anniversary Collection', cask #2674, bourbon barrel, 237 bottles)

Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.4%, Signatory Vintage for Wu Dram Clan '3rd Anniversary Collection', cask #2674, bourbon barrel, 237 bottles)
Ah yes, cask #2674, I have strong recollections of being in the Signatory Warehouses and trying it… Colour: straw. Nose: these batches are just unbeatable. What I love is that they nose younger than 30yo, while still managing to display a lot of the kind of deep complexity that peated whisky can only accrue with age. So, in other words, super fresh and super complex! Which in this case is many coastal notes of pebbles, rock pools and seaweed, alongside bandages, squid ink, soy sauce, eucalyptus oil and a gorgeous, layered peat smoke. There's also some very familiar Laphroaig notes of TCP and iodine coming through loud and clear. A little sharp citrus too. With water: thick, crystalline peat smoke. Kiln air, kippers drizzled with lemon juice and shellfish broth. Also still powerfully medicinal. Mouth: superbly briny, salty, sharp and precise! Hugely coastal, hyper fresh and subdividing into dry peat smoke, wood ashes, crushed seashells, tar, black olives in brine and anchovy paste. Incredible salty, savoury profile! With water: the same powerful combination of saltiness, peat smoke, citrus and medicine, but now gathers fatness, texture and oiliness in the mouth. An impression of smoked olive oil cut with pickling brine. You could probably make some kind of dizzyingly silly dirty martini with this whisky. Finish: very long, extremely salty, medicinal, pure and stunningly peaty. Comments: those impatient Germans, this would perhaps have been ready by 40 years old. I am of course kidding. A great selection and probably a bottle to tuck away for 20-30 years of bottle ageing. Stunning old 'Islay single malt' that seems to combine the power and liveliness of a 10yo with the complexity of a 30yo.
SGP: 467 - 92 points.

 

 

Laphroaig 10 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import USA, 1960s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import USA, 1960s)
From a bottle recently coughed up out of the USA, apparently with a low fill level… Colour: pale amber. Nose: what to say? An extraordinarily pure and deep aromatic peat profile, how you might imagine a slab of 3000 year old bog, smouldering on a plate would smell. But there's also medicinal roots, dried herbs, ancient liqueurs of various type, crystallised orange rind, bergamot, wintergreen and preserved exotic fruits. I find it very close in profile to the old 14yo OB bottling from the 1950s with this harmonious intertwining of peat, sherry and complicated tertiary notes. Mouth: it has probably softened somewhat with the lower fill level in this bottle, but the power and charisma of the peat flavour is still astonishing. Deep, broad, rooty, organic, herbal, vegetal, coastal and medical all at the same time. The sort of whisky that rips up and completely re-draws your internal mental assumptions about peat flavour. I also forgot to mention some stunning dried out old honey and honeycomb notes, also hessian, ink, pure tar extracts and this encroaching, utterly stunning saltiness, like peat smoked sea salt! One of these whiskies that leads the way and leaves you scrabbling to keep up… Finish: extremely long and profoundly deep, warm and glowing with old, dry, earthy peat. Comments: the label on this one says 'The richest whisky made' - no marketing double speak there! Slante, Arthur.
SGP: 566 - 95 points.

 

 

Big hugs to Mark, Phil and KC!

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Laphroaig we've tasted so far

 

May 16, 2024


Whiskyfun

A further selection of high-level grain only

We wrote an unnecessary and far too lengthy introduction yesterday, so we'll avoid that today. Especially since we're starting with some Invergordon de la muerte… Well, we hope so.

Wheat

 

 

Invergordon 50 yo 1973/2023 (49.8%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old, Ex-Cuba rum barrel, cask #23026, 128 bottles)

Invergordon 50 yo 1973/2023 (49.8%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old, Ex-Cuba rum barrel, cask #23026, 128 bottles) Four stars and a half
Goodness, 50-year-old grain. The finishing in Cuban rum is intriguing, given that we often find soft rum notes in old grains, even when there has been no contact. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, I do detect soft rum, but I can't tell you if: 1. It comes from the old grain, 2. It's from the Cuban rum cask, 3. It's a result of both. Who knows. There's clearly some sugar cane juice, a very, very slight benzine note, a few spruce hints, then it becomes increasingly dry on the nose, almost earthy. Lovely structure for a grain, but let's not forget it's an Invergordon. Mouth: Invergordon, in my opinion, is the Scottish grain whisky that's closest to a malt. Perhaps they use a good proportion of malted barley. Orange liqueur, fir bud liqueur, caraway, again a slight petroly touch, rutabaga (yes, really), a hint of cane syrup… But it remains generally dry. Finish: medium length, more on orange liqueur and a bit of ginger. Shall we mention Apérol Spritz? Too late, we did. Also, a tiny bit of tar. Comments: its fifty years suit it perfectly, a true uebergrain. Thanks to the Cubans?
SGP:652 - 88 points.

Shall we try a young one for contrast?

Invergordon 17 yo 2007/2024 (61.4%, Fadandel.dk, refill bourbon barrel, cask #300864, 136 bottles)

Invergordon 17 yo 2007/2024 (61.4%, Fadandel.dk, refill bourbon barrel, cask #300864, 136 bottles) Four stars
Just checking the insurance policy for WF Towers… All good, let's proceed. Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, acetone, ammonia, nail polish, Granny Smith apples, and green pears, plus ripe banana and vanilla. We won't take too many chances, but it seems quite promising, even without water. With water: enormous viscimetry, it's getting almost opaque. Anyway, this nose confirms the impression of a quasi-malt that we almost always get with Invergordon. Café au lait, cigarillos, chocolate, crème brûlée, and a touch of vegetables. White asparagus, perhaps, let's hurry, we're nearing the end of the season. Mouth (neat): very creamy, almost syrupy. 50% cane syrup and 50% good old family-made limoncello. With water: we're moving towards bourbon but also malted rye. It's quite fun. Rustic bread spread with molasses and dulce de leche. Finish: long, quite dry, and malty! Ovaltine in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly top-tier for a young grain whisky.
SGP:661 - 87 points.

Another Invergordon, please...

