(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2004

February 2004 <--- March 2004 ---> April 2004

March 24, 2004

MALTS - 'RULE VARIETY' TASTING AT MY PLACE - To be honest, we didn’t like last night’s session too much. Tasting eight malts from the same distillery in a row is painful, except if you’ve got only some great expressions of malts you like a lot. So, this time, we decide to improvise, and to choose some distilleries somewhat at random. Our benchmark malt will be Springbank 10 yo OB. And because we didn’t loose all hope to put our hands on a great Allt-A-Bhaine sometime, we decide to kick off with two expressions of this bottom shelf malt…

Allt-A-Bhainne 18 yo 1980/1999 (43%, Signatory, cask #19000) No need to say we fear the worst will happen… The colour is white wine, and the nose is quite fresh at first. Then it gets grassy and spirity, with notes of fern and aniseed. Grain, fresh pineapple, somewhat like a Lowlander. I’d say it’s not bad at all, a good surprise. Mouth: quite powerful at first, but it gets quickly quite weak. Bitter, dusty, and frankly, quite disgusting – even undrinkable. One for the spittoon! The good thing is that it makes the Springbank 10 yo taste like a 25 yo OB. We decide to taste the Allt-A-Bhaine HtoH against a Dewars 12 yo we got at Whisky Live. The latter is ten times better! Okay, ratings: OH 67, SV 65.
Allt-A-Bhainne 16 yo 1985/2001 (50%, DL OMC) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very spirity and powerful, like a good wodka. Some wood (sawdust) and peardrops. Not much aromas, as you can see. Mouth: very strong and pungent, almost violent. Sharp, no aromatic development whatsoever. Completely uninteresting. Still better than the Signatory, though. Or should I say less worse? Long finish (too bad, this time). Olivier says maybe it’ll be good when deeply frozen, on caviar. I told you, it’s almost wodka! Our ratings: OH 72, SV 70.
Brora 26 yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 258 bottles) Yes, we need a Brora now. The colour is straw. Very aromatic at first nosing, it gets grassy in a good way, not unlike the 30 yo OB second edition. Hay, violets, then seaweed and sea air, and finally some fine peat. Very nice and elegant nose.Mouth: not much peat right at the start, but then it comes, growing stronger and stronger, like often with Brora. How great! Lots of pepper and white fruit (melon, peach) as well. Very long finish. This Brora is very interesting, because it’s well between the classical peated Broras from 197O/1972 and the fruitier ones from the 80’s. Very good! Ratings: OH 90, SV 90.
Auchentoshan 10 yo 1992 (46%, Whisky Galore) Another HtoH now, with an highly underestimated distillery. This one’s colour is white wine, and the nose is, guess what, extremely lowlandish. Grain, marzipan, fresh almonds, peach and apple. Just a little bitter, but nicely perfumy as well. Nice nose! Mouth: surprisingly bold and rich. Violets sweets, thyme, pineapple syrup. Hints of acacia honey. Very clean. The finish is longer than expected, again clean and fresh. A very good Auchentoshan, that’s for sure. Bravo! OH 87, SV 86.
Auchentoshan NAS (40%, bottled in the 80’s) Let’s see whether an OB will match the great IB. The colour is straw. Nose: very grainy, light and fresh. It’s very young, that’s for sure. Not very interesting, just what we expected from a young Auchentoshan OB. Mouth: light, clean and fresh, a little perfumy. Again, not very interesting, but not bad either. Rather short finish. A classic summer malt, to sip near the swimming pool. OH 77, SV 80.
Glentauchers 12 yo 1990 (46%, Whisky Galore) Another one from Duncan Taylor. Colour: straw. Nose: sharp, and surprisingly acidic. Did they pour some vinegar in it? This must come from the wood, the cask must have been quite dirty, and some bacteria must have developed in it. Don’t worry, the alcohol kills them all. Quite woody as well, and some notes of white rum. Mouth: quite sour. Again, a cask problem. I guess the distillery shouldn’t have used that cask, and maybe Duncan Taylor shouldn’t have bottled it. No big deal, you can’t always succeed. Long, but dirty finish. Our ratings: OH 72, SV 72.
Macallan 35 yo 1967 (45.1%, Peerlesss, cask #7678) Another old bourbon Macallan, I guess – or perhaps a refill sherry. The colour is straw with a greenish tinge. The nose is like grandma’s old cupboard. Old books, lots of wood but not too much. Yes a bourbon cask, no doubt. Hints of herbs and freshly cut grass. Mouth: mild but nicely coating. A little minty as well. Fruit, wood, seems to be much younger. It gets much sharper with time. Notes of varnish, glue… Not very enjoyable. Quite astonishingly very similar to the Springbank 10 yo . This Macallan is more a curiosity than an enjoyable malt. OH 79, SV 80.
Highland Park 24 yo 1977/2001 (43%, Signatory, cask #3788) We were looking for an Highland Park to taste ‘against’ another Peerless bottling, and I though we could try this Signatory. I said I thought we could. Its colour is white wine, which is incredible for a 24 yo malt. The nose is restrained. Grassy, it gets a little dirty and spirity. Just uninteresting. The mouth is quite bold at first, but everything falls apart after a few seconds. Round and sweetish, it really lacks vivacity. Notes of cheap honey – the kind of honey they serve for breakfast in most hotels. The malt then gets dry and even a little dusty. Highly disappointing, especially when tasted against the Springbank 10 yo , which seems so much better. Our ratings: OH 75, SV 72.
Highland Park 35 yo 1966 (43.4%, Peerless, cask #4627) This one must be better than the Signatory. It’s colour is dark straw. Some colour, finally! Nose: a lot of varnish and beeswax (Johnson and Johnson ;-). A lot of eucalyptus, overripe apple, banana. Great vivacity for such an old age. Notes of almonds, diesel oil and melon. Gets a little bitter, but no big deal. Mouth: quite bold and strong for its age. Wow! A little bitter and austere, though. Orange peel, violet sweets, camomile. Quite long finish. In short, a very good malt, very interesting and enjoyable. Our ratings: OH 88, SV 88

