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

April 30, 2007

Highland Park 1990 Highland Park 16 yo 1990/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, cask #15687, 512 bottles) Colour: straw – gold. Nose: typical of most Highland Parks by Signatory (interesting to see consistency here), starting on fresh butter, light honey, apple juice and fresh milk ‘from the cow’. More oak after that, lactones, white pepper and ginger, getting back to honey (should be heather, shouldn’t it?) It gets also quite flinty. A very ‘natural’ unsherried Highland Park. With water: huge soapiness at first (which, again, is normal), getting then mashier, milkier and yeastier. Rebirth? Hints of mint and celery.
Mouth (neat): creamier, oily, thick, almost like fruit jelly. Apples, grapefruit, apricot… But it gets a little burning, it really needs water on the palate (provided his swims well). Let’s see… right, it gets even fruitier, on orange drops, pineapple drops, marshmallows… Full of youth indeed. Finish: quite long, still very fruity, with the oak starting to appear (white pepper). A pretty good youngish indie Highland Park. 84 points.
Highland Park 15 yo 1990/2005 (57.2%, OB, for Sweden, cask #1602) Colour: full amber. Nose: punchy and powerful, very candied, sherried, with quite some smoke, roasted nuts and praline. Notes of orange marmalade. It’s a little too powerful though, water is needed. With water: gets even smokier, mineral, ‘wild’ (mushrooms, dead leaves) and more chocolaty as well. Beautiful dryness, with also whiffs of old library, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, cider apples… Perfect sherried HP I think, already quite complex at 15yo. Mouth (neat): quite superb I must say. Maybe a tad rough but the sherry is rather perfect, toffeeish, smoked, toasted, honeyed and candied, with a lively fruitiness to balance the whole (tangerines, oranges). Perfectly drinkable at cask strength but let’s still try it with a little water: that doesn’t really bring it any extra-dimension but it didn’t need any. Maybe more notes of liqueur-filled chocolate. Finish: very long, very compact, candied, orangey and still quite smoky. Excellent, perfect dryness. 90 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Stan Webb's Chicken Shack doing their Strange situations.mp3. The band's still around and we even had a gig review in 2004, so please buy their music. Stan Webb

April 29, 2007

The Barbican, London, April 16th 2007
I’m sorry Serge, but I have to confess that sometimes even I get it wrong. I rushed at these tickets as soon as the gig was announced. Van der Graaf Generator! Wow! And there in my mind was this hazy memory of student parties and yet another fairly pleasing ELP meets King Crimson prog rock band, useful gatefold sleeve albums and all. And I had a striking image of Peter Hammill, long curly locks, that slightly effeminate boyish look, cheesecloth shirt, and a voice from paradise. And I’m sure he did nice folky stuff after the band split, or between their several manifestations in the seventies – and didn’t he have a sweet-lipped and sweet-singing sister Claire Hammill, sweeping Indian print cotton skirts, coy in fields of daisies and wildflowers, who teamed up with Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells and all of that stuff? And for what it’s worth the Photographer was sure she met one time band member Charles Dickie at some hippy hangout in Oxford. Yep - it was all pretty clear to me and my expectations apparent as we arrived at the Barbican for this rare London appearance.
From 1967 to 1978 the band went through various line ups and had the usual break-ups before calling it a day. Front man Hammill pursued a prodigious solo career. Then in 2005 the band reformed with Hammill, saxophonist David Jackson, keyboards man Guy Evans and drummer Hugh Banton. A new album, Present, was released and the band toured with a major show at the Royal Festival Hall, available in its entirety on CD as Real Time. Following this, Jackson departed from the fray once more, taking with him the most distinctive element of the Van der Graaf sound, but the threesome returned to tour in 2007.
Peter and Phill
Peter Hammill (right) with Demis Roussos
in 1977. Sorry, I mean with Phill Collins
Did I mention that, like the Fat Ladies, they’ve just come back from Limbourg (“a weird place” as someone described it on Hammill’s bulletin board) – that should have told me something. So should the audience – many of whom (without wishing to be rude Serge) would not have been out of place at one of your whisky shows. And in fact I had a serious double take when I bumped into one who must have been Serge’s twin brother – so everyone can tell what they looked like. Or at least the relatively normal ones. There are a lot of single guys here – arms tightly folded, trousers too short, bodies slightly rocking with the haunted eyes of deserted East European orphans in some dreadful children’s home. Some of them are too close – remember, keep an eye on them whatever happens.
Van der Graaf     They take the stage fifteen minutes late. How can I describe what happened next? Ok – let the black notebook speak: ”singing flat”; “Johnny Rotten”; “echo pedal”; “Spinal Tap lyrics”; “organist bass pedals”; “delicate high-hat cymbal”; “can they really have been this bad”; “man across aisle rocking violently and dribbling”;” strained strangulated and often painfully out of tune vocals”. You see, Serge I just hadn’t done my research and didn’t realise they were really supposed to sound like that.
No wonder the Photographer – as deluded as I was - was nearly lynched when she surmised loudly halfway through Hammill’s opening vocal efforts, “Christ, he’s really lost it hasn’t he?”. So I suppose it was a love it or hate it moment – and to be frank Hammill’s vocal delivery is so extreme and (until J. Rotten produced a fairly good pastiche of it) unique, that it’s pretty hard to love it at the first hearing. In fact, perhaps I’d excised it from my memory. And whilst I could forgive the voice I still can’t find it in my heart to be so charitable about the lyrics, sometimes described as Hammill’s “anguished poetry”.
I mean I know we all sang along to Pete Sinfield’s ‘Court of the Crimson King’ and stuff like that back in the good old 1970s, but that was because we had to make our own entertainment then, and frankly I’d be embarrassed to own up to it now (oops!). So it’s one of those moments when you either shake your head solemnly at the profundity of it all, or simple giggle uncomfortably. Sorry VdGG fans – but I took the giggle route. Take the opener, ‘Childlike faith in childhood’s end’: “As anti-matter sucks and pulses periodically the bud unfolds, the bloom is dead, all space is living history”. Well possibly, but then think of this from ‘Every bloody emperor’, “Unto nations nations speak in the language of the gutter; trading primetime insults the imperial impulse extends across the screen”. Pretty gloomy schoolboy radicalism wouldn’t you say? And certainly not for me. No – we’ll draw a veil over the rest, apart from the moment when Hammill sang “Am I really here?” – at that point my empathy was complete.
Of course the fans (in other words everyone else in the Barbican apart from the Photographer and yours truly) loved every minute of it, and possibly quite rightly so. Guy Evans was astonishing on keyboards and bass pedals (even though he couldn’t help it sounding like, well … ELP meets King Crimson), and Banton’s ability to move swiftly from sublime delicacy to driving rhythms was outstanding. And of course Mr Hammill is an accomplished guitarist. Love it or hate it, take it or leave it. So we left as ‘Man-erg’ came to a close (“The killer lives inside me; yes, I can feel him move”), which was just as well. As I looked back and encore ‘Still life’ began I could see the rocking wraiths rising from their seats like an army of Nosferatus. We closed and barred the door behind us, and made a run for it – “somnolent muster - now the dancing dead forsake the shelter of their secure beds, awaken to a slumber whose depths they dread…” Blimey, that’s enough! Van Der Graaf