Invergordon 36 yo 1987/2024 (65.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 223 bottles)

Invergordon 36 yo 1987/2024 (65.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 223 bottles) Four stars
Did you know that Frank McHardy began his whisky career at Invergordon Distillery? But that's no reason to send us this little whisky that could launch a SpaceX rocket without the slightest risk of failure (though an explosion, certainly). No, but seriously, is this kind of ABV even legal? We're jesting, but has anyone actually checked that? Colour: pale gold. Nose: not much, and that's normal. Coconut and vanillin. With water: it becomes very gentle, white chocolate, popcorn, and buttercream. Mouth (neat): coffee, orange liqueur, varnish. I repeat, coffee, orange liqueur, varnish. With water: ah, there we go, a mix of orange liqueur and model glue (remember that when we refer to non-edible materials when describing a palate, it means 'evokes model glue,' not that 'it tastes like model glue'), puncture repair glue, and barley syrup, with just a bit of wood pepper. Even with a lot of water, like the equivalent of Lake Geneva, it remains lively and even prickly. Crazy stuff. Finish: long, varnished, and bourbon-like. A slight acidic wood note at the end. Comments: truly a rollercoaster. Honestly, it's nice of the bottlers to believe we're capable of doing such reduction ourselves within a few minutes, but in reality, it remains quite hit-or-miss. Very good old grain anyway, it's just a bit lethal.
SGP:572 - 86 points.

We're moving on to Strathclyde. I don't have much to say about Strathclyde.

Strathclyde 29 yo 1994/2024 (62.2%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles)

Strathclyde 29 yo 1994/2024 (62.2%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles) Three stars and a half
Another attempted murder, tsk tsk. Colour: white wine. Nose: cut flowers, dried flowers, fresh hay, and above all, 62.2% alcohol. Notes of stearin. With water: very light, sweet, like a bag of marshmallows (the family size, not the EasyJet size). With water: more wax. It's pleasant. Mouth (neat): sweet, sugary, focused on candies and alcohol. You take all the fruit liqueurs you can find at the Spanish and Italian borders (rings a bell?), mix them all together and there you go. With water: more complex, leaning towards light but quality rums. We're almost back in Cuba. After all, whether you distil cereals or cane molasses in stills so tall you can't see the top even on a clear day, it doesn't make a huge difference, does it? Finish: medium length, lovely sweetness, quite elegant. Banana, coconut, a bit of sawdust. Comments: a very nice grain whisky, once more. We should also try it over crushed ice while listening to Ray Barretto, that should work well.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Strathclyde 50 yo 1974/2024 (44.3%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old, refill sherry cask, cask #24022, 53 bottles)

Strathclyde 50 yo 1974/2024 (44.3%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old, refill sherry cask, cask #24022, 53 bottles) Five stars
It's true, when you see such small outturns, you think that if they went to the trouble of bottling the cask, it must have been because they were believing it was worth the effort, precisely. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yes, herbal teas, camphor, mosses and ferns, yellow Chartreuse from the Spanish era, old amaro, verbena… But all of this is sublime! What a cask! Mouth: no need to write a novel, this is magical old grain. In fact, it has little of a grain about it, it navigates between an old malt from Lochside and a 1960s Bowmore. I'm serious. It makes you wonder if a trainee, back in 1974, didn't make a big stencil error at the filling station after indulging in too much of a trendy substance of the time. Tennent's, for example. Finish: incredible. It also reminds one of old Balblair, Clynelish, Coleburn… Only the aftertaste is a bit below par. Comments: no, but seriously, what was this cask, exactly?
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Perhaps some blended grain to finish. Yes, they dared.

More Than One Grain Distillery 36 yo 1987/2024 (ABV in waiting, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, blended grain, 260 bottles)

More Than One Grain Distillery 36 yo 1987/2024 (ABV in waiting, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, blended grain, 260 bottles) Three stars and a half
I've always thought grain was used to dilute malt, but I didn't know you could also dilute grain with grain. That's somewhat convoluted, is it not? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's very light. Vanilla cake, coconut balls, chamomile. With water: a hint of hay wine. Have you ever tasted hay wine? Mouth (neat): it's much more interesting than the nose suggests. Lots of citrus, citron, oranges, pink grapefruit… As almost always with grains, it lacks texture on the palate, but there's no frustration here. With water: gentle notes of coconut, vanilla, rooibos, oriental pastries… Finish: quite short and somewhat in the style of Havana Club. Comments: malt enthusiasts often struggle with the lighter, sometimes even diaphanous structures of grain whiskies. That's a little bit the case here, but aromatically, it's extremely lovely. A very lovely light blend, then.
SGP:640 - 84 points.

Blended Grain 50 yo 1972/2023 (50.8%, Decadent drinks, Notable Age Statements, refill bourbon barrel)

Blended Grain 50 yo 1972/2023 (50.8%, Decadent drinks, Notable Age Statements, refill bourbon barrel) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: another one that's pretty ungrainy. We're somewhere between a fruity Scottish malt like Tomatin or Balblair and a very good bourbon. We're talking orange cake, meadow honey, geranium, orange blossom water… With water: caraway, oriental bread, makrouts, juniper… what a delightful nose. There's even a very light hint of autumn leaves smoke, in autumn (seriously). Mouth (neat): excellent. There's a bit of richness, presumably from the wood, which adds the texture that we were missing a little in other very good grains we've tried these days. You only realise how important texture is when it's absent. You could say the same about many things in life: love, friendship, money, health (no one needs these cheap comments, S., please stop them.) With water: very beautiful, and it remains a grain whisky. Small hints of turmeric and saffron. Finish: quite long, quite complex. Lots of varied herbal teas, and a slightly peppery aftertaste, then onto passion fruits and mangoes. The finish is superb! Comments: the kind of grain that rekindles your fondness for grain whiskies. We've had a few of those these days, but you'll note that we still need age statements from 35 to 50 years, or even more. In my humble opinion, age is even more crucial with grains than with malts.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

See you in a few days for more grains. Another brand new 50 yo Invergordon just in, we'll have it then.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far

 

May 15, 2024


Whiskyfun

A Surge of Scottish Grain Whiskies
Part one, North British

Norh British

North British's 38-whashbacks tun room (North British Distillery)

 

 

Some old grain whiskies are quite interesting, while the younger ones are better suited for use as antifreeze. I'm joking, of course. That said, I recalled the other day that several malt distilleries used to initially treat new or first-fill casks with grain whisky to remove certain, shall we say, excessive characteristics (the kind we seek nowadays, times have changed) before pouring the precious malts into them. This is why visitors were often finding batches of very young empty grain casks in the yards of malt distilleries where they would fill the casks on site. These grain whiskies were thus beginning their life in very active wood, which is somewhat similar to practices in Cognac, for instance. Or in Kentucky or Tennessee… This might explain some profiles being quite dominated by vanillin and coconut notes in some grain whiskies, even older ones. Let's delve into this…

Ah, I almost forgot, we'll start with a small series from North British. It's an interesting distillery because it has long distilled a lot of French maize, and I imagine they continue to do so. Today, it is a joint venture between Diageo and The Edrington Group. The production capacity varies significantly depending on the websites discussing it, and the current shittification of Google (bang, another jab at WF's pagerank!) isn't helping matters. It's crucial to know what we are talking about, just the grain whiskies or the total capacity, including neutral spirits for vodka, etc. So, if you agree, we'll avoid displaying approximate or even false data (too bad for ChatGPT and the others). PS: the official site still mentions 2.5 billion litres! Billions!

