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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2007 - Part 1
March 2007 - part 2 <--- April 2007 - part 1 ---> April 2007 - part 2

April 14, 2007

Ardbeg 1991
Ardbeg 1991/2005 (45%, Samaroli Coilltean, cask #632, 384 bottles) Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: sharp and almost ‘rigid’ at first nosing, very grassy, with lots of apple skin, newly cut grass, parafin and wet stones. Notes of fresh butter. Some peat but it’s a little shy I think, as if reduction with water sort of tamed it. Much less expressive than most other 1991’s I had, but those were usually bottled at cask strength, that is. Mouth: full bodied, fruity, peaty, peppery and salty. Really straightforward, without surprises - bad or good. Gets nicely resinous after a while. The whole is bolder than expected, considering the relatively low ABV (don’t tell my mum that I think that 45% is low, please). Finish: even more typically Ardbeg. The smokiness, the pepper, the saltiness… And all that jazz. Maybe an aftertaste that’s a little too sweetish, but it’s very good ‘of course’, even if it doesn’t really bring anything different to the table. 85 points.
Ardbeg 15 yo 1991/2007 (54.4%, The Whisky Fair, 327 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Not really more complex than the Samaroli at first nosing and even sharper but a little more expressive – and more typical. Lots of iodine, seawater, smoked tealeaves, peppermint, lemon juice… Then coal oven, fireplace… Now, it’s no extravagant Ardbeg but maybe water will add another dimension. Let’s try: ah yes, that works quite well. It got more lemony and very nicely herbal (lemon balm). More delicately maritime as well (sea breeze, shells, kelp…) Very elegant in fact. Mouth (neat): yes, this starts better than it did on the nose. More generous, more on gentian eau-de-vie (hurray!), rooty, salty, tarry… Exactly the kind that I’d love to try on oysters. Again, don’t look for utter complexity but both balance and compactness are perfect. With water (although water isn’t needed on the palate here): even more salt (I know, I know), salted liquorice, salted… well, anything. Funny. Finish: rather long, clean and just as salty and liquoricy. Gets better and better from the very first sniffs to ‘the end of the finish’. 88 points.
Ardbeg 15 yo 1991/2006 (58.9%, High Spirits, cask #644) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is more exuberant, one would say more ‘talkative’. More medicinal as well, with lots of iodine, bandages… Great notes of pure cocoa, roasted nuts (without sugar or caramel, mainly peanuts) and toasted bread. It gets smokier and smokier, rather on cold ashes and coal oven just like the Whisky Fair. Gets then more classically Ardbeg, with lots of peat smoke and hints of kelp as well as a little tar. The heavy cocoa is quite unusual – and it’s no sherry cask. With water: it got even more on milk chocolate and peanut butter. Even Nutella (don’t tell the kids!) Very interesting – a breakfast Ardbeg? Mouth (neat): yes, it’s great. Extremely dry, peaty and peppery, sharp like a blade but maybe just a tad too spirity, that is. Too bad because the profile is perfect, but better add a little water: okay, it got much more classical, balanced but full bodied, not oo spirity anymore. I’d say it fell back into line, with a typical ‘Ardbegian’ profile – you know what I mean. Maybe not a complete revelation but this one is certainly more entertaining than the average recent indie 15 yo Ardbeg. 90 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening (jazz): at the bridge of free jazz and rap, we have the fabulous Steve Coleman and his M-base collective playing- and shouting - Oyá Natureza.mp3. Really free, Mr Coleman. Please buy his music. Steve Coleman

April 13, 2007

Glen Elgin Glen Elgin 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, Signatory UCF, virgin oak barrels, cask #2328+29, 633 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very fresh, starting mainly on pear juice and muesli, developing on pear juice and muesli and going on with notes of pear juice and muesli (with hints of white pepper and milk chocolate from the wood). Granted, you have to like pear juice but I do and this is ultra-clean and very natural. Very pleasant.
Mouth: the same thing happens, except that it’s more on muesli and white pepper than on pear juice. Less fruity than expected in fact, despite its young age. Gets quite grassy after a moment, slightly bitter and salty. Extremely ‘natural’, maybe even ‘neutral’, and less youthful than on the nose. Finish: rather long but still very neutral, grainy, bitterish (lemon zests) and peppery. A youngish, neutralish malt on the palate but again, the nose was very pleasant. 78 points.
Glen Elgin 1974/2002 (59.4%, McKillop's Choice, cask #2) Colour: full gold. Nose: much more silent and austere at first sniffs, with just some notes of apple skin, fresh butter and oak sawdust. I guess water should wake it up a bit… Yes, that’s exactly what happens! We have a beautiful oakiness now (carpenter’s workshop, liquorice sticks, wax polish, high-end tea), lots of vanilla custard, pollen, dandelions, leather, Virginia tobacco (unlit Camel), a little wood smoke, loads of freshly ground nutmegs… It really got superb with just a few drops of water. Mouth (neat): hot, spirity and oaky, peppery, biting… Water please! Right, that works again but not as beautifully as on the nose. There are too many tannins I think, the malt getting a little too bitter and peppery, even at 45% vol. Too bad. Finish: long but still tannic and peppery. Well, I hope nobody forgot to add water and to nose this one deeply, because it all happens there I think. 83 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening: yeah, I know, it's not the first time we have some Nellie McKay on WF but she's still in our musical Pantheon, so let's have Toto dies.mp3 today... And please, please buy her music. Nellie McKay

