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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2006 - Part 1
March 2006 - part 2 <--- April 2006 - part 1 ---> April 2006 - part 2

April 14, 2006

NEIL INNES Half Moon Putney, London, April 9th 2006
Readers of these pages will not be too surprised to know that I’ve been pinching myself since that freezing cold night at the Pickle Factory when I came audience to stage with the remnants of teen heroes and masters of musical mirth, the Bonzo Dog Band. Suffice to say that time has not stood still for everyone else, and the word on the web, and here in Putney, is that the Bonzos are about to yield to the lure of lucre and the fickle mistress of fame, and sign up for a tour in November. Not necessarily the right move, in my very humble opinion, but time, as they say, will tell. And in the mean of time we are here at the Half Moon to see Neil Innes, the only surviving Bonzo to have maintained a successful career since those heady days of the seventies.
He’s the one, you may remember, who had a minor hit with the album How Sweet to be an Idiot, collaborated with the Scouse poets collective Grimms, became troubadour to a Flying Circus (and as I’m sure obsessive enthusiasts will know, played Boris Feinburg in Life of Brian) and then created the long-lasting Beatles spoof the Rutles with Python Eric Idle. This in turn led to a sustained spell of BBC2 type TV work, and more latterly scriptwriting and performing for BBC Radio 4.
And all the while he’s been writing and performing music in a trademark whimsical style, following his own path from Doodahland. His most recent album is last year’s Works in Progress, and it’s a tribute to Innes’ confidence in his own material that he plays all (well I think he does, but you know how it is, Serge, someone spilt beer over my notebook) of the album. It’s funny, but a bit despondent too. Because Innes clearly shares all those frustrations with the Modern World that have come to symptomise Grumpy Old Man syndrome. So he shares his irritation at the perceived lack of intimacy afforded to this modern world by the dominant forms of technology (‘Facemail in the meat zone’) and the way it dominates people’s lives (‘Eye candy’). I didn’t quite get ‘Hero of the motorway’, but reckon it must have been about the nutters who race on our roads at absurdly high speeds with only one visible destination in sight.
‘Charlie Big Potatoes’ (I wrote ‘Meat and Potatoes’ so must have been getting beer-hungry by then) is a wonderful piece of nonsense that might have something to do with the shallow state of modern male masculinity (well, to be honest, fucking shallow state). Then, ‘Friends at the end’ albeit perhaps partly back on the theme of the impersonal nature of the modern world (which I might have confused with ‘All alone’ and ‘You’re never alone …’ - get the picture?) is also a sorrowful song by a man who sees Old Mortality beckoning, and like most of us, doesn’t really like it.
Rory Motion and the Drainpipes
But all of these songs are performed with great sore-throated gusto by Innes, who dashes between his glorious Gretsch, several acoustic guitars and keyboards, and bassist Tom Fry and drummer J J Jones (who incidentally comes from Suffolk – I wonder if he’s ever met that culinary old sage Al Diggins?). Occasionally they are replaced on stage by the rip-roaring Rory Motion and the Drainpipes, sponsored by Fiasco Stores, who are promoting a number of new and ‘tasty’ products, notably the Cockadoodleato (well, that’s what it says in my notebook, Serge, but it could be another beer stain) a potato with a chicken inside. Now what would Al Diggins say to that?
It’s a well-structured set. Innes begins with ‘a medley of hit’ - a short snatch of ‘I’m the urban spaceman’ - and follows with warm and affectionate reminiscences about the Bonzos (“Viv was wonderful but could be a nightmare to work with”), how it started, how it ended, what happened in the middle, and a very funny story about meeting the Fab Four at the famous Abbey Road Studios. ‘My brother makes the noises for the movies’, ‘Sir Robin’ (written by Innes for the Pythons) and Eine kleine (a Eurovision tribute, Serge, you’d love it) amongst others were mixed in with the new songs in the first set. The second began with ‘How sweet to be an idiot’, which was followed by memories of Monty Python (“the Bonzos liked hot curries and beer but they would only eat Chinese and drink tea, which we thought was very wishy-washy – hang on, did I really say that ….?”), and more tunes from Work in Progress with ‘Godfrey Daniel (eat your heart out, Elton), a Rutles medley, and as encores the complete ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’ and finally the Rutles ‘64’.
I suppose, thinking about it, that Innes has spent much of his life thumbing his nose, or as I prefer, cocking a snook (do you have a phrase for this in your French, Serge? Someone suggested ‘pied au nez’ but I think they were almost putting their foot in their mouth) at the modern world, life and its mores and pretensions. And that reminds me, he’s got an almost secret society called the Ego Warriors, dedicated to fighting these mediocrities wherever they may be found. In fact, I seem to recall swearing their secret oath at some point during the evening (all I can remember is the “so help me Rhonda, help help me Rhonda” bit at the end) so maybe I’m one now.
I’m sure grumpy Whiskyfun readers would like to sign up as well, and if you can’t you might at least go and see Neil Innes (who’ll sign you up himself) or buy his very enjoyable records. - Nick Morgan (all photographs by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick. Somebody spilt whisky on my dictionary but I seem to recall it's 'pied de nez' instead of 'pied au nez', that is to say 'bottom of the nose' rather than 'foot in the nose' - which might be both much discreeter and less painful. And more civilized. As for Neil Innes' beautiful music, he seems to be very keen on sharing it with the public, as there's megabytes of mp3's on his website. But first, let's not forget his own very worthwhile piece of advice: 'Right-click the link and "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" and save it to your computer. Just remember where you saved it so you can find it to play it!' See, he does know a thing or two about modern technologies!
Hanyu 1985/2005 (57%, Gu Bràth, cask #379, 139 360ml bottles) Hanyu is a small distillery founded in 1946 and belonging to Toa. There main ‘brand’ is Chichibu, but this is an independent bottling that Olivier brought back from Japan. Colour: amber. Nose: really powerful but sort of delicate, with quite some wood, caramel and smoke coming through after a while. Quite some encaustic as well, cinnamon, nutmeg, cigar box, soft spices… Getting even a little animal. Partly bourbonny, partly ‘oriental’, whatever that means. Very good.
Mouth: powerful but balanced, with lots of oaky notes, Sechuan pepper (which isn’t really pepper but a fruit, as you may know) and fruits (kiwis and pineapple). Gets more and more peppery with time, the tannins getting quite aggressive and the whole really hot. A few drops of water bring out waxy notes and liquorice as often. The finish is long, ample and lacking just a little freshness but the whole is surprisingly good. I could also try a 5 yo but that one was much less interesting – I thought it was too young. Anyway, 85 points for the older version - but why put a thistle on a Japanese whisky?
Nikka 12 yo ‘Yioichi’ 1991/2003 (64.8%, OB, cask #129484, warehouse #8) Colour: amber – orange. Nose: starts very nicely, on cooked apricot and lots of leathery notes, orange peel, Virginia tobacco, wax polish, getting quite spicy (clove, dried ginger). Very bold and rather complex at the same time. Very interesting, I like this nose a lot. Mouth: really powerful, very peppery and woody, with quite some disturbing notes of rubber and glue alas, and also lots of orange marmalade. Gets woodier and woodier, on boxed fruits (pineapples and such). Long but spirity and oaky finish. An interesting malt with a great nose but the mouth is a bit too simple and rubbery for my tastes. 82 points, still.
And also Nikka 10 yo ‘Single Cask’ (62%, OB, cask #117598) Very nice, powerful, with a sweet attack. Gets a bit dry on the nose. The mouth is very fruity, mainly on plums. Hints of rubber… Quite a beast! 84 points.
Yamazaki 12 yo (43%, OB) Colour: white wine. Nose: nicely buttery and flowery but also quite simple, with lots of hay and dried flowers. A little malty. Yes, nice but simple. Mouth: a nice attack, fruity and slightly spicy. Some nutmeg, cinnamon, cooked apples… It gets quite woody, and has a medium finish on cider apples and wood. Maybe a little too sweetish, in fact… 78 points
Modern art was much trendier in the 50's, 60's and 70's and the whisky industry couldn't, of course, afford to hang back. We'll post a few interesting examples, starting with...
Left, Salvador Dali for Old Angus, probably early 1950's. Dali was said to be very keen on money making, so he appeared on many ads for various goods, such as cars, chocolate, silk stockings or... whisky. But Dali was mostly keen on advertising himself!
Right, Leroy Neiman for Dewar's, 1970. Many consider Neiman is more an illustrator than a genuine artist, and according to wikipedia, he's estimated to be the highest earner of any living american artist. Thanks to advertising?