Oh dear, what a lengthy introduction that was! So, as we mentioned, a few North British...

 

 

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.6%, Whisky Picnic Bar, cask #200323, first fill barrel, 176 bottles)

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.6%, Whisky Picnic Bar, cask #200323, first fill barrel, 176 bottles) Four stars
We find ourselves in Taiwan once more; always a delight. Colour: very pale white wine. Quite surprising for a first fill of over thirty years. Nose: absolutely typical of a carpentry workshop (ha), with warm sawdust, plenty of vanilla, a hint of coconut and pineapple, and above all, an overwhelming impression of piña colada. An entire vat of piña colada, plus a small touch of pine resin and cumin adding an extra twist. Great softness on the nose, rather lovely. Mouth: almost no harshness despite the presence of wood, then lots of green tea (the Taiwanese ones are excellent, I've just realised this again), some fruit candies, then the expected vanilla and coconut. All this without excess, it can quickly become dreadful but we're not at all there. Finish: short to medium length, soft, really a lot on green tea. Some orange juice in the aftertaste, which offers a bit of zest in the finish. Slight smoky side. Comments: simply very good for a grain that will have seen only another grain (bourbon, presumably). Very nice balance.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (46.7%, Hogshead Imports, first fill bourbon barrel, 186 bottles)

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (46.7%, Hogshead Imports, first fill bourbon barrel, 186 bottles) Four stars
Is it allowed to call yourself Hogshead Import and bottle barrels? (S., this is the most ridiculous joke since the year 2000!) Colour: pure gold. Nose: this one is more mentholated, terpenic, more concentrated, yet it never veers towards glue or acetone. Plenty of orange blossom, panettone, raisin bread, then a touch of eucalyptus essential oil, massage oil, sauna… And finally, hints of soft rum, perhaps from Belize (I'm guessing here, but it's neither Jamaican, nor French, nor 'Venezuelan' in style). Mouth: we're closer to the Picnic Bar, but with more orange, zests, vanilla, with a touch of mild curry and white chocolate. Quite a few wood spices but again, we remain balanced. Finish: medium length. The coconut and pineapple now emerge, it's almost as if we're in the Caribbean, indeed. Comments: they are very different but of the same overall quality. High overall quality for some simple grain whisky.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

For now, everything is going very well... Come on, let's have another 1991 then...

North British 33 yo 1991/2024 (47.1%, Fadandel.dk, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #200317, 178 bottles)

North British 33 yo 1991/2024 (47.1%, Fadandel.dk, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #200317, 178 bottles) Four stars
A sister cask to the Picnic Bar, quite evidently. Colour: white wine. Nose: no, it's very different, even purer, you can almost smell the maize, popcorn, white nougat, blancmange, but also freshly cut grass and candle wax. It's very nicely narrow, rather refined, with just a touch of cumin again. Mouth: we are very close now. Green tea, vanilla, coconut, piña colada, then some orange juice. A slight varnish note as well. Finish: medium length, with some mild vegetables. Salsify and even, perhaps, a bit of cassava. Cassava in Edinburgh! Comments: in the end, it's the orange juice that had the last word.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

These barrels are rather similar, we're somewhat in a tunnel. You might add that, moreover, they are from the same vintages. So, one last one then, from a different vintage…

North British 30 yo 1993/2024 (51.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles)

North British 30 yo 1993/2024 (51.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles) Four stars
I find it amusing that the former manager of Springbank, who crafted so many rich, textured, and full-bodied malts, has such a keen interest in grain whiskies. But after all, Stallone is also a painter… Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time we're much more on almond croissants, vanilla flan, white chocolate, nougat, brioche, toasted bread, breakfast honey… It's all very gentle. With water: a touch of sawdust, oak chips, and milk chocolate. Mouth (neat): a bit of varnish and glue, of the better kind, then orange syrup and mixed fruit brandy. Much more powerful and a tad rustic compared to the nose. With water: blonde almond turron. That's delightfully nostalgic, we love it. This little North British swims very well. Finish: medium length, with the return of oranges and nougat. A bit of caramel and sweetcorn cream in the aftertaste, with a few drops of whisky in it (naturally). Try corn soup with whisky, it's magical. Comments: it's quite gentle, it's quite round, it's reassuring. And there are none of the flaws often found in grains (empty spirits, right). Excellent, despite the lack of Springbanky flavours and aromas (I couldn't resist).
SGP:641 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far

 

May 14, 2024


Whiskyfun

Some young Aberfeldy and Pitilie

Aberfeldy

Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery (Dewar's)

 

Let's not forget that the true name is now 'Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery'. I quite like this place; it's always amusing to discreetly listen to the comments of tourists and realise that we enthusiasts sometimes seem a bit lofty. "A bottle of whisky over £100, are they maaaaad?!"

 

 

Aberfeldy 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2023)

Aberfeldy 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2023) Three stars
Frankly, these 40% vol. do make it feel a bit cheap, although the bottle itself is quite lovely. We also very much appreciate that no finishing has been imposed on it. I hope we are not mistaken. Colour: light gold. Nose: an array of cereals and honey, then sultanas and a hint of orange juice. Simple, effective, pretty, light. Perhaps not enough to write a novel about... Mouth: really very light, a bit sweet, with a pleasant arrival but a sudden drop. Slightly herbaceous and rather thin, actually. Previous batches seemed a bit more, let's say, robust. Finish: short, more spicy, with more cakes, cookies… But it becomes dry and overly focused on tea and cardboard after that. A pity. Comments: let's not exaggerate, it's really a nice malt, but I think independents would have done something with a bit more presence. We shall see…
SGP:441 - 80 points.