April 12, 2007

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, March 29th 2007
Joe Bonnamassa It’s my birthday, and for a special treat we’re at the Shepherds Bush Empire to see the latest hot-rod blues guitarist from the USA, Joe Bonamassa. Joe’s not that well known over here – but he’s managed to sell out the Bush, which is packed to the rafters with mobile phone camera-wielding guitar anoraks both young and old, and a very nice crew they are too.
We’re standing at the back (in sardine mode) next to the Shepherds Bush Philosophical Society for Indigent Gentlemen, who’ve obviously spent much of the evening debating matters of great import in the pub, but they’re not short of a knowledgeable and well-informed word or two to help us (and those around us) appreciate some of the finer points of the evening. “Rory Gallagher would fucking wipe the floor with him”; “how many Jimmy Page riffs has he played now?”, or – as Joe uncharacteristically slips into an exotic minor key – “Oh no, it’s the fucking Ravi Shankar bit…”
Although I struggle to visualise this, Joe apparently started playing the guitar when he was only four (his Dad owned a guitar shop). No doubt he was nurtured in a crib on top of a Marshall Vintage reissue all-valve JCM-900 100 watt stack. He was good enough on the axe to be opening for B B King (who described him as “unbelievable” and “one of a kind”) by the time he was twelve, and began recording with the sons-of-the-stars band Bloodline, before releasing his first solo album in 2000 at the age of 23. He’s now recorded eight albums of which the most recent, You and Me, was released last year. He’s on a short tour of Europe and then seems to be spending much of the rest of the year on the road back home in the States.
Marshall amp
Marshall JCM 900
4100 Dual Reverb
What else? Well Ted Nugent (remember Ted?) played with Joe and recalled the experience thus: "Last night, my musical jihad grew even more hair on its scrotum, because I got to jam onstage, no band, just a couple of Les Pauls and a kid named Joe Bonamassa, a white kid from New York …this kid deserves to be in the same class with Stevie Ray Fucking Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. It was really inspiring.” And although I’m revealing no details of my scrotum let me echo Ted’s words – this boy’s guitar playing is technically on a another planet. I mean he must be good – he’s got a collection of over 150 guitars to practise on!
Sadly technique isn’t always enough. There’s no shortage of great playing, either from Bonamassa himself or his extremely competent band, bassist Mark Epstein and drummer Bogie Bowles. The problem is that, even more than the audience, Joe seems to be stuck in a bit of a time-warp, somewhere like 1973 to be precise, and to be honest as the night went on I began to get a bit confused as to which birthday I was actually celebrating.
Joe Bonamassa   You see Joe likes to wear his influences on his sleeve, so amid flashes of Albert King phrasing and occasional B B King licks the most predominate sources of inspiration were that gang of ne’r-do-well British rockers from a few years before Joe was born, Gallagher, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, et. al. And if Joe’s mastered their styles almost to perfection then he’s also borrowed Gary Moore’s almost prehistoric Monsters of Rock grimace combined with Alvin Lee’s wonderful extending chin (cf. Woodstock, ‘I’m going home’).
Joe Bonamassa
There’s also the obligatory acoustic guitar bit, where he nearly burns the frets off his lovely guitar playing ‘Woke up dreaming”. But really once you’ve got over the fact that he can really play it that fast, that loud, that quietly it all becomes somewhat prosaic. And what finally did it for me was Bonamassa’s bizarre choice of the Yes classic ‘Starship trooper’ as his closing song (a regular feature of his set apparently). I wondered if I was the only person in the Bush who actually heard Steve Howe play THAT guitar solo from the coda back in 1971 at Birmingham Town Hall, almost 36 years to the day. And to be frank, in so far as I can remember, Steve played it better.But still, for guitar fanatics Joe is the man, and if that’s your cup of tea then you should certainly go and see him, buy his CDs or have a look at the numerous video clips on You Tube (if you’re very keen you can even watch him demonstrate his pedal board – cool!). He’s an electric player, but with all the charisma of a singed guitar pick – so don’t expect a lot by way of entertainment beyond the riffs. And one final thing I should say, is what a lovely audience and a good atmosphere. So a particular thank you to the chaps in the mosh who kindly took the Photographer under their wings and helped her get a decent picture, and of course to the Philosophical Society: “Hang on, didn’t Peter Green play that line with the Bluesbreakers in 1967….?” - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick, and happy birthday! Ah, Ted Nugent... Yes, I remember. I didn't like his albums from the mid-70's at all but they were the first to be available over here, and thanks to those, we decided to dig deeper into this guy's earlier discography and thus we came across true gems that we used to 'import' directly from the States. Same with, for instance, Bob Seger. I don't know what happened with the rock producers around 1975, but everything started to sound too polished - some would say 'too commercial'. A friend calls that the 'Stevie Nicks effect'. As for Joe Bonamassa, it's a good whisky friend from the US who first told me about him. I must say I like him, because even if he'll never have, say Rory Gallagher's charisma, I think his 'skills from the past' plus today's sound quality make for a good cocktail on a turntable. I mean, on an iPod. And the wha-whas! Who's still doing wha-whas like him?
Littlemill Littlemill 11 yo 1990/2002 (43%, Signatory, cask #2961-2962, 758 bottles) Colour: almost white. Nose: extremely fresh and fruity, like a mixture of apple juice, pineapple juice and vodka. It’s also a little mashy but the whole is as simple as it can get and ultra-clean. One to serve chilled on smoked salmon? Mouth: extremely sweet and fruity, with again quite some apple juice, tinned pineapples, tinned lychees… Add to that a few tannins from the wood and you have the whole picture. Finish: medium-long, fruity and very slightly oaky, with a salty tang. Simple pleasures for summertime – on ice. 78 points.
Littlemill 16 yo 1991 (53.8%, Exclusive Malts, cask #166, 251 bottles, 2007) Colour: straw. Nose: much more happening here, starting with ripe kiwis and apples plus nice touches of oak and vanilla. It gets more special after that, getting quite resinous and waxy. Quite some mint, a little eucalyptus, apple skin, whiffs of incense and sandalwood… We have also spicy herbs like parsley and chives, lovage… Old wooden cupboard, wax polish, roasted nuts… Quite superb I must say, complex and assertive. This was an excellent cask it seems. Mouth: in the same vein, except that it’s the resinous side that speaks first. Quite thick, bold… Nice tannins, white pepper, caramelised nuts, praline, vanilla crème… Then quite some liquorice. The oak is very present and keeps the whole compact and very satisfying. Finish: long, nutty and spicy (white pepper and touches of nutmeg and cloves). A very, very good Littlemill, unusually demonstrative, especially on the nose. Probably one of the best I could try up to now. 88 points.

April 11, 2007

Glen Grant 1963 Glen Grant 1963/1978 (75°proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75.7cl) Interesting bottle size, a direct ‘metric translation’ of 26 2/3 Fl ozs I guess. Colour: full amber. Nose: extraordinary at first nosing, a fabulous sherried whisky further matured in glass! Perfect notes of old walnuts, old Chateau Chalon (kind of fino from Jura, France – only way better ;-)) and sultanas. Goes on with notes of old orange liqueur, beehive that’s full of honey, antique furniture… Notes of Spanish ham (pata negra – okay, guilty of maltoporn here), hints of metal, pecans, balsamic vinegar, cigar humidor… Fabulous double-maturation (wood + glass).
Mouth: ho-ho, now it’s almost like a very old Tokaj Escenzia – a genuine one, that is. Fantastically raisiny (we have them all, sultanas, Corinth, Smyrna…) It’s also got notes of Grand Marnier (the older cuvees, not the commercial ones), chestnut honey, mead, milk chocolate, caramel crème… We have also quite some roasted hazelnuts and a slight mintiness that gives it a superb zing. Fab old Glen Grant! Finish: long as a day without bread as we say here, still very nutty and raisiny, candied but nervous and never ‘thick’. An ode to bottle ageing, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that good when it was bottled (I know that’s nonsense, that I can’t be sure etc. but believe me, I ‘feel’ it – err…) Anyway, 94 points for this old wonder - Berry Bros always had, had still have great stocks of Glen Grant it seems. (And heartfelt thanks, Olivier)
Glen Grant 38 yo 1967/2005 (44.2%, Norse Cask, 129 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: much more wham-bam at first nosing and much oakier – beautifully so. Another one that smells like a freshly made thuja box, with something frankly resinous and leathery. Goes on with notes of wet liquorice roots, gentian spirit, Seville oranges, a little chlorophyll and a little eucalyptus, hints of tar (but no sulphur at all). Starts to smell like a newly opened box of green tea after a moment and then like cider apples and candle wax, which is a strange development but a great one.
Liquorice roots
liquorice roots
Mouth: I was afraid this one would be too woody but it isn’t at all. Just as assertive as on the nose, compact, coherent, spicy, nutty and orangey, with a beautiful oakiness that gives it a great backbone. Quite some Bourbon vanilla, a little nutmeg, tea… Then we do have some tannins that a re a little dry but there’s also a very nice fruitiness (very ripe strawberries, melon, peaches) that keeps the whole balanced. Finish: frankly oaky now but still not really drying, long, spicy (white pepper and cloves, with a pinch of salt from the cask), with also quite some walnut skin. Nutshell: a beautiful old Glen Grant without the usual heavy sherry but with a superb oakiness. 92 points. (And thanks, Al)
Glen Grant Cross Hill Glen Grant 1971/2006 (53.6%, JWWW The Cross Hill, 168 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: obviously closer to the 1967 in style but more classically sherried at first nosing. Bitter chocolate, coffee, dark rum, raisins and all that jazz. Develops more on resinous notes after that, coming even closer to the 1967 but it’s also more vinous, nuttier and meatier (ham – just any). Truly beautiful but more ‘maintreamish’ if I may say so. Mouth: great mouth feel, compact, thick, almost ‘spoonable’ but not cloying at all. The attack is fruitier than expected (raspberry and blackberry jellies), very chocolaty, with something of an old Morgon. It’s much more playful and nervous that on the nose I’d say. Maybe simpler too but the balance is perfect.
Notes of armagnac-soaked prunes, orange liqueur again, ganache, tawny Port… Quite funnily, there’s quite some tannins in the background but they are more like tannins from the grapes than from the wood. Finish: not very long, which is a bit strange, but quite fresh (as fresh as such a sherry monster can get) fruity, candied, with notes of chardonnay grappa… Much more interesting on the palate than on the nose, even if the latter was truly flawless. Another excellent old Glen Grant, no doubt. 91 points.
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MUSIC Recommended listening: new cat Alvin King doing Jack Johnson's Rodeo Clowns.m3. It's home recorded - but there's no place like home... Please buy Alvin King's music... When he'll sell it. Alvin King