Oh, and by the way, if you’re interested, Van der Graaf Generator is a spelling mistake. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Serge's Twin Bro

Thanks Nick, but holy featherless crow, so you met with my twin brother Albert! We lost touch in the early 1980’s when, as a dedicated anglophile - and Thatcherian -, he decided to move to London’s West End. I've heard he flew to the Falklands at some point (I think he had a malt distillery project there with his buddy Ronnie van Hilversum, “the southernmost British distillery” or something like that) but no news since then. All we still had was this dusty old yellowed photograph taken in the late 1970’s. Blimey, I should have guessed he would reappear at a Van Der Graaf gig, he used to be a fan and, by the way, his favourite song was Killer.mp3. Of course. - S.

Longmorn 1968 Longmorn 38 yo 1968/2006 (49.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 7.35) Colour: mahogany. Nose: classical, typical sherry nose but maybe lacking a little oomph. Dry, a little cardboardy, not extremely expressive. Okay, that may sound a little severe, it’s really excellent whisky but we’d have liked a little more zing considering this one’s ‘pedigree’. Sure we have chocolate, coffee, gravy, soy sauce, raisins, coal smoke… But all that is a little shy.
Mouth: much better despite a slightly bitter rubberiness. We have old walnuts, bitter chocolate, bitter caramel, toasts… It gets (even) dryer with time and a little tannic (over-infused tea)… Right, if you like very dry sherry, this is for you, although the finish is a little sweeter (oranges drops)… A very good old Longmorn but I think it went a little over the hill in fact, and got too dry. But it’s still worth 85 points in my books.
Longmorn 35 yo 1968/2004 (51.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 7.25) Colour: mahogany. Nose: extremely similar on the nose, maybe a tad less chocolaty but much meatier and a little more phenolic and resinous. Gets much nicer than the 38 yo after a while, with some beautiful organic notes emerging. Forest, mushrooms, smoke… Then litres of high-end balsamic vinegar, also sherry vinegar, dried morels, pure cocoa… Amazing how this one developed on the nose, whilst its bro stays much more restrained, even after a good twenty minutes. A matter of education, probably… Mouth: oh yes, it’s certainly better than the 38 yo on the palate. Sweeter, rounder but not less complex (yet compact), with lots of sultanas, crystallized oranges, baklavas, chocolate, apricots, toffee, café latte… Not the most brilliant sherry monster I’ve ever had but it’s perfectly palatable in its own genre. Nice medium-long finish, a little fresher and fruitier (prunes). Very, very good, like many old Longmorns (but still no absolute winner). 90 points.

