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Whisky Tasting


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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2004 - Part 1
October 2004 - part 2 <--- November 2004 - part 1 ---> November 2004 - part 2
November 15, 2004

Brixton Academy, UK - Friday November 12th - by tera-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

It’s a balmy Friday night in Brixton, and outside the Academy the ticket touts are moving silently like wraiths through the early-doors crowd, each face a testimony to a thousand punches. But it’s not a beauty show, and for the third night in a row they are doing brisk business.


It’s the last sell-out night of Nick Cave’s brief sojourn in the Capital, and everyone there knows it will be some time before we see him again.
There’s nothing to say about Cave that hasn’t been written already. The ‘post-punk prince of Goth’ (I’m sure I read that somewhere), lauded by London’s chattering classes, whose lyrics stumble from sublime (and usually dark) poetic imagery to occasional painful contrivance. Lean, lank and mean he moves around the stage like Scott Walker’s ‘singer with a Spanish bum’ (from ‘Jackie’ on Scott 2), carefully lit so that his shadows dance on the balconied walls like a possessed Javanese wayang kulit puppet. His presence, like his voice, is commanding and intimidating. He spits and spews his lyrics (occasionally assisted by a song sheet) with venom – even at his tenderest (and most ironic) moments, such as ‘God is in the House’.

  Behind Cave the Bad Seeds exude a barely restrained menace. In the absence of Blixa Bargeld only violinist Warren Ellis offers any real movement, and even he Stuart Sutcliffes his way through most of the night with his back to the audience. They provide sensitive and sometimes deliberately discordant accompaniments to Cave’s more sensitive songs (‘Babe you turn me on’), and power and drive when the tempo is raised, with Jim Sclavunos and Thomas Wylder playing the drummer percussionists’ version of good-cop, bad cop, on songs such as ‘Supernaturally’, ‘The weeping song’ and ‘Get ready for love’.

But when they are unleashed, with Cave gesticulating wildly in their faces like conductor Valery Gergyev, they prove that they are, to paraphrase a recurring theme in Cave’s oeuvre, the meanest of all the mean motherfuckers of rock and roll. Parts of ‘Hiding all away’ and ‘Stagger Lee’ are delivered with such shock and awe that the audience are, well, …awed.
From ‘Abattoir blues’ to ‘There she goes’ Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds deliver sixty minutes of almost overpowering rock, returning to work through a selection of their bad catalogue before a final encore of ‘The Mercy Seat’, by which time – to be frank – they were a bit past it (as were the audience). But when you know you will still be revisiting a show in your mind months later then it has to be very special. This was. - Nick Morgan (top photo: Nick)

Thanks, Nick. Let's listen to Do you love me now (mp3 - 1994).


Milford 12 yo 1990/2003 (46%, OB) Colour: amber. Nose: smells like a fruit eau de vie (tutti frutti). Lots of pineapple, kiwi (eh?), overripe tangerine. Another one that doesn’t really smell whisky… Goes on with ‘chemical’ fruit products (Fanta, Gini). Even Smirnoff Ice! Very bizarre…Hints of cooked apple and caramel. Mouth: very weak attack, quite indefinite. Plain flat, with just a little black toffee, wood and apple juice… And some fruity notes (overripe apple). Almost no finish, I’m afraid. 35 points.

  Lammerlaw 10 yo (48.6%, Cadenhead’s, bourbon barrels, 228 bottles, bottled 2003) Colour: straw. Nose: powerful attack on nail varnish and flowers. Pineapple sweets, pear drops, lily from the valley, fructose, light honey. Develops on some heavy bubblegum and pink grapefruit. Rather interesting! Mouth: nice and powerful attack, again on varnish and acidic fruits (kiwi, gooseberry, not too mature pineapple). Glue. A little grassy and bitter, but it’s really interesting. Gets a little bourbonny (vanilla, oak, caramel). The finish is long, rich and bold, on dark rum. Okay, maybe the heavy notes of varnish would scare some tasters, but I feel it’s a very interesting, if not highly enjoyable malt. Let’s give it 84 points. I’m happy I could taste this one – thanks Peter.
November 14, 2004


Glenfarclas 15 yo (46%, OB, circa 1997) Colour: light gold. Nose: quite restrained at first nosing. Hot butter and caramel, not much else, I’m afraid. After deeper nosing some cooked apple, cider and wood do appear, but that’s all. A rather simple nose. Mouth: bold and rather powerful attack, but rather drying. Quite simple and mono-dimensional, on caramel. Hints of wine and wood… Not much else. Long finish because of the rather high alcohol level, just getting a little peppery. Well, not a stunner at all, although it hasn’t got any flaw. A (silver) hipflask malt. 80 points.

Glenfarclas 15 yo (46%, OB, 2004) Colour: light gold – slightly lighter than the older version. Nose: fresher and livelier than the old one, but in no way a stunner. More fresh apple and ripe gooseberry, plum and milk caramel. Okay, this one is slightly better on the nose… Mouth: ah, it’s better and less simple than the old one, yet not too complex. Starts on rum, sweet wine, fruit jam (quince, apricot)…Gets soon quite bitter and rather spirity. Curiously, I think it would have been better at 43%, rather then 46. Develops on light honey and some oaky notes, with a funny pinch of salt on the tongue. The finish is bold and long, but simple, on apple compote, caramel and white pepper. Now, it surely is a little better than the older version. Just a little… 81 points  
  MUSIC - Recommended listening for a rainy autumnal Sunday - Indonesian princess Anggun sings Summer in Paris (mp3). Sure that's easy listening, but isn't this tune nicely crafted? And who's playing the Fender Rhodes? He's good! Please buy Anggun's CDs if you like her - I mean her music.
COOKING - Did you ever try the Whisky Basin Whisky Flavored Barbeque Sauce? It's made with Jalapeno Peppers, right in Kansas. Cowboys and moonshiners are said to have invented the recipe... I bet it's a little harsh, but I'd love to taste it one day!  
November 13, 2004
  MUSIC -  Recommended listening: young sonwriter Edie Carey sings Disco Ball Heart and Violently (both mp3) As a Boston journalist once wrote: 'Just when you think you've figured her for a fragile, soulful songstress, she cuts into a subject... with a diamond-edged blade.' Her singing makes me think of Tori Amos. Please buy her music if you like it. (Photo Brad Wilson)