Aberfeldy 10 yo 2013/2024 (48.2%, Signatory Vintage, Small Batch #10, 1st fill oloroso sherry butts)

Aberfeldy 10 yo 2013/2024 (48.2%, Signatory Vintage, Small Batch #10, 1st fill oloroso sherry butts) Four stars
From this notable new series from Signatory... Colour: gold. Nose: well, here we are. Superb leather, tobacco, and green walnuts, then all kinds of raisins and a lovely touch of armagnac from a skilled producer. Armagnac is always crafted by skilled producers, anyway. Very fine sherry. Mouth: powerful, with a bit of wood (spruce, cedar) and plenty of prunes and nutmeg. Then blood oranges, peppers, cardamom, and even a hint of curry. Finish: long, more on bitter chocolate and clove. Water isn't really necessary, but one feels inclined to try it: not much change, except for a bit more tobacco and allspice, then some cocoa powder. Comments: there's a hint of 'modern' work with active or reactivated casks, but it's a success.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Aberfeldy 10 yo 2013/2023 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice, 2nd fill barrel)

Aberfeldy 10 yo 2013/2023 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice, 2nd fill barrel) Four stars
Closer to you, my distillate... Colour: white wine. Nose: obviously, this is my preferred style, close to the juice, the barley, the undulating fields, the gentle climate, the kindness of the people, the softness of the Midlands… A Parisian patisserie at 6 AM, with fresh croissants, pain aux raisins, crispbreads, and macarons of the day. And madeleines, of course. Magnificent nose, pure and precise. But why am I only tasting it now? Mouth: very close to the official bottling, yet it remains taut throughout, with green tea, meadow honey, apple cake, and cinnamon biscuits... The palate might not quite reach the level of the very fine nose, but it's still very good. Finish: fairly long, close to barley and ripe apple. Comments: Aberfeldy is perhaps not a 'wow!' malt, but it's a very lovely distillate, and here's the proof. There are also some fine Dewar's around at the moment, but we scarcely have the space to sample large-batch blends. Whiskyfun is cursed…
SGP:551 - 85 points.

And now, let's have a gentle laugh... We used to, think that the number of distilleries in Scotland was exploding, but in fact, they're just multiplying the names of each one. Just kidding.

Pitilie 9 yo 2015/2024 (54.8%, Dràm Mor, 1st fill Buffalo Trace barrel finish, cask #247, 240 bottles)

Pitilie 9 yo 2015/2024 (54.8%, Dràm Mor, 1st fill Buffalo Trace barrel finish, cask #247, 240 bottles) Four stars
The label tells us that this was distilled at 'Aberfeldie Distillery'. It's worth noting that there once was a 'Pitillie Distillery' in the vicinity, near Pitilie Farm on the Pittilie Burn (thanks to scotchwhisky.com, one of the finest websites ever!). Oh, the intrigue of names and double consonants… Colour: white wine. Nose: it's almost the same whisky as the Equinox, which is good news. We remain very close to fresh barley, apple, ripe plums, and brioche dough… With water: pear and a hint of banana liqueur. A familiar molecule, isn't it? Mouth (neat): vanilla, caramel, and plenty of butterscotch, with a peppery layer. With water: little change, except more honey and apples. Lovely freshness, a touch of chalk. Finish: long. Apple, cinnamon, barley, brioche. A hint of lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: same territory as the 2013 'Decadent'. I'm not dead sure these are malts that we'll remember all our lives, but what's sure is that they are really very good.
SGP:551 – 85 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Aberfeldy we've tasted so far

 

May 13, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's little duos, today indie Balblair ex-refill bourbon

Did you see that Distillery Manager John MacDonald just left Balblair, after almost twenty years of service? We rarely publish this kind of stuff but I remember well when we first visited Balblair, he had been so cool with us… a good twenty years ago, even if I'm not sure he was already the Manager. Cheers John MacDonald! Sadly we haven't got any new OB up our sleeves, but these wee IBs will do.

John MacDonald

 

 

Balblair 9 yo 2013/2023 (57.1%, A.D. Rattray for WhiskyFacile, refill bourbon barrel)

Balblair 9 yo 2013/2023 (57.1%, A.D. Rattray for WhiskyFacile, refill bourbon barrel) Four stars
Should we expect an avalanche of bananas, mangoes, plums, ripe peaches, and muscat berries, or is this little one still a bit too young for that? Let's see... Colour: white wine. Nose: it's still a bit warm and alcoholic at first, with a hint of varnish and fresh sawdust, but it develops well, even if we never really move towards exotic fruits. Apple, pear, green plums, white peaches... With water: as often, it's the fresh bread that stands out more, sourdough, pizza dough... We like that. Mouth (neat): the arrival is fruitier than on the nose, with a whole pack of liquorice allsorts and lemon soft sweets from Haribo's. There's again a bit of new fruit eau-de-vie, varnish, and glue, but that doesn't bother us. With water: little change, probably more liquorice, which calls for a slight salty touch. Finish: quite long, young, fruity, nervous, still tight as a thong (as my friend Philippe S. would say – tsk tsk). Comments: some aspects remind us of a distillery not very far away, further north along the east coast, but rather without its proverbial wax. Excellent young Balblair.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Balblair 26 yo 1997/2023 (54.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Kirsch Import, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1884, 153 bottles)

Balblair 26 yo 1997/2023 (54.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Kirsch Import, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1884, 153 bottles) Four stars and a half
Let's see if the exotic fruits have come through with time... Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, there aren't that many differences, we remain on orchard fruits, fresh pastries, pears, custard... Alright, there are a few small bananas and indeed, some notes of passion fruit emerging. Oh, and lemon balm, orgeat, citronella, a bit of damp garden soil, and also vervain... It's very nice. With water: that typical side, on multivitamin fruit juice, banana, mango, orange, papaya, pear... Mouth (neat): really a pure Balblair this time, with a marked citrus side, yuzu, passion fruit, and that slight chalky side of a great Sauvignon Blanc from a limestone terroir. That said, it seems a bit younger than 26 years. With water: pure Balblair, very fresh and fruity. Finish: good length, a hint of mint and eucalyptus and liquorice. Everything is very good. Comments: it's amazing, it reminds a bit of certain aspects of the old Balblair 10 years from G&M, those at 40% vol. which went down faster than well-chilled Coca Zero. But this 1997 is a thousand times superior, even if it's not quite on the level of the great 1966 official ones from a few years ago. I'm referring to the ones John MacDonald poured us.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Balblair we've tasted so far

 

May 12, 2024


Whiskyfun

  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!

More cognacs and armagnacs (cream of the crop only)

Since it's Sunday. Next Sunday, it will be rum again, unless we pour some mezcals, old genevers, or other alternative spirits. We'll see... In any case, today we decided to do all this completely at random.