April 28, 2007

The Barbican, London, April 14th 2007
It’s hotter than Buenos Aires in London. There’s not a sardine to be had from the fishmonger’s as the west London air slowly fills with the choking scent of garage-rusted barbecues being torched into action for the first time this year. On the streets last season’s ill-fitting summer clothes are out on display along with an alarming surfeit of flesh, much of it an almost Dickensian tubercular off-white. The pre-gig pizza is pleasingly piquant. Inside the Barbican it’s hot and spicy too - excited Spanish chatter fills the foyer. It’s the second night of La Linea – the seventh London Latin Music Festival – two weeks of “new trends and moves in the world of Latin music”.
Just about to come on stage is Capitan Melao led by Stereophonics drummer Javier Weyler (an alliance that perhaps celebrates the 25,000 Welsh speaking Argentinians who live in the province of Chubut), who plays guitar and sings, supported by guitar, tapes and loops man Mariano Godov.
Capitan Melao
Capitan Melao

Opening song ‘Ser pos dos’ sets the tone – spacey overlays to a soft Latin beat and dreamy lyrics – not quite living up to the claim of “the seduction of Bossa nova, the pain of a Bolero, the anger of Rock”. It’s all in the same vein – some songs better than others – but does liven up a bit when Phil Manzanera (not just a Roxy Music axeman but also a leading producer and advocate of modern Latin American music) joins for some typically fuzzy lead guitar on ‘Terraplan’. Pablo Giménez provides some striking visuals in the background. Oh and there’s a new album (there always is), Lacrima, which you can buy direct from their myspace page.

It’s a pleasing interlude, but despite the enthusiasm of the audience it does little to deter from the sense of anticipation that fills the hall. You see we’re actually here to see the Bajofondo Tango Club – “the band that we were told Gotan Project was”, led by ageing Argentinian rocker and Oscar winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla (who plays the guitar and sings), responsible for film scores such as Babel, Motorcycle Diaries (from which he plays a really sweet solo guitar piece), Brokeback Mountain and Amores Perros.

Sitting next to us, in something of a fluster, are Maurice and Dot Thistlethwaite, leading lights of the Morecambe and Heysham Tango and Crown Green Bowling Association who’ve come all the way from the Lune peninsula on a coach (with their dancing shoes round their necks) under the misapprehension that it’s a dance night. But from the initial notes of Javier Casalla’s melancholy violin they, like the rest of the audience, are totally won over (actually its some sort of Stroh violin - with a horn and resonator - with a wonderful metallic scratchy sound). “Infectious pounding tango rhythms, almost hypnotic visuals from Vjay Veronica Loza” says my little black notebook after only ten minutes or so. And so the evening went on, and on, and on. Pretty good if you liked infectious pounding tango rhythms, but if not you were pretty stuck.
It’s a fine balance to strike between tradition and modernity – but although they were the engine room of the band, Juan Campodónico’s sequences and loops never dominated either Casalla’s playing, or the bandoneon of Martin Ferres (who also played a wonderful solo piece) – the instrument that possibly most defines the Tango sound. The battle between old and new was captured in a fine piece which saw Fernando Santullo rap and exchange lines with Santaolalla. And they tip their hats to the great exponents of their art both through the carefully chosen film and photographic sequences and samples from famous artists - whilst not being scared to raise contemporary issues in pieces such as Exodo II (where the visuals deal explicitly with the huge increase in emigration from Argentina in recent years spurred by the country’s faltering economy). Believe me there’s a lot going on – leaving the audience (even Maurice and Dot) transfixed before rising to their feet in rapturous applause at the end of each song. Did I mention there’s a lot of national pride on display here too?
“We don't like the label 'electronic tango' because we try to make a contemporary music of Rio de la Plata, music from Argentina, Uruguay” Santaolalla told the Guardian, "…in our case, it is kind of an active melancholy. There's also power, rawness - a savage element to tango we try to keep alive. That connects to some of the primal energy rock has." He’s not joking. When these boys really get going it gets close to the Alabama 3 playing ‘Mao Tse Tung’ (that scores about fifteen out of ten in the primal rock energy scale), and actually I regret that we’re not stuck in the sweaty Astoria enjoying this rather than the rather stuffy Barbican. Or so it seemed. Suddenly, without warning, the stage was filled with dancers from the audience as pianist Luciano Supervielle discarded his keyboard for turntables and scratched through the last few songs. The doughty Barbican stewards gave up the battle quickly. Everyone was on their feet, and the last I saw of Maurice he was swirling Dot round in the middle of the crowded stage, carnation clenched grimly between her teeth. Like them you should buy the eponymous album, and look out for the new one which formed much of the evening’s material, but be warned – good though it is the disc won’t really deliver, this is a passionate visceral experience to be savoured live, and in case you’re wondering it’s far more memorable than my piquant pizza. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Muchias gracias, Nick. Nice to see that tango is the thing in the UK these days, maybe it’s a little more ‘infused’ in the common French culture, hence less noticeable as a specific musical entity, so to speak. But we do talk about the Gotan Project as well… Even if many purists (which I ain’t) are pinching their noses a bit whilst invoking Piazzolla, or even Gardel and claiming that these new bands are the Kenny G’s of tango. Agreed, that’s pretty harsh. By the way, was Manzanera really good? I remember ‘801 Live’ as if it was yesterday, that was a great record. I also seem to recall he was amongst the four guitar masters we had put on a pedestal at the time (Santana, Zappa, Manzanera, Keef). Okay, not Keef. But let’s have a little Bajofondo Tango Club now, with a piece called Perfume.mp3.