April 13, 2006

Springbank 10 yo 1968/1980 (59%, OB, Italy, cask #1786) Another one poured at the excellent Lindores dinner in Limburg. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very powerful after 25 years in its bottle but balanced, starting on lots of flowers (mostly lilac) and bunches of fruits (apples, green bananas, pear) plus something more maritime than usually. Quite some liquorice as well, grass, peatiness, but the whole is a little too spirity for my tastes. Let’s see what happens after a good twenty minutes of breathing (the bottle had just been cracked open)… Right, it gets much peatier and farmier, hence complex, and the spirity smells start to vanish. Lots of smoke – it got much better! Mouth (right after opening): ample and powerful but balanced, starting on apples again (both fresh and cooked), fresh coconut (the trademark), getting then very vegetal and almost bitter… Little development and the finish is long but quite drying, lacking roundness. The wildest side of Springbank, interesting but a little too hard to enjoy. Let’s give it a little more time… After twenty minutes: it does improve indeed! Orange zests, cinchona, bitter oranges… Not exactly grand but much, much better indeed, the whole being closer to an old Clynelish than to a classical Springbank, except for the coconut. I had it at 86 points before breathing but it now reaches 90 points.
Springbank 'Glens Extra' 8 yo (40%, Robert Watson Aberdeen, 1960's) A funny name for this old version of Springbank for Italy. Colour: straw. Nose: lots of light honey and caramel at first nosing, very delicate and elegant. Goes on with coconut milk and overripe apples, getting then quite vegetal (nice notes of fern and moss) and buttery at the same time. Something earthy as well, maybe a little porridge, vanilla fudge, wet chalk… and finally some bold notes of strawberries together with a little smoke. Very good, let’s see how it behaves on the palate… Mouth: maybe it lacks a little thickness and body but otherwise it’s got quite a presence, with sweet cider, pastries, bitter caramel, the whole getting alas a little too tea-ish (camomile), dry and slightly bitter. It’s good but it probably went over the hill while in its bottle… Good news, it takes off again at the finish, with more oomph, on crystallized oranges, quince, camomile and something smoky… It’s still a very good one again. 85 points.
Springbank 14 yo 1991/2006 (51.1%, Whisky Galore, sherry cask #290) From the fairly recent Whisky Galore cask strength range. Colour: pale gold. Nose: more powerful and ‘of course’ livelier. Starts on interesting notes of overripe gooseberries (yes, yes, really), apple compote and honey, with also lots of cooked fruits (like in North African cooking, quinces, apricots, prunes and such). There’s quite some ginger then, ginger ale, beer, something waxy, resinous and leafy, before some notes of sherry start to come through… Paraffin, cardboard. Maybe the whole lacks a little definition but it’s quite nice, in fact. Mouth: very, very sweet and quite winey now, with lots of body. Fruit sweets, pineapple, jam, very sweet fruit liqueurs, a little bitter caramel… It gets then a little sour and woody, with something rubbery that makes the finish slightly bitter and sulphury. Nothing excessive, though, the whole is still enjoyable and worth the relatively modest price. In short, not the best, not the worst indie Springbank ever. 81 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - Today we have Gov’t Mule covering Englishman David Gray’s hit My oh my.mp3 with much soul and a feeling that’s certainly rougher and more ‘southern’, but not less good.
No wonder, some of these guys used to be members of the Allman Brothers band. Please buy Gov’t Mule’s music.

April 12, 2006

Macallan 1985/2005 (43%, Private Cellar, Forbes & Ross) Colour: gold. Nose: very fragrant and flowery at first nosing, with also whiffs of wood smoke. Quite lively, grainy but less than the official Fine Oak versions. Keeps developing on camomile and caramel… A ‘nice’ nose. Mouth: starts a little sugary, with quite some caramel and crystallized oranges. Very little sherry – there probably isn’t any and a balanced but simple finish. The nose was much nicer, but the whole is still very drinkable. 78 points.
Macallan 14 yo 1991/2005 (46%, The Alchemist, circa 2005) A bottling by Gordon Wright. Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts much grainier, and also smokier. Notes of nectar, flower from the fields, ripe mirabelle plums… Hints of orange marmalade and cooked butter, hot croissants. Rather sharp, in a very nice way, extremely different from any of the OB’s. Keeps developing on smoked tea and newly cut grass… Quite complex. Mouth: sweet but not sweetish, starting on candy sugar and cake, with also hints of apricot pie and again an interesting, even if more discreet, smokiness. Bold notes of quince jelly and fudge. The finish is long, still rather nervous, with just a little salt and quite some liquorice. A good one that offers yet another perspective on Macallan. 85 points.


MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening - We're in 1996 and Patti Smith makes a brilliant come back with her CD 'Gone again' (er...), on which we have this little gem called Summer cannibals.mp3 (composed with her late husband Fred 'Sonic' Smith). Please buy the great Patti Smith's music! (picture: June 2005, Patti Smith being presented with the insignia of French Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters - well...)


April 11, 2006


An interesting experiment by Mario & Hubert: they have bottled one half of a butt at cask strength and the other half at 46%. Right, the C/S version should be better, shouldn’t it? Let’s see…

Blair Athol 1993/2005 (46%, M&H Cask Selection, dark oloroso, 360 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one starts relatively winey, with also notes of flintstone, hot butter, getting then rather meaty. Quite some smoked ham, sausages, old wardrobe, Mexican chocolate sauce (poble)… Very interesting, definitely. Whiffs of fireplace smoke, matchsticks… Keeps developing on mashed potatoes, Comté cheese, sawdust… A rather unusual profile! Mouth: a fresh attack with lots of liquorice and dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage…) and quite some rubber. Quite some caramel as well, roasted nuts, praline… Gets then quite waxy, with also quite some chocolate and a little mint and eucalyptus. A perfect body. Nice sherry notes, mocha, cappuccino… Yet it remains pleasantly fresh and almost nervous, with hints of icing sugar. The finish is rather long and balanced, getting fruity – and a pinch of salt. A most enjoyable Blair Athol, with maybe juts a little too much rubber to make it to 90. So it’s going to be 88 points.
Blair Athol 1993/2005 (55.7%, M&H Cask Selection, dark oloroso, 300 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: rather less expressive, more spirity as expected. Probably more vinous, more vegetal and mineral at the same time. Again a little smoke but the whole is more discreet, no doubt. The meaty notes are well here, though, but the water seems to have revealed more complexity (especially the butter and mashed potatoes) Mouth: more or less the same effects but it’s now closer to the ‘reduced’ version. It’s probably smokier, that is, with also some herbal tea I didn’t get before and slightly more icing sugar and dried fruits. Hints of fruit eau de vie (kirsch and mirabelle) and again quite some salt. In short I feel the 46% version still is a little more complex and, above all, better balanced. I must confess I liked it a little better. 86 points.
And also: Blair Athol 14 yo 1990/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, sherry, 691 bottles) Nose: rather vegetal, a little perfumy, with notes of hay and quite some vanilla fudge but that’s all. Mouth: sweet and grainy, getting very malty. Not too bad but rather uninteresting, I’m afraid. Not much sherry influence – if any. 76 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Time for a little Lucinda Williams, don't you think? So, today we have Right In Time.mp3 (from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road). Excellent! Please buy Lucinda Williams's music...


April 10, 2006


Glencadam 15 yo 1989/2005 (58%, Signatory, sherry butt #6014, 578 bottles) Colour: deep gold – amber. Nose: very spirity at first nosing, with also quite some rubber (sulphury)… And good news, those vanish again after a few seconds. A very common phenomenon. We have then lots of caramelized apricot pie, orange marmalade and toffee, with also faint whiffs of ginger ale and beer. Notes of jelly beans, fruit paste (blackcurrant)… Gets rather peppery after a moment, even a tad prickly.