Current campaign for Armagnac. The aim was 'to reinvent and rejuvenate its image', as it's always, invariably been since at least Methuselah. Got to love them!

Armagnac

 

 

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L'Organic Folle Blanche L.XIII' (49.6%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2024)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L'Organic Folle Blanche L.XIII' (49.6%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2024) Four stars
The last batch went very well. I remind you that folle blanche is supposed to be a much more quality grape variety than the others, but its post-phylloxera grafting may have weakened it and it remains quite rare. Well, that's what I seem to have read somewhere. This baby is ten years old. Colour: golden. Nose: it's aromatic and a bit oily, somewhat like a malt, with a very nice balance between the fruits, or rather the fruit peels (peach, apple) and the floral infusions like chamomile and orange blossom. A bit of slightly underripe mashed banana. I'm re-reading my notes for the previous version, we're very close. Mouth: a lot of liquorice, with touches of salt, still that fairly oily and slightly herbaceous side, then raisins and that famous orange blossom, earl grey, Turkish delight, etc. But it remains tight and quite nervous, despite the rather remarkable oily aspect. Could they have added some Golden Promise? Finish: quite long, with a return of salty liquorice. Almost a bit of beef jerky at the end. Teriyaki flavour, please. A bit of mint at the very end. Comments: it also takes water very well and becomes even more liquorice-led (indeed, with an artisanal pastis side, if you like).
SGP:562 - 86 points.

Fanny Fougerat 'Iris Poivré XO' (40%, OB, Borderies, 7500 bottles)

Fanny Fougerat 'Iris Poivré XO' (40%, OB, Borderies, 7500 bottles) Four stars
It's quite a statement to bottle such a baby at 40% vol. That might mean 'our ancestors have always done it this way and we don't care much about trends'. If that's the case, we applaud it! By the way, 'iris poivré' means 'peppered iris' (I think they had gotten that, S.). Colour: straw. Nose: it's quite soft and indeed floral. We find liquorice and violet, orange blossom, wisteria, honeysuckle, and especially a lot of green earl grey tea (earl grey exists in both black and green, did you know?). Also, a bit of patchouli, which gives this lovely cognac such a fresh, hippie side. Yes, really. Mouth: it's fuller than expected, always fresh and close to nature (flowers, shrubs, damp earth) and with a very, very slightly muscaty side, but that's not uncommon in young cognacs. Pear cake covered with cinnamon. Finish: not so short, always fresh. Some touches of service tree liqueur and a bit more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, but at 40% vol. the WF drinkability index is very high. So, caution is required...
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Well, these two young cognacs have really done their job. Right, let's go down…

Daniel Bouju 'Lot 60 Un Toast à L'Amitié' (50.4%, OB for Geert Lagast & Raf De Ruysscher, 2023)

Daniel Bouju 'Lot 60 Un Toast à L'Amitié' (50.4%, OB for Geert Lagast & Raf De Ruysscher, 2023) Five stars
So, 1960, baddest year for wine, good year for Man (yeah right). More cognac smuggling by our dear Belgian friends. I hope Ursula v/d L. will do something eventually. In my meagre experience, Boujus tend to be dark and heavy (ish). Colour: coffee. Nose: hold on, is this old Ténarèze? Very old Brandy de Jerez? 1950s Glen Grant by G&M? Macallan 'Gran Reserva'? Could we see the papers? Prunes, coffee liqueur, very old cream sherry, ultra-fresh pipe tobacco and forty tonnes of the blackest and juiciest big fat Corinthian raisins. That's what we get. With water: awesome prunes, treacle toffee pudding, Christmas cake… Mouth (neat): heavy indeed, but not exactly stuffy or cloying. Huge liquorice, crazy PX, then menthol and another 40 tonnes of those Corinthian raisins. What's troubling is that it would remain elegant and drinkable. With water: it does stand water and the oak never really comes to front stage. Perhaps a tad more grapey, teaish… Well water is unnecessary. Finish: awesome without water, if a tad armagnacqy. No probs, contrary. Chocolate and prunes. Comments: I shouldn't have added water – when you see what's happening with Nestlé's waters these days - but it's a very great, very Bouju-y (as far as I can tell) cognac.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

To Armagnac country…

Dartigalongue 1981/2024 (45%, OB, Bas Armagnac)

Dartigalongue 1981/2024 (45%, OB, Bas Armagnac) Five stars
This one was just bottled in April, we got it straight from Nogaro in the Gers. Naturally, Nogaro is famous for its armagnacs, but also for its grand-prix-level motor races, their 'Circuit Paul Armagnac' being known just everywhere on this planet. Quite. As for 1981, that's Kim Wilde, of course. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this is where armagnac meets cognac, had you said this was an old Borderies or something, I wouldn't have cried 'wolf!'. Superlative overripe peaches, all-flower meadow honey, soft molasses (cane), a tiny touch of black truffle, praline, pistachio nougat, then more oldness (pine resins, black tea) but this remains fresh and oh-so lively. Mouth: much more on wood, but it's all under control and we know it's a proper style down there. Litres of black tea (remember, black Assam), a lot of bitter chocolate, cigars, pine needles, a little thyme oil, terpenes, turpentine… And we just love this, as we keep remaining way below the limits. This menthol + chocolate combo that's coming out now is perfect. That's right, After Eights, thin mints. Finish: long, clearly piney now, with a small side remining us of Greek retsina wine, and that works. Varnish. Comments: These quite woody old armagnacs can stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth, as they say, but that's absolutely not the case here. Wonderful bottle, superbly traditional, reminding me of my Sunday meals at my grandfathers'. Next step, doing laps at the Nogaro circuit in a Bugatti Type 35. One must have goals in life.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Hontambère 1983 (54.2%, Grape of The Art, Ténarèze, cask #G4, 2023)

Hontambère 1983 (54.2%, Grape of The Art, Ténarèze, cask #G4, 2023) Four stars and a half
As I understand it this is Pouchégu, sourced by Hontambère, bottled by Grape of The Art. So be it. Colour: copper amber; Nose: relatively light, rather on incense, cedarwood, chicken broth and apricots. Unusual 'fusion' combo but some menthol is gathering the troops after a short while. With water: chocolate all around, plus dried fruits (apricots, pears). The chicken have gone. Mouth (neat): some oak for sure, more cedarwood, tobacco, pinewood, very black tea Russian-style, the blackest chocolate and the blackest coffees… With water: it's become fruitier, almost a little jammy. Spiced jams, orange and ginger… Finish: rather long, gently rustic, with more coffee and chocolate. Touch of camphor. Comments: perhaps the most armagnacqy of them all. In truth I used to have, in my remote family, an old grandpa who used to raise fighting bulls and armagnacs, for sports. He was owning many casks of Ténarèze that used to be a little bit like this one. He was still riding his motorbike at the age of 90 and eventually died just before reaching 100. The family keeps drinking his old Ténarèzes. Why am I telling you this?
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Aurian 45 yo 1977/2024 (45.2%, Armagnac Sponge, Decadent Drinks, Bas armagnac, 156 bottles)