Bruichladdich 15 yo (43%, OB, mid 1990’s) Didn’t we almost forget that Bruichladdich was founded quite a few years before the current owners took over? Colour: gold. Nose: truly Brucihladdich, with lots of melons and fresh apricots right at first sniffs. Nicely fruity indeed but it gets then much grainier and even slightly soapy, the fruitiness having vanished. It’s also a little mashy, yeasty, even papery (wet newspaper) and very milky (lactones?) Really average.

Mouth: we have a little more caramel and cereals here but the whole is quite weak and papery again, kind of dusty and sugary at the same time, although we have nice notes of pine kernels. I think it’s an excellent evidence of the work done by the current owners in selecting casks and doing their vattings (just compare this old one with the new 15yo, even the recent finished version). Especially the finish is a little too dry and cardboardy… Below par even if certainly drinkable (but there were some excellent older 10yo’s). 76 points.
Bruichladdich 14 yo 1991/2006 (46%, Coopers Choice) Colour: white wine. Nose: a little shier and more on fresh apples and pears, with unusual hints of olive oil, and then even black olives. Develops quite slowly, getting a little grassy and starting to smell almost like tequila or maybe white rum, getting then almost as mashy and slightly soapy as the old 15yo. But it’s got more freshness and is hence more pleasant. A good example of the much advertised ‘Atlantic freshness’ I guess. Mouth: more, much more body now, with a distinctive ‘coastality’ (I think I never got it that loud in a Bruichladich), hints of seashells, iodine… And we have these hints of olive oil as well, a little liquorice, chervil, sage… A very entertaining, with also a little quince and, maybe, melons. Finish: rather long, quite aromatic (hints of violets and lavender swets), with also a little wax. Another very pale and fresh one that should stand ice in summer. I like this: 84 points.

April 27, 2007






TASTING – FOUR BRAES OF GLENLIVET (no idea about the plural, sorry – OK, BRAEVALS)

Braeval 11 yo 1995/2006 (46%, Dun Bheagan, cask #95653, 750 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: archetypical mashy, yeasty, porridgy and fruity (apples and pears) young malt, developing on a little ginger, cinchona and white pepper. As natural (and maybe neutral) as it can get. Gets more peppery with time. Mouth: sweet, fruity (apple compote and juice), grainy and quite salty. Nothing too special but no flaws. Finish: medium length, a little sugary, mashy (potatoes, sweet corn)… Good natural whisky but no thrills. 76 points.
Braes of Glenlivet 16 yo 1979/1996 (59%, Signatory, sherry butt #16045) All this series of 1979 Braes of Glenlivet by Signatory were really excellent, I hope this one won’t depart from the rules. Colour: brownish. Nose: big bold sherry of the meaty and chocolaty kind. Reminds me of that Mexican sauce (mole). Nice whiffs of metal (aluminium pan), fir wood smoke, rum, ham, gravy. Also remains of yeasty and feinty notes. Gets more vinous after a moment but rather beautifully so (clean old wine cask, wine cellar, moisture). We’re only missing the spider’s webs… What’s more, it’s easily nosable at such high strength. Mouth: a very impressive attack, coating, candied, salty and very raisiny. Perfect sherry, of the meaty and resinous kind again, with also notes of dried apricots, rancio and amaretto. Sure it’s a little hot but water seems to be superfluous. I beg your pardon? Okay, okay, let’s try (while the nose got even more ‘organic’): the salt is even more apparent but the general profile stays the same. No sulphur or rubber revealed whatsoever. Finish: long, still beautifully sherried and elegant, complex, meaty… Finishes on Corinth raisins. In short, another excellent cask from that series, worth searching for (just like, for instance the famous 1980 Fettercairns by the same bottler). 90 points.
Braes of Glenlivet 8 yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more harsh, pungent, spirity… Close to raw alcohol. Quick, water: loads of vanilla and caramel but that’s pretty all. Now, I quite like vanilla and caramel. Mouth (neat): I’m sorry but ‘ouch!’ With water: very sugary. Nutshell: sugared alcohol. Not undrinkable, that is, but this is not why we’re into whisky. 65 points.
Braes Braes of Glenlivet 17 yo 1989/2007 (55.9%, Cadenhead, 276 bottles) This one comes from a Sauternes hogshead. Rather curious… Colour: full gold. Nose: very spirity, buttery and caramelised at first nosing, with whiffs of oak sawdust that grow bigger and bigger. Also hints of ginger and cinnamon but the whole is quite simple and raw. Something green in the background (newly cut grass). Not unpleasant but rough. Mouth: very sweet and kirschy, with notes of distillation. Quite some vanilla and milk chocolate but the rest is rather simple and almost neutral, except for hints of ripe apricots and plums, all that being slightly ‘vulgar here’. A hot, raw spirit. Finish: rather long, hot, like fruit spirit mixed with caramel and vanilla. A hipflask malt to warm you up in winter, quite oaky. 77 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: the ueber-fantastic Jeanne Lee sings Rain.mp3 in 1993 with David Eyges on cello. Let's all remember the great Jeanne Lee and buy her music. Jeanne Lee