April 10, 2007

Glenfarclas 21 Glenfarclas 21 yo (51.5%, OB, Pinerolo, selected for Edward Giaccone, rotation 1974) This rare one was distilled in the early 1950’s. Colour: full gold. Nose: absolutely stunning right at first sniffs. Hugely complex, like an old Yquem from a top vintage (1967?). First we have various honeys (fir, chestnut, acacia, lavender) and all kinds of roasted nuts, then lots of verbena and chamomile teas, then something phenolic that may well be peat, and finally a wide array of smoky and tarry aromas (freshly remade tarmac, brown coal, tiger balm, old ‘natural’ motor oil, leather…), not to forget hints of parsley, chives, smoked ham and sausages. Plus myriads of ‘smaller’ aromas but we don’t need more maltoporn, do we? Extraordinary old Glenfarclas!
Mouth: an attack that’s out of Glenfarclas’ world, with a lot of, yes, peat besides the candy sugar, ripe apricots, spearmint, propolis, tinned pineapples, praline, chocolate… And God knows what else. Okay, we haven’t gotten all day so let’s jump to the finish, which is long, complex yet compact, peaty, waxy, honeyed, candied and resinous. A stunner, punto basta – Mr. Giaccone was really somebody. 96 points.
Glenfarclas 1983/2007 (56%, OB, Family Casks, cask #50, 302 bottles) This brand new series is about to be launched by the distillery. They’ll have all vintages since the early 1950’s I believe. The picture shows an example of the new packaging for this series. What’s very interesting with the three vintages we'll try today (1983, 1974 and 1965) is that you can easily try them from the young to old, as it’s the oldest that’s also the strongest – well, almost. Colour: gold. Nose: of course it’s not as complex as the old 21 yo but it’s far from seeming ridiculous next to it. It’s very grassy at first nosing (no sherry it seems) and quite resinous, with notes of moss and mushrooms, newly cut grass, sorrel… then it’s the wood that speaks, with quite some vanilla and a little varnish, milk chocolate, milk, quinces and a little rubber (a nice one). Quite ‘natural’ and certainly powerful. Glenfarclas
Mouth: the nose was very nice, the palate is excellent. It all starts on candied lemons and pineapples as well as orange drops and develops more towards honey-filled beeswax (the beekeeper’s chewing-gum), with a very interesting mint and lots of quince jelly. Goes on with a little vanilla fudge, light toffee and lavender sweets, with even notes of Turkish delights. Excellent compactness altogether. Finish: long, orangey, mainly on vanilla sugar and barley sugar. A little ‘thickness’ on your tongue. In short, an unusual totally unsherried Glenfarclas (it seems) that really delivers. 90 points.
Glenfarclas 1974/2007 (60.8%, OB, Family Casks, butt, cask #2578, 555 bottles) Colour: full gold with bronze hues. Nose: not extremely different from the 1983. Very powerful, quite spirity, nutty and as grassy as the 1983. Very nice notes of cold cuts and soy sauce in the background but the high alcohol does mask them a bit. Water needed: okay, that didn’t work that much, the whisky didn’t get any more complex, just more vanilled and caramelised, with also a little mint and a little pine resin. Excellent compactness and no single flaw whatsoever but this one is a little less entertaining than the 1983 I think. Mouth (neat): easier to ‘absorb’ than to nose when neat but the alcohol does dominate the whole – no wonder. Let’s reduce it right away… That worked better than with the nose even if again, it didn’t really get hugely complex. Rather waxy, candied, honeyed, fruity (dried oranges and quinces) and spicy (white pepper) but maybe a little drying, tannic… But the whole is very satisfying. Long finish on candy sugar and tea, again a little drying… Excellent whisky but maybe this one is more for people actually born in 1974 than for hardcore whisky fans. I liked the 1983 better. 86 points.
Glenfarclas 1965/2007 (60%, OB, Family Casks, butt, cask #3861, 417 bottles) An amazing strength at 42 years old (no typo!) Colour: full amber with orange hues. Nose: frankly, I’d have said this is a great old dark rum, had I nosed it blind. It starts on hyper-concentrated oak, with lots of cellulose varnish, burning fir wood, resin and whiffs of fresh putty. Then it’s the leather and the Havana tobacco, scented wax, shoe polish… There may well be some sherry behind all that but it’s really the wood itself that does the job, not the ‘possible’ wine. Keeps developing on unlit Tibetan incense sticks (natural ones, not scented like most others) and mint, getting a little more classical after that (sultanas and apricot pie). Truly superb, one to watch once it comes out. I does not need water but let’s try it with a few drops: oh yes, now we have notes of forest after the rain, humus, mushrooms, mint flavoured tea… How stunning! Mouth (neat): enormously drinkable when unreduced – seriously. It is exactly like on the nose, beautifully oaky and tasting almost exactly like a very old rum from the best plantations. We’re getting more on spices after that superb attack, with a little nutmeg, cinnamon (a lot), Chinese anise, cloves… And a lot of candy sugar, speculoos, raisins, cough sweets, crystallised oranges, resin, mint, eucalyptus, camphor… It’s also a little tarry again and just marginally tannic. Amazing. With water: censored. Finish: censored (okay, truckloads of mint). Rating: 95 points. Bottle ageing will probably propel this one towards 96/97 points around 2030, so watch this space! ;-) (and thanks, Ian)
MUSIC Recommended listening: we already had some Mirah two or three years ago, let's have another song today: Nobody has to stay.mp3. Please buy her music... Mirah

April 9, 2007

Laphroaig 10 yo 1996 (53.3%, Exclusive Malts, cask #3683, 295 bottles, 2007) Colour: white wine. Nose: crystal-clean, pure, fresh peat and loads of sea elements (shells, seaweed, breeze etc.) plus green apple juice. Not extremely smoky and certainly not very medicinal (except for the iodine). Typical young Laphroaig, not complicated but super-clean. Mouth: extremely coherent, punchy, sweet and peaty with just the right amount of lemon juice, liquorice and pepper. Very good, like most young Laphroaigs unless there’s a flaw. Long finish, peaty, salty as it should be… Nothing exceptional actually, just another very good young Laphroaig. 87 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo 1996/2007 (53.4%, JWWW Auld Distillers, 210 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: same, just the same as the Exclusive Malts. Maybe a tad more on the mineral side but we’re splitting hairs here. Mouth: ditto. Ah, standardisation! 87 points
Laphroaig 12 yo 1994/2006 (54.4%, High Spirits, cask #8692) Colour: white wine. Nose: now it is different. Smokier and certainly more medicinal (mercurochrome), closer to the wash, with notes of fruity beer (gueuze lambic), milk… Maybe hints of sulphur and rubber that make it less clean than the 1996’s. Now, there’s also a little more happening… Mouth: better now, much closer to the 1996’s, except for a little more tar – or is it rubber again? Maybe a little more oomph as well. But the 1996’s were cleaner. 84 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening (blues): mixing sitar, blues, gospel and entrancing choirs, Harry Manx does Long black veil.mp3. Please buy his music and go to his concerts! Harry Manx