Aurian 45 yo 1977/2024 (45.2%, Armagnac Sponge, Decadent Drinks, Bas armagnac, 156 bottles) Five stars
Monsieur Sponge is back. Colour: copper. Nose: it's a fruit compote, with ripe cherries, deep red peaches, a hint of caramel, geranium flowers, peonies, and garden compost. It's obviously very beautiful and certainly a tad rustic. Mouth: it's even better on the palate. The pretty obvious woodiness acts like a crown of diamonds around an emerald or a sapphire (you're exaggerating there, S.) More cooked red fruits, chocolate, rosemary, liquorice, a few cloves, touches of tar, a few drops of tomato sauce... Finish: long, very beautiful, almost fresh but always with those notes of cooked fruits. Indian spices (red tandoori). Comments: one can only wonder why most armagnacs age so much better than malt whiskies. We'll have to interview The Sponge on this subject.
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Grande Champagne 'n°19.74' (49.4%, Malternative Belgium, Private Bottling)

Grande Champagne 'n°19.74' (49.4%, Malternative Belgium, Private Bottling) Four stars
I don't have a photo of this bottle, so I'm putting up a portrait of Thijs van Leer, the singer of Focus in 'Hocus Pocus', around 1974. A crazy thing, give it a go if you've never heard it (that is, if you're under 60). I'd like to add that I have a very high opinion of the work of Malternative Belgium, it reeks of well-maintained telomeres and neurons in good working order. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this time we're not going for complexity, there's apple, honey, and hay. It's just that the proportions are perfect. Mouth: it's very funny, once again it's a very compact old cognac, almost simple, with apples and a bit of lemon and peppermint. In fact it's almost an abstract cognac, a Miro or Calder of French brandy. Finish: same. Comments: I like it really a lot, but I may have missed a few parts.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Un petit dernier…

Le Noble 'Lot 68' (45.2%, Malternative Belgium & The Whisky Jury, Grande champagne, 129 bottles, 2023)

Le Noble 'Lot 68' (45.2%, Malternative Belgium & The Whisky Jury, Grande champagne, 129 bottles, 2023) Five stars
From a 'bouilleur de cru', so probably an individual. It's true that in France, we need to produce a large part of what we consume, coz we wouldn't want to run dry (even if we're already #1 export market in volume for Scotch – but we drink a lot of the nasty stuff). Colour: full amber.  Nose: and what an individual. This is peach-led, which is the #1 kind of arrival with anything cognac or even wine brandy, then we have ripe apricots, mirabelles and quinces. A few amaretti and macaroons. Mouth: some tannicity sure feels, peach skin, cedarwood, pear peeling, heavier Darjeeling.. but balance was preserved. It's in the background that tea and oak tannins seem to be having a blast, but they'll never actually get through. Finish: rather long, rather fresh, rather peachy. More mint and black tea in the aftertaste. Comments: 1968, that was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, right? In any case, I 'd believe bottling old cognacs or armagnacs really means knowing how to play with the limits. Sexiest work there is, no?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all armagnacs and cognacs we've tasted so far

 

May 10, 2024


Whiskyfun

Ardnahoe, Strathearn and other New Scottish Cats

Here we have the first official Strathearn, the first Ardnahoe as well, and a few other young distilleries and variants. The world of Scottish whisky continues to evolve (now, that's a useful comment, S.!)

Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay (Ardnahoe)

Ardnahoe

 

 

Glenwyvis 2019 '2023 release' (46.5%, OB, 12,000 bottles)

Glenwyvis 2019 '2023 release' (46.5%, OB, 12,000 bottles) Three stars
Straight from Dingwall, a majority of ex-bourbon, plus some refill and '17%' (that's right) wines. You can't make Scotch whisky without table wine these days, I suppose there must be a new rule about that at the honourable SWA. I had thought the 2022 edition was really good (WF 80). Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I find it extremely barley-y, full of Weetabix, then mashed carrots, cut apples and plums. A good few tinned greengages too. Mouth: a tad rough, which is normal, with fruit peel, lemon zests, some muesli, more cereals, and something globally pretty tangy. Moves towards mirabelle plums and oranges, a very nice move for sure. Finish: long, tart, grassier as almost always, with green pears. The aftertaste has a lovely lemonness.  Comments: perhaps not quite on par with the awesome 2018 by Berry Bros. from last year but very solid young drop. Next step would be honeys and waxes, see you in a few years.
SGP:451 - 82 points.

Perhaps a butt…

Glenwyvis 2018/2024 (61.5%, OB, Kirsch exclusive, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #243, 671 bottles)

Glenwyvis 2018/2024 (61.5%, OB, Kirsch exclusive, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #243, 671 bottles) Four stars
We're in Germany. Colour: full gold. Nose: not that huge at this very high strength, but you do get pencil shavings and cocoa, as well as some kind of candied ginger dipped into orange syrup. Neat and tidy this far. With water: oranges are having the upper hand. Awesome old triple-sec, Grand-Marnier, Cointreau, Mandarine Impériale and all that. Rather less tannicity than feared, hurray. Mouth (neat): big, oak-spice-driven, apparently. Full of cinnamon mints and ginger. Awesome triple-sec + mango syrup combo in the background, but no chances taken, with water: almost no changes this time, it is a tad gritty, tea-ish and kind of tannic. On the other hand, this lovely citrus keeps it afloat and all remains well. Finish: long, spicy, zesty, fresh. The cedarwood is back in the aftertaste (a.k.a. pencil shavings) together with some peach liqueur. Comments: did I not miss the oloroso part? The 'obvious' oak never was a problem. Very, very nice young drop.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Since we're talking about Germany, just a few thoughts on this year's stunning Whisky Fair in Limburg. It's wonderful to see so many old friends again, and there are increasingly more new whiskies, although they are mainly from very young distilleries from around the world or names like Linkwood, Teaninich, Benrinnes, or Secret Orkneys that are 10 years old and bottled by young, vibrant, enthusiastic and sometimes pretty new independent bottlers. Very good indeed! However, what slightly worried me was the abundance of grey hair within the audience, including mine; it almost felt like being at a Stevie Nicks gig. Are the younger generations a little less interested in whisky? Or is it simply a matter of prices now being far too high? This trend is also apparent in the wine industry. Let's move on…