April 26, 2007

Young Clynelish







Clynelish 9 yo 1997/2006 (46%, Coopers Choice) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this is extremely playful, very fruity (gooseberries, green apples, bananas) and slightly mineral and waxy as usual. Still quite simple but already nicely balanced, with a little pepper already starting to come through. Also quite some fresh butter and a faint yeastiness. Nose: a little less of plain fruit juice this time, starting much grassier and even a little bitter. It’s also unusually tarry, getting then mashy and slightly milky. Very natural – maybe a little neutral, actually. Good spirit but it would probably benefit from further ageing. Finish: rather long, fruitier again but very simple despite the notes of liquorice all-sorts. Not quite ‘Clynelish’ yet. 78 points.
Clynelish 11 yo 1994/2005 (46%, Murray McDavis, bourbon/viognier, 1800 bottles) Murray McDavid go on with their wine encyclopaedia, this time it’s viognier, a white grape variety used mainly in the Rhone valley (here in Condrieu). Viognier is said not to age too well but when it’s young, it gives extremely classy whites, quite spicy and usually quite ‘round’ yet demonstrative. But viognier needs good terroir, otherwise it gets a little lumpish. Not in Condrieu, that is! Anyway, let’s try this whisky… Colour: amber. Nose: oh, this is very interesting, the casks seem to have given it kind of an old bottle effect. Really, it smells almost like a sherried whisky that spent at least twenty years in glass (if you’re a winemaker from Condrieu, watch your casks!) We have something slightly metallic, musty, nutty, farmy and animal (clean horse), with also hints of musk and Seville oranges. How interesting and ‘funny’! Too bad Condrieu is so small… Mouth: the effect is not quite as striking as on the nose but we’re well in the same ‘trend’. Quite concentrated, ‘old-sherried’, toasted, coffeeish, orangey, liquoricy, with this mustiness again (hints of wild mushrooms, pu-erh tea). Lots of spices as well (mostly cloves) and maybe just a slight dryness from the rather heavy oak that takes the lead after a moment. A great whisky to play dirty tricks to your friend (you know, ‘tell me what this is!’) Finish: rather long, candied and gingerier now, with Clynelish’s trademark waxiness as a signature. Surprisingly great, I’d say. 89 points.
Clynelish 1995/2007 (50%, Taste Still, Whisky Live Verviers 2007, 302 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re closer to the 1997, obviously, but this one is much less fruity and quite sharper at first nosing – and it’s not only the alcohol, although it’s quite spirity. Quite grassy, mineral, with notes of paraffin and linseed oil. Maybe a little austere I’d say, but very clean. An interesting meatiness in the background (oxtail). And it gets hugely waxy after ten of fifteen minutes and quite farmier at the same time. Superb in fact, but it really needs a lot of time. Oh, and it gets also much smokier! (coal and wood). Mouth: powerful and much, much fruitier. We have strawberries and apples, litres of orange juice and ginger tonic (a good one) as well as something like peat, that I didn’t quite get on the nose. Wait a second, peat? Yes, really, peat – and did I already mention wax? Yes, rings a bell. We’ve had Broras from the 1980’s that had roughly the same profile. It gets more peppery after that, with also notes of curry and ‘that mix of spices that they use in North Africa to improve just any dishes’. Yeah, I know, that’s pretty useless comments if you haven’t been there but believe me, this Clynelish really tastes like that spice mix (‘for lazy cooks’ as they say over there). Anyway, it’s superb whisky – provided you give it a lot of time, which we don’t always do with youngsters like this one. A shame. Finish: long, with all the dimensions mingling now, fruits, phenols and spices. Just excellent but again, you have to give it time – yeah. It’s with its young whiskies that you can check a distillery’s class. 90 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: she sadly passed away in May 1990 at the age of 32 but Emily Remler managed to amaze crowds of jazz fans before she went to the stars. Let's listen to her playing the standard Softly as in a morning sunrise.mp3 - wasn't she good? Please buy her recordings... Emily Remler