April 8, 2007

Bladnoch 15 Bladnoch 15 yo (40%, OB, distillery label, circa 2006) There’s also a 46% version of this one. Colour: white wine. Nose: light but not weak at all at first sniff, extremely citrusy (pure lemon juice) and quite mashy as well. Lemon sprinkled porridge? Gets then a little more flowery (touches of lilies of the valley plus celery) and even vanilled but it’s the lemony freshness that prevails here. What’s more, I think Bladnoch is one of these malts that stand a low alcohol content like 40% the most beautifully. Mouth: not too bold of course but perfectly balanced, with again this huge lemon as well as hints of salt. Goes on on grains, orange drops, lemon pie… And the finish is rather long, still lemony but also with a little candy sugar and touches of bubblegum. I always though Bladnoch was a perfect summer malt and it’s not this one that will make me change my mind. 85 points.
Bladnoch 16 yo 1980/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #89/59/20) Colour: straw. Nose: bizarre, very bizarre, this one is completely different. Starts on lots of cardboard and plastic, dust, sulphur, something like metal polish… Gets then very yeasty and feinty, with quite some ‘natural’ yoghurt and ends up by being very gingery, with hints of ginger tonic and aspirin. Nearly flawed I think, maybe there were nails in that cask… ;-) Metal polish
Mouth: it’s a little better now. Sure there’s this strange dustiness but we have also various fruity sweets (orange, pineapple, strawberry) at the attack. Gets then more lemony (and more orthodox) but there’s something cardboardy that takes over, especially at the medium long, slightly chemical finish. Not a very good Bladnoch, it’s from what I’d call Signatory’s ‘sombre’ era. Indeed, I think they bottled fantastic whisky in there core range up to 1996 or so, then quite some so-so expressions, up to the very early 2000’s when they started to launch quite some stunners again. I’m not talking of their cask strength expressions here, there’s always been a lot of fab whiskies in their famous ‘bulky dumpies’. Anyway, 65 points for this Bladnoch.
MUSIC Recommended listening: it's Sunday, let's go (very) classical with the most popular Canzonetta 'Sull'aria'.mp3 from The Nozze di Figaro, sung by megastars Mirella Freni and Renata Scotto in London in 1978. Maybe the best version ever IMHO. Good news, you escaped a Passion for Easter... Freni

April 7, 2007

THE MALT MANIACS' MONITOR UPDATED! With now 7,848 different whiskies scored! It's there (Pdf file, around 2MB)
Longrow 10 Longrow 10 yo 1995 (46%, OB, 2005) Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, we do have these strange chemical notes that I find in many recent Longrows. Something like Alka-Seltzer, cheap cologne, sulphur, porridge with a spray of lemon juice... Add to that notes of new plastic… Now, it does get nicer after a moment, with nice whiffs of wet stones and cold ashes as well as flints, fresh butter… Funny how it improves in your glass, getting sharper and much more elegant after a good ten minutes. Quite some lime juice and hints of wet dog (say a collie ;-))
Mouth: not unbalanced at the attack, oily, cleaner than at first nosing, with some interesting notes of fresh herbs (chives, parsley, mint) as well as various sweets (lemon, orange, pineapple and lots of lavender and violets) and a little paraffin. Quite phenolic but not especially peaty in the Islayer sense. Finish: quite long, spicier now (curry and pepper) but also grassier and slightly bitter – nicely so. The whole is quite good, much better than the 1994 in any case. 84 points.
Longrow 10 yo 1996 (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: this is completely different. Almost no false smells at first sniffs this time (I mean, what I think are false smells) but rather huge sour and yeasty notes, which I quite like here. Yoghurt, porridge, lemon juice, crushed sorrel and again these whiffs of wet dog. Also a little green tea, muesli… And maybe still a little Alka-Seltzer and sulphur but much less than in the 1995. Nicer, definitely, there’s also probably a few sherry casks in the vatting. Mouth: this is definitely better now. Again quite oily and phenolic, with a more obvious peatiness, bitter oranges, candy sugar, a little caramel and white nougat, crème brulée, ginger, cigarette tobacco… It’s also a little yeasty, in a nice way (white beer), with notes of oatcakes… Sweeter, rounder and better balanced. Finish: not too long but nicely sweet and candied, with notes of lemon and a whispering peatiness. A good Longrow, definitely. 86 points.
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Patti Drew MUSICRecommended listening: it's Patty Drew who was singing this high-energy version of the mega-hit Fever.mp3. She's not around anymore but please buy her music!  