Tomatin 1968/2001 (40%, G&M CC) We’ll have three old Tomatins in a row now.Should be interesting. This G&M shows a nice amber colour. Its nose is very fresh and clean, which is great. It develops on fresh fruit (orange, tangerine, granny smith apple, cider apple) and dried fruit as well (banana). Notes of Kalhua (coffee liqueur) and old style perfume (Joy de Patou). Mouth: quite bold for a Connoisseur’s Choice at first, but then it gets a little weaker. Too bad, it would have been a winner. Gets slightly woody as well. Cooked fruit (apple, pear). Lacks a little structure. Finish: a little short. Let’s thing the same old song again: too bad they didn’t bottle this one at 43 or, better, 46%. The nose is so much more spectacular than the mouth! But it deserves some very good ratings, still. OH 90, SV 89.
Tomatin 37 yo 1965/2003 (47.2%, Hart Bros) Colour: straw, yes, just straw. Nose: much more powerful than the G&M’s. Sherry, and quite a lot of eucalyptus. Nicely balanced. Apple, peach, guava, and some nice wood. Very satisfying and youthful for a 37 yo malt. Just a little less complex than the G&M on the nose. Mouth: again, quite bold and playful for its age. Very expresssive, fruitful, with some great sherry. Notes of white fruit, and some fine pepper to underline the whole. Lacks just a little complexity, but the palate is much more satisfying than the G&M’s. What’s also incredible, is that it’s got much more oomph than the much younger Springbank 10 yo . Again, if only the G&M had the same punch, it would have been an absolute winner. Anyway, our ratings for the Hart Bros are just the same: OH 90, SV 89.
Tomatin 37 yo 1965 (48%, Peerless, cask #1909) It’s going to be hard to compete with the two great Tomatins we just had, especially because Tomatin remains… eh, Tomatin! Anyway, its colour is amber. The nose is very flowery: wild flowers, bouton d’or, honey. A little too smooth and tired, but not too much wood influence. Mouth: a little weak, which is strange when considering its ABV. Perhaps it lost some power in the sample bottle, which was just 1/3 full. Too bad, we should try it again in the future. Anyway, it’s got some notes of cold, light tea, with lots of tannins appearing towards the end. Not bad, but our ratings can’t be very solid this time. OH 85, SV 83 (to be tasted again).
Bruichladdich 33 yo 1969 (48.7%, Peerless, cask #2929) Back to Islay for just one malt. The colour is straw, and the nose shows some strong williams pear notes. Very fresh and clean. Too bad our sample is really too small to alow us come up with some serious rating. The mouth really makes us think of some pear eau de vie. Quite strong, with some pepper. Very elegant! Quite long finish. Again, we haven’t got enough malt to rate it properly, but we both think it deserves between 89 and 92 points. Let’s say an A.
Strathisla 35 yo 1967 (51.1%, Peerless, cask #1533) Colour: light amber. Nose: curiously fresh considering its age… and considering the distillery. A lot of vivacity: fresh fruit (green apple, passion fruit, strawberry). Some toffee, cappuccino… Gets just a little dusty. Mouth: quite bold, a tad simpler than the nose. Hot milk, caramel, egts a little woody, but it’s nice wood. Long finish. In short, this old Strathisla is very enjoyable, especially when compared with the G&M old expressions, which are usually much more sherried and somewhat lighter at the same time. Ratings: OH 87, SV 86.
Glen Grant 32 yo 1970 (53.6%, Peerless, cask #810) Here’s one of these hyper-sherried old Glen Grants. Many are beautiful, if not stellar, and we hope this one will respect the tradition. The colour is deep mahogany, and the nose exhales some heavy sherry notes, as expected. Dark chocolate, Banyuls wine, toffee. Very nice, really a classic. It’s refined and elegant, not just a sherry syrup.The mouth is very powerful, bold and rich, but extremely tannic. It sort of bites your tongue. Incredibly powerful, perhaps too powerful. Lacks some finesse, but anyway, it’s impressive. Our ratings: OH 84, SV 84.

Lochside 17 yo 1965 (40%, G&M CC old brown label) We wanted to end the session with a malt we’d like (always better), so, remembering the great old Lochsides we had in Zurich, I chose this old Connoisseur’s Choice. Its colour is dark amber (caramel). The nose is superb, with some ‘Atlantic freshness’ (don’t laugh!), some grassy notes, gooseberry, dried herbs, and quite some smoke. Very, very nice! Some toffee as well… yes, a great nose. Mouth: again, it’s brilliant, fresh and lively. Twenty years in its bottle sure didn’t harm it, and this Lochside makes us think even more that malt can actually improve in glass. A lot of fruit, freshness, and some notes of burnt tire. Quite peaty, in fact! Absolutely superb, along the same line as some other great Lochsides from the 60’s (Premier Malt etc.) A great, great malt: OH 93, SV 92.