April 25, 2007








Linkwood 25 yo (40%, G&M for Sestante, mid-1980's) With its famous yellow brick label – don’t know if Elton’s a fan. Colour: gold. Nose: this is very nice. Very elegant, very honeyed and delicately toffeeish, with whiffs of wood smoke, liquorice and a little ‘good’ rubber, developing on apricot pie and plum jam, orange cake, roasted nuts and toasted brioche. Hints of wine-poached pears. Hints of metal polish (OBE). Very classical, maybe not extremely complex but the balance is perfect. Mouth: oh, too bad, it’s weaker and much drier than expected at the attack, also quite caramelly and a little cardboardy. It improves with time, getting also bolder but always a little too caramelly. Toasted cake, roasted nuts, nougat… And a better finish, medium long, slightly minty and quite liquoricy, with hints of Turkish delights. A little mastic and a little salt as well. Good old Linkwood, extremely drinkable but there’s more happening on the nose than on the palate. Yes, again. 86 points.
Linkwood 18 yo 1983 (46%, Wallace Milroy for Benivor) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts much more on vanilla crème and gets then even smokier than the old 25yo, with also hints of aniseed, celery and cooked salsify. Or is it swede? Gets grassier with time, maybe a little indefinite actually. Quite some caramel and toasted cake – also wet newspaper, which isn’t really good news. Mouth: a rather bold and powerful attack, mostly on liquorice and caramel but it sort of falls apart then and the middle is weaker – and a little grainy. Finish: longer now but still a little too caramelly for my tastes, with also something like mint-flavoured liquorice drops. Not bad at all but no winner, I’d say. 78 points.
Linkwood 23 yo 1983/2006 (52.1%, Murray McDavid Mission Gold, enhanced in Madeira casks, 700 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: Madeira is the finishing I like best (except for a few odd Sauternes and other sweet whites, eh!) and it seems it’s not this one that’ll make me change my mind. It’s pretty much like the other 1983 actually, but everything is sort of magnified besides the farmy smokiness and dryness from the Madeira (I think). Develops on rather beautiful notes of wet undergrowth, mushrooms, moss, fern… Quite some liquorice as well, coal, shoe polish, old leather, pipe tobacco… If the spirit was anything like the ‘Benivor’ before it got ‘enhanced’, well, it’s an enhancement indeed. Mouth: exactly the same happens, lots of liquorice, caramel and mint but also a much heavier vinosity than on the nose, with also quite some tannins, grape seeds and skin, getting rougher with time, especially at the finish that’s still quite rough and vinous. But the nose was super-great! More a perfume than a malt to drink, maybe… 80 points (for the beautiful nose).

MUSICRecommended listening: today it's David Garland and In my room.mp3 (a song by Brian Wilson) sung in 1993, that was on 'I guess I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times'. Please buy David Garland's great music.

David Garland

April 24, 2007




Inverleven 1990/2005 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail licensed bottling) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather expressive but simple it seems, starting mostly on pears and apple juice. Less mashy or yeasty notes than in a double-distilled youngish malt. Gets even more delicately fruity after a moment (cherries, pineapples) but also a little too bubblegummy. Slight hints of Muscat, rose jelly, maybe lychees… Certainly cleaner than earlier versions of this G&M ‘black label’. Mouth: fruity again but also quite spicy (pepper) despite the slightly weakish attack. It’s also yeastier now (beer), porridgy, vanilled… But also a little disjointed. Not much pleasure here. Finish: quite short and curiously tannic now, with notes of various herbal tea and touches of nutmeg. Okay, the nose was pleasantly fruity and fresh but the palate is a little too indefinite for my tastes. 74 points.
Inverleven 26 yo 1979/2006 (53.7%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #5662, 193 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: spirity and woody (to say the least), smelling almost like oak-matured cologne. Freshly sawn plank, sawdust, vanilla… A lot of lactones. Develops on light caramel, milk chocolate and praline… Midway between a well-oaked young Glenmorangie (Artisan Cask etc.) and an old grain whisky. Slight floweriness coming through after a while (yellow flowers such as buttercups and dandelions). Simple but very clean. Mouth: lots of body and more complexity it seems, even if the huge oakiness may well do most of the job. Pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, caramel, nuts, dried pears, lots of ginger, speculoos… And then even more pepper. Very compact. Finish: long, clean despite the heavy oakiness, spicy… Not unlike well-matured grain whisky indeed. 83 points.
Inverleven 14 yo 1989 (61.8%, JWWW Auld Distillers, cask #500118, 2005) Colour: full gold. Nose: more body and more oomph, and more sherry. It seems that this is from a refill butt or something. Notes of fresh walnuts, vanilla, cocoa… Lots of oak but then we get more or less the same fruity bubblegummy notes as in the G&M. Notes of beer (ale) and apple skins. With water: oh, what an amazing development! It got completely different, meaty and farmy (sort of perverse), on well-hung game, rotting fruits (not yet rotten), old wine cellar… Then mega-huge notes of balsamico and sake… Extremely interesting, provided you don’t forget to water it down a bit. Quite superb. Mouth (neat): extremely nutty, coffeeish, liquoricy and caramelly but really too strong. Quick, water is needed: right, it does get much better again, more toffee-ish and coffee-ish this time but also very salty. Even more liquorice. Straighter and cleaner than on the nose when diluted but that’s not really good news here. Finish: long, salty and vanillas, grassier, with the (probable) sherry wood doing a remarkable comeback. An excellent surprise, this Inverleven, especially on the nose. A malt that’s got something of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. 88 points.
And also Dumbarton (Inverleven Stills) 18 yo 1987/2006 (57.9%, Cadenhead's, 276 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is very, very lemony, sharp and austere – rather beautifully so. Alas, it gets then slightly ‘chemical’, with whiffs of seltzer and lots of newly cut grass. Notes of plastic (new car – not an Aston, that is) and ham. Mouth: better again at the attack, extremely fruity, playful (grapefruits), with also notes of ginger ale and milk. But it gets then a little dirty again, cardboardy, with again something quite chemical. The whole gets rougher and rougher with time, very grassy and even a little soapy. The finish is quite long but still a little rough and soapy. A malt that’s got good and bad sides but it’s not even near the 1989. 69 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening: Thea Gilmore singing Saying nothing.mp3. Enough said. Please buy the great Thea's music... Thea Gilmore