Mouth: a better sensation now, with a full-bodied and nicely sweet attack, mixing slightly burnt cake, toffee and all sorts of crystallized fruits. Notes of cooked strawberries and red wine poached pears, with also quite some liquorice allsorts, sugared herbal tea (camomile), getting rather salty. The liquorice grows stronger then, almost invading… And the ‘salty feeling’ as well. Yes, it’s hugely salty, especially during the rather long finish. And Glencadam isn’t really coastal, is it? Anyway, a very interesting whisky to make your friends wonder whether there’s salt in whisky – or not. 84 points.
Glencadam 1974/2001 (59.9%, MacKillop's Choice) Colour: full gold. Nose: wowie! An amazing nose, very fresh and superbly fruity (mostly on crystallized oranges and tangerines) at first but getting rather much more unusual after a moment. Something rubbery (tyre inner tube), with also notes of grilled meat and something I already got a while ago: a mixture of orange juice, olive oil and honey (I know that sounds weird). Develops on strongly flavoured pipe tobacco, leather saddle, mint syrup, old rancio… Whiffs of wood smoke. Sort of organic, very, very ‘different’. Extremely interesting to nose this one. Mouth: very creamy and very fruity, sort of concentrated as if somebody added fruit reductions to it. Lots of punch of course, developing on strawberry jam, armagnac soaked prunes, fruit and chocolate ganache… It starts then to taste like cough syrup, sweet wine reduction, strong grappa… Very unusual indeed! And the finish is very long, coating, on blackberry jelly and orange liqueur, getting maybe just a tad too ‘sour and bitter’. A sherry-treated cask? Anyway, quite a beast, very interesting. 88 points (90+ without that slightly sourish finish).
MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening - It's not that the whole is immensely innovative but I love the bass line (by Christian McBride) on Donald Harrison's 1997 Nouveau Swing.mp3  - and of course Harrison's sax. Please buy Donald Harrison's music!

April 9, 2006


Glen Mhor 21 yo 1980/2001 (43%, Signatory, butt #878, 714 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: it seems to be very discreet at first nosing, I’d even say extremely discreet. Notes of flint stone, old white wine, hints of cooked fruits (apricots, orange jam) and caramel… Maybe a little ham, tyre inner tube, vase water… All that is almost evanescent, even if it does open up a bit after a good ten minutes.

Mouth: the attack isn’t exactly weak but it does lack body and oomph. It starts very cardboardy and meaty, which is weird if you ask me. I’ve had lots of problems with Glen Mhors before and except for some Rare Malts, I’ve found many of them to have this kind of odd profile. Notes of infused herbs, caramel, weak cold tea… And then nothing, maybe just a little smoke. It’s almost watery… Let’s jump to the finish which is, by the way, almost non-existent. Maybe rotten oranges and gin? 65 points.
Glen Mhor 1966/2004 (56.1%, G&M, cask #3689) Colour: amber. Nose: not excessively bold either but starting on lots of varnish, furniture polish and turpentine. You have to like that but I do. It gets then nicely camphory, with notes of eucalyptus, before it switches to cigar tobacco and leather. All that is rather elegant, I must say, with a feeling of ‘antiques shop’. It keeps developing on dried fruits (apricots, bananas, coconut slices) together with quite some vanilla crème (what we call ‘English crème’), spices (white pepper, nutmeg) and cocoa powder. Something slightly meaty as well. Very nice indeed, sort of different, which compensates a certain lack of expression despite the rather high A.B.V. Mouth: it’s much punchier now but also a little simpler I think. We do have something sweet and sour (overcooked wine sauce), dried fruits (oranges, almonds), a little fructose and liquorice but also quite some cocoa and white pepper. It’s really tannic and woody, in fact, getting rather drying after a few seconds in your mouth. Hints of cough sweets, eucalyptus, mint drops… The finish is medium long, quite enjoyable, less drying than feared and with a nice bitterness (strong tea and dried coconut). An old Glen Mhor that does show signs of old age despite its oomph, but that’s very interesting to try, with something that reminds me of some old sweet wines that got dry with age (Rivesaltes). Probably not very consensual. 85 points.


MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with the great, great late Lucia Popp (not Iggy's sister - sacrilege!) singing O waer ich schon mit dir vereint.mp3 (from Beethoven's Fidelio). How good she was and what a loss!


April 8, 2006

THE ROLLIN STONED Half Moon, Putney, London, April 1st 2006
Well Serge, I have to say that it’s all looking a bit ‘soixante-huit’ in your lovely France at the moment, what with all your riots and things; you know, flying cobble stones, masked students throwing Molotov cocktails (cask-strength of course), tear gas, rubber bullets and so on. Of course back here in good Old Blighty we really prefer ‘soixante-neuf’. So that’s partly why we’ve come down to Putney to enjoy "The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Tribute Band in the World". Of course the other reason is that we had tickets to see the Rolling Stones at our great new Wemberly Stadium (ah – ‘soixante-six’, I still remember it so well) in August. But now the stadium will not be built on time – I blame the Australian contractors, revenge for taking their Ashes from them I suppose – and who knows if we will ever get to review the grand old dames of rock ‘n roll for Whiskyfun.
Let me get this straight. I really don’t get tribute bands – apart from the fact that they are so much fun, and sometimes (tonight?) a bit better than the real thing. And fascinating for someone like my now 18-year-old son, who with great bravura strides past the friendly Half Moon bouncers to the bar and buys us all vats of their very good London beer. But the place is packed – and obviously, and somewhat alarmingly, even tribute bands have stalker fans, a bit like a supermarket own label malt having a Maniac I suppose. But everyone is here to have a good time and the band do not disappoint.
Against a dark and vaguely Moroccan backdrop they took the stage promptly at nine, Charlie, Keith, Mick (Taylor), Bill, and Mick (and Nicky on the keyboards). All wearing preposterous wigs, Bill with a pair of groupie-girl panties hanging from his base, Keith smokin’ and ready to go, and (Sir) Mick pouting for England. They cracked into – I think – ‘Start me up’, but I’m no Stones fan so don’t ask me, and then played ferociously for two hours ‘till the Half Moon’s 11.00pm curfew. And what we got was for the most part classic Stones from about 1965 to 1975, with a respectful amount of humour. And of course we couldn’t have that without Brian, who joined after about half an hour, apparently dropping in from heaven with wings, sparklers, gaspers, champagne and all.
I don’t need to give you a set list, just make it up for yourself. It was a gas, gas, gas. And according to the Photographer (who IS a fan) better than the Christmas ‘Hot Licks’ thirty DVD set compilation of their last tour (and believe me I can agree, having had to watch all of it, at least three times). But ‘though I had a great time I couldn’t help wondering, “what do these people do for a day job?”.
I mean, does the wig come off and Mick just goes down to the building society where he’s an assistant manager? And why, apart from the money, would you really want to spend your Saturday nights doing this? So many questions Serge, and so few answers. But whilst you’re pondering, here’s a tribute you might like, Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, released on April 17th, and put together I think by that bright boy of Brit pop, the not-so-young Jarvis Cocker. Now that’s what I call ‘soixante-huit’! - Nick Morgan (all photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick! Regarding our ‘riots and things’ and ‘soixante-neuf’, I agree everything is a but upside down here these days but don’t worry, it’s just historical reconstitutions we organize for tourists (and for CNN), and as somebody said, ‘the kids are alright’. Ah, April in Paris - please note that I already fled to Germany, I'm in Limburg just now! I’m wondering what Mick is thinking while having a Louis XIII in his castle in France… Speaking of whom, I’m also wondering why ‘Ronnie Wood’ wasn’t on stage! ‘Brian Jones’ + ‘Mick Taylor’ + ‘Ronnie Wood’, that would have been a hit! (and ‘Billy Preston’!) By the way, here's Let's spend the night together.mp3 by... The Rolling Stones? Or is it the Rollin Stoned? Your guess...
Inchgower 1967/1988 (46%, Moon Import 'The Costumes', butt #788, 556 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: lots of vivacity right from the start, with a little rubber but it’s soon to vanish, like often with heavily sherried malts. We have then notes of torrefaction, dried fruits, (Xmas cake) and chocolate. Also quite some hot praline, cappuccino, as well as quite some smoke. Gets then quite meaty, on game, soy sauce, lovage, balsamic vinegar… Very typical. Gets then quite resinous, with hints of beeswax, polished leather, bitter oranges… Very nice and unusually smoky (but I’ve already had quite some smoky old Inchgowers).
Mouth: not the clumsy kind of sherry at all! Granted, there’s lots of orange marmalade, crystallized fruits, old rum - and it’s even smoky again – but also something rather nervous (icing sugar) to balance the whole. There’s then quite some cocoa, fruit liqueurs, marrons glacés… The middle is just a tad weaker, lacking a little body but that’s not a problem here. And then we have coffee, liqueur chocolates, mulled wine spices, slightly burnt cake… The finish is rather longer and bolder, on dried fruits and something earthy. It’s relatively drying because of the tannins that start to appear but still very enjoyable. In short, a classical ‘olorosoed’ malt, nicely balanced, somewhat similar to some older Macallans Gran Reserva. Very good. 90 points.
Inchgower 21 yo 1967 (46%, Moncreiffe) Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts on lots of chocolate, sherry and smoke again, then candy sugar and biscuit. Develops on cooked fruits (strawberries, blackcurrants) with notes of maraschino and a beautiful caramel, pralines… Excellent! Mouth: a beautiful sherry again and a wide, yet balanced and powerful attack. Quite some kirsch, getting again quite smoky. It’s really powerful, with no sign of tiredness. Lots of vivacity. A perfect old sherried Inchgower, maybe not extremely complex on the palate but most enjoyable. Rather different from the Moon Import (more caramelly, less drying) but I feel both are just as good. 90 points.

April 7, 2006

Auchentoshan 12 yo (43%, OB, square flat bottle, early 1980’s) Colour: pure gold. Nose: this one starts astonishingly mineral, flinty, with also notes of yoghurt. Gets very grassy, feinty, with notes of hay, light cheese (gouda), un-sugared herbal teas, faint hints of cat litter… Well, no fruitiness whatsoever in there! Strange… Mouth: ah, now it’s much fruitier, and even slightly smoky. Lots of bubblegum, ‘chemical’ fruit sweets, lemon marmalade… Lots of body as well but there’s probably too much caramel that sort of overwhelms the usual – and expected – freshness of Auchentoshan, and makes the whole sort of bittersweet. The finish is medium long, malty, sugary and caramelly. Far from a disaster but it really lacks freshness and cleanliness. Was whisky always better in the old days? Yeah, yeah… 68 points.
Auchentoshan 13 yo 1992/2006 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, cask #7362-63, 522 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: definitely more expressive and fresher, but we do have more or less the same flinty smells at the start but it gets then very mashy, yeasty (porridge and muesli, mashed potatoes) as well as grassy (newly mown lawn, privet) and finally a little fruity (grapefruits). ‘Funny’ whiffs of menthol that gives this Auchentoshan a little extra-complexity. It’s still simple, but enjoyable (I can’t help thinking it would make for a perfect poolside dram, on ice – although I never add ice to my whiskies). Mouth: compact and very, very sweet, almost sugary, with some big bold notes of lemon sweets. Maybe notes of crème brûlée, candy sugar, plus something discretely waxy and minty – and a rather long, simple finish, on lemon marmalade and a little green pepper. No particular thrill but it’s flawless. A good Summer malt. 80 points.
Auchentoshan 16 yo 1988 (58.9%, OB, cask #4445) Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts much grassier, on bold notes of newly cut turf, with also something rather cardboardy, hints of wet chalk, rainwater, steamed potatoes… Maybe a little coconut milk… Rather simple but I’m sure it does need a little water… Right, it does indeed get a little farmier, but that happens almost always when you reduce a C/S malt. Other than that it gets even grassier and waxier, with also funny hints of fresh fish and incense (what a strange mixture – very catholic, that is), and finally a few fruity notes (mostly pink grapefruit). Mouth (undiluted): punchy and very sweet with loads of coconut milk now, notes of sugared avocado juice, crystallized tangerines… And quite some alcohol. With water: not much difference, except that it gets a little fresher and slightly minty, but the finish is long, nicely balanced, with something peppery and gingery. Good, but lacking complexity, I think. 81 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - The great ex-Count Basie vocalist Irene Reid does the (too?) famous Me and Mrs Jones.mp3 with superb late organist Charles Earland, and adds quite some depth to it, I think (it's on her CD 'The Uptown Lowdown'). What a sound and what a voice! Please buy Irene Reid's music!

April 6, 2006


Dingwalls (Lock 17), London March 29th 2006
“I’m sorry Nick”, said Serge, “but I’ve never heard of Robert Love”. Well I was confused too. And actually it’s not Robert Love, it’s Rob Spragg, aka The Reverend Larry Love, of Whiskyfun favourites Alabama 3. But just to be sure I checked. Was our Robert Love singer Larry Love, who “frequently performs for dances, parties, anniversaries, class reunions, fund-raisers, funerals and memorials, school assemblies, corporate events, church events, fairgrounds, and holiday receptions”? Or could he have been the Reverend and “Mad Larry” Love of Cambridge, Mass., only recently deceased? Or Larry Love the dancing hamster? Or the Larry Love sex doll (actually Serge, you might not want to put in the link for this)? [but of course I will, Nick - there!]. Hmm, you see that’s the problem with multiple identities – have too many and soon no one really knows who you are.
We’re late, and it’s partly my fault (or should I say Serge, it’s the fault of your wonderful Paris, always so difficult to part from, like a once forgotten lover, rediscovered in the warm spring sunshine). It’s a pre-gig Greek meal with Jozzer and his good lady, Trizzer. The food is, errr, Greek. And so is the service, the long delay between the appetisers and the main course being apparently designed to force us to order (and drink) vast quantities of (fairly decent – or so it seemed at the time) Greek red wine. This is a challenge to which Jozzer and I both rise with true British spunk. As a consequence we arrive at Dingwalls (which marketing git renamed it ‘Lock 17’ I wonder?) almost at the end of the first act Jeff Klein. By coincidence the last time we were here was with Jozzer and Trizzer, to see the Larry Love Showband, that wonderful trimmed-down and largely acoustic version of the A3. On that occasion, as the four of us comprised around a third of the audience, we danced the night away extravagantly in front of the band (“here’s another nice tune for you old folks to dance to” I recall Larry saying), until Jozzer, moved by the excitement of it all (and vast quantities of red wine) jumped onto the stage in the middle of ‘Peace in the Valley’ and testified, on his knees, to all and sundry. Tonight you can barely see the stage for the assembled throng of arty Brixton low-lifers who’ve made their way north of the river to witness this metropolitan stop in a UK tour to promote new albums recently released by all three artistes (who share the same band for the night) on the Little Indian label. The nice man selling t-shirts, who gives me a handy promo CD for the tour, tells me that this is the first busy night they’ve had.
Se we didn’t hear much of Jeff, who from what I can gather is a very American-sounding Brit, with a lazy bluesy voice that falls, like the other two performers this evening, into the ‘whisky soaked and tobacco stained’ variety. I’ve never heard him before, and whilst the tracks on the promo disc are a little ho hum, he’s an attractive proposition live. As is the fierce and feisty Sandy Dillon, with a vocal style somewhere between Melanie and Macy Gray, and a percussive keyboard that sometimes makes her sound remarkably close to Tom Waits. Well worth a listen we thought (and I’m certainly off to see her for Whiskyfun at the next possible chance) – a view apparently not shared by a large part of the audience.
Such was their high-pitched faux working class braying that in the end Larry, or should I say Robert, strode onto the stage and threw what can only be described as a real folk-club wobbly: “now shut the fuck up and if you’ve got some fucking business conversation to have then get the fuck behind the fucking bar”. Silence reigned, briefly, until Jozzer added (so loud, yet with no amplification) “Right on Larry, fucking artists demand fucking respect”. Others might have cringed, but I have to put on record here that as the man that introduced me to the Alabama 3 (over a rather nice Cantonese lunch) I can forgive Jozzer for almost anything (I said ALMOST anything).
So next, I thought, was Robert Love. But no! The stage was taken by two girls on keyboards and a hidden guitarist, who started playing and singing a barely recognisable version of ‘Sympathy for the devil’. For some reason The Photographer shot to the front of the stage, Jozzer started sweating, Trizzer looked uneasy, whilst I sat thinking that this very 1970s cool alternative Brixton collective thing was really running out of steam.
And then, as the smoke subsided, Robert Love and his band. I should say that I have the album, Ghost Flight, and have largely been disappointed by it, ‘though it certainly gets hugely better once seen performed live. Very derivative, some cringe-worthy arrangements (the pianist used to work at the Raymond Revue bar, and it shows) and just flat compared to his other works. That’s the bad part. Live, with Robert Love in a fairly belligerent mood, the very C&W tinged tunes took on a fantastic honky tonk feel. People danced, Robert swore, the guitarist in the band really started playing well, the drink was flowing, and we had a big fun time. I’ve gone back to the album and found it more enjoyable, but the tip here is that Robert, or Larry, or just plain Merthyr boy Robb, whomever he might be, is an outstanding live performer. And if you ever get the opportunity to see him, in whichever guise he may take (apart from the sex doll of course) then please go. And if you don’t want to buy his records, then you might like to try Jeff Klein, or certainly the very interesting Ms Sandy Dillon’s. Nick Morgan (all concert photographs by Kate)

Many thanks, Nick! , I guess one can never get too much Love(s). But let's see what we can find regarding all these nice people's music... Robert Love has a very good tune on his myspace page. If the whole CD is like this, it's still a good one, according to my own tastes. As for Sandy Dillon, we could find It must be love.mp3 - more Serge Gainsbourg than Tom Waits methink but remember I'm French - and I like her history. And Jeff Klein has four good tracks on his myspace page as well. A nice bunch of nice people...

Ben Nevis 1996/2004 (46%, Eilan Gillan, American oak) Colour; white wine. Nose: fresh and rather clean at first nosing, with notes of almond milk and orange blossom, cherries, getting then rather milky and yeasty, thanks to its youth I guess. Hints of honey and pollen, developing on ‘simple’ fresh fruits such as apples and greengages and finally quite some vanilla crème. Rather harmless! Mouth: sweet and rather malty, getting sort of sugarish and rather caramelly… Candy sugar, vanilla crème again, tea… And that’s all folks. The finish is medium long and rather (too) sugary and caramelly again. Well, it’s not bad whisky but it’s far from being really interesting. Typically a 78 points malt in my books.
Ben Nevis 30 yo 1975/2006 (64.3%, Signatory, cask #7447, 132 bottles) A whopping A.B.V. at thirty years old! Did this one mature in the Sahara? Poor angels… Colour: straw. Nose: extremely powerful but not assaulting, with lots of coffee and litres of olive oil. Very unusual! The more we try to get other aromas, the more we get olive oil… And nothing else. Okay, this one will be hard to tame. Let’s wait for a few minutes and then try it with a little water (a lot, actually)… zzz… zzz… Well, not much happening with just time, let’s dilute it! Right, much more happening now, with quite some wood smoke, milk chocolate, hay, ashes, grass, cardboard… Then fresh pineapple, maybe fern and moss… what’s sure is that there’s no sign of age here. It could well have been ten years old!
Mouth (neat): lots of sweetness, caramel, honey and liquorice but even if it’s not exactly burning it does need water… With water: we have pretty much the same flavours, plus quite some marzipan, lavender crème, violet sweets… Very, very sweet, and the finish is long but rather sugary… Well, I’m wondering what this lazy Ben Nevis has been doing during these extra-twenty years! But it’s good whisky, no doubt. 82 points.
Ben Nevis 40 yo 1962/2002 (40%, OB, blended at birth)
This one is a single blend, blended right in 1962, before filling. Must be a different work to compose blends with new makes… Colour: straw. Nose: starts very fragrantly, almost perfumy. Lots of marzipan, kirsch, maraschino, rosewater… Nice notes of orange-scented candles, salted butter caramel, very old orange liqueurs… Again something very ‘unusual’, very interesting although clearly different from a Single Malt Whisky (unlike many old single grains the profiles of which are closer to Single Malts). Mouth: sweet and rounded but more nervous than expected. Notes of dried tangerines, sultanas, amaretti, marzipan again – most enjoyable! And a nice finish, unexpectedly vegetal… An unusual and enjoyable whisky, but don’t expect something close to the excellent old Ben Nevis single malts. 85 points.

April 5, 2006


Tomatin 10 yo (43%, OB, early 1990’s) Colour: gold. Nose: an unexpectedly smoky start, very malty, with rather heavy notes of burnt cake. Quite honeyed as well, with notes of dried fruits (figs), vanilla and quite some caramel. Goes on with something distantly farmy, peaty, and notes of regular ‘black’ tea. Not overly complex but rather enjoyable, I must say.

Mouth: a sweet, malty and caramelly attack, with a smoky structure and lots of cake and toasted bread. Very, very classical, getting rather spicy (a little ginger, quite some nutmeg and a pinch of clove). Keeps going with notes of fruit liqueurs, bananas flambéed and praline, and a finish that’s long and rather powerful, smoky, malty and caramelly. A good middle of the road malt. 80 points.
Tomatin 1965 (50.7%, JWWW The Cross Hill, sherry cask, 82 bottles, 2006)
Colour: deep amber, almost brown. Nose: a very unusual start, with gallons of kirsch and tons of liquorice sweets. I love it, for it’s so far from ‘just another sherry monster’. It gets then extremely complex, with a very wide array of aromas (bubblegum, very old sweet wine, rancio, strawberry jam, very old Port, mint flavoured tea, black nougat, chestnut honey, dried kumquats… - note to self: beware maltoporn). Superb notes of liquorice and mint sweets (we call them ‘Batna’ here), old natural turpentine, walnut liquor… And yes, hints of peat. Just fab, as complex as, say, many Springbanks from the 1960’s. Mouth: oh yes, it’s fab again, provided you’re not put off by heavy tannins, sourness in whisky and hyper-dryness. I’m not, as long as the whole is as balanced as here. The attack is on chocolate, lots of balsamic vinegar, herbal liquors (Jägermeister, Chartreuse) and yes, wood. Lots of toasted bread as well, old fortified wine, Grand-Marnier, fruit eau-de-vie, liquorice (lots), old rum… And armfuls of herbs (parsley, chive, aniseed, rhubarb, lovage…) A very, very interesting experience! The finish is long, very sweet and sour, herbal, and frankly drying now… But the whole is just fab in my opinion and, you got it, most unusual. It’ll be 93 points as far as I’m concerned, but it’s probably not a very consensual expression.

MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening - Cambodian rock and roll, really? Well it's quite Californian too and in all ways very, very 'pleasant'. It's Dengue Fever doing Sleep Walking Through the Mekong.mp3 (from Dragon House, 2006). And I think Saran wrap.mp3 is just as good. Please buy Dengue Fever's music!


April 4, 2006

BREAKING NEWS! – Did you ever happen to wonder what’s going on in Scotland’s busiest Marketing Departments these days? Whiskyfun could sneak a micro web cam into one of them, and I can tell you what we just brought to light is really unbelievable. Click here to watch the video (it’s a 1.7 MB .wmv file).


Linkwood 1989 (43%, The Pale and Rare Collection, France, circa 2003) A fancy decanter but will the whisky be any good? Colour: yellow. Nose: a rather fragrant start on lots of caramel, liquorice, vanilla pod and cake. Something malty in the background, maybe faint whiffs of smoke… Then we have nice notes of apple pie… In short, a rather enjoyable nose but nothing too unusual. Mouth: sort of weak, extremely caramelly this time, with again quite some cake and liquorice, candy sugar… In fact it really tastes like liquorice drops after a few seconds… Liquorice liqueur? Does that exist? Also a chicory-like grip… The finish is rather long, at that, but very… liquoricy, you got it. Not bad at all but very MOTR. 78 points.

Linkwood 1985/2006 (60.2%, Dewar Rattray, cask #4544) This one should be a different kind of beast. Colour: gold. Nose: powerful, almost pungent at first nosing; we’ll probably need to water it down. Yet, we can get a few aromas by putting the nose at the top of the glass instead of the middle. Nice caramel, fudge, pastries, honey… Also a little tea, hints of new sawn wood, Muscat sweet wine, maybe roses (but I was looking for that so maybe it’s the mind at work) but the alcohol is really dominating. With a few drops of water: lots of grainy notes developing, porridge, oat flakes… Also bergamot. Very, very nice nose!
Mouth (neat): yes, it’s a beast but it’s incredibly drinkable, with some enjoyable bananas flambéed, ripe apricots, orange marmalade, Turkish delights, citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines), liquorice again… Getting even minty. It’s really sweet like sweets! With water: not much difference except that the tannins start to appear, also something waxy and coffeeish, but the balance is perfect until the end of the long, sweet and flawless finish. A very good Linkwood with lots of oomph. 89 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Today we have a very excellent singer from Massachusetts called Amy Correia and she's doing a very refreshing The Bike.mp3 (from her debut CD Carnival Love). Doesn't she sort of quote the Beatles somewhere? Anyway, please her music!


April 3, 2006


I think it's during a tasting session we were enjoying with a few other Maniacs (which means it could have been anytime) that I first heard Davin mention the fact that he had played the bass guitar with Kris Kristofferson. You know, Davin is a very discreet person - anybody but a braggart - and when I first tried to know more about his past as a musician, I really had to drag it out of him - and it didn't quite work out. So, I decided to try the 'interview' trick... Will Davin be more loquacious?...

Whiskyfun: Davin, tell us briefly about what you do - or did, music-wise.
Davin de Kergommeaux: Well my days of making music are long since over so this will be strictly a historical perspective. Growing up in Ottawa in the sixties it was pretty much impossible not to hear a lot of good original music. Besides Ottawa, Montreal was just two hours away and back then they had a very active and original music scene too. That’s all been lost to Toronto and Vancouver now. That was also the height of Motown and we used to listen to that late at night on the radio.
Ottawa had a very active band scene, in the British-invasion mode, and it was often difficult to choose which ‘dance’ to go to. All the churches opened up their recreation halls and there were school dances every Friday and Saturday and the bands started making a bit of money and investing it right back into their music and it was all getting very professional until some high school principal added up how much money was going to kids to make music and they set a maximum $200 budget for dances. Lots of groups just couldn’t afford to keep going and the whole thing petered out.
I had been driving the truck for my brother’s band at that time so was part of the scene and just as the bands started to die off the folk scene hit. I changed high schools and at my new school got in with the “folk club.” I played bass and started performing with various people at coffee houses – usually in church basements. I was also a regular in the audience at Le Hibou – honestly the best club Canada has ever had for cultivating new musical talent. Anyway, one thing led to another and soon I was doing guest sets with a couple of other guys and then one summer they asked us if we’d like to be part of a show every Sunday afternoon for the summer. We really used that summer to hone our skills. I knew we were doing something right when two guys walked into the club one Sunday with t-shirts they had made with our faces on them. That was back before screen printing and merchandising so they had done them by hand.
Once the summer was over my girlfriend and I decided to move out west where I got work right away as a sideman playing with various jazz (lounge-type), rock and folk acts. I also had a regular gig with an Italian orchestra. They were just about the nicest guys – very genuine, no egos, just into the music. I started doing demos of my own tunes and eventually landed a recording contract which lead to the release of a single. I got some royalties from CAPAC so it must have got some radio play somewhere, but I never heard it on the radio and the record company said it didn’t sell any copies at all. However, it was a small company and just as my record was released they had a big hit with one of their other artists and I doubt they put any effort into promoting my record. Later when I was in the record business myself I realized what a lot of work it is to have a record that’s selling and I would focus my efforts on the ones with the best chance of return.
It was when I was operating Savvy Records that I really came into my own, not as a musician, but as a producer. I liked that a lot more than playing music as I found it a lot more creative, and I got a lot of good feedback and for the first time made a little bit of money. I did a lot of work on contract – mostly choirs and ‘serious’ recordings, but the most fun was working with ’63 Monroe. They were a London (Canada) based glam/punk band and just the most genuinely outrageous musicians I’ve ever worked with. They were like the Italian orchestra in that the music was a given and their whole life revolved around it. They sent me a demo tape and I thought it was pretty good, but I told them I needed to hear more. I went to a few of their shows, unannounced and about 3 months later they sent me another tape. I offered them an open-ended deal and before long we were in the studio recording “Stinkin’ Out the Joint” which is kind of naïve when you listen to it now, but back in 1985 it was really something to be proud of. CHRW, the local college radio has the whole thing on mp3. So what do I do music-wise? Mostly just listen and reminisce.
WF: Lol, didn't we say 'briefly'? But that was very interesting, so... And we'll add the link to that mp3 page at the end of this interview. Anyway, Davin, which other musicians did you play with?
Davin: Well having become a semi house musician at Le Hibou, I often played with various acts that came through. Guys like Billy Swan who later had a big hit with “I Can Help”; Eric Andersen – the folkie from California; Bruce Cockburn & Bill Stevenson – home-grown Ottawa talent; Jerry Jeff Walker – he wrote and was the first to record “Mr. Bojangles” and now he does nostalgia vacations for rich, aging hippies in Belize; and I was in the Dixon House Band – at that time called the Ted House Trio - for a year or so. The best fun though was playing at the Bitter End with Kris Kristofferson because he was the latest great thing at the time and all these celebs came out to see him. I remember Carly Simon was there. She had left the Simon Sisters by then and was totally unknown as a single act and she was embarrassing herself trying to be noticed. Johnny Cash also showed up, but he was afraid to get out of his car because of all the fans so he just sat in the car outside and Kris kept going out to see him. I’d never seen anything like that before.
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Davin: Well, I am fairly open to just about everything, but I especially like the raw, organic stuff. I love raw African a capella singing, I really love pow wow music (the only downside of Feis Ile is it coincides with a really good pow wow over here), some classic old-style country and western, Motown, and of course British Invasion. I like Jaco Pastorius, The Fugees, Boney M - “Rivers of Babylon” for example, Dire Straits “Down by the Waterside”, everything BB King, the old Collectors, Joni Mitchell “Blue”, Tom Waits, and shockingly, because it is so produced, in a manufacturingly way, – Shania Twain “Feel Like a Woman” (sorry). I also like some of Leonard Cohen’s most recent stuff – I really like the voice. My dislikes: Paul McCartney now. He was in Ottawa a while back and I swear he wasn’t really playing his bass and the voice was way over the hill. I can’t imagine an ego so big as to be able to listen to tapes of those shows and think you’ve still got it. Rolling Stones now: Please guys, you were the no. 1 band in world, but Mick’s voice is now long departed. Celine Dion. Whenever she comes on, in an elevator or wherever, my wife always says “Can someone please help that poor woman get her hand out of the door.”
WF: Which are your current projects? (records, concerts, tours etc.)
Davin: Jeeze, I’d love to get some money together and go back and do a 63 Monroe album with some real cash behind it. The guys still are playing and I can’t imagine that they’ve taken the Paul McCartney route given how serious they were about the music. My tours these days are all about whisky – Malt Maniacs Awards, Ardbeggeddon, Victoria Whisky Fest, Feis Ile, Hamstergeddon (a wimpy euro-version of A-geddon, which Johannes and I are organizing), more Malt Maniacs Awards...
WF: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Davin: I remember Sandy Crawley on a Sunday afternoon, when all the bars and liquor stores were closed, out begging people for a spare bottle of Jack Daniels for Kristofferson. I don’t know if he ever found it, but I always thought Kristofferson’s habit was more for effect because I never saw him out of control. I also remember sitting in Bert Block’s office, and he was representing Janis Joplin, and there were all these pictures of her with Southern Comfort and I realized that this was just a prop. I did steal some Johnnie Walker Red from my dad’s liquor cabinet, on regular occasions, and I liked it. I remember it being quite smoky. Mostly though I didn’t drink a whole lot of anything until I turned 50 and my doctor told me I should start drinking in moderation as it’s good for the heart or arteries or something.
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Davin: Well I think the people you dram with are more important to the overall experience than the actual dram itself. Very top highlights – dramming by the River Ness with Krishna, Johannes and yourself. Probably my best session ever, but also Whisky Hill Dram Jam at Tom Borschel’s, Springbank Local Barley at Dave Russo’s place, any number of Highland Parks at Olivier’s. Probably my most memorable dram is the Black Bowmore Olivier brought to Feis Ile last year.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Davin: Without question Black Bowmore is my number one favourite. However there are many, many whiskies that I enjoy. Right now I am nurturing a Hazelburn 8 yo and it is just a wonderful almost bourbony young single malt.
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Davin: Loch Dhu really is as bad as they say. I’ve never had a good Allt A’Bhainne. Most Canadian whiskies are not that exciting to me, nor are some bourbons.
WF: ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Davin: Serge! I saw Taj Mahal play Divin’ Duck Blues live at Le Hibou, went straight out and bought the record, then learned to play the guitar licks on the bass. It was really good exercise for the thumb and fingers until I got the hang of it.
WF: Music and whisky are often thought of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Davin: My daughter bought a Stratocaster then went out and did a gig that same day using it. It was her first electric guitar.
WF: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way? Care to comment?
Davin: That’s an interesting question because the way you make music in the studio, one instrument at a time, you really spend a lot of time analysing each part and figuring out the best way to ‘blend’ it with the other components. We even add ‘spirit caramel’ at the end to knit it all together, that is, lots of high frequency sound – ‘air’ - that you can’t hear, but just makes the whole sound that much better. Some folks also used to add in white noise on the early digital recordings to make them sound warmer. Deconstructing the flavours in a whisky has become a bit of a fetish which adds a certain enjoyment, but I think the real reason for describing the smells and flavours is not to one-up other tasters but to describe the malt so others will either know if they want to buy it, or will recognize it in a tasting. It’s also a way of assessing how well our palates are developing.
WF: I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Davin: No, I really like smells, even smells that my wife thinks are stinky. To me tasting whisky is a gustatory experience.
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Davin: Black Bowmore would definitely be something Beethoven would have distilled.
WF: There is a famous passage in a book written in the 1930s (Aneas Macdonald) where the author compares different styles of whisky to different sections of an orchestra – how would you see that working in a jazz or rock band, or in a classical orchestra?
Davin: I don’t know the reference and don’t understand it. Orchestras are many sounds all working together in a predetermined way. Whiskies are finished products, like the whole orchestra and we enjoy them as a whole. Unless you are thinking of the whisky in the cask, in which case I guess you could say the blenders are like conductors. However, there are Britney Spears whiskies – like J&B; there are Muddy Waters whiskies – like lots of old Ardbegs; and there are good working sidemen like Oban 14 and my old standard Glenlivet 12.
WF: Do you have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Davin: I don’t use music as background. If I turn it on it’s because I want to listen to it, so I would be sipping a non-challenging dram, if anything, if I had music on. I like to focus on the music and let it carry me away. At home I might even lie down to listen to it. Same with good whisky: I don’t need other distractions. I think by having constant background music we start to forget about it and we raise the threshold of what actually stimulates us. My son listens to music constantly and I am sure he doesn’t even hear it. The other day he was playing his guitar and there was totally different music in the background and I told him he was teaching his fingers to do what his brain tells them rather than what his ears tell them. He said he didn’t even notice it, but does notice silence and doesn’t like it. I like silence when I am enjoying something else.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Davin: Cynically, because Scotch doesn’t have the right image to be useful to managers trying to depict their clients as tortured artists. Scotch (blended) is for hard-bit potboiler detectives. Now Davinci drinks only Laphroaig 10 yo and never a word is said about it and the label is 3/4 hidden most of the time, so the cachet of single malts is definitely making it’s way into popular culture. It’ll always be JD for rock though, as long as the South is so influential in pop music.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Davin: Well it would have to be simple, available everywhere, and not too expensive. Working man’s Scotch that people could realistically wince at as they take a desperate swig straight from the bottle. Johnnie Walker Red? Who knows.

Thank you very much, Davin!
A few links of interest:
'63 Monroe's mp3 page at CHRW.

'63 Monroe's website
Davin's page at Maltmaniacs'.



Longrow 1987/2005 (45%, Samaroli, cask #113, 312 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: wow, this is something different! Very far from the current OB’s, starting on a fab mix of clean farmy peat, clean smoky coastality (!?) and aniseed, dill and celery. Extremely clean and fresh yet very complex, getting very ‘porridgy’ after a moment. Soaked grains, dairy cream, yoghurt, mashed potatoes…

And then we have lots of mineral and ashy aromas, like burnt matchstick, fireplace, limestone… And always hints of fermenting hay and ‘clean wet dog’ in the background, that give it sort of a welcomed wildness. Also hints of vanilla pods and quite some Cayenne pepper and even cloves… Really beautiful, not exactly austere but truly purebred. Mouth: what a superb attack, at an ideal strength here. I’m really glad it wasn’t bottled at cask strength. First we have a mouth filling sweetness, mostly on crystallized orange zests (orangettes) and then a great ‘peatiness’, with lots of both smoky and fermented ‘stuff’, like high-end Belgian beer (old Orval – thanks again guys) or old pu-erh tea, notes of chestnut honey, getting also quite waxy and even gingery. Really excellent, very compact, very satisfying. The finish is rather long at that, spicy, vegetal and peaty, with a peppery afterglow. Just another excellent, elegant and well-mannered 1987 Longrow from the Samaroli racing stable! 92 points.
Longrow 8 yo 1997/2005 (59.9%, OB for The Springbank Society, refill butt, 690 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re very, very far from the 1987, I’m afraid. Almost closed at first nosing, with just something mineral and citric at the same time… And then we have invading notes of soaked newspapers, Alka-Seltzer, gin-fizz, paraffin, ‘chemical’ lemon juice, wet chalk… Rather bizarre and not very enjoyable, I’m afraid. And then it gets even weirder, with something like old oysters and fermenting grass. It gets even farmier with a little water, but also very cheesy, almost dirty (gym socks). Mouth: punchy but very unusual again, with exactly the same phenomenon happening. Lots of chemical citric notes, cheap sweets, icing sugar, Jell-O (the worst flavours), aspirin, cardboard… And the finish is rather long but bitter and acid at the same time… Ah well, I have no luck with the recently distilled Longrows, I must say – and God knows I’m trying hard! I guess it’s me, because I know some guys liked it – and not only members of the Springbank Society. I should add that I did let it breathe for another half an hour and that it got a tad better indeed (a little less ‘chemical’ and much saltier) but that wasn’t enough for it to deserve more than 73 points in my books (whilst water almost killed it). Now, it’s really unusual whisky, and unusual often means interesting…

April 2, 2006

Glenmorangie 'Burgundy Finish' (43%, OB, 2005 bottling) Finished for a few months. Colour: dark straw. Nose: light – not weak – but rather lively, starting on crystallized oranges and peonies, light ‘breakfast’ honey and ripe strawberries. Something slightly winey indeed, a tad sourish… Hints of rosehip tea, freshly baked cake, pollen, vanilla… Not particularly interesting but balanced and inoffensive.
Mouth: it’s a little more bodied now, but slightly disjointed. Something sugary and caramelly on one side and ‘something’ winey on the other side (more like an everyday sweet wine than like a Bourgogne). Notes of cooked strawberries and rhubarb, old wine barrel (slightly dirty wood), icing sugar, sour honey, mead… It gets then quite malty, as if it wanted to go back to… Scotland! The finish is longer than expected, even a little hot, mostly on dried fruits. Probably the best part (and not only because it’s the end ;-)) Right, I must confess I’m a huge fan of Burgundy wines – and that I’m not into finishings, but I can’t see what’s ‘Burgundian’ in there – except the name. But it could have been worse… 72 points.
Glenmorangie 12 yo ‘Côte de Beaune Finish’ (46%, OB, circa 2004) Finished for two years in barrels that had contained red wine. The ‘Côte de Beaune’ is one of the five main parts of Burgundy (the others are the Yonne/Chablisien, Côte de Nuits, Côte Chalonnaise and Côte Mâconnaise). Some of the best Bourgognes come from there, and they’re usually a little lighter than the wines from the Côte de Nuits, which is the best part as far as reds are concerned. Colour: pale amber. Nose: much more coherent and also more fragrant, and certainly more elegant. We have again this flowery notes (peonies, maybe violets, heather), quite some honey and pollen. Hints of perfume (Chanel N°5), fresh herbs, apricot jam, plum pie… Much less winey than the ‘Burgundy Finish’, and so better balanced, fresh and elegant. A good ‘product’. Mouth: again, it’s much better, although rather sweetish. Very rounded, with quite some liquorice (nice wood extract), strong vanilla, ginger… Quite some cooked fruits (mostly strawberries and blueberries), probably from the wine, but I feel they are much better integrated here. The finish is rather long, balanced and a little sweet and spicy (quite some pepper). A finishing that works much better here, no doubt. 81 points.
Glenmorangie 12 yo ‘Château de Meursault Finish’ (46%, OB, circa 2002) Finished for two years in barrels that had contained white wine. The Château de Meursault is a property located on the Côte de Beaune, south of the city of Beaune, and is famous for its whites. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it does start on some rather nice notes of mirabelle plums, with also hints of ashes but switches then to ginger ale, Alka-Seltzer, vase water, with something slightly dirty (old empty barrel). Something smoky as well… Rather prickly. Strange… Maybe all experiments shouldn’t be put on the market? Mouth: ah, this is really weird now. A very winey start (old, nearly stale white wine) and then… almost nothing, except a strange bitterness. Really disjointed. Okay, there are a few nice fruity notes (mirabelle plums and apricots again) but also quite some rubber. Sulphur from the casks? What’s curious is that the finish is rather long, almost hot and quite bitter and sweetish at the same time and, again, rubbery. A finishing that quite failed in my opinion. To all our friends from Burgundy: please accept my apologies, we all know you make much greater stuff than what Scotch-only drinkers may sometimes think. Maybe you should try to keep your barrels? As for Glenmorangie’s malt, we all know how great it can be, when ‘natural’, so, ‘why?’ I’m sorry, I’m just a simple self-styled connoisseur but it slightly gets on my nerves to see great names from the wine world being associated to such results. Please, INAO, CIVB and other professional organizations, try to do something! On the other hand, Glenmorangie's recent experiments with new oak seem to work much, much better (kudos to them). 68 points.


MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with the great late American soprano Eileen Farrell singing a very passionate (who said frightening?) To this we’ve come - Act II.mp3 (Magda Sorel in The Consul, Menotti,1957, in English) (via cantabile studio)



NOTA BENE - I got quite a few reactions regarding yesterday's entry and I feel I should remind some of our distinguished readers that April 1st was All Fools' Day. According to wikipedia, 'The day is marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication (indeed) on friends and neighbours.' By the way, Britney Spear's tune was in fact 'The Magical 8bit tour' by Japan's (of course) YMCK. Please buy their music!


April 1, 2006

It seems that several big brands are willing to use shock tactics this year! Whiskyfun could get hold of these new ads that should run in several American and European lifestyle magazines at the end of 2006, and Willibald Schmitz (Schmitz & Smith Advertising Worldwide, London) just confirmed on the phone: "Yup, all these trendy ads for vodkas like Absolut or Skyy, you know, they started to get on our clients’ wicks and we told them they should get rid of tartans, water running down the hills and bagpipes and focus on more modern themes. We showed them a few ideas and they thought they were terrific and, you know, once they are convinced these guys are not backward in coming forward and so these ads will run from October on. We’re still working on all that but we’ll probably select leading US magazines such as Swine Practitioner, Grassroots Motorsports, Soap Opera Digest, Today's Christian and Veggie Life and we’re quite done regarding Europe, it’ll be Whisky Magazine of course, but also Psychologies, Horse and Hound, The Scottish Farmer, Meine Familie und ich, l’Echo de la Ménagère, Escuelas de Misterios and Teddy Bear Times. We have very strong expectations!” It was about time!


Loch Dhu 10 yo (40%, OB) A malt that has always been the type to generate question marks rather than exclamation points, but I feel we need to do it justice, once for all. Colour: stunning deep brown with hues of thigh of a moved nymph. Nose: an impressive nose right from the beginning!

It's youthful and lively but packed with very complex aromas, such as belly of a Russian hare having run in the rain at five in the morning, Mongolian leather saddle, high-end Balkan Sobranie tobacco and aunt Marge’s maple fudge. It keeps developing stunningly on all sorts of fruits: capulin cherries, Japanese persimmon, very ripe pitayas, jujubes… Wow! And maybe also cherries of the Rio Grande and rose apples… And then we have the flowers! Chilean bellflower, passionflower, hedgerow blossoms, ginger lily, maybe snowy lady-slipper (Cypripedium Reginae) – or is it Sparrow-egg lady-slipper (Cypripedium passerinum)? And it’s not over, because we have also, in no particular order: Jamaica Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak coffees, Madonna’s armpit before the Pilates gym, boxwood, Hershey's Kiss chocolate and small dried Himalayan kumquats … In short, it’s absolutely stunning! But will the palate match that entrancing nose? Let’s see… Mouth: triple wow! This continues onto the palate indeed, which is rapidly swamped with deep, succulent, velvety fruit flavours… Yet, the attack is immensely refreshing and palate-cleansing, exactly what we didn’t expect. So we have fabulous fruity notes again, such as Wrigley's Juicy Fruit from a good vintage, New York rooftop mini-apples, lots of berries (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, cranberry, huckleberry, loganberry, marionberry but, most astonishingly, not halleberry – oh, maybe also husk-covered Cape gooseberry). It goes on with English mulled claret, stew, grilled Angus beef… And then West-Indonesian saffron, Tellicherry Pepper, Bearnaise sauce, authentic Chai spices, Cerranos green chilli and yellow split mung dal. And yes, umami. Really a marvellously decadent and vibrantly fruity and spicy palate, with extremely well-integrated tannins. And the finish is very long, savoury and fearlessly caressing, with hints of capsicum and a fine-grained tannic structure... A monumental whisky in all ways, the future of which might have been hanging on the deficient olfactory sensibilities of inexperienced self-styled connoisseurs who didn’t do it justice when it was launched. Too bad, because it’s probably the best whisky to piss off all your single-malt-snob friends, and if you prefer old cars, Karl Böhm, a vacuum tube amplifier or a phone that is just a phone and not a media center, then you should definitely buy cases of (one-litre bottles of) Loch Dhu – if you can afford it, that is. And I’m sure that’s the whisky they were drinking on Mount Olympus - yes, the true ‘nectar of the gods'! My rating: 98+ points.
Brora 22 yo 1972/1995 (58.7%, Rare Malts) Frankly, who would be so crazy as to pass up the opportunity to sample this legend again? But first of all, let me extend a pre-emptive apology: high prices and good whisky are different things and a good buzz doesn’t influence me usually (yeah, yeah)… Quite on the contrary, especially when a whisky gets hideously expensive. Colour: Exxon-Valdez oil. Nose: Aaargh, it starts with ‘about as much reserve as a silk shirted big city real estate agent expounding the kummunity benefits of sub division to a Shire alderman with the bum out of his King Gees!’ (seen that on Jancis Robinson’s website – liked it). Rotting oranges, dried oranges, orange marmalade, crystallized oranges, orange juice, small oranges, large oranges, bitter oranges, orange liqueur, orange tree, orange honey… Much too orangey, definitely! And what a weird nose of vintage jelly babies, Band-Aid (peat, they say!), Madonna’s armpit after the Pilates gym, Brettanomyces and 2,4,6- trichloroanisole! Gets immensely mousy, with also huge notes of nail polish remover assaulting your nostrils, and also Walmart ‘best deal’ vinegar, skunk and rotten duck eggs. And the dreadful – but true - litany goes on: backside of a retired camel, decrepit potato-processing factory, old carpet in a Vegas casino, forgotten ashtray, hog farm, durian, hooligans’ breath, cooked cabbage (you could add asparagus and broccoli), foreign politics, dead moose… Really painful! Now, should we drink some? Heck, why not, we can always spit it out… Mouth: mum, what a putrid swill! What am I doing drinking this fluid? It starts on crank case oil and tart-fuel, with a tinned peas character… Well, there are plenty of things to screw up when making whisky, and it seems that some guys have succeeded immensely. I’m sorry, I won’t go on… I just can’t stand this whacked-out, crazy, rot-tastic monster that is this kerosene-fuelled frenzy of a malt. I know many aficionados would love to taste it – and many did, actually. I guess this must be why the world is in such a state; everyone is pissed. 1 point (for the container).

Quote of the day: “No one is free from uttering stupidities. The harm lies in doing it meticulously.” Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Essais.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Did you know that an obscure journalist just unearthed some very rare, unreleased early Britney Spears tapes? It's said she recorded those using an Atari computer and a few MOD files... Anyway, Whiskyfun could get hold of a good example of Britney Spears' stunning early works, called Hiwal-biasta.mp3 (apparently, she was studying Japanese at the time)... And please, well...

March 2006 - part 2 <--- April 2006 - part 1 ---> April 2006 - part 2

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

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

Inchgower 1967/1988 (46%, Moon Import 'The Costumes', butt #788, 556 bottles)

Inchgower 21 yo 1967 (46%, Moncreiffe)

Longrow 1987/2005 (45%, Samaroli, cask #113, 312 bottles)

Springbank 10 yo 1968/1980 (59%, OB, Italy, cask #1786)

Tomatin 1965 (50.7%, JWWW The Cross Hill, sherry cask, 82 bottles, 2006)