March 23, 2004

MALTS - BOWLILA AT OLIVIER'S PLACE - We started the session with 6 blind malts from Johannes.
Blind #19 Colour: straw. First nosing: very sweet and spirity. Then lots of peardrops and banana, with hints of smoke. Gets grainy and woody. Mouth: quite nicely balanced at first, then a lot of bubblegum. Very little peat if any. Quite grassy, with some bitter notes arising. Gets too woody, and it_s no nice wood. A little vulgar. Finish: Medium, on both bubblegum and bitter/peppery notes. Quite weird, if you ask me. Our ratings: OH: 73 points, SV: 74 points.
My guesses: 1: Arran, 2: Tobermory, 3: Clynelish (but not a good one).
Comments by Olivier: Agreed, it tastes too sweet for me. And it isn’t a nice natural sweet character from old age. Looks like a very young whisky, made to taste older. Arran is a good guess, Bowmore.
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #19: Clynelish 11 yo 1989/2000 (43%, McGibbons Summer/Autumn). I completely agree it’s a crappy Clynelish – I gave it 55 points.

Blind #20 Colour: straw. First nosing: nice freshness, then strawberry and melon. Not very expressive, and a little weak. Hay, cooked butter, white fruit. Quite nice, still. Mouth: Nicely balanced at first - fruity and grainy, but not much character. Gets sharper, with woody notes and plain sugar. Quite long finish, but nothing really interesting, though. Our ratings: OH,75, SV, 75.
My guesses: just the same, 1: Arran, 2: Tobermory, 3: Clynelish (or Bruichladdich?)
Comments by Olivier: I had strong glue on the nose, some heather, very light charcoal on the palate. Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Arran
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #20: Clynelish 11 yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, Cask #3953). I didn’t like this one either – just 61 points from me. Maybe rating them blindly caused you to be cautious? You really chose a nice batch to start with ;-). You picked up on the ‘house’ similarity; great!!!

Blind #21 Colour: pale straw. Nose: pure peat. Very smoky, not nothing else. Gets just a little vegetal. Mouth: quite nice smoke, but very few fruit and it's quite unbalanced and mono-dimensional. In that case, there's too much peat. Finish: long, on the smoke and pepper. Not especially bad, but again, I'm not sure that just peating a lot any malt does work. When compared with the evening's benchmark malt (Ardbeg 1975/2000 OB), it's even more obvious. Ratings: OH, 80 points, SV, 79 points.
My guesses: 1. Caol Ila, 2: Ledaig, 3: -
Comments by Olivier: Yep, brutal pungent monolithic peat, more like wet grass burning. Young and aggressive. Caol Ila, some young peaty Jura,..
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #21: Caol Ila 12 yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon’s Provenance Winter/Winter). Congrats! Both of you got this the first time around. My score was 73. For an Caol Ila I thought it was sub-standard.

Blind #22 Colour: straw. Nose: quite light, smoke and glue. Then gets quite oily, with a nice balance peat / fresh fruit. Much nice than #21. Some peppery notes, and a nice freshness. Mouth: bold and powerful, but remains quite simple when compared to the Ardbeg 1975. Much younger, we guess, but quite enjoyable, still. Finish: medium. In short a nice malt, simple but enjoyable. Ratings: OH: 85 points, SV: 82 points.
My guesses: 1. Bowmore, 2. Caol Ila, 3. Ardbeg
Comments by Olivier: Sorry Serge, I move my mark to 84 for this one. Agreed, rich and oily, but lacks complexity to move to the 85 range. Bowmore, Bunnahabhain.
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #22: Caol Ila 15 yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) – my score was just 79 points. Serge got it right with his second guess.

Blind #23 Colour: pale straw. Nose: again not very expressive, and quite austere. Young and not very complex. Peat, a little pepper, and wood's smoke. Mouth: nice attack, strong and bold. Much better than the nose. Rich, lots of peat and fruit (apple), much nicer, really in the Ardbeg style. Ratings: OH: 88 points, SV, 88 points.
My guesses: 1. Ardbeg, 2. Caol Ila, 3. Laphroaig
Comments by Olivier: Really enjoyable… palate is superior to the nose, good finish, even though the alcohol doesn’t seem that high. Ardbeg, Laphroaig
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #23: Caol Ila 9 yo 1992/2002 (43%, Cooper’s Choice). That’s right! Nice little surprise, eh? I conservatively scored it at 82 points on my first tasting but that’s likely to go up. I knew you’d like this.

Blind #24 Colour: light amber. Nose: very nice and refined. Beautiful peat, very round and fruity (cooked apple), beautiful balance. Mouth: great roundness and balance, just a little too 'smooth'. Perhaps this bottle was open since a long time. Peat, pear, cooked fruit (strawberry jam). Hints of exotic fruit. Finish: medium to long - gets sweeter with time. Really in the Laphroaig style. Ratings: OH:88 points, SV: 88 points.
My guesses: 1. Laphroaig, 2. Bowmore, 3. Caol Ila.
Comments by Olivier: I liked a lot the palate of this whisky. Honest Laphroaig, good Bowmore.
Answer by Johannes: The horrible truth about Blind #24: Caol Ila 10 yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers). Well, this was my favourite of the bunch. My score for the first dram was 84 points, but I’ll have to investigate further. Bottle was opened 3 months ago. So, fairly interesting results, eh? I’ve tried to do a fairly straight ‘build-up’ with this flight and I wanted to show some different sides of Caol Ila. Since you picked a different first guess each time I think that part of my evil masterplan has succeeded ;-) (Rest assured that most of the other flights will be more varied.)