April 6, 2007

Caperdonich 16 yo 1972/1988 (40%, Dun Eideann, 1800 bottles) Colour: amber with orange hues. Nose: oranges again! Smooth, round, smelling just like a freshly baked apricot pie. There’s also a little fresh mint and a starting OBE (faint metallic notes and a slight mustiness). Other than that, it’s all on fruit jam (apricots again, peaches, maybe even melon), with a light smokiness. Not very complicated but most pleasant. Mouth: round and very present despite the ABV. Bold notes of both rum and cognac – actually, it could be mistaken for cognac when tasted blind (well, I would at least be in two minds about it!). Nice oak, dried oranges, caramelised peanuts and old rancio. Very slightly rubbery. Excellent mouth feel and body at 40% vol. Finish: not very long but still very beautifully orangey and cognac-like. A very good ‘old youngish’ Caperdonich, thank you Luc. 87 points. Caperdonich
Caperdonich Caperdonich 33 yo 1972/2006 (41.9%, Duncan Taylor, Lonach) Colour: straw. Nose: fresher and much more on white fruits (apples, pears) and candle wax. Hints of shoe polish and then kiwis and gooseberries. Even more shoe polish and ‘new’ leather after a while, as well as a little oak and vanilla. A shoemaker’s malt? Mouth: not too bold I must say but very oaky, tannic (but not overly drying), tea-ish, with a little cardboard, nutmeg, white pepper… Well, it seems that the cask took a fair share here. Finish: not too long but certainly oaky. It’s almost like tea in which you’d have poured spirit. Not bad, but there are certainly (much) better Caperdonichs at Duncan Taylor’s. 78 points.
Caperdonich 30 yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Bros, cask #7451) Colour: gold. Nose: very close in style to the Lonach but with more oomph at first nosing. Then it’s all on apples and pears but also apricots and lemons. Almost like if we’d have ‘vatted’ the two previous versions. Hints of shoe polish indeed, but it’s much more candied and jammy than the Lonach. Gets more precise with time, with beautiful notes of pink grapefruits coming through, as well as orange liqueur and even a little incense. Quite a lot, in fact. Great development, while it wasn’t that great at first nosing. Mouth: well, it is closer to the Lonach now, with again a bold oakiness that’s a bit drying, although the higher alcohol sort of balances that. But we also have more fruits (butter pears, a little banana and tinned pineapple). I’m afraid there isn’t much else happening. Finish: long and even a little hot but quite oaky again, tea-ish, leaving quite some tannins and liquorice on the back of your palate. Too bad, the nose was so much nicer! 80 points.
Caperdonich 1966/1998 (53.1%, Signatory for Velier Italy, cask #134, 250 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Nose: this was a sherry cask, it’s obvious, and a great one at that. Starts quite unusually on rubber (bicycle inner tube) – but not sulphur - and tar (freshly made tarmac) plus quite some smoke, although it isn’t peaty at all. Then we have the ‘easier’ notes of coffee, Smyrna raisins and old dark rum as well as orange cake and black nougat. It finally gets fruitier and sort of fresher, on fresh oranges, strawberries, mint a hints of eucalyptus leaves. Superb old Caperdonich but you have to like tar and rubber in your sherry monster.       Caperdonich Velier
Mouth: yes! A beautiful sherry again, with a slightly vinous sourness – it’s so concentrated – but also a whole basin of cooked fruits (the usual strawberries and oranges but also blackberries and blackcurrants). Excellent strong honey and praline, coffee-flavoured toffee, ganache, ‘Irish coffee’… And also Turkish delights and ‘heavy’ baklavas (the ones you just can’t eat with your hands or you’ll be sticky for one full week). Extremely rich an thick like a (very good) liqueur. Finish: quite long, with more prunes now, sultanas, rancio… Slightly fresher than before. Even better! Another excellent old sherry monster from our official purveyor Konstantin of Vienna. 91 points.
Caperdonich bottlers Caperdonich 27 yo 1976/2004 (54.3%, The Bottlers, cask #8965) I never came across a bad – or even average – bottling by The Bottlers. Colour: pale gold. Nose: right, that won’t happen today. This one’s extremely fresh, floral and honeyed at first nosing, with a rather superb oakiness. It gets then quite mashy but beautifully so, with notes of Orval beer (one of the best Belgian beers as far as I can tell), mashed potatoes, apple skin and porridge. Lots of porridge. Then it’s mint and fresh almonds, maybe hints of paraffin… And always this beautiful oakiness. It seems that The Bottlers do not only specialize in great sherry casks. Mouth: excellent attack, bold but very precise and compact, fruity (tangerines), ‘natural’, with much less mashy notes. Quince jelly, crystallised oranges. Nice clean mouth feel. Gets more liquoricy after a while, with these notes of Belgian beer coming through now (trappiste). Truly assertive and compact. And clean. Finish: long, candied, fresh, orangey… And very satisfying. Now, I feel it was a little less complex on the palate than on the nose. I’d say 88 points would do.
Caperdonich 38 yo 1968/2006 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #2616) Colour: gold. Nose: yes, this is much, much nicer than the Lonach and incredibly fresh and fruity considering its age. Lots of bananas and apples, pollen, Riesling wine… Great sharpness. Gets more lemony and orangey, with also notes of papayas… And now there’s the oak, the mint, the eucalyptus and a little camphor… Top-class Caperdonich on the nose. 38 years old, really? Mouth: almost like the 1976 we just had but a little more candied and spicy (cloves, dried ginger). Creamy, with quite some vanilla as well as oranges, honey, plum jam… Totally flawless. Finish: long, richer, still quite candied and fruity, with still no over-oakiness… Truly excellent, even if not really more complex than the 1976 in fact. Let’s say it’s a little ‘sexier’. 90 points. Caperdonich DT
Caperdonich 26 Caperdonich 26 yo 1980/2006 (56.8%, First Cask, cask #7346, 120 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this is rather simpler and more spirity. Little fruitiness but quite some honey and pollen as well as a little fresh mint. Notes of candle wax and dry white wine, lemon… It does get better with time but fails to become really entertaining. Starts to smell a little like old wine casks after a moment. Mouth: it’s better now but still a little harsh and spirity – and it’s not the alcohol. Typically the kind of well-matured and flawless un-sherried Speysider that’s very good but that isn’t really the big enchilada in a well-organised whisky tasting session. Apple juice, wood, liquorice… Finish: long and rather compact but again, a little too ‘neutral’. But truly flawless. But slightly boring. But it’s very good whisky, no doubt. But, but, but… 80 points. And yes, I tried it with water, it just didn’t change much – but it’s great with Easter chocolate eggs!
MUSIC – Hugely recommended listening (jazz): WF favourite Patricia Barber sings Let it rain.mp3 (that's on her 1998 CD Modern cool). Fab, fab, fab. Please buy the lady's music and go to her concerts. Patricia Barber

April 5, 2007

HP 18 Highland Park 18 yo 1984/2002 (43%, Dun Eideann, Refill Sherry Cask #1738, 450 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very fresh, light, grassy and flowery. Grainy as well… So, we have notes of dandelions and heather, fresh butter, green apples (and skin), pears, a little lemon, porridge, yoghurt… A very clean spirit with little wood influence but no flaws either.
Mouth: sweet and round, very fruity and quite honeyed but a little simple if not dull. A little caramel, a little liquorice, praline, cappuccino, pear juice… And a medium-long finish, still on pear juice and light caramel, with a salty tang. Good, pleasant and flawless but quite simple for a 18 yo Highland Park. 81 points
Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, 2007) Colour: gold. Nose: more silent and shy, quite astonishingly, a little cleaner than earlier batches of the official 18 yo but certainly less bold and less complex. Grassier and a little more minty, with hints of fresh walnuts, apple skin… Probably less sherry than in the previous batches but I like this freshness. Mouth: a little more body than the 1984, with a creamier mouth feel but other than that we’re in the same league. Light honey and caramel, pear juice, liquorice, light coffee… There’s also more salt and something slightly resinous. Certainly good but less bold than the previous 18yo. Finish: quite long in fact, with a little salted liquorice now, fructose, lemon juice… It’s really different from the previous versions, cleaner, lighter and less sherried, just like the new 12 yo vs the earlier one. But in this case, I’m not sure it’s an improvement, although the overall quality’s still very high. 86 points (I had previous batches at 88 in my books).
Highland Park 18 yo 1988/2006 (46%, Cadenhead, 678 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: much more sherry in this one – it’s probably from a sherry butt. So, we have old walnuts instead of fresh ones, hints of sulphur and rubber but nothing excessive, caramel, notes of rancio and huge whiffs of fresh parsley. Goes on with sultanas and crystallised oranges, flints, a little wood smoke and finally quite some grass (newly mown lawn). Not ultra-clean (the rubber) but much pleasant. Mouth: soft, no rubber this time, just a nicely sherried attack on Corinth raisins, coffee, liquorice and caramel. Add to that Seville oranges and milk chocolate and you’ll have a pretty good picture. Also quite some chestnut honey (a strong one), notes of chocolate cake, black nougat… And a rather long finish on candy sugar and notes of dark rum. Simple but very good on the palate, even if HP’s character is somewhat dominated here. Good balance, nevertheless. 87 points.
MUSICRecommended listening (blues): Mo Kauffey singing In the snow.mp3. We had little snow here this winter, so this is aa compensation. Please buy Mo Kauffey's works. Mo Kauffey