Glenrothes 12 yo (43%, OB Berry Bros & Rudd, circa 1990)
Colour: yellow gold. Nose: fresh and clean, light – but not weak - and balanced. Apple juice, flowers (buttercup), nectar, light honey. Very elegant, the light side of Speyside. Develops on cider, bitter orange, pink grapefruit. Gets a little buttery. Very nice, a perfect Sunday afternoon malt. Mouth: very nice, fruity attack, with quite a lot of oomph. Apple pie, cooked apricot, tropical fruits… Very nice indeed. Develops on herbal tea (camomile) and honey, getting quite citrusy after a while (freshly squeezed orange juice). Some caramel, hints of oak just to underline the whole, and a dash of white pepper. Really good! A medium long but very balanced finish, on cooked fruits and oak. I like this one very much. 86 points.

  Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB) Colour: yellow gold. Nose: less fresh and playful, and more spirity. Caramel, oak, nuts, some sherry… Less complex than the older version. Gets flowery after a minute or two, and fruity as well (apple compote), but the whole is somewhat restrained. Some winey notes take control after a while. Mouth: quite a lot of sherry, but somewhat restrained. Much less complex and interesting than it’s older brother. Gets a little watery and fragmented, with some bitter orange on one side an some wood on the other side. Gets quite honeyed… Rather short finish, on honey and oak. Not bad, sure, but nothing special either. 80 points.
Left to right: old 12 yo , 1992/2004 and 1987/2002. Colour consistency...  
Glenrothes 1987/2002 (43%, OB) Colour: yellow gold. Nose: lots of fresh apple and cider. Again not too complex, the younger one still was fresher and livelier. This one really needs some time to open up. Develops on some oaky notes, getting a little sour (yoghurt). Mouth: more balanced, and somewhat bolder than the one we just had. Good news! Oakier and drier too… Cooked fruits (apple again), caramel, honey, chocolate, and lots of pepper. Gets woodier and woodier, but in a rather nice way. Having said that, it’s not very complex. Rather long, somewhat drying finish, on pepper and cocoa powder. 82 points.  
  Some years after Jean-Paul Gaultier's famous kilts for men (around 1985), great news, we non-Scottish boys shall soon be able to wear kilts again, as this recent photograph of Chanel's stylist Karl Lagerfeld might testify (left). Even Burberry had one (right). Ambiguous? What do you mean? And why not also order some 'non-folkoric' kilts at Utilikilts, Seattle? As they claim on their website, they sell 'Utility kilts for every occasion... Except bungee jumping.' But what do the Scots think?
November 12, 2004


Port Ellen 23 yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, butt #6769)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: lots of sherry at first nosing, but the peat is soon to arrive. Wow, what a superb balance! Cooked strawberries with pepper, strawberry jam, blackcurrant liqueur, gluehwein, caramel. Smoke, burnt tyre. What’s fantastic here is the fact that all aromas are perfectly melted. Burning wood, breadcrumb, ashes… An endless development, yet a ‘compact’ whisky. Gets more maritime after a moment. Mouth: bang! Strong and nervous attack, on peat, pepper and sherry. Lots of cocoa, dried fruits, smoke… And a huge array of various spices. Even chilli! It’s really strong, and very dry. A malt for big boys… Gets more and more peppery and tannic, until the finish, which is extremely long and peppery. I had it at 95 points, but I’ll down-rate it a bit just because I found it was a little too dry. But what a superb whisky! 93 points.

Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, cask #DL 414, 420 bottles, full sherry) Colour: dark amber. Nose: wow, here’s a strong challenger! A little bolder, with again lots of sherry and peaty aromas. And again, the balance is perfect. Lots of special aromas like soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, parsley, marc, high gamy pheasant meat. Lots of white pepper, strawberry jam, rubber… Wow! It’s much less sweet than the Wilson & Morgan. Hard to say which one I like best! Mouth: incredibly bold and rich, starting with tons of pepper, loads of smoke, bunches of cooked fruits and again these strange, but very interesting meaty notes. Very tart – but in a nice way. A genuine monster of a whisky, exactly the one you should never serve to a newbie (more for us, right?) It gets smokier and smokier, with some added extra-strong liquorice, tobacco quid, herbal liqueur (Jägermeister). Stunningly rich and bold. The finish is extremely long – perhaps too long if you have to meet somebody within the coming hour. Fudge, that’s malt! 94 points.  
  MUSIC - Nick Drake died thirty years ago, at the age of 26. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he's now revered by three generations of listeners. It's nothing but justice, as Northern Sky (mp3) should testify.
November 11, 2004


Balvenie 12 yo DoubleWood (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: gold. Nose: fresh and nicely sherried. Lost of honey, caramel and vanilla, as usual. Some nice notes of sweet wine (gewurztraminer vendanges tardives)...

