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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

September 5, 2021



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!


The Bottomless Pit
(Or the barrel of the Danaids)

In every house where people who like to travel live, strange drinks, liqueurs and spirits from obscure countries tend to accumulate after any vacations, while there's nothing you could do against that. Except drink them, or sink them. We'll try them then, and then sink them, unless we stumble upon a gem, which may well happen now and then, in which case we'll drink them. See? Please do not expect any kind of logic, not even French logic… (which is very overrated, really)… Please note that we won't do this within a single day…

Wackes 2019 'Printemps' (43%, OB, Gin , France, 200 bottles)

Wackes 2019 'Printemps' (43%, OB, Gin , France, 200 bottles) Three stars
This is small-batch Alsatian gin. My son-in-law, who owns and runs a lovely bar in Strasbourg called 'La Brasserie Parisienne', presented me with this bottle a while back. I told him everyone on this planet was making gin these days; he replied that this was the best we had in Alsace. Defeated, I proceed…  Colour: white. Nose: bursts with fresh citrus, zests, juniper, and this little soapiness that I'm always finding in any gins, even in Outer-Mongolian ones. It's very fresh. Mouth: cologne, soap, juniper, lemon zests, lavender… I'm sure it's very good, but I would also believe that this should not be drunk at room temperature. Which is precisely what I'm doing just now, silly me. What I like is this tiny saltiness that appears on the tip of your tongue and on your lips. Finish: short, more on juniper. Comments: I'll drink the remains on ice. I'm sure it's very good, but I do not score gin. BTW, Wackes, in Alsatian, means rascal. Or, as the great folks at Douglas Laing would say, scallywag.

Let's fly (well, drive) to Burgundy…

SAB'S 'Le Gin' (46%, OB, France, 2021)

SAB'S 'Le Gin' (46%, OB, France, 2021) Four stars
Some crazy vapour-distilled gin made in Beaune out of Burgundian juniper plus various herbs, fortified with chardonnay and pinot noir eaux-de-vie. Are we ready?  Are you sure? It's to be remembered that in general, they rather use vapour distillation to make perfume, this is the first time I'm trying such a drink – unless I'm not having a good grasp of the whole concept, I'll have to enquire. Colour: white. Nose: hold on, something's happening. It's very unusual, citrusy for sure, rather earthy, absolutely not soapy (as a whisky lover, I tend to find most gins soapy), with clear notes of fine. Remember, fine is distilled wine, cognac is a fine, for example. Citrons too, watermelons, perhaps a wee touch of myrtle, wild carrots, fennel, linseed oil… Mouth: we're approaching fine territories indeed. I once distilled some spent lees of riesling and came up with something a tad similar, except that it was dirtier. Lees make spirits 'dirty' but some people like that. Anyway, this is more an eau-de-vie than 'gin' to me, which is good news. I'm finding touches of celeriac eau-de-vie, cider apples, perhaps elderberries and sorb, even holly, a touch of wormwood/absinth perhaps... In fact, I do like this. Finish: rather long, going towards herbs, mint, liquorice, fresh turmeric… Comments: simply more than gin.

Since we were talking about fine…

SAB's 'La Fine' (46%, OB, France, 2019)

SAB'S 'La Fine' (46%, OB, France, 2019) Five stars
They've vapour-distilled lees of pinot noir and chardonnay and aged it all for 5 years in small Burgundian oak casks, then finished it in cognac. Colour: gold. Nose: there is this dirtiness I was talking about, but Springbank is dirty too, capice? Otherwise some toasted oak, praline, humus, touch of caraway and ginger, tobacco (untipped Camels circa 1975), dried sultanas, chocolate, ginger cookies and gingerbread… I'm reminded of some new American malts, and perhaps of some rice whiskies from Okinawa. That's what we'll call travelling afar thanks to a wee spirit. Mouth: it is not a 'fine' as we, well, as I knew it, but these raisiny notes that tend to saturate your palate illico presto are superb. We're on one of those small Sicilian islands where they make heavy sweet wines, such as Pantelleria… The oak they've used works well and would have added a well-behaved spiciness, around cinnamon and ginseng. Finish: long, spicier, more herbal, just lovely. Comments: I'll say it, it's the first time I'm trying – knowingly – some vapour-distilled spirits. So far, so good. I'd wholeheartedly recommend this baby, should you be able to find it.