Okay, eight different Bowmores are now on the table. Different? Well, in theory, yes, but…
Bowmore 14 yo 1989 (46%, Whisky Galore) Let’s start with this brand new bottling by Duncan Taylor. Most of the ‘Whisky Galore’ malts we already had were quite good, and a Caol Ila even got a Silver Medal during our 2003 Awards. To be honest, several ‘independent’ young Bowmores are really ‘middle-of-the-roadish’, but we expect quite a lot from this one. Let’s check it out… Colour: straw. At first nosing it’s quite elegant and refined. Nice peat underlining the whole: seawater, seaweed, lemon, pepper, freshly cut apple. A wide array of fresh and very nice aromas. Mouth: Very powerful at first, growing even stronger and stronger. Great balance and elegance. Nice fruity notes, great peat, and quite a lot of peppery notes. Hints of lavender ice cream. Finish: long like a comet’s tail. Very, very good independent Bowmore, certainly a bang-for-you-bucks malt. Our ratings: OH 88 points, SV 88 points.`
Bowmore 12 yo 1991/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, bottled July 2003) I’m not familiar with Hart Brothers, who seem to be much more active on the US market than in continental Europe. So, let’s see whether they do well with this ‘exercice de style’…Colour: white wine. Nose: very vegetal at first, then acidulated fruit, freshly cut grass, hints of pepper. Very few peaty notes. Again, very vegetal. The mouthfeel is quite sharp at first, but becomes very simple (sugar, vegetable) and almost no peat at all. Strong liquorice. Long, but thin finish. In short, this young Bowmore is quite weird, and these very grassy notes are somewhat disturbing. Far from being one of the young and independent Bowmores on the market, that’s for sure. Our ratings: OH 76 points, SV 79 points.

Bowmore 34 yo 1968 (41.7%, Peerless, cask #1426) We had some great Peerless at Duncan Taylor’s stand during Whisky Live London. Ah, Invergordon! So, we expect a lot from this one, also because the Bowmores from the 60’s are constantly good… Colour: surprisingly light (straw). Nosing: pure pink grapefruit and passion fruit. Wow! Very close to the great Bowmore Celtic Heartland of Murray McDavid fame. Smells also like one of Olivier’s Rieslings Grand Cru Brand 2000 or 2002. Frankly, it’s the first time we taste a malt that’s that close to wine. Great! Mouth: a superb smoothness and some extremely refined aromas. Huge purity and cleanliness, with a lot of citrus and dried herbs. Fantastic, absolutely delicious. Notes of very old rum. Finish: medium, very smooth and delicate. It must be from the same batch as the Celtic Heartland. Again, wow! Our ratings: OH 92, SV 93.
Bowmore 11 yo 1991/2003 (60.7%, Blackadder Raw Cask, refill sherry cask #22535) We have four of these young Blackaddder Bowmores on the table. Let’s see whether some are better than others… Colour: straw. Nose: glue, varnish, peat and alcohol. Then some nice grassy notes mixed with the peat. Cold coffee, Kalhua, wood and spices. A little too rough as a whole, but interesting. Notes of green tomato. Mouthfeeel: bold and rich, powerful. Very powerful in fact, but drinkable with no water. Dutch liquorice, grass, fruit, and hints of peat – but less peat than on the nose, in fact. Finish: quite enjoyable. It’s quite simple, but I’m sure it would have been a great malt, provided they had waited twenty more years before bottling it. It gets really dull when watered down. Ratings: OH 80, SV 78.
Bowmore 10 yo 1991/2002 (61.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #15093) Colour: pale straw. Nose: same as the previous bottling, just a little woodier, and a little less coffeeish. Mouth: the aromas are more defined, and the malt’s more ‘satisfying’. Otherwise, the malt’s really ‘carried’ by alcohol. Ratings: OH 82, SV 79.

Bowmore 12 yo 1989/2002 (63.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #22533) Well, how can a cask that’s been filled two years later, and bottled one year earlier carry almost the same number as the previous one? That means the number has nothing to do with the distillery, i.e. Bowmore, but has been attributed either by a broker, or Blackadder themselves, I guess. Or does Baldrick work at Blackadder’s? Anyway, let’s taste this third expression, meelord ;-)... Colour: straw. Nose: almost anaesthetised by the alcohol, but some nice notes of citrus, then crystallised fruit, zest. Very nice, too bad they bottled it that early! Hints of pepper and peat. With a little water, some notes of fresh roots arise. Mouth: much more interesting than the two previous ones. Wood, liquorice (zan), citrus, and a whiff of peat. Very prowerful. With water, some great notes of tar and camphor. Long finish. By the way, we really wonder how they manage to sneak so many pieces of wood into the bottles at Blackadder’s. Anybody who already bottled some whisky, even by hand with no filtering whatsoever, noticed that it’s impossible to add that much wood into all bottles – not just into the last ones. Weird, if you ask me. Another strange marketing trick? Anyway, our ratings: OH 85, SV 83.
Bowmore 12 yo 1989/2002 (63.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #22534) Another one from the same batch – so we’ll have had casks #22533, 22534 and 22535). Yeah yeah, cherrypicking, sure… Colour: pale straw. Nose: vegetal, much in the style of its ‘brother’ casks. Not very enjoyable, nothing special. Alcohol, wood… Mouth: very powerful – too powerful, in fact. And almost no peat. Some water doesn’t help: it remains quite bland. Long finish, but lacks balance. Our ratings: OH 82, SV 78. OK, cask #22533 wins!
Bowmore 16 yo 1984/2001 (60.7%, Cadenhead Auth. Coll., bourbon hogshead, 338 bottles.) Here’s one of these high-strength Cadenheads. Its colour is pale straw, and the nose is very grassy, with some quite heavy soy sauce and parsley notes. Then come some fine fruit (citrus and pear). A few drops of water make it more maritime and fresher. Palate: beautiful balance, much more typical of the best Bowmores. Fine peat and citrus. With some water it manages to hold up the Ardbeg 1975, but it’s still more ‘difficult’ and less expressive. Long finish, but mainly on the alcohol. Our ratings: OH 84, SV 83.