Strathearn 'Inaugural Release' (50%, OB, 2024)

Strathearn 'Inaugural Release' (50%, OB, 2024) Four stars
From a combination of virgin, bourbon and sherry casks, around 7 years old on average. Perthshire's quasi-pocket distillery Strathearn now belongs to Douglas Laing. We've already tried two or three indie youngsters, they were good. Colour: light gold. Nose: bread and pastry dough plus candied fruits. Simply perfect. Right, that was a bit short, so say panettone, sourdough bread, rhubarb juice and bamboo shoots. How does that sound? With water: fresh brioche straight from the baker's. Lovely breakfast. Also a closed pack of cigarettes (how about Gold Leaf?) Mouth (neat): mango, beeswax, more rhubarb, golden syrup, pancake sauce, green tea (Gunpowder) and pink grapefruit. Great idea to have waited quite bit longer before releasing a first official, well, release. With water: water pulls out sweet roots. Gentian, carrots, all complex flavours that are highly desirable in my book. Finish: long, rather more on milk chocolate and some slightly gingered orange juice. Touch of fresh turmeric in the aftertaste. Comments: awesomely complex at this age. TBH we visited the distillery while it had just been built and the tiny gear had been a little, let's say, frightening. Mea culpa, much impressed today.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Strathearn 10 yo 2014/2024 'Dramton Abbey' (57.1%, Thompson Bros., private bottling, 100l sherry cask)

Strathearn 10 yo 2014/2024 'Dramton Abbey' (57.1%, Thompson Bros., private bottling, 100l sherry cask) Four stars and a half
So, with a dozen friends including The Sponge, a Fiddler and the Thompsons, we got the keys of the distillery ten years ago and could make our own malt whisky under our own specs, with no distillery owners, manager or workers in the way! It's almost been as if we only had to leave the keys under the doormat when leaving. Thank God we were having M.D. (that's Master Distiller) Simon Thompson with us. This is the end result, ten years later. Colour: deep gold. Nose: right between some middle-aged rhum agricole, straight bourbon and fresh estate cognac. The sum of it all generates this… dazzlingly cakey malt whisky. As someone once sang, maybe I'm amazed. Love the parsley in it! With water: classic malt, with some ale, cakes, chocolate, tobacco, menthol, camphor and just a little rainwater and damp chalk in the background. Mouth (neat): tiny citrus and even tinier herbs, plus many variations on ginger and the usual turmeric and cinnamon. With water: superb. Fifty percent fir honey, fifty percent proper marmalade and fifty percent assorted oriental spices and rosewater. That's more than one hundred percent but indeed, it's big whisky. Finish: long, superbly jammy, candied and spicy. Peppered fig jam or something like that. Comments: clearly oriental in some way. We won't score this baby but rest assured that any numbers would have been pretty high. Regarding my own role in this work, I believe I butchered two or three old Alsatian Lieder and told a few pointless jokes during the heating. You see, that worked.
SGP:651 - (-) points.

Ardnamurchan 7 yo 2016/2023 (58.1%, OB, for Switzerland, 1st fill PX sherry hogshead, cask #838, 324 bottles)

Ardnamurchan 7 yo 2016/2023 (58.1%, OB, for Switzerland, 1st fill PX sherry hogshead, cask #838, 324 bottles) Four stars and a half
Ardnamurchan has now truly become a part of the landscape of great Scottish malts, with its splendid west coast aspect. Well, I don't always understand everything on the labels (AD/09:16, is that a reference to battleships?) but that's probably just me. Hoppla… Colour: full gold. Nose: someone has kilned a banana cake and then drizzled it with chestnut honey and mint-liquorice sauce. There's a very subtle, rather pleasant composted fruit aspect to it. With water: much the same, but with just a few hints of pea cream. Or take Ninon cream, quite an incredible thing. I'll see if I can find you the recipe… Mouth (neat): creamy, cheerfully medicinal, minty and lemony, with plenty of thyme (you have to like it, I personally love it) and some sultanas. The PX has remained refined. With water: we add some orange marmalade and a bit of ginger. Very classic. Finish: long, focused, always on this marmalade. Comments: superb, even if the PX seems to have slightly diminished some of the peatiness. It's true that PX can be overpowering, but here, we are well within limits.
SGP:654 - 88 points.

Ardnahoe 5 yo 'Inaugural Release' (50%, OB, 2024)

Ardnahoe 5 yo 'Inaugural Release' (50%, OB, 2024) Four stars and a half
The first one! Ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks. To keep us waiting since the first distillation at Ardnahoe (they're situated between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila) in 2018, Hunter Laing have been deliciously bombarding us maltheads with old Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, and even some very high-quality Port Ellen under their 'The Kinship' label. So frankly, we could have waited a few more years. Hey, just kidding. Colour: gold. Nose: it's very much pure Islay, perhaps leaning more towards the south shore than the east shore in style. But if I remember correctly, there's also a magnificent Celtic cross up there not too far from the east coast. Here the smoke is pronounced, slightly acrid (like a back-drafting fireplace), but there's a rather specific fruity combination right behind it. I'm not sure if it will be found in future bottlings, but I detect blood orange mixed with apricots and a few tomato notes. I love it when a bit of tomato comes through in a malt whisky. Even tomato bush. Brilliant. With water: not much development, maybe a bit more brininess, olives, pickles… Mouth (neat): very pure, crystalline, less oily and broad than the nose might suggest, hence a bit closer to its southern neighbour. Langoustines, oysters, granny smith apples, sea bream ceviche with lime and mint (why not?) plus green pepper and a touch of mint tea. A slight Jamaican rum aspect too, which is amusing. It's a 'good mood' whisky. With water: really, really good. In fact we're still a bit in the territory of an Islay distillery that starts with the same first three letters. Finish: same, although this time there's a more medicinal aspect coming through. Comments: it seems they really sought the DNA of Islay, rather than a more unique but perhaps more 'pretentious' and 'deviant' style. I find that clever. It's very, very, very good. And I like it that it's not NAS. I think we'll have more Ardnahoe soon.
SGP:467 - 89 points.

It's quite incredible how much Islay has changed. We will soon be republishing an old interview with a distillery manager that we conducted in 2004. You'll see just how amazing it is!