April 4, 2007

SEASICK STEVE The Borderline, London, March 25th, 2007
To be honest I wasn’t sure that going to see Seasick Steve, what seemed like only a few hours after walking the plank at a rumbustious Pirate Party, was necessarily a good idea. And as we groped our way down the narrow companionway into the rolling and pitching hold that doubles as the Borderline, my deepest fears were confirmed. The crowd is heaving – the gig sold out weeks ago. It’s unseasonably hot – and I’m beginning to regret taking the dawn watch. “Why do they call you Seasick Steve, Steve?” someone asked from the audience later. “Because I get sick on boats” was the laconic drawled answer. He ought to try standing where I am. Seasick Steve
Actually he does, making his way to the stage slowly through the dense crowd, playing sharp jarring riffs with his slide guitar, accepting the smiles and shoulder pats that accompany his deliberate process. Steve’s a hero – he jumped into the broad gaze of the British public when he upstaged a clutch of top-notch hipsters on Jools Holland’s New Year TV show (Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller etc.), but he’s also had some long-standing patronage from radio greats Charlie Gillet, Andy Kershaw and Joe Cushley, who’s partly responsible for this short (sold out) tour and who’s sweating his way through roadie duty. Maybe Joe and Co know more about Steve than I do, because I have to say he’s a bit of a difficult cove to track down. He may have been born in 1950 – he left his California home at the age of 14, as a result, as he tells us in a moving narrative in the middle of his last song, of abuse from his step-father, a Korean War Veteran (‘Dog house boogie’). He took to the road and rails of America, living the life of a hobo, working, travelling and drinking; working, travelling and drinking.
Seasick But at some point he turned his back on this life: he lived in Europe (allegedly in the lovely Rive Gauche of your delicious Paris, Serge) and returned to the USA to set up a studio, Moon Music, in Olympia, Washington, where he gained a reputation for recording some of the major bands in the Northwest, including Modest Mouse with whom he also played. He turned his back on that in 2000 - "I'm finished with America. I'm 50 years old now, and I've been watching greed play the main stage since I was a teenager. I just can't stand it any more" - he told a local newspaper, and instead made a home with his Norwegian wife in, errr… Norway. And it’s from there that he’s been rediscovered, or perhaps reinvented, as Seasick Steve, hobo bluesman – with a cracking album Dog House Music (which at the time of writing ranks 153 in Amazon’s UK sales list) and a string of UK gigs (including the predictable Glastonbury) lasting through to the Fall.
Whatever the truth of his history, it’s the engaging Seasick Steve the hobo who takes the stage and in an hour or so has us riding the blind through the southern states of the USA. He transports us to the drunk tanks of Memphis, has us drinking Thunderbird Wine and eating SpaghettiOs under a thousand stars, and shares with us the darker secrets of drinking Canned Heat. “The fellow that taught me the guitar, he used to run round with Tommy Johnson – now, he used to love drinking that Canned Heat” (he was taught to play the guitar by Mississippi bluesman K C Douglas, who’d moved to California chasing work at the end of the Second War). “Me, I only drank it once and it took me three or four days ‘fore I could see straight…”. He does still like a drink, ‘though – he takes a couple of pulls from a small bottle of Jack but then decides better of it and uses it instead to clean the neck of his guitar with a pair of red Seasick Steve underpants (“I don’t know how many of these I signed last night”).
And it’s true to say that his guitars are a bit of a mess – a bashed-up acoustic that you can see daylight through (“Man, this guitar’s shit”), a one stringed diddly-bo made for him by Clarksdale’s Super Chickan (“well I fooled around with it a bit and put the baked bean can on at the end”) and the famous 3-stringed Trance Wonder guitar, bought from his friend Sherman Cooper in Cosmo Mississippi for $75 (“we know about you Sherman”).
Rough they may be but there’s some cute electronics here because the sound old Seasick gets from these written-off instruments is simply sensational. He plays mainly in the old Mississippi style, just about keeping to a twelve-bar structure, moaning, hollering and singing with a deeply resonant voice. There’s nothing tricky about the guitar playing (“here you are – I’ll do it slowly for all the guitar boys in the audience) but it has a relentless intensity, driven on by his Mississippi Drum Machine, an amplified wooden box at his feet. He sounds as good as the real thing – “I’m not a blues singer, I’m a song and dance man” he pleads, and of course that puts him right in the tradition of Charley Patton or Tommy Johnson (Canned Heat notwithstanding) who with all their performing antics would have been shocked to see the dry reverence in which they’re sometimes held today. And while Steve is obviously enjoying his moment of celebrity – “they done got me a myspace – man, I’ve got so many friends and I ain’t never met one of them…” he’s transparently clear that he’s going to make just as much money from it as he can - “it’s my last shot man, buy the record, feed the hobo”. I recommend that you do just that. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick! I didn't know about Seasick Steve (but I sure know about sea sickness, just ask the fish around Islay) but he sort of reminds me of the day when I first heard Keziah Jones and his guitar on French radio. But let’s listen to Cut my wings.mp3 now… - S.
Pulteney DT Pulteney 29 yo 1977/2006 (55.9%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3076, 205 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: quite vibrant and fresh at first nosing, with lots of roasted nuts and praline in the background. Lots of vanilla crème and fresh butter as well as a little wood smoke. Other than that it’s a little harsh, oaky and spirity, so maybe water is needed here. With water: yes, that worked, it got rounder and softer, more beautifully honeyed and floral (nectar), with also quite some beeswax and pollen as well as dried fruits (dates). Elegant!
Mouth (neat): very sweet and very fruity, on lemon drops, tangerines, oranges, light caramel and light honey plus a little oak but not too much. Much more drinkable than noseable at full strength but not very complicated. Quite some liquorice, cloves, gingerbread… It’s good but not especially thrilling on the palate. With a little water now: well, it doesn’t whange much – maybe a little more liquoricy and salty. Good, rather long finish on the latter flavours and quite some tannins and oak now. Great nose, especially with water, and a good palate. 86 points.
Pulteney 1990/2006 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, sherry butt #5469) Colour: deep amber with green hues. Nose: lots of sherry and a huge maltiness, with quite some ‘nice’ sulphur, roasted peanuts, roasted chestnuts and chocolate. Very distinctive, almost an ‘anti-vinous’ sherry, until we get bold notes of old rancio. It gets then more classical, more raisiny and even slightly meaty and minty at the same time. Lots of toasted bread as well. Extremely noseable despite the very high strength, as if the sherry worked like an alcohol filter. A different kind of sherry monster – but let’s still try it with water: again that worked. It got even more coffee-ish (I love good coffee) but also singularly meaty (not only plain grilled beefsteak but also well-hung pheasant.) Hints of Chinese sour plum sauce. Quite superb! Mouth (neat): dry sherry and dry sherry plus dry sherry – amazing. Strong coffee, bitter chocolate, Smyrna raisins, old dark rum (very close), overcooked caramel… It isn’t really thick but very assertive. And a bit too strong… With water: okay, not it got a little too dry and drying I think, and maybe a little sourish. But what a huge liquorice now! Finish: very long, very chocolaty and liquoricy, with just a slight cardboardiness and tannins from the wood, as well as a little salt and maybe even peat. But what a beast! A rather different expression of sherry matured Scotch, well worth trying if you’re into that sort of things like I am. 90 points (and thanks, Konstantin.)