Alright, eight Bowmores down, with mixed feelings. Time to switch to another famous Islayer: Caol Ila. We already had four blind ones from Johannes, and we found out that Caol Ila can be very inconsistent. It’s true that like a few other distilleries that were seldom to be found as official bottlings (like, say Mortlach or Linkwood), Caol Ila was one of the independents’ favourites. I guess thousands and thousands of casks flooded the market a few years ago, so no wonder some were very good, but some others were very modest, if not defective. We already had some evidence of that, but let’s go on and check how four other ‘Lilas will behave now…
Caol Ila 12 yo 1990/2002 (58.5%, Blackadder Raw Cask, hogshead #4159) Colour: pale straw, again and again. Nose: heavy apple, peat, and a lot of alcohol. Very spirity. Rough and simple. Palate: very grassy and woody, not much peat – or at least, the peat is masked by alcohol. Dirty taste, and a lot of ‘wrong’ tastes. Undefined aromas, even with some water. Not enjoyable at all… another poor Blackadder bottling. Our ratings: OH 75, SV 70.
Caol Ila 11 yo 1991/2003 (56.5%, whiskyauction.com, 313 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: very smoky, getting a little winey, quite curiously. Notes of old cask, a little acre.
Mouth: very bold and satisfying. Nice peat, but lacks a little definition and aromas. Again, we feel a few more years in the cask wouldn’t have harmed this Caol Ila. Long and powerful finish. This one makes us think of an underardbeg, which can’t be totally bad. In fact, we like it. Ratings: OH 86, SV 85.
Caol Ila 14 yo 1980/1994 (62.6%, G&M Cask series) Colour: straw. Nose: light peat and liquorice. Notes of cooked fruit and hay. Nice nose, even if not spectacular. A little vulgar, I’d say. Mouth: a little too hot. Notes of sugar, liquorice and smoke. Again a little vulgar, and some ‘molesse’. The finish is long but the malt is a little boring in a whole. But it’s still a good one. OH 84, SV 83.
Caol Ila 20 yo 1974/1995 (55.7%, Signatory, cask #12584) This is the last malt we’ll have during our ‘Bowlila’ session. Eight Bowmores, Eight Caol Ila (including four blinds from Johannes), that’s enough to make us claim that none of these two well-known distilleries are very constant. What’s sure, is that one should rather buy one quite expensive bottle, rather than two or three of these cheap young independent expressions. Or, at least, taste a sample before you buy a bottle! Many bottlings are quite poor, that’s for sure… Anyway, let’s taste the last one now. Colour: straw. Nose: quite fresh, peaty. Notes of fresh and cooked apple, that make us think of Ardbeg. A little spicy as well. Nice nose, indeed! Mouth: disappointing, we feel it’s just another peated malt. Not bad, for sure, but nothing thrilling. The finish is quite long, but not too interesting. In short, a rather good malt, that’s all. Our ratings: OH 83, SV 82.

March 20, 2004

MUSIC - REMEMBERING JACO - Weather Report's bass god Jaco Pastorius died in 1987. He's since that very sad day been eriged to cult status. Listen to his big, bold bass playing in this live rendition of 'invitation' with his own big band (7.8MB mp3 file). Don't be afraid of the lengthy introduction, it gets much better after two minutes. I have been listening to Pastorius at least once in a month since... 25 years.

March 15, 2004

MOTORCYCLES - My God! Both are for sale... Which one would you choose?

March 6, 2004

TOURISM - Visiting London with Johannes.

Yes, we HAD to find this place... It seems that some shops in london do show their true colours...

... Oh, and what about a little booze? Will 88% vol. do? Tell me about cask strength malts! A joke, I tell you...

... Oh yeah, and what about a little adverstising while we're at it? Well, I guess it's a little harder than Glenfiddich's stags and deers... Yes, the glen of tanquility, another way of affecting one's life... It's all a matter of style, I guess. Beerliquors.com write thats: "Black Death, a vodka distilled from beets in Luxembourg was banned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1992, which asserted that the liquor's name and label-featuring a sinister image of a grinning skull in black top hat-created "the misleading impression of bubonic plague and poison. Cabo, the importing company, won its appeal against the ban in a federal district court the same year. Very sweet vodka and cloying on the palate with strong taste of burned sugars, but very smooth with hardly a trace of needle."  I didn't taste it myself, because I'm not into vodka at all...

MALTS - TASTING AT THE THISTLE WITH SOME BELGIAN FRIENDS - Marc Segers,Paul DeJong, Johannes van den Heuvel and yours truly.
Imperial 1990/2003 (approx 60%, G&M Special reserve for Whisky World, Holland) Paul Dejong and Marc Segers invited us to taste a few high-end samples they brought to London. The first one was this powerful Imperial. Quite a lot of wood at first nosing, and some marzipan. Nothing too special in this malt, but it’s quite satisfying. It need some water to develop. 83 points.
Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1969/1995 (53.3%, Signatory) This one is black like a Loch Dhu. Bold, extremely sherried, a real monster. A little monolithic. 89 points.
Glen Garioch 29 yo 1968/1997 (55.9%, OB, cask 629) Again a great old Glen Geerie, this time extremely sherried. I simply adored it. 92 points.
Ardbeg 30 yo 1967/1997 sherry (52%, Signatory, cask 578, 540 b.) The last dram we had in London – but not the least, that’s for sure. Beautiful sherry, but not in a ‘monstrous’ way this time. Very complex, with some very refined peat, which is melted into the sherry. Great wood. 92 points.

FASHION - (picture above) - Famous top model Jamie McEwan introduced the Bruichladdich Summer 2004 collection at Whisky Live London. An harmonious blend of tradition (the kilt just above the knee) and avant-garde (check the handbag). Huge success!