April 23, 2007

Clynelish Clynelish 31 yo 1970/2001 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 186 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this one really makes the air fragrant with the scent of fresh apple juice whilst first sniffs from the glass reveal more freshly sawn oak, vanilla, ripe peaches and a little wax. Goes on with notes of pollen, flower nectar and apple skin but the whole is much less extravagantly fruity than most 1971’s or 1972’s – and not peaty at all. I wouldn’t have recognised an old Clynelish, had I tried this one blind.
Mouth: a very sweet and oaky attack, a little indefinite. We have apple juice again, black pepper and lots of ginger but it’s soon to get drying and as tea-ish as, well, over-infused tea. Finish: long but very oaky and peppery, with just a pinch of salt. Good whisky but it’s globally a disappointment I think. Maybe they were still fine-tuning the brand new distillery at the time. 82 points.
Clynelish 33 yo 1973/2006 (54.2%, Signatory, cask #8914, 455 bottles) A sister cask of the two excellent Prestonfields that were selected by la Maison du Whisky last year. Colour: white wine – pale straw. Nose: ah, good news, this is much more typically Clynelish. More phenolic and much more lemony, with a beautiful sharpness and quite some peat, although less than in the first Prestonfield. Hints of pineapples, humus, grated lemon skin, grapefruits, green tea (or rather white tips), beech wood smoke… Also ripe gooseberries… Quite some oak as well but it’s perfectly integrated. What a lovely and complex nose! Mouth: this is considerably better than the 1970. The attack is totally Clynelish, waxy, superbly citrusy and beautifully spicy (various peppers). We have also quite some lemon balm, spearmint, peat, oak… Then crystallised orange and lemon zests. It’s actually a little rougher than the Prestonfields, maybe it could have stayed in its cask for at least five or ten more years. Finish: very long, lemony, peaty and peppery, with always quite some wax and the usual dash of salt. Very slight cardboardiness, which is the only (very, very small) flaw. 91 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening: rather solar and experimental Scottish band The Beta band play Dr. Baker.mp3. Too bad they didn't pull enough success and disappeared after a few years... But you may still be able to buy their music. Beta band

April 22, 2007

HI! - A bunch of Malt Maniacs from three continents salute you from the Whisky Fair Limburg (Germany). From left to right: Serge, Olivier, Thomas, Konstantin, Pit, Michel, Bert, Robert, Peter, Charlie and Ho-cheng.


Old Farm 5 yo (100° US proof, OB, National Distillers,1938) I’m trembling at the very thought of any American whiskey freak reading these lines, as I know next to nothing about US spirits and as this is a first for me, if my memory serves me right – and please don’t expect nuances. So, please guys, I’m asking you to show leniency today, especially since this is pre-war rye whisky from Kentucky.

Colour: full amber. Nose: the first smells I get are alcohol and caramel, yet it’s far from being unpleasant, quite the opposite. The whiskey gets then a little more complex, with a very pleasant oakiness, notes of roasted nuts, dry grated coconut and vanilla, rum, grain whisky like they make in, err, Scotland… And it keeps developing, with a little mint now and quite some notes of shoe polish. Not tired at all, to say the least, and not that far from a great Scotch. Mouth: lots happening at the attack! Lots of oomph, starting on spirit, caramel, honey and oak, the whole mingling into something smoother but still very firm, not too far from good dark rum. And this spent 70 years in a bottle! Amazing… There’s also a little salt (isn’t that bizarre?) and a little treacle as well as a little salted liquorice. Excellent. Finish: very long, almost endless, liquoricy, caramelly and still a little salty. A truly indestructible whiskey and a great discovery. Check the antiques shops! Rating: I don’t feel comfortable with rating American whiskey as I seriously lack experience, but let’s say between 85 and 90, closer to 90 points actually. (and thanks, Marcel)
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 yo 1985 (50.0%, OB, rye, No. A2539) Colour: full amber, exactly the same as the Old Farm’s. Nose: ah, this is completely different indeed. Even more spirity at first nosing, with whiffs of bubblegum and strawberry-flavoured barley sugar and then immense notes of varnish and nail polish remover. Thanks God, all that settles down after a while and we get closer to… err, civilisation, with quite some roasted nuts again, vanilla crème, burnt oak, caramel and pure oak (fresh sawdust). But it’s far less complex and rounded than the oldie on the nose, maybe the palate will be greater. Mouth: hmmm, if this is rye, then I don’t like rye. I think the global taste is a bit disjointed, oddly fruity on the one side (‘chemical’ strawberry and orange sweets) and woody, bitter and vanilled on the other side. I have a hard time trying to enjoy this, but of course it’s me, I’m sure. Lack of experience again and ‘too much Scotch’. Any ratings would hence be meaningless.
MUSIC Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with Atlanta's New Trinity Baroque interpreting JS Bach's Cantata 'Wiederstehe doch der Suende', BWV 54, here the 1st movement.mp3. The mezzo is Poland's Magdalena Wór. Please support these people. Magdalena Wor