So a fine is distilled wine, while a marc is distilled (spent) grapes. Marcs are usually grassier and tougher. I tend to prefer marcs, especially the ones they make in Bourgogne/Burgundy, whether they're destemmed (rounder, easier style) or not (even tougher and more herbal). Let's try this one…

SAB's 2013 'Le Marc' (46%, OB, France, 1200 bottles)

SAB'S 2013 'Le Marc' (46%, OB, France, 1200 bottles) Five stars
Pure marc de pinot noir, vapour-distilled and aged for four years in small French oak casks. This should be more, say typical. Colour: Sauternes. Nose: marc, it's marc, traditional marc, we love marc. Stems, grapes, pips, touch of menthol, pine wood, grass, juniper, cedarwood, raisins… Really lovely, if more pine-y than other marcs I could try (I've lived in Burgundy for a few years, so…) Mouth: top notch grassy marc. All marcs should be grassy. Once again, some menthol, cinnamon, raisins, gingerbread, speculoos, beer (really, some thick trappiste), even notes of coffee… Finish: long, beautiful, more on liquorice. Comments: I've tried many marcs over the years, and have made quite a few myself (with friends) so I can tell you that this is pretty perfect and probably the best you could make out of pinot noir. As long as we're not talking gewurz…

I really believe that was the first time I've tried vapour-distilled spirits and I'm wondering whether you could vapour-distil whisky too. To be discussed, in the meantime, let's try…

Marc de Bourgogne 1969 (46%, Jean Michelot, Pommard, +/-1985)

Marc de Bourgogne 1969 (46%, Jean Michelot, Pommard, +/-1985) Five stars
These old marcs could be glorious. What's more, Jean Michelot (RIP) was one of the kings of Pommard. Colour: light gold. Nose: an explosion of grapy aromas, this is marc-de-la-muerte that kills and charms. Well it charms before it kills. Amazing earthy grapes, raisins, sappy touches, camphor, ueberripe pears, chlorophyll, maraschino (pinot noir I suppose)… And literally bathtub-loads of various raisins. Mouth: I'm brought back to my years in Dijon. Utterly amazing marc, gritty as it should, and yet rounded and figgy, loaded with raisins and other dried fruits, especially dates. Fantastic post-prandial drink, to sip after lièvre à la royale or coq au chambertin. Bon appétit my friends. Finish: not that long but fabulously raisiny, with touches of tar in the aftertaste. Comments: superlative marc. Some believe cognac and armagnac are kings of French spirits. Well, in this very case, I'm not totally sure I agree…
(we don't score here but that would be 92+ for sure)
PS we've had a 1959 by Michelot in 2012, it was just as brilliant (WF 92).

More marc from Pommard, do the people ask!

Marc de Bourgogne 'Vieille Réserve' (43%, Domaine Parent, Pommard, +/-2010)

Marc de Bourgogne 'Vieille Réserve' (43%, Domaine Parent, Pommard, +/-2010) Five stars
Said to be around 40 years old. Colour: gold. Nose: holy featherless Napoleonic hat! This is much tighter, narrower, also more elegant perhaps, more on peelings, vegetables, stems, leaves, herbal teas… Sure it is grapy – after all this is marc – but it is wandering towards maltdom if you nose it deeply. Rather impressive, if a little austere and less 'immediately sexy' than the Michelot. Although, wait, some sublime raisins are coming out now… Wow. You know raisins can be a little stuffy and even vulgar in any spirit's nose, but in these marcs they are supremely elegant. Mouth: oh-my-god. Would you please call the Anti-Marcoporn Brigade? Sublime marc, not much to add? Corinthians, sultanas, Smyrnaeans… The best raisins in the known world. Extraordinary palate, with even wee touches of salt and bouillons, as in an old… err, Brora. Sweet Jesus! Finish: medium, tight and yet full of raisins and soups. Sweet ham. Comments: fantabulous spirit. I don't know when the monks started to distil in Burgundy, but I doubt that would have been after the brandy and whisky makers, in the far West. One day, we'll enquire. We'll have to ask Hugh Johnson…
(once again no points, but 92+, and easily).