Lochside Grain 1966 (Cadenhead) Lochisde made both some malt and some grain, but Lochside single grain is very scarce. Just had a quick sniff and a little sip of it, and I felt it was worth around 86 points. (not solid)
Glenlivet 28 yo 1975/2003 (54.1%, Signatory, cask #5719, Bottled 19/6/2003) A beautiful Glenlivet, very rich but less bold than some other versions. I love it for its complexity and for its ‘peacock’s tail’. 89 points.
Macallan 1876 Replica (40.6%, OB) I felt it was quite weak, slightly vegetal and minty. This may be called subtle, but then it’s too subtle for my taste. Only 79 points.
Glen Garioch 15 yo 'Cognac matured???' (46%, Whisky Galore) Very interesting, this one was fully matured in a Cognac cask. Much better than the current 15 yo OB, that’s for sure. 86 points.
Glen Elgin 12 yo 1991/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore) Smooth and round, fruity and quite salty on the tongue. Interesting. 85 points.
Rosebank 13 yo 1990/2003 sherry (46%, Whisky Galore) The nose is very perfumy, smooth and rounded. The mouth is sweet and, again very rounded. Very satisfying, but Rosebank’s usual markers aren’t there (citrus). Could have been a Speysider. 82 points.
Highland Park 13 yo 1990/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore, Bourbon cask) Very fresh, clean, nervous, organic. How complex! The mouth is quite peaty, with quite a lot of tangerine and pineapple. Very good cask! 87 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1987/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore, Bourbon cask) This one is punchy and perfumy. Violet, lavender, and quite a lot of peat. Very ‘maritime’. In short, what one would expect from a very good Bowmore. 88 points.
Glenlivet 34 yo 1968/2002 (45.9%, Peerless, cask #1579, refill sherry, 218 b.) Very subtle and complex, but also quite powerful for such a venerable malt. Seems to be much younger than it actually is. 85 points.
Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1966/2003 (40.7%, Peerless, cask #4874, white port) Another version from this series – I tasted another one in Bordeaux last year. Heavy coconut milk, and a beautiful wood, perhaps a tad too present. Whiffs of peat. 89 points.
Invergordon 36 yo 1965/2002 (51.8%, Peerless, cask #15539, firstfill bourbon, 252 b.) A great surprise, and the best single grain I ever had. Full vanilla pod. How great! Thanks Kirsty. No less than 91 points.

Bruichladdich 14 yo 1989 'Cairdean Family' (46%, OB, sherry refill, online, 2000 b.) This is one of the new 50cl bottles which are only available from Bruichladdich’s website. Beautiful sherry notes, chocolate, coffee, dried fruit. Very bold and satisfying, just a little too much wood and astringency, but it deserves a very good rating, still: 88 points.
Bruichladdich 1988 'Sinnsear Forefathers' (50%, OB, 100% bourbon, 1000 b.) Very powerful and compact. Not a lot of aromas but it’s still nicely assembled. 84 points.
Bruichladdich 14 yo 1984/2003 (46%, MMcD) No need to say that Murray McDavid must have access to some very good casks, and once again I’m convinced by this new bottling. Very refined, fresh, floral. Great elegance. 88 points.
Clynelish 13 yo 1990/2004 (46%, MMcD, MM0401) Very flowery, hints of eucalyptus. Very fresh, and quite aromatic. I like it a lot. 87 points.

Ardbeg 10 yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 338 bottles) A brand new young Ardbeg from the Laings. Powerful and youthful, pure and fresh, and very, very bold. Very peaty, but it’s not ‘crystal-clear’ peat. Great balance peat/fruit. I like it better than the 10 yo OB. 89 points.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1987/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 312 bottles) Another great bottling, very elegant, a perfect mixture of peat, smoke and white fruit. 89 points.
Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2003 (50%, DL OMC, 348 bottles) A very good Port Ellen, nicely balanced and quite rounded. Lacks a little oomph, though. 85 points.

Bowmore 20 yo 1983 (51.4%, DL for The Vintage House, 258 Bottles) The guys at TVH were very friendly, and had many nice bottles opened for tasting. This Bowmore is very fresh and perfumy, and quite spirity. Not much peat. Lacks a little depth and complexity, I think, but still a very good Bowmore. 82 points.
Macallan 27 yo 1976/2004 (48.5%, DL Platinum, 235 b., bourbon) One of these un-sherried Macallans, which show you how great the spirit is, even if with no sherry added. Just a little too spirity for my taste. 87 points.

Ladyburn 27 yo 1973/2000 (50.4%, OB) I’m really thankful to The Vintage House for having let me taste this rarity. It’s very perfumy, flowery and grainy. The mouth is quite bold and fruity (apricot, pear). A little mono-dimensional, though. 80 points.
Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2003 (46%, McGibbons Provenance, winter/summer) A very nice Port Ellen, on the gentle side. Greatly balanced, elegant peat, very satisfying. Not extreme at all, and very few rubbery notes, for once. I liked it very much. 86 points.

March 5, 2004

MALTS - AT THE SALT WHISKY BAR, LONDON - 82 Seymore Street, London, W2 2JE - greatest selection I've ever seen.