Hints of oak and pepper. In short, it’s nice and rather sweet, and of course flawless. Some gingerbread after a few minutes. Mouth: sweet and creamy attack. Quite some wine, apple compote, honey, with a dash of white pepper. Rather long finish, on sweet wine and oak. It appears to be much bolder than what I’d have expected since it’s a 40% version. I like it, although it lacks complexity. 83 points.
Balvenie 1989 PortWood (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: gold. Nose: a little more closed and more restrained than the DW. More floral too. The DW appears to be really big when compared to this one. Some caramel, light honey, vanilla creme. Gets quite winey after a few minutes – and a little sour. Mouth: much closer to the DW than the nose was. Perhaps a little pricklier, with more tannins. It also gets a little fragmented after a moment. The finish is medium long and rather tannic. 81 points.
Balvenie 21 yo PortWood (40%, OB, 2004) Colour : gold. Nose: big, bold honey, beehive, beeswax. Quite spectacular, extremely smooth and fragrant. Again, it makes me think of a sweet white wine. Trockenbeerenauslese? Quite feminine, in a certain way. Mouth: ah, beautiful attack, again on honey and beeswax. A lot of oaky notes too, with lots of tannins getting really drying after a while. Lots of pepper appearing towards the finish, which is medium long. It’s good whisky, perhaps too oaky, but the ‘beehive’ notes are really spectacular. Perhaps more a recipe than a malt? 86 points.  

Balvenie 15 yo Single Barrel 1989/2004 (47.8%, OB, cask #7581) Colour : straw. Nose: much more restrained than all the others. Slightly spirity and oaky. Hints of hot milk, flowers (dandelion), tannins, pepper. Much more austere…Develops on apple skin (cider apples) and hops. Perhaps a little more complex, yet cleaner than the wine-treated Balvenies. Mouth: powerful attack, on lavender, oak and vanilla. Fudge, butter creme… Some fruity notes developing after a while (pear, apple). Not too complex again, but I like this ‘straight shooter’ style, which is quite unusual at Balvenie’s. Rather long, but slightly spirity finish. 83 points.

  MUSIC - Recommended listening -because it's well made and I'm not sure Sir Yehudi Menuhin would have disapproved it: Mexican electronic artist Victor Haus' Prabhati haus session which uses lots of samples of the great violinist and humanist. But where have all the humanists gone?
DO IT YOURSELF - If crafting your own chairs with some genuine oak barrels has always been one of your secret dreams (?) why not buy some used butts (£95), puncheons (£95) or hogsheads (£65)? Just look here. Furthermore, as they say: 'it would be impossible to describe in detail all the things that you can create with barrels. Suffice it to say that they are versatile, easy to use. Here's a list of what some people have used them for: rainwater buts, ice buckets, water features, fountains and ponds, flower planters and shrub tubs, seats and armchairs, tables, and furniture, kennels, childrens dens and play areas, litter bins, ornamental signs, tool holders, brewing and wine-making'. Err... and whisky?  
November 10, 2004
Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB, circa 1997) Colour: gold. Nose: curiously not too bold at first nosing, yet some bold burnt cake and toffee are soon to appear. Sherry, apple, caramel… It’s simple and straightforward. Some cider apple skin, beer (Guinness)… and some funny seawater notes. Its good, it’s simple, it’s the ‘105’. Mouth: ouch, how powerful! Yet it’s very balanced… It really invades your mouth and coats it with lots of caramel, dried orange and oak. Bang! Not much else, I must say… The finish is long and rather burning. This one is just a gentle monster. 85 points.  
  Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB, 2004) New livery! Colour: full amber. Nose: very different, for it starts on soy sauce, cooked meat (game) and black toffee. It’s not that it’s any more complex, but it surely is more special. Lots of sweet’n’sour notes (Chinese cooking). Develops on tropical fruits (guava). Really a great whisky, not too far from the stupendous and long discontinued old Macallan 100 proof. It seems to have become to Speyside what the Laphroaig 10 yo C/S is to Islay. Gets quite winey after a few minutes. Mouth: wow, again, it’s much better than the older version. Less spirity, more balanced… Always some caramel and dried orange, but with more depth, and more fruits (apricot, quince, mirabelle…) and much more sherry, it seems. The finish is long but less burning and more balanced. A great whisky – no wonder many aficionados do pour a few centilitres of this one in any so-so new bottle of whisky to improve it dramatically. Yes, try that, it works! Anyway, 88 points for this Bang-for-your-buck whisky.
MUSIC - Another good band I didn't know of is Nickel Creek. Their website claims that 'though originally created as a bluegrass band, their music expands on those influences by incorporating Beatles-flavored psychedelia, left-of-center alt rock, pop, folk and more'. That says it all, I guess. Why not have a listen to their very nice song 'Natural Kind of Love' (mp3). Thanks again for the tip, Peter! (Photo Jon Hancock)  
  MALTS - Dram Raider? It seems that Angelina Jolie's got a soft spot for whisky. Maybe she'll join the Malt Maniacs one day? We could give her some good tips as for the most suitable glasses...
November 9, 2004


Edradour 21 yo 1983/2004 Port Finish (53.6%, OB, cask #03/1041, 776 bottles) A second go at this one, which I rated quite highly at WhiskyLive London this year. Colour: gold-salmon. Nose: rich, powerful and fragrant. Obviously winey but in a nice way. Quite meaty too. Develops on flowers (peony) and cooked fruits (mostly strawberries).