Aren't we stuck in Burgundy? Okay, perhaps a wee fine and then we'll move on…

Fine de Bourgogne 2007/2016 'Fine Fleur' (40%, Domaine Pierre Naigeon, Gevrey-Chambertin)

Fine de Bourgogne 2007/2016 'Fine Fleur' (40%, Domaine Pierre Naigeon, Gevrey-Chambertin) Four stars and a half
Remember, a fine is a distilled wine, a marc is distilled grapes. Colour: gold. Nose: oh we're much, much closer to malt, with more vanilla, cakes, pastries, nougat, semolina, a few metallic touches, earth, roasted nuts, a few burnt herbs (hay?) and even a little bread. Grass too. Rather intriguing, let's see…  Mouth: blam. More whisky made out of wine, really, with vanilla, soft toasted oak, cornflakes and popcorn, a touch of maple syrup, some fudge, triple-sec, panettone… Which makes me think we'll try to find some grappa. Or not, we'll see. Finish: medium, grassier than the marcs, maltier as well. Or let's put it like this: it's a little closer to malt than to brandies, rather surprisingly. Comments: not as immediate and unquestionable as the two marcs from Pommard, but it is still a mighty spirit.
(87/88, I would say, but we don't score these, do we?)  

Back to gin. No, no fear, never…

Mistigma (49.5%, OB, Gin, France, 2020)

Mistigma (49.5%, OB, Gin, France, 2020) Three stars and a half
This is single cask gin aged for a few months in Sauternes wood. And why not? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: oh boy, this is the freshest, cleanest, most elegant limoncello I've ever nosed. Then we would have kumquats, citrons, yuzu, finger lime, and probably a little coriander and lemongrass. Yellow peaches too, that might be the Sauternes wood. What's sure is that it's not totally a juniper-led gin, and that any soapiness or cologneness (I know) has been kept at bay. Mouth: more classic gin, it's just that you don't need to add any lemon and lime juices, they're already there. I like this rather a lot, but the palate's in no way close to the  very complex nose. Calls for a few ice cubes, I would say… Finish: medium, very citrusy. All kinds of lemons. Comments: nosing gin, that's new to me! Probably in my top twenty, but then again, I know more about quantum physics and Goldbach's conjecture than about gin. Which says a lot…

Lemons? Wait!...

Mango Spirit 4 yo 2016/2020 (49.3%, The Whisky Agency)

Mango Spirit 4 yo 2016/2020 (49.3%, The Whisky Agency) Three stars
I cannot find anything about this crazy thing that the excessively engaging folks at The Whisky Agency have mailed me a few months ago. Well our time is precious, so we shall just proceed, knowing that I've tried to distil mangos myself in the past, in our wee 100l copper still, and that it's been the disaster of disasters. Tropical fruits are super-hard to distil, unless you're happy with any end result that's rather akin to… perfume. Colour: white wine. Nose: hold on, success! I suppose this was a maceration, am I not right? So well-behaved mangos, herbs, apples, papayas, a wee buttery side, nectarines, carrots… This works and goes to show that the best is the enemy of the good. I went for full fermentation, while maceration was obviously the way. Mouth: I have to say it is very much on carrots and red kuri squash, and that mangos have become a little… indeterminable. That's the thing with these fruits, it's all a matter of instable molecules. Liquid carrot cake. Finish: same. Comments: mangos on the nose, pumpkin gazpacho on the palate. Good fun for sure.