Laphroaig Vintage 1976 (43%, OB) They usually charge £30 for a dram of this one at Salt, but we got quite a discount, because Olivier knows the owner. Anyway it’s a beautiful malt, quite refreshing. A splendid blending of some typical Laphroaig peat with all sorts of fruit, including exotic (passion fruit, lemon). Highly drinkable! 93 points.
Glenlochy 27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory, 212 b.) Very good! 88 points (not solid)
North British 13 yo 1990/2003 (63.5%, Aldelphi, cask #52640, 189 b.) A single grain which is extremely strong, don’t even consider tasting it without water. But it’s very good, even if very spirity, and I got some bold chicory and apricot. 86 points.
Ardbeg 23 yo 1976/2000 Committee (55%, OB, sherry cask #2392, 528 b.) Big, bold and rich Ardbeg, but not the most impressive I tasted. 89 points (not solid)

That's the way the barman prepared the Ardbeg Committee for us. Okay, joking, but he's the actual Salt's barman... Skilled, eh?

Aberfeldy 25 yo (40%, OB) Very disappointing. Weak on the nose, short on the palate, and a dry finish. Forget about it, I’d say. 78 points.
Glen Garioch 15 yo (43%, OB) A lot of caramel on the nose (toffee, fudge). A whiff of smoke on the tongue, otherwise, it’s quite ordinary. 78 points.
Stronachie 12 yo (43%, ‘OB’) This one is said to be Benrinnes, and the guys didn’t want to confirm when I talked to them. But they didn’t insist it isn’t so I guess… it is. Anyway, I enjoyed it. Very classic but not boring in anyway. Perhaps not worth buying, but worth tasting, that’s for sure. 80 points.
Dalmore 'Cigar Malt' (43%, OB) A malt that’s made beautifully… But that’s the problem, it’s ‘made’. Bold and rich sherry, but too ‘artificial’ for my taste. I mean, you imagine the bottles being processed like in Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ factory. Plus, I’m not fonder of the concept of a cigar malt than of the one of a whisky cigar. 82 points.

Dalmore 30 yo 1973 'Gonzalez Byass finish’ (42%, OB) Sure, Gonzalez Byass are famous for their great cuvées (but also for their heavier sellers), but well… Like very often it doesn’t quite work here. It’s nice, harmonious, quite aromatic, but in no way really interesting. Is that why they ask for ‘only’ £80 for a bottle? 82 points.
Isle of Jura 16 yo (40%, OB) Very nice nose, very original. I like it! The mouth is very balanced, quite grassy in a good way, with some nice fruity notes and some icing sugar. I think Jura is improving at lightning speed theses days. 84 points.
Isle of Jura 19 yo 1984 'George Orwell' (42%, OB) Another one which quite similar to the 16 yo , but it simply has a little more of everything. A very good whisky. 85 points.
Isle of Jura 10 yo 'Legacy' (40%, OB, Duty Free only) This one contains more old casks than the regular 10 yo . Great liquorice, nice freshness, vegetables, and gain some great liquorice on the finish. Very nice, try it next time you visit a duty free shop. 83 points.
Mortlach 1989/2003 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #973/974) Very perfumy and ‘milky’, with eau de Cologne, plus some orange peel. Lacks depth, a little thin. There are some far better ones around. 79 points.
Glenlivet 1971/2003 (55%, Berry Bros, cask #6447) Beautiful fruit, beautiful wood, beautiful sherry, great complexity. Yes, just a beautiful and complex Glenlivet, worth no less than 92 points on my scale.
Glenrothes 1984/2002 (43%, OB) Here come the usual honeyed notes. Again a very good Glenrothes OB. All the Glenrothes are very consistent, whatever the bottling: never totally thrilling, but always very enjoyable. I’ve been told the high-end bottlings from the sixties are fantastic, but for the price of one case, I’d better buy the 1978 Ducati 900 SS I’ve seen for sale not very far from my place ;-). Because a bottle of 1966 Glenrothes goes for £800… My rating for the 1984: 82 points.

Glenturret 10 yo (40%, OB, 2003 new labelling) Very light and floral. A perfect summer dram, I’m sure. 80 points
Glenturret 1990 (40%, MacPhail's Collection) More perfumy, and even cleaner than the 10 yo OB. Most enjoyable, and not ‘complicated’ in any way – nor complex. 82 points
Speyburn 1974/2001 (40%, G&M CC) A very good surprise. Clean and quite fresh… And so much better than the OB’s!. Il loved it. 85 points.
Port Ellen 1982/2003 (40%, G&M CC) The first mouthfeel is great, very nice peat, very elegant and refined. Alas, it just falls down after a few seconds on the palate, and the finish is almost inexistent. But what a nice attack! 82 points.
Aberlour Abunad'h batch #11 (59.8%, OB) Again a new batch. These must sell in big figures – and they deserve it. This batch is great, has everything, and is perhaps a little less extreme than some previous versions. A little less sherried. 89 points.
Glenlivet 21 yo 'Archive' (43%, OB) This is just what I’d call a very good and classic Speysider. No more, but no less. 84 points.

Edradour 1983/2004 Portwood Finish (55%, Signatory, WIP, future 'Straight from the Cask version') Andrew Symington is going on with his odd finishing experiments, but I’d say I come more and more across some versions that really work. This one is a good example. 85 points.
Brora 22 yo 1981/2003 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered., cask #1635, 806 b.) This one is rather more peaty than most 1981. Nicely balanced, yet very powerful. It’s very ‘satisfying’, and quite fresh. One of the best Signatory Broras. 88 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1979/2004 Burgundy finish (58.8%, Signatory Straight from The Cask) Here’s an experiment I don’t really like. I already had a version in Paris. I don’t know whether it’s because I can’t figure out why one should ‘alter’ a Port Ellen, but well, you know, tastes and colours… I gave it 2 more points than last time, which makes 79 points. I know that Johannes liked it better, though.
Mannochmore 11 yo 1991/2003 (60.2%, Signatory, cask #16587, 596 b.) Another great surprise from Andrew’s: a peated and powerful Mannochmore. I liked it a lot 87 points.
Edradour 10 yo Burgundy Finish (58.8%, Signatory Straight from The Cask) I feel the Burgundy finish works much better here than with the Port Ellen. By the way the casks came from Saint-Romain, which is south of Burgundy (Côte de Beaune). 84 points.
Laphroaig 11 yo Portwood Finish (60%, Signatory Straight from The Cask) Now, here the finishing works beautifully, and so much better than with some earlier versions of Lapraoig portwood (unchillfiltered range) Thrilling! Loud applause: 91 points.