Nice notes of butter caramel. Goes on with some acid fruits like kiwi or green gooseberry. Some hints of oak. A very, very nice nose, with a lot of freshness. Mouth: strong, starting with coffee and loads of tannins. Rather burning, lacking a little softness at first, but everything settles down after a while. Lots of sweet wine like if they had poured twenty litres of Port into the cask. Lots of cooked red fruits (strawberry, redcurrant). It gets really drying and peppery, though. Long, peppery finish. Perhaps more a curiosity, but a curiosity that works. 83 points  
  Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 Burgundy Finish (57.4%, OB, cask #04/13/3, 458 bottles) Colour: gold-salmon-apricot. Nose: much more ‘sherryish’ than the 21 yo , which is quite funny. Lots of red wine (a little sour), butter, overripe apple, redcurrant wine. Really sweet and sour (Chinese dim sum sauce). Develops on wine vinegar… Gets a little toasted. Rather a curiosity, not really whisky anymore, I’d say, but the result is enjoyable – this time. Mouth: very sweet attack, with again lots of tannins. You can really feel the wine (pinot noir).
Lots of strawberry, cooked apricot, balsamic vinegar. Gets a little meaty – interesting! Long, but rather spirity finish, with just a little salt. A very good, but anecdotal malt. 83 points.
Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (56.8%, OB, cask #04/11/2, 445 bottles) Colour: white wine, obviously. Nose: again, very winey but much sweeter than the ‘red wine’ ones. Caramel, flowers from the fields (dandelion), cooked apricot, fresh banana. Some obvious sulphur. Develops on pear, apple juice, quince. It gets sweeter and sweeter. Again, I feel it’s not really whisky anymore, but it’s nice. Mouth: nice, sweet and strong attack, but the wine makes it quite rounded. Lots of light honey and mirabelle jam.  
It gets quite burning after a while, though. Some strange grassy notes do appear (hay jelly?) Some oaky notes, getting stronger and stronger. Long, hot finish, on oak and apricot. Funny! 85 points.
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: if you're into Irish 'folk rock drinking songs', excellent German (!?) band Lady Godiva sings One Whisky (mp3). Pub ambiance, anyone? Please buy their CDs or attend their gigs if you can!
MALTS - Yet another crazy, but funny website by the Church of SubGenius. Lots of interesting computer-art works, sometimes gothic, sometimes barrock. Now, as for the 'Whiskey Uber Alles' motto... Sounds a little too fascist to my ears ;-) What, I should sometimes look below the surface of things? You're so right!  
NEW - I tried to improve this website's navigation a bit by putting all internal links - except the archives - on the left column. No more 'intermediate' pages: you now have everything at hand! It's still a little rough around the edges, but I hope you'll like it...
November 8, 2004



Garnheath 1969-1990 (47%, Humbrecht, single grain)
A cask fellow Maniac Olivier got in his cellar after Moffat distillery went bankrupt, which means it’s been matured partly in Alsace. Colour: light amber. Nose: fresh, slightly spirity and quite oaky, but in a nice way. Develops of cold coffee, rum, sultanas, and whiffs of lavender perfume. Some winey notes. Quite meaty (ham), soy sauce. Very interesting. Keeps developing on forest smells, fern, humus. Quite complex! Mouth: quite thick and tannic attack, on rum and wood. Lots of dried fruits (Christmas cake) crystallised orange, raisins and burnt caramel. Very nice! Develops on American restaurant coffee at the end of the day. Long, oaky and slightly bitter finish with some resinous notes. A very, very good single grain, that’s for sure! 85 points (unchanged).

Invergordon 38 yo 1965/2004 (51.6%, Peerless, cask #15537, 254 bottles, single grain)
Colour: light amber. Nose: similar attack, a little spirity and woody, but bolder, and then it goes in a completely different direction: lots of pine resin, varnish and turpentine, which I always like. Lots of camphor too. Hints of rum, and like in the Garnheath, deep forest after the rain. Very special, I like it. Gets a little toffeeish – burnt cake. Mouth: how special! Rosewater, Turkish delight, Grand Marnier, pine syrup, fir honey. Develops on praline, caramel, raisins, rum. Some strange perfumy notes strike after a minute or two (eau de Cologne). Mint liqueur (Get 27), Dantziger Goldwasser, Chartreuse, tar… Really crazy! Even chorizo, salami… Long, complex finish. Special indeed. Not a classic, that’s for sure, but I think it’s well worth 89 points (I had cask #15539 at 91 points).
  North British 18 yo 1979/1997 (43%, Signatory, single grain) Colour: light amber. Nose: much simpler and more restrained than both the Garnheath and the Invergordon. Cheap rum, raisins, vanilla, brunt cake, coffee. Lots of caramel, black toffee. Rather nice, that is. Hints of parsley, hay, and even dill.
Mouth: rather weak and somewhat dirty attack, on rum again, plus some hints of sherry. Coffee, burnt caramel, toasted bread. Gets quite dry and a little bitter, and a little meaty (dried beef). Again it’s interesting, but not as thrilling as the two other ones. The finish is medium long, on rum (Stroh). 82 points (unchanged). Now, I know what you think: I should have tasted this North British first – and you are pretty right.
MUSIC - Another interesting young American indie singer and composer, Christene Ledoux. Listen to The Entertainer (mp3), a nice song that's got nothing to do with Scott Joplin's famous ragtime. There's also 'Dear Mr President', which is great although more... hem... political. In the fine old tradition of the greatest American protest singers?  

MODERN WORLD - I've just learnt that UK-based Internet provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system to let people send aromatic e-mails over the internet, through a 'scent dome'. That dome works with a cartridge containing 20 basic aromas, which can be combined to produce up to 60 different smells. A 'scented e-mail' - but I guess that should work on the web as well - will contain electronic signals that will tell the dome which smell it must realease.