What's even crazier is pineapple, but our dear German friends aren't scared of anything…

Pineapple Spirit 4 yo 2016/2020 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency)

Pineapple Spirit 4 yo 2016/2020 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency) Two stars and a half
Good luck! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: that's the thing when you distil pineapples, you do not get pineapple aromas. Believe me, I've tried that too. What I'm getting here is rather something not too far from cachaça, perhaps. A little vanilla, and there, perhaps traces of pineapple yoghurt. It is absolutely not an unpleasant eau-de-vie, but the pineapples are not loud and clear. Unless it was a different kind of pineapple, much shier than all the kinds we know of. Mouth: perhaps a little more pineappleness (!) and perhaps not. Could have been bananas too, for example; not all molecules go through a still smoothly. Finish: a little sugary. Comments: it is a fine spirit and ice cubes may make the fruits stand out a little more, but this is a tasting session and sorry, we do not do ice.

Another try…

Liqueur d'Ananas (25%, Ava Tahiti, +/-2000)

Liqueur d'Ananas (25%, Ava Tahiti, +/-2000) Two stars
This is different, it is a liqueur made by a branch of Alsatian distillers Miclo (who are making a very potable whisky too) in Tahiti. Anyway, a liqueur is something different, you need neutral alcohol, sugar, and if possible, fresh fruits. Colour: almost white. Nose: easy, fresh, fruity, gentle, not that exotic, and once again rather on bananas. Bananas and pineapples are completely different fruits (no kiddin', Sherlock) but when you transform them, let them ferment/macerate or even distil them, they may converge. Well, that's what I experienced myself. Mouth: a little too sweet for me, this is pure syrup. Perhaps a tad cloying, without much pineappleness, but I know it takes ice extremely well. Finish: sweet. Comments: forgot to say, ananas means pineapple in French.

Where do we go from that sweet liquid?... I say let's have no borders!

RumJava 'Signature' (35%, OB, coffee blended rum, +/-2018)

RumJava 'Signature' (35%, OB, coffee blended rum, +/-2018)
They make this in America, according to the label. We said no fear! This is 'artisan crafted', you understand… Colour: straw. Nose: no, and I mean a deep and resounding no. I love, cherish, adore and celebrate coffee every day that God makes, but this is all on stale dregs and that overheated office coffee they were having in every episode of Kojak. Mouth: they should jail the mad soul that had this idea. Kahlúa and Tia Maria are ten times better, and we all know they're pretty nasty drinks. What's specially dreadful is this mushroomy side that's totally out of place here. Finish: medium. Comments: make your own. Take Nescafé, Bacardi, add tons of sugar, stir, and voilà.
SGP: 720

Let's push our luck a last time… (but we'll do many more crazy sessions like this one during this summer, as it looks like we've accumulated hectolitres of wacky alcoholic drinks over the recent months and years…)

Hapsburg (72.5%, OB, absinth, +/-2020)

Hapsburg (72.5%, OB, absinth, +/-2020)
Absinth! There's real wormwood inside this one, apparently, but it is a little unclear whether this stems from Bulgaria or from the Czech Republic. Wish me luck (whisky to friends, money to Greenpeace, the rest to my wife and the children). Colour: fluorescent aquamarine. Even the great folks at Bruichladdich would be jealous. Nose: yeah, redistilled Ricard. We have blue pastis in France as well, but it is rather for absent-minded partygoers. Some caraway too, for sure. With water: what? It doesn't get cloudy at all, remains transparent, and just raises more doubts. Why doesn't it get milky like Ricard? Mouth (neat): what wouldn't we do for our common cause! Toothpaste at cask strength, really. Hard to swallow, I suppose it's meant to be drunk with a little Evian? We'll try that, we have Evian on the table… (besides our faithful Vittel). With water: do we say Colgate? Now if you bring it down to +/-30% vol. and survive the massive quantities of aniseed-like flavours, you could indeed use this as… toothpaste. Finish: extremely long, and that's the main problem here. All you can ingest within the next three hours is MacDo, Domino's or KFC. Or phaal curry. Or a lot of milk, by the way would you have the number of the Poison Control Centre? Comments: painful drink. You owe me.

Adios, I'm about to launch

(Merci Agnès, Aurélien, Pierre-Louis)







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