Edradour 30 yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, sherry butt #97, 539 bottles) Simply the best Edradour I ever had. Stunning… And it’s worth the £220 they ask for it. 90 points.
Edradour 3 months Sauternes finish (Cask sample) Sauternes is very sweet, and the Glenmorangie 21 yo Sauternes finish is good whisky, but no more. Close to a liqueur… This Edradour is a little lighter, and the wine took a little less of its share than in the Glenmorangie. It’s quite good! 80 points.

Seen at La Maison du Whisky, this strange Ardmore.

Edradour 15 months full Tokaj (61%, OB, cask sample) Okay, Tokaj is sometimes even sweeter than Sauternes, and maybe here are the concept’s limits. This experiment is very difficult to rate, because it’s only 15 months old, but for the moment, Edradour’s newmake’s rather ‘rustic’ characteristics (stable, grass) are just on the opposite of the Tokaj’s flavours. The result, again, for the moment, is extremely weird and odd. I saw that Signatory just did a ‘kriek’ finished Ardmore (see picture above - Kriek is a Belgian beer, aromatized with cherries) so I guess the mania will go even further. It makes me think of a ‘fantasy’ project we had at maltmaniacs’: doing some ‘supermodel’ finish. I mean, we would have let Naomi Campbell or Claudia Schiffer bathe in a cask of malt for one hour or so… that’s all. Tempted to try that, Andrew? ;-) As for rating the ‘Tokaj’, well, for the moment, I think 60 points will do. I remember Olivier’s notes when tasting this one. I just wrote ‘Jesus!’
Bruichladdich 18 yo 1984/2002 (46%, OB) Here’s a Laddie I didn’t taste before. Very good, if you ask. Worth 86 points on my own scale.
Caol Ila 12 yo 1991/2004 (50%, DL OMC, cask #879, 860 b., 6 month sherry finish) Again a finishing that worked… Just a little too ‘wild’, not enough ‘rounded’ for my taste. Perhaps a few more months in the sherry… 87 points, still.
Compass Box Monster (54.9%, 'OB', vatting, US) This one is a vatting of Ardmore and Caol Ila, and it’s really big and bold, but not very refined. A monster, indeed! Very spectacular, kind of an ‘exercice de style’. 86 points.
Ardbeg 6 yo 'Very Young' (58.9%, OB, committee) Okay, everybody’s raving about this one, but frankly, I found it to be too harsh and pungent, and not enjoyable at all. Very close to a newmake, I feel. It’s when tasting this kind of ‘trick’, that you understand what maturation is all about… But I guess Glenmorangie was really eager to release a few casks from their own distillation. Perhaps they should have waited a little longer. Anyway, they wrote ‘for discussion’ on the label, so I guess they’ll accept my rating, which is 79 points.


Dailuaine 1975/2003 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #5539) Beautifuly perfumy and clean. Not a big, bols sherry at all, very refined. Great freshness, quite classy. 87 points.
Springbank 35 yo 1968/2003 (46%, Berry Bros) This was is a vatting of three casks. Very fresh, it doesn’t show its age, and neither the sherry, nor the wood ‘blocks’ the spririt. Nice vivacity, but a certain lack of depth and complexity, especially when compared to several great Springers from the sixties. 88 points.
Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Dundeil, cask #14307) This is a beautiful bottling Doug did just before he joined Berry bros. It’s devilishly good, as Doug wrote on the label. Very classy, fresh and complex, and some nice whiffs of smoke – although it’s nowhere near a 1972 brora. Anyway, I really loved it – and I bought some bottles. Need more evidence ? 91 points.
Caol Ila 19 yo 1983/2002 (46%, Berry Bros) A very good Caol Ila, quite classic. Peat, smoke and seaweed etc. Recommended, despite the fact that there are some quite better bottles around. 86 points.

March 2, 2004

MUSIC - Jazz - I just listened to a great German live recording of Michel Petrucciani's 'Looking Up'. How great he was! You can listen to some real audio tracks of one of his best CDs here. Michel died five years ago and we all miss him. I'll always remember Didier Lockwood carrying him in his arms when coming on stage for a gig...

March 1, 2004

MALTS - Maltmaniacs edition #9 is on-line! Lots of great e-pistles by the maniacs - check it out a.s.a.p.

February 2004 <--- March 2004 ---> April 2004


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

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

Ardbeg 30 yo 1967/1997 sherry (52%, Signatory, cask 578, 540 b.)

Bowmore 34 yo 1968 (41.7%, Peerless, cask #1426)

Brora 26 yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 258 bottles)

Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Dundeil, cask #14307)

Edradour 30 yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, sherry butt #97, 539 bottles)

Glen Garioch 29 yo 1968/1997 (55.9%, OB, cask 629)

Glenlivet 1971/2003 (55%, Berry Bros, cask #6447)

Invergordon 36 yo 1965/2002 (51.8%, Peerless, cask #15539, firstfill bourbon, 252 b.)

Laphroaig Vintage 1976 (43%, OB)

Laphroaig 11 yo Portwood Finish (60%, Signatory Straight from The Cask)

Lochside 17 yo 1965 (40%, G&M CC old brown label)