Many more young cats very soon…

 

May 9, 2024


Whiskyfun

Little Duos, today Tamdhu and Duich

Tamdhu

 

One OB vs. one IB, both sherry. Classic short line-up…

 

 

Tamdhu 14 yo 'Ambar' (43%, OB, travel retail, oloroso, +/-2021)

Tamdhu 14 yo 'Ambar' (43%, OB, travel retail, oloroso, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Ambar means amber in Spanish, I believe it does too in English, but only with a Cockney accent. Not too sure whether this is full maturation in oloroso or only a finishing, not too websites seem to agree on that. It's to be noted that newer expressions seem to carry a vintage statement, but not this very one. Colour: more golden than 'ambar', but no worries. Nose: classic softness, with breakfast honey and dandelions, nougat, ripe plums… Well it does not feel like first fill oloroso (even speed-seasoned oloroso wood). A tiny whiff of fresh mint, caramel, orange blossom water, oriental pastries, a handful of juicy golden sultanas… Really nice and easy. Mouth: a touch of newer oak, pepper, cinnamon… Then more Speysidey nutty sherry, overripe apples, marmalade, cakes… And more oriental pastries. I'll dare add that it's sitting somewhere between young Glenrothes and Macallan (both OBs). These humble 43% do work. Finish: medium, rather sweet, a tad liqueury. Plum liqueur and a spoonful of molasses 'honey'. Comments: like this umpteenth variation on the most classic sherry theme rather a lot. Very easy whisky.
SGP:651 - 84 points.

Duich 8 yo 2016/2024 (57.2%, Dràm Mor, 1st fill PX hogshead finish, cask #30369, 230 bottles)

Duich 8 yo 2016/2024 (57.2%, Dràm Mor, 1st fill PX hogshead finish, cask #30369, 230 bottles) Four stars
Right, it seems you can no longer be a self-respecting Scottish distillery unless you have your own alternative name (trade name). It's quite chic, isn't it? But anyway, enthusiasts end up knowing them all. In any case, 'Duich' is the trade name for Tamdhu. I hope it's not pronounced 'douche'. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, we're having a good laugh, as this is full of cellulose varnish and wood glue on the first nosing. Sawdust from fir, thuja, yew, spruce… Then it transforms into amyl diacetate, so pineapple and pear, then moves on to small herbs and roots. Wild carrots remain my favourite. A rather mad Duich on the nose, the exact opposite of the official one. With water: adds a touch of coconut milk and new leather, plus, indeed, dry PX. Mouth (neat): massive, robust, a bit spicy, very concentrated, more on citrus marmalades and jams this time. Quite a bit of ginger and turmeric from the wood. With water: almost enough to spread on our toast. Between bitter orange marmalade and candied ginger. Finish: endless, spicy, and still very marked by bitter citrus, but also the liqueurs made from these same citrus fruits. Comments: another madness from Dràm Mor. With this kind of fairly extreme drop you can't become jaded with whisky, even if it's a bit scary from time to time, like a roller coaster. Oh well, see what I'm meaning.
SGP:571 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tamdhu we've tasted so far

 

May 8, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today Glenlivet old young and recent old

The kind of game we like, especially with Glenlivet. Or Glen Grant. This brings us to that recurring cruel dilemma: should we first sample the oldest one, which is of a lower strength, or the younger one, which is of a higher strength? We have never really found the perfect answer, so let's start with this venerable 12-year-old that will serve as a prestigious aperitif...

'The Glenlivet Just Slightly Out Of Reach'. An ultra-classic advertising angle. (Print ad, 1986)

Glenlivet

 

 

Smith's Glenlivet 12 yo 1958/1971 (70°proof, OB for Peter Dominic ltd., sherry wood, cask #2483 and 2484, 26 2/3 ozs)

Smith's Glenlivet 12 yo 1958/1971 (70°proof, OB for Peter Dominic ltd., sherry wood, cask #2483 and 2484, 26 2/3 ozs) Four stars and a half
We had tried a 1967 for Peter Dominic that had been flabbergasting (WF 93). Peter Dominic was a London wine merchant that, apparently, had been bought up by IDV (J&B, Gilbey's) so then, I think, GrandMet before this Glenlivet was bottled. The Peter Dominic company had also written 'Everybody's Wine Guide' that you can still find online. It's now become a 'non-trading company'. Colour: full gold. Nose: It's the elegance of these old Glenlivets that strikes first, featuring hints of rosewood, aged tobacco, old floor wax, and beeswax, then a burst of freshness, especially from very ripe apples and praline. A charming and subtle aroma, not unlike an old Sauternes that has already shed nearly all its sugars. Mouth: Quite dry, leaning towards the sultanas from an old tin box (a personal quirk), but with a touch of cardboard, chicken broth, a bit of salt, mint sauce (typically British!), and hints of honey or mead syrup. There's a slight metallic edge, probably some Old Bottle Effect, but the whole remains fresh and eminently enjoyable. Finish: Not as short as you might think, with a sort of broth and honey mix. A superb aftertaste of fine honeys. Comments: Typical of a great whisky from an old bottle. The 70 proof/40% ABV aren't exactly the best for keeping well for centuries, but in my humble opinion, it's still very, very good.
SGP:552 - 88 points.

Glenlivet 32 yo 1990/2023 'Lost in Time' (62.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #27277, 132 bottles)

Glenlivet 32 yo 1990/2023 'Lost in Time' (62.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #27277, 132 bottles) Five stars
I deeply like it that they would have let the distillates sing within this newish series, instead of burying them under heavy oaks and wines, as is the latest fashion in whisky. Well, I might have written this somewhere before. Colour: gold. Nose: superb tension, focusing on cider, fresh barley, and green tea. Not much else, but that's normal for such a wild strength at 32 years old. Long live the refills! With water: it stays very close to the barley, earth, dark beer, cider apple, in short, the countryside. A few crumpled mint leaves add to the mix. Mouth (neat): this wild tension returns, more lemony this time but also with honey and linden tea and coriander leaf. It pinches the tongue a bit but we like that. Yes, indeed. With water: perfect, with the diabolical duo of granny smith apple and lemon, then several honeys and honeydews. It's high precision and somewhat returns to the profile of very old Glenlivets that hadn't been fully crafted in sherry. At least, that's how it seems to me. Finish: long, always fresh, vibrant, precise, and remarkably and gloriously simple. Class, in a word. Comments: a magnificent series that in terms of profile, takes a bit of a contrarian approach to what else is happening in the competition. Well, it might not be a very 'mainstream' expression.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

(Thank you mucho, Logan !)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenlivet we've tasted so far

 

May 7, 2024


Whiskyfun