April 3, 2007

Celtic Nations (46%, OB, blended malt, 7200 bottles, 2006) A blend of Bruichladdich 1999 and peated Irish malt from Cooley’s. Colour: straw. Nose: hot, mashy, spirity, smelling like kirsch. Rather heavy notes of distillation, rubber, feints, beer, old wood… Rather bizarre I’d say, not too far from tutti fruti eau-de-vie, maybe Chardonnay grappa. The peat is very young and reminds me of Ballechin’s or Kilchoman’s new makes. Farmy, to say the least. Mouth: young, sweet, lighter than on the nose. Quite grainy, ‘simply’ fruity (pears) and a little salty but that’s pretty all. As uncomplicated as it can get, especially at the medium-long, grainy finish (it really tastes like grain whisky now). This one should bear a few ice cubes. 76 points.
Bruichladdich 40 yo 1966/2006 (41.6%, Duncan Taylor, cask #200, 170 bottles) Colour: pure gold. Nose: another planet, obviously. Starts on superb notes of old furniture, cellulose varnish, ‘new’ Chinese lacquered cabinet, old walnuts, shoe polish… There’s also quite some incense before the whole gets much more vegetal (green tea, celeriac, salsify) and finally a little camphory and slightly sour (curry). Hints of lamp petrol, paraffin, fusel oil. Little sweetness or roundness here, the whole is very dry, nicely so that is. Mouth: a soft, dry and woody attack (no excessive tannins though) followed by a great fruity bunch (the trademark melons and apricots but also bananas, very ripe oranges and pineapples, tinned papayas…) Then we have the rather soft spices (soft paprika, white pepper, curry) and finally the oak, with quite some tannins now, plantain and a little mint. Excellent although not too bold, on the verge of getting a little weak. Finish: rather short but balanced and subtly spicy (a little ginger, touches of mustard). Very, very good but maybe two or three more degrees would have been welcomed, it would have fetched more than 89 points.
Bruichladdich 1986/2006 (57%, OB, cask #494, dark sherry) These sherried 1986’s from Bruichladdich’s are usually very good. Colour: amber-bronze (a nail somewhere?) Nose: that’s strange, we have the same kirschy notes as in the Celtic Nations, with also these notes of all kinds of eau-de-vie, rubber, raw spirit… It’s quite hot, a little rough, with none of the usual melony and apricoty notes that are usually associated with Bruichladdich. Also quite sour (greengage jam) but it gets a little more civilized after a good five minutes, with finally that apricot jam we were expecting. The whole still lacks cleanliness. Another farmy one, probably thanks to the cask. Mouth: very coherent with the nose, fruity but also rubbery and slightly bitterish. These kirschy notes are here again (also spirit-soaked cherries), with a wood that’s a little pervasive (lots of tannins). Notes of caramel sauce and cooked wine. Again, it does improve with time, getting a little cleaner but never close to the earlier batches from this series of 1986’s. Finish: medium-long, still on fruit eau-de-vie and reduced sweet wine, getting also slightly drying on the back of your tongue. 79 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening (free jazz): fragile ears and obtuse minds beware, here are American vocalist Lauren Newton (yes the one who collaborated with Anthony Braxton) and French double-bass player Joelle Léandre playing The insomiacs.mp3. I mean, they improvise. Please support them. Lauren Newton

April 2, 2007

Laphroaig 1991


Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2005 (51.9%, Monnier Trading, sherry wood, 271 bottles) This bottling was only available to the members of the Monnier Club in Switzerland. Sherry-matured Laphroaigs are quite rare and usually exceptionally good (a paradox, you say? Welcome to the modern whisky world) so we have high expectations now.

Colour: amber with orange hues. Nose: it is, indeed, exceptional at first sniffs, with this much lovable mix of pure raw peatiness and clean sherry, despite this slight sulphur that shouldn’t stay here for long. No peat and sherry that stay apart, rather something like bold notes of peated Seville oranges (don’t be silly, Serge). Plus, of course, all the ‘coastal cavalry’ (iodine, oysters, kelp) as well as the ‘medicinal’ one (mercurochrome, bandages, antiseptic). Perfect association with the oranges, next time I’ll try my oysters with oranges instead of lemon. Beautiful smokiness and notes of marzipan and fresh almonds. I’m sorry but ‘wow!’ Mouth: top class attack on something like peated high-end caramel (aren’t you insisting?). Very creamy, exceptionally coherent, great mouth feel and lots of body (sounds like a neck-leaflet, I know). Lots of dried and crystallised oranges and kumquats, a little pepper and a little clove, smoked tea, liquorice… Just brilliant. I will spare you further silly comments on the oranges’ origins and go straight to the finish, which is long, bold, fat, rich and fantastically balanced. Too bad this one is so rare, it’s certainly in the same league as most legendary old Italian bottlings. I’m curious about who selected this cask, he deserves the Victoria Cross. 93 points (close to 94, just a slight lack of complexity that it would probably have gained after four or five more years in wood).
Laphroaig 15 yo 1991/2007 (52.1%, Signatory, cask #6978, 183 bottles) A brand new cask from Signatory’s series of well-reputed 1991 Laphroaigs. I hope this is not a death seat after that great sherried 1987. Colour: white wine. Nose: yes, it’s a little shyer but let’s be fair and give it a little time… / … Okay, now it is very expressive indeed. More natural but also fresher than the 1987, starting with fresh butter and vanilla, crystal-clean peat and a whole plate of oysters. It stays very maritime for a while and gets then more medicinal, quite expectedly, with also notes of diesel oil. We have also quite some freshly cut apples, fresh almonds again and whiffs of garden bonfire. This one isn’t too boldly peaty and smoky but rather ultra-clean – yet complex. Excellent. Mouth: totally excellent again at the attack, punchy, peaty, tarry, coastal and medicinal as it should be but not raw or aggressive in any way. Perfect balance between the sweetness and the phenols, a prototypical ‘Bourbon-style’ Laphroaig. Mr Symington, we hope you still have a few other casks from the same series. Finish: extremely long, extremely compact, getting very peppery besides the heavy peatiness, with no flaws whatsoever that I could spot (and believe me, I tried hard). ‘Natural’ Laphroaig in its full glory. Cask #6981 was worth 91 points in my books, this one will fetch 92 points, well-deserved.
MUSICRecommended listening (blues): Woodleg Odds playing The old man blues.mp3. I think they are from Norway, please buy their music. Woodleg Odds

April 1, 2007



Edinburgh, April 2007 - On March 30, well-known guitar hero Keith Richards acquired Brora Distillery, Brora, Sutherland. The acquisition of Brora Distillery fulfils Mr Richards’ strategic objective to become a fully integrated distiller, bottler and boozer.