April 21, 2007

I do not mean to sound (too) provocative, but most of the excellent grain whiskies from Cadenhead’s, Signatory’s or Duncan Taylor’s that I could taste in the past came from sherry casks, except a few exceptions (!), while these ones don’t I think - or it's only Xfill. Now, it’s also always interesting to be able to try whiskies that are almost never bottled as singles, so thanks to the bottlers anyway!
Dumbarton 29 yo 1961/1990 (46%, Signatory, casks #10277-10280, 1300 bottles) The Dumbarton grain distillery stands on the Clyde, near Glasgow. It was producing not far from 100 million litres of whisky per annum and used to be blended mostly into Ballantine’s. The distillery was mothballed in 2002. Colour: gold. Nose: silent at first nosing, getting just a little grassy, bubblegummy and vanilled when sniffing hard but that’s all. Okay, maybe a little dust as well. Strange. Mouth: aaaaarghhh! Who did pour cologne into this sample bottle??? Extremely chemical and totally undrinkable. Unless you really need to punish yourself, that is. A true collector’s item, not to be opened. 10 points.
Cambus 31 yo 1964/1996 (43.8%, Signatory, cask #25-26, 448 bottles) Cambus was in Alloa, next to Stirling (north of Edinburgh). It belongs to Diageo and was mothballed in 1993. Colour: full gold. Nose: very nice at first sniffs, nicely vanilled and toasted, nicely fruity (apple juice and a little pear) and nicely oaky. That’s all but it’s nice (obviously). Mouth: nice attack (okay, okay), rather delicate, on fresh almonds and crystallised oranges, light honey, light caramel… Nice backbone, though. Goes on with quite some vanilla and notes of cinchona (Campari). I like this even if it’s not too complex. The finish is quite long, at that, toasted, vanilled and slightly salty (from the wood). Nice, what else can I say? 79 points.
Ben Nevis 27 yo (54%, James MacArthur, single grain, late 1980’s) Like Lochside, Ben Nevis had coffey stills next to the pot stills and used to produce grain whisky alongside malt but I've read those stills were dismantled in 1984. Nose: full gold. Nose: more expressive than the Dumbarton but still a bit shy. More on apple juice and sandalwood, maybe hints of incense and also a little wet moss. But again, that’s all. Nicer than the Dumbarton, though. Mouth: oh well, it’s much better than the Dumbarton but still not quite pleasant, with its notes of rotting oranges and stale bread. It does improve, though, with interesting hints of rose jelly, cider apples and Turkish delights. A little ginger tonic as well. Also a pleasant oakiness and a rather long finish that makes me think of middle-shelf calvados. A nice old grain whisky (again!). 76 points.
Port Dundas 34 yo 1973/2007 (57.9%, Duncan Taylor, cask #128317) Diageo’s flagship grain distillery, still (very) active it seems. The distillery is in Glasgow and ‘feeds’ Black & White and Dimple to name but a few. Colour: dark gold with greenish hues. Nose: really expressive now (good news, it wasn’t my nose) but bizarre, very bizarre. Something both metallic and kind of rotten (forgotten game) as well as chemical, gingery… Not too pleasant as far as I’m concerned, although this may come from a sherry cask. Mouth: strange, very strange. Hard to know whether this is ‘nice’ or not. Well, I’d say it isn’t. It’s metallic, weirdly perfumy, gingery but not in a nice way, getting seriously ‘chemical’ after a moment… Well, I’m not sure but this could have come from a patched cask with lots of nails in contact with the whisky. Yeah, very wild guesses. 49 points.
Caledonian 23 yo 1976/2000 (58.5%, Signatory, cask #4987, 302 bottles) Caledonian, in Edinburgh, used to have the largest patent still but the plant was closed by UDV in 1988. Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely spirity, austere and grassy. No charms whatsoever. Just a little apple juice on top of that. Mouth: extremely spirity, austere and grassy. No charms whatsoever. Just a little apple juice on top of that. Okay, and a little vanilla this time. Kind of Blackbarrel at cask strength – I’m sorry, this is drinkable of course but it’s totally uninteresting to me. 65 points.
Short conclusion: grain whisky needs fabulous wood to be bottled as single casks – when it’s meant to be ingurgitated and not only collected. And hey, I’m still alive!
MUSIC Highly recommended listening: no doubt Bertrand Belin will get very hot in France very soon, and maybe in other countries as well (but he sings in French, not in Hamburger, so...). Let's have his Porto.mp3 today ... What do you think? Please buy his music... Bertrand Belin

April 20, 2007

Port Ellen whisky fair


Port Ellen 25 yo 1980/2006 (54.2%, The Whisky Fair, cask #2562) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is pure, crystal-clean Port Ellen without make-up. It starts a little spirity like most Port Ellens (I think) and gets then as mineral, tarry and maritime as it can get.

Actually, it stays on camphor and tar for a moment, then it’s waxed paper and linseed oil, then turpentine and motor oil, then we have a vegetal digression (fresh almonds and apple skin) and finally seashells, kelp and fisherman’s net. And finally loads of lime and lemon – how interesting here. And it’s so clean and straightforward… Excellent refill cask (it doesn’t have too much say, actually). Mouth: an amazingly powerful and rich attack – thicker and more ‘invading’ than on the nose. The lime is here right from the start as well as lemon and grapefruit, all that mixed with a bold peatiness, pepper, wax and ‘