And now I'm dreaming of some 'illustrated tasting notes'... I'll write Telewest Broadband asap and ask them whether they couldn't make a special version with peat, smoke, sherry, mango, turpentine or caramel. Would be great, don't you think? Oh, last but not least, the plug-in device for the PC should cost around £250. Well... (via the BBC)
TASTING - I just got a report on a very interesting vertical tasting session of six SMWS Caol Ilas by Pär Calendby. Just click here to read Pär's report.
November 7, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW: JIM WHITE - Bush Hall, London Thursday November 4th - by giga-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

Jim White walks onto the small stage beneath the Versailles-styled plasterwork of London’s Bush Hall, dressed in baggy jeans, an uncomfortable brown jumper and a Du-Pont branded baseball cap (could he have worked for Seagrams in the good old days ?) and announces that he lives in a peripheral world. Then, only a few bars into creating his first song of the evening his Byzantine complex of cables and effects pedals falls over – failed, ironically, by a Duracell Battery. Lesson number one of the evening. Never trust the everlasting pink drumming bunny.
Jim’s world is a sepia coloured road movie, driving past the blank billboards of an endless highway that leads to the darker corners of the American psyche; girls, lay-preachers, perverts, lonely motel rooms, railroad-tracks, Jesus, child-abusers, girls, lonely motel rooms, angels, murderers, God, gas-stations, girls (from Brownsville Texas), motor-homes, lonely motel rooms, angels, girls, God, Jesus … Get the picture ?

  Make no mistake, Jim is a lovely guy. Honestly. He loves his daughter (I’m sure that’s her in the passport photo taped to his Telecaster – yes, another Telecaster artiste!); one of his prettiest songs, which he sings tonight, is ‘Bluebird’ (from the must-have album of the year – Drill me a hole in that substrate …), about the pain of missing her when he’s in …, well you guessed it, a lonely motel room. And he thanks us sincerely for being there – because gigs help pay for her education – and we all know he means it. So how can he take us to those dark places?
A new song, performed with astonishing accomplishment (I’ll get on to that later) is ‘Take me away’ – a mentally ill (or is he?) man’s cry as he runs towards the overpowering lights of an oncoming train (on a railroad, needless to say) – or is he running to that stranger on the other side of the track, who must be …. (don’t be lazy- you should be able to guess by now). Either way- it’s a messy ending.
But don’t be fooled by all this southern white-boy zeitgeist baloney and the hardly deserved banal alt.country tag that Jim often gets. He skilfully paints a musical vista just as dense and enticing as his lyrical landscape. A few months earlier in London he played with a four piece backing band an almost studio-perfect set, largely of Drill me a hole … Tonight he’s solo, and he rocks, rolls, raps and grooves through thirteen songs, laying down voice, keyboard and guitar loops (nothing pre-recorded) over which he picks the Telecaster and his lovely banjo-style electric.  

‘Take me away’ – it deserves to be mentioned twice – is a virtuoso performance, as is ‘A perfect day for chasing Tornadoes’ (a song, he tells us in a surfing reminiscence, about walking towards your fear, not away from it), ‘Alabama Chrome’ and ‘If Jesus drove a motor home’. And we’re with him in that (lonely motel?) room where (we were told) he spent twenty years playing songs that no-one wanted to hear – except us.
So Jim ends the gig, as he did last time, by simply raising the lights and sitting on the edge of the stage to talk to his (hugely diverse) audience. He doesn’t do encores. In June he played the encore halfway through the set – ‘just to get rid of it’. And Kate shakes his hand and hands him a note, with Serge’s website address on it – “Have a look Jim, there’ll be a review there”. “I’ll look just as soon as I can” he drawls.
So as you read this, Jim just might be somewhere out there on the lonely super-highway of life, reading this review as he eats a few waffles at the wheel of his recreational vehicle, his best little girl by his side … - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick. An excellent mp3 of Jim White's very nice Static on the Radio - with Aimee Mann - can be downloaded here.
  TASTING - Glendronach 1990/2004 Port Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan) Colour; blush wine. Nose: blush wine (yes, true!) Ashes, dust, old wine, wood… Getting dirtier and dirtier. Schweppes, vodka, gin… Yes, it somewhat smells like gin-tonic. You guessed it; I don’t like this nose too much… It gets really farmy after a while (horse stable, wet hay). Mouth: sweet attack, even a little sugarish. Hints of wine. Lots of alcohol. It gets quite grassy and fruity (ripe apple). Well the palate is nicer than the nose, but I feel the alcohol’s doing the whole job. Medium long, spirity finish. 75 points.
November 6, 2004
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: innovative and eccentric Riki Michele sings She Said (Grandma's words) (mp3). 'Dynamic electro-soul, trip-hop, chill-out and ethereal pop', that's what her music's supposed to be. Well, all I know is that I like this simple, yet nicely produced tune quite a lot! Please buy her music if you like it.
Ardmore 1987/2003 (45%, G&M for La Maison du Whisky) Colour: white wine. Nose: lots of smoke right at the start. Ashes, burning fir wood. Really austere! Malty, grassy… Hints of smoked tea, pepper, fermenting grass. A love it or hate it nose. Mouth: bold and punchy, much fruitier (cooked apple, peach). Nicely peaty and smoky. Lots of body! It gets quite spicy (pepper, clove) and dry. Again, quite austere and ‘serious’. I really like it! Long, grassy finish. An anti- dull-and-sweetish malt. Brora’s successor on the mainland? 87 points.  
November 5, 2004


Bunnahabhain 12 yo (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: amber. Nose: quite winey at first. Lots of liquorice stick, a little sour. Cooked wine, wet leaves, humus. Cooked sour cream. Hints of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, ham. Quite unusual, much less rounded and sweet that the latest batches I had. Whiffs of smoke, parsley. The smoke gets stronger with time. Mouth: nice, balanced attack, quite smoky. Again, not as ‘gentle’ as expected. A little winey and slightly woody. Malty. Roasted peanuts, with a pinch of salt on the tongue. Hints of pepper. Rather long finish, on cooked fruits and soft tannins. Wow, this one’s got more body than its previous versions, it appears. 82 points.

Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1967/2003 (40.1%, Peerless, cask #3327, 203 bottles) Colour: straw. Curiously, the older one is the lighter in colour! Nose: astonishingly fresh, on marzipan and lavender. Develops on sweet white wine (sauternes), wet wood, mushrooms and humus. Hints of petrol. Quite a lot of camphor and eucalyptus arise after a while. Lots of cider apple too. Very interesting. Keeps developing, on quince jam this time. Really beautiful. Mouth: soft and slightly woody – no wonder at 36 yo . Quite spicy (nutmeg), with some tropical fruits (guava, banana). Not too complex, slightly flat but the nose is so spectacular! It’s become a perfume, rather than a whisky! Medium finish, on tannins and cooked apple. 89 points – the nose itself is worth 94 points I think.
Bunnahabhain 6 yo 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMWS 10.56, fresh sherry gordas) Gordas – I think it means 'fat people' in Spanish - are large sherry butts, containing 600 litres. Colour: light amber. Nose: lots of caramel, vanilla crème and milk chocolate, before the sherry itself takes control – but not overwhelmingly. Butter crème, hot cake, cappuccino, praline. Lots of oomph, but no brutality. Hints of smoke. Develops on rum and burnt cake.
Mouth: bold, powerful and very winey attack. Lots of sherry! A little sour. Some sulphur, quite salty. Gets quite tannic and spirity. Bitter orange, crystallised orange peel. Not too complex but again, a lot of oomph. Hints of smoke and peat, but that could well come from the wood. Long and rich finish, on raisins and rum. In short, a very interesting heavily sherried Bunnahabhain, especially when considering it’s only 6 yo . 85 points.
  MUSIC - I don't know why the Korean started to play and sing some brasilian music, but I must say they do it pretty nicely. So, if you want to listen to what's apparently up in Soul, have a listen to Clazziquai's Novabossa (mp3 - picture above) or Altogether Alone's Be the voice (mp3, very nice!) Sorry, I can't tell you much more about these bands or their CDs, all the websites I've found are in... Korean. (thanks Jay).
November 4, 2004


Glenfiddich 12 yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: light gold. Nose: rather light and flowery. Lots of dandelion, buttercup, daisy (nectar). Light breakfast honey. Hints of apple juice, milk, broiled cereals. Fresh and rather clean. Feint hints of smoke (ha ha!) Rather enjoyable!

Mouth: rather weak attack, somewhat fragmented. Soft tannins on one side, apple juice on the other side. Still better than the good blends, though. Gets a little sugarish. Short finish, on sweet cider. Well, not a winner, sure, but it’s rather drinkable – for breakfast? 77 points.
Glenfiddich 15 yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: light gold. Creamier, with some added notes of cake, apple compote, grape juice. Nice freshness and smoothness, which make it very enjoyable. Some nice honey. Mouth: much more body than the 12 yo , with lots of caramel, white pepper, apple compote, dried orange. Very nice, especially its balance. Some burnt cake, toffee, charred wood. Medium long finish, on apple pie. A very nice heavy seller. 80 points.

Glenfiddich 18 yo Ancient Reserve (40%, OB, 2004)
Colour: light gold. Nose: less fresh than his two younger brothers. Ripe apple, butter sauce, cold camomile tea. Nice but it somewhat lacks the youngsters’ playfulness. Hints of sweet nice, honey. Mouth: quite weak attack, that’s too bd. Some sweetish notes, honey, oak (or should I say old plank?) Some winey notes. Gets a little drying (the tongue sticks to the palate). Well… I’m sorry to say I don’t like the mouth. The finish is rather long but again, de-structured and a little watery. I like the ‘Solera’, and even the 12 yo better. 76 points.
Glenfiddich 21 yo Gran Reserva (40%, OB, 2004)
Known formerly as Havana Reserve. It’s not the first time I have this new batch – I had it at XX points in my book. Colour: light gold. Nose: this time there’s much more wood influence, although it’s nicely creamy and honeyed. Apple and creme pie, orange juice, sour creme. Hints of old wood (empty wine cask). Feint hints of rum, but that might be my mind’s work.

Mouth: ah, this is more like it. Rather bold attack for a 40% malt. Rather woody, but also quite spicy (mostly cinnamon). Apple compote, pear juice, crystallised fruits, caramel… Nice! It gets curiously metallic after a moment (silver spoon) and even a little salty – or is it me? The finish is rather long, on bitter orange and herbs (certainly from the rum cask). By the way, a flyer in the presentation box says 'Rum distillers from Sancti Spiritus near the Sierra Escambray in the heart of Cuba, were instrumental in the creation of the rich Cuban Rum Finish' Quite elliptic, will that work with the US customs? Anyway, the malt is really good! 84 points.
MUSIC - Highly recommended listening: beautiful song Nadia (mp3, from 'You had it Coming', 2001) by the great Jeff Beck, playing his guitar almost like a sitar. Wowie!!! Please buy Jeff Beck's music.  
  GIFTS - Never late at a tasting session again! Seen on eBay, this superb (?!?) Laphroaig alarm clock. The clock has a small light to check the time at night, a 10 minute snooze function and an alarm that gets louder and louder and then constant, to make sure you get up - and don't miss your dram! It also has an insert with World Time Differences to help you adjust - and dram on-line with your web friends?
November 3, 2004


Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask (58.7%, OB, 311 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: quite spirity, on full freshly cut apple mode. Hints of wood, cider. Lots of freshly cut grass developing. Hints of caramel and flowers – some honey. It’s clean, it’s fresh, and it’s enjoyable. Mouth: punchy attack, on lots of fructose, apple, pear… Alas, it’s soon to get very tannic and extremely peppery, almost burning. Let’s add a few drops of water: some caramel, cooked apple, praline develops. Vanilla fudge? Quince jelly. The finish is long but spirity and tannic (when undiluted). A good malt that’s just hasn’t got enough aromas to stand such a high ABV. 82 points.

  Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask (59.3%, OB, 250 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very similar to the other cask, just a little more discrete. Again lots of freshly cut apple, freshly mown lawn, flowers (buttercup). Clean and fresh again. A nice malt. Mouth: burning, with lots of old wood, cold coffee, pepper… Ouch, this one just needs some water. Let's add some: ah, so much better! Lots of fruits coming through: melon, peach, even litchi. Very nice! Some caramel. Undrinkable when neat, getting nicely fruity with some water… Okay, let’s just give this one 82 points too.
MUSIC - Recommended listening: Austin Echo sings Loosing Oxygen (mp3). Austin Echo are John Austin and Erin Echo, and the songs on their debut joint album are simply beautiful. Please buy it or purchase their downloadable music - it's really worth it, as 'Loosing Oxygen' should testify.  
WHISKY ADS - Funny new Glenfiddich 2004 'Brock Savage' campaign
Does a malt need humour, or even self-derision? While the maniacs are debating behind the scenes on important topics such as 'is a single malt whisky a brand?', some, like Glenfiddich, launch some Mr Magoo (or The Party's Peter Sellers)-inspired campaigns, with a new character named 'Brock Savage'. Brock Savage, Brock Savage... wait, couldn't he be Mr Jenkins younger brother? You know, Tanqueray's Mr Jenkins, an 'old white male' saying rather scandalous and/or absurd old-white-male things about just anything - and in any situation. Good ideas never die, it appears... Okay, next debate on whiskyfun: is 'pastiche' better than 'collage'? Nah, joking... See both Brock Savage and Mr Jenkins campaigns below. Click on the ads to see larger images (will open a new window)

Glenfiddich 2004 Brock Savage campaign
Left: "Did I coin the phrase, 'Do you come here often?' Yes. Does it work? You bet - As long as you're me." - Brock Savage
Middle: "I have one thing to say about about me inventing the string bikini: You're welcome" - Brock Savage
Right: "Was I suprised the Prime Minister offered me the use of his limo for the evening? No. Was it a good idea to keep it for a week in the South of France? Probably not." - Brock Savage

Tanqueray 1990's Mr jenkins US campaign
Left: "In his next life, Mr Jenkins hopes he's... Mr Jenkins."
Middle: "Mr Jenkins finds that deep olives tend to bruise one's olives."
Right: "Mr Jenkins denies all rumors, whatever they may be."
BRORA NEWS: The new Peerless Brora 1981 (cask #1426) has finally been bottled on Friday! Duncan Taylor's Mark Watt just sent me his first impressions: 'Colour: Light Pale Straw. Nose: Fruity, creamy, sweet smoke, rich drying - black berries and peaches. Taste: Rich, little bit of peat but balanced with rich fruit and maltiness. Finish: Soft but long with a slight saltiness that lingers. Comment: A brora that relies on more than just peat - top notch.' Thanks Mark - but was that before, or after the 'bottle shock'? ;-)
November 2, 2004


Ledaig 29 yo 1974/2004 (50%, Dun Bheagan, cask #5477-5478, 396 bottles) Colour: dark straw. Nose: fresh, vibrant and powerful. Wow! Starts on tropical fruits, mainly mango, before some whiffs of peat, eucalyptus and turpentine emerge. How beautiful! Very complex, with kiwi, seawater, cappuccino… What a nice array of various aromas! Yet, it’s not boldly expressive – even a little understated. A malt for good ‘noses’! Develops on apple juice and fern, fennel... Wow! Mouth: very special again, on peat, liquorice, Japanese grilled tea, chicory, malt, toffee. Some spices (clove), some soy sauce… Yes, very special. I like it a lot, for it’s so special. Smoked ham… It’s not unlike some old Taliskers. The finish is long and warming, on coffee and pepper. Taliskerish, indeed, and just superb. Wow, Ledaig! 90 points.

Ledaig 31 yo 1973/2004 (54.8%, Chieftains, sherry hogshead #1710, 114 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: very, very special, almost meaty. Varnish, nail polish, smoke, old books. Lots of tar developing, rubber, burnt tyre. This Ledaig smells like a Port Ellen! The sherry arrives after three or four minutes, accompanied by some bold camphor and eucalyptus. Really stupendous! Goes on with wet bonfire, dill, balsamic vinegar. It’s just endless. Superb! Mouth: incredibly bold, on peat, smoke, ashes, tar, overcooked vegetables (French beans). There’s a great fight sherry vs. peat happening here. Lots of salted liquorice, soy sauce, burnt caramel… A little extreme, but soooo special… You feel like if you just smoked three Partagas Lusitanias in a row after a few minutes. How bold! A stunning Ledaig, easily in the same league as the best Ardbegs, Broras or Taliskers. The finish is endless… Majestic, like Beethoven's 'Imperator' (mp3 - stunning Alessio Benvenuti!) 93 points – well earned. Ledaig, you say?! (Thanks Peter).  
  MUSIC - Highly recommended listening: The Drexlers play Glass Head (mp3). Superb harmonies, fantastic writing, marvellous blend of rythms, high-class drummer, hyper-dynamic bass-player... And Annie Drexler's voice! Wow! Surely this month's greatest discovery. So special! And oh, no need to say that you must buy their new record 'Social Honey'.
GIFTS - What's that, you may ask? Easy, it's a handbuilt porcelain whisky decanter by contemporary potter Scott Dooley. I must say I like it very much, even if I wouldn't pour my best Broras into it. Scott also made some funny porcelain stills.  
November 1, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW: RON SEXSMITH AGAIN - Central Bar and Grill, Victoria BC, Canada - Friday October 29th - by mega-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

It's Friday night in rainy Victoria on Vancouver Island. It's the Central Bar and Grill, where courtesy of maestro distiller - retired - Mike Nicolson (the racoon-skin hats tell me that Mike and Anne haven't yet totally settled into the Canadian way of life - or maybe they have) we're waiting, along with a packed house, for Rockin' Ron Sexsmith to take the stage. Oh yes - and as Ron is a bit of a star in these parts now ('Whatever it takes' from the new album Retriever is a radio hit in Canada) there's an alarming number of female admirers crowding us diners at the front of the stage. Like Ron and his band, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Maybe it's the girls who make Ron a little nervous, despite the fact that he's on home ground - he lived in Victoria for a few years - and pauses through the evening to acknowledge old school friends in the audience. So although the first half of the set is good - more tunes from Retriever, the marvellously possessive 'This song', and the quotidian heartache (to quote a companion) of 'Strawberry blonde', plus some excellent Fender Telecaster (the acoustic guitar players axe of choice) work from Ron on 'From now on' - there are a few musical and vocal wobbles. Particularly when Ron moves to the clunky and badly amplified Yamaha keyboard and nearly loses it altogether on 'Foolproof'.
But supported by his excellent band ("nine and a half out of ten", says Mike) he recovers well with a solo 'Tomorrow in her eyes', sung in anticipation of a reunion with his sweetheart ("sweetheart"? - well we are in British Columbia I suppose) and then cracks into a top form home run, including 'Dandelion wine', 'Cheap hotel', 'Sacred heart', 'Lebanon Tennessee', and a three song encore finishing with 'Riverbed'.
We counted 25 songs in almost two hours, perhaps only half of which he played a few weeks ago in London. The girls were wild - Ron dashed for cover, no doubt thinking of the imminent arrival of the sweetheart, and his Mum.
And by the way, Ron had lost the suit and raised the sartorial stakes with a de rigueur rock and roll shirt. Altogether then, a most satisfactory evening.- Nick Morgan (concert phograph by Kate)
Thanks again Nick. I've found another good track by Ron Sexsmith: From now on (mp3). There's also a great video of Wheterver it Takes (Quicktime - beware, it's a 21MB file) on Ron's website.


Cragganmore 29 yo 1973/2003 (52.5%, OB, Special Edition, 6000 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very flowery and very fruity, which is incredible considering its age. This one is not for the sherryheads! Lots of tropical fruits: pineapple, guava, tons of light breakfast honey. Extremely fresh! Develops on melon and peach, freshly squeezed oranges… A nectar. Whiffs of white pepper from the wood. What a perfect balance! Hints of peat?

Mouth: stunning attack on fresh fruit salad and white pepper. Bold, rich, yet clean and fresh. Lots of honey, fresh fruits (melon, pear)… Some oaky notes too (tannins, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon). This one really proves that there’s life without some heavy sherry in Speyside. Long, beautifully balanced finish on pollen, and white pepper. An old ‘straight shooter’ that, once again, shows that there isn’t only sherry and/or peat in life. I like it a lot! 90 points
Glen Grant 1969/2004 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #1773) Colour: deep amber. Nose: wowie! Lots of ‘fresh sherry’ mixed with some tropical fruits. Great freshness – not the kind of dull heavy oloroso at all. Loads of freshly cut apple, overripe orange, orange marmalade, pineapple syrup. Whiffs of eucalyptus, mint. Really beautiful. Gets very flowery after a moment, lilac, lime… Very clean. Notes of Mandarine Impériale liqueur. Incredible freshness, just like in the Cragganmore. The fresh apple notes keep developing… Crazy! Mouth: again, a superb balance between the sherry (chocolate, crystallised orange) and the fresh fruits (pear, yellow peach).  
It gets perhaps a tad too woody and drying (heavy nutmeg and cinnamon on the back of the tongue). Bold, rich, mouth coating… Alas, the heavy tannins really invade the mouth after a while, and prevent me from rating this one above 90 points. Okay, 90 points then…

October 2004 - part 2 <--- November 2004 - part 1 ---> November 2004 - part 2

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

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

Cragganmore 29 yo 1973/2003 (52.5%, OB, Special Edition, 6000 bottles)

Glen Grant 1969/2004 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #1773)

Ledaig 29 yo 1974/2004 (50%, Dun Bheagan, cask #5477-5478, 396 bottles)

Ledaig 31 yo 1973/2004 (54.8%, Chieftains, sherry hogshead #1710, 114 bottles)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1982/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, cask #DL 414, 420 bottles, full sherry)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, butt #6769)