The distillery and limited stocks were purchased from Diageo plc, with whom Mr Richards has an excellent ongoing relationship as a customer. This will allow Diageo to increase its focus on its numerous core brands: Lagavulin, Cragganmore, Talisker, Caol Ila and the nearby Clynelish to name but a few.
Brora Distillery, situated at Brora on the north-eastern coast of the Highlands, has been distilling whisky since 1819 but was closed in 1983. The single malt it produced was of award winning quality. The small town of Brora also has an excellent golf course, attracting many visitors each year. The Brora single malt portfolio consists of only a 30 years old whisky that was voted top of the Highland malt category several times in the famous Malt Maniacs’ annual Awards. Brora is a well-known and long established brand among connoisseurs.
Mr Richards, born 1943 in Kent, has always had strong interests in Scotch single malt whisky. The acquisition of Brora Distillery secures a future for Mr Richards’ private stocks.
Mr Richards commented: "As I have demonstrated, with my recent purchases of 2,357 cases of Ardbeg and 1,312 cases of Laphroaig, I have the commitment, the experience and the resources to represent a major market for Brora. Furthermore, as an integrated distiller, bottler and boozer, I shall be a stronger party partner for all fellow rock and roll musicians in the UK and overseas."
Keith Richards also announced that he won’t continue to work with the existing distributors around the world, the limited stocks being just sufficient for his own consumption. It is still unknown whether Mr Richards is planning to restart distilling or not, but the local community has deep hopes. – Trisha McPeehar
Please make sure you check the new official website: www.keithrichardsbrora.co.uk
MUSICRecommended listening: a beautiful song that Keith Richards composed and sang just before he bought Brora - a moving tribute to the little distillery: The nearness of you.mp3. Please buy Keith Richard's solo works. Keith Richards
Brora 1981
Brora 20 yo 1981/2001 (43%, Signatory, cask #577, 403 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: a little grainy and buttery at first nosing but quite some peat comes through after a while as well as the trademark wax and flint stones. Very nice sharpness, truly old style. Quite some apple juice as well, matchsticks, pepper… Mouth: quite peppery and peaty, with an attack that would resemble a 1972’s, just toned down. A little olive oil, wax, apple juice, mastic, white pepper, hints of mustard… Less clean and pure than on the nose, that is, and a little more cardboardy. Finish: quite long (hey, it’s a Brora!), waxy and peppery, with just slight perfumy notes in the aftertaste (or is it orange sweets?) 83 points.
Brora 20 yo 1981/2002 (46%, Signatory, unchillfiltered collection, butt #1420, 839 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: less green and sharp but a little more cardboardy and vanilled. More oak influence despite the lighter colour. Slightly sour (porridge) and curiously fruity (hints of rotting oranges), with also something slightly chemical. I like cask #577 much better on the nose, it’s much purer. Mouth: it’s a little better now, cleaner, with a huge wax and lots of green apples as well as quite some peat and pepper. Quite simple, in fact, but balanced and with just the right punch. Finish: longer than cask #577’s, more peppery and a little more peaty – it’s better here. Same rating: 83 points.
Brora 21 yo 1981/2003 (46%, Signatory, Unchillfiltered Collection, refill sherry butt #1422, 927 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah, now it’s getting even more Brora-ish. Certainly peatier and wilder, with that famous ‘farminess’ (wet dog and wet hay), slightly mustardy, peppery… We’re much closer to the famous 1972’s now, this one is just a little simpler. Excellent, Brora as we like it. Mouth: ah yes, it’s the same at the attack, with a superb mix of peat, lemon, juice, apple juice, pepper and that waxiness. Amazing to see how two casks that were distilled on the very same day gave us two rather different whiskies (okay, I’m stating the obvious here). Finish: quite long, peppery, citrusy and just a tad cardboardy at the very end. 88 points.
Brora 23 yo 1981/2005 (46%, Signatory for LMdW, hand bottled, sherry butt #05/593, 456 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re pretty much in the same category here (although we have maybe a little less peat), just with these chocolaty sherry notes that do give it a little more complexity (and nice notes of old walnuts). It’s also more leathery, with also notes of unlit Havana cigar, old wooden furniture, cloves… Gets slightly perfumy after a while (orange blossom), which is quite unusual. Does that come from the cask? Mouth: creamy, even a little fat, chocolaty and quite dry. Not too much peat but lots of both old and fresh walnuts, fino, ‘taste of yellow’ (flor). Excellent mouth feel but the whole isn’t very complex, as if the sherry and the malt were still fighting a little. The finish is medium long, still creamy and oily, with more pepper now, green apples and a little praline. It’s the malt that wins the fight here. Nevertheless, this is another very good Brora, quite entertaining at that despite the ‘fight’. But I liked cask #1422 better, mainly for its purity. 86 points.
Brora 23 yo 1981/2005 (46%, Chieftains, sherry butt #1510, 756 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: it’s the sherry that dominates the whisky here, obviously, and not just the sherry, for there’s quite some sulphur at first sniffs (hard-boiled eggs). Thank God that vanishes quite quickly, leaving room for quite some coffee (loads, actually), bitter chocolate and liquorice-flavoured toffee. Nice pepper in the background but there little peat here. Quite some gunpowder and cordite, burnt matchsticks… Not extremely typical but pleasant, I must say. Mouth: good attack, unusually fruity (lots of strawberries), candied and orangey (Grand-Marnier) but quite far from ‘Brora’ as we know it, although we do have a little pepper, even hints of mustard, especially at the long finish where ‘Brora’ is finally back in its full glory. Well, maybe that was a little late… 83 points.
Brora 20 yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 570 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: ah, this is pure Brora again – and of the nicest kind, I’d say. Hyper-clean, hyper-sharp and mega-pure, probably one of the nicest Broras from the 80’s I could nose. Superb peat (a peatiness that’s usually not associated with these Broras), farminess, smoked tea, wax, high-end vanilla, pepper… Excellent (although very austere). Mouth: excellent attack, with lots of peat, citrons, lemon marmalade, soft curry, bergamot sweets (from Nancy – I mean, the French city), pepper… Superbly balanced, extremely satisfying, compact… And the finish is just as superb. A grand Brora, maybe not as stellar as most 1972’s but certainly among the top few generally speaking, ‘despite the vintage’. 92 points.
Brora 21 yo 1981/2002 (59.2%, Signatory, Straight from the cask, Refill Sherry Butt #1421, 510 bottles) We already had casks #1420 and 1422, here’s #1421 but at cask strength. Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one is more classically ‘1981’, with less peat and more wax. Let’s say it’s closer to Clynelish than the DL. Notes of butter pears, vanilla, a little cocoa, oak… Slight peatiness but let’s try it with a little water now: it gets much more farmy indeed but also a little weirdly fruity (the slightly scary notes of rotting oranges) and a little chemical (‘artificial’ orange juice). Close to cask #1420, which isn’t really good news. Mouth (neat): much closer to the DL now, very lemony, sharp… But there’s less peat. The alcohol dominates the whole, so let’s add water again: okay, it does get better but still not hyper-clean and peaty as it could be. The fruitiness is a little sweetish but the whole is good whisky and especially the finish does it, with that farminess and the orangey notes. 85 points.
Brora 25 yo 1981/2007 (60.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1519, 270 bottles) A brand new bottling by the Signatory racing team. Colour: pale straw. Nose: lots of alcohol of course but this one seems to be cleaner than cask #1421 and much more on peat, lemon, pepper and wet hay, not unlike the DL. But at this strength, water is needed. So, with water it got superbly straightforward, peaty, wild, farmy, very clean and pure indeed. Huge smokiness, minerality, slight minty notes. A beautiful nose. Mouth (neat): yes, this is certainly better than cask #1421. More peat, more wildness, more spices, pepper… But a lot of alcohol. With water (at roughly 50%): it’s a little sweeter but the wax is well here together with a nice peat, a little vanilla, spices, pepper… And a rather long, crystal-clean peaty finish. This is top-shelf Brora – great news that the stocks aren’t exhausted yet. 90 points.
WHISKYFUN EXCLUSIVE - It’s just been announced, a few important new bottlings are to be launched later in 2007! Whiskyfun could get old of the very first official pictures of three of them – left, the brand new Loch Dhu 2 (it will probably be introduced at Whisky Live Paris in September); middle, the new Ardbeg ‘Not Too Sure This Is Mature What Do You Think?’ (aka ANTSTIMWDYT?) and at the right, a very exclusive Glenfiddich 67 years old for China (with due brand repositioning efforts, presentation expected at Whisky Live Kweilin in November – should retail for roughly 750,000,000,000,000 Renminbis.)
March 2007 - part 2 <--- April 2007 - part 1 ---> April 2007 - part 2

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



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

Ardbeg 15 yo 1991/2006 (58.9%, High Spirits, cask #644)

Brora 20 yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 570 bottles)

Brora 25 yo 1981/2007 (60.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1519, 270 bottles)

Caperdonich 1966/1998 (53.1%, Signatory for Velier Italy, cask #134, 250 bottles)

Caperdonich 38 yo 1968/2006 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #2616)

Glenfarclas 21 yo (51.5%, OB, Pinerolo, selected for Edward Giaccone, rotation 1974)

Glenfarclas 1983/2007 (56%, OB, Family Casks, cask #50, 302 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1965/2007 (60%, OB, Family Casks, butt, cask #3861, 417 bottles)

Glen Grant 1963/1978 (75°proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75.7cl)

Glen Grant 1971/2006 (53.6%, JWWW The Cross Hill, 168 bottles)

Glen Grant 38 yo 1967/2005 (44.2%, Norse Cask, 129 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1991/2007 (52.1%, Signatory, cask #6978, 183 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2005 (51.9%, Monnier Trading, sherry wood, 271 bottles)

Pulteney 1990/2006 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, sherry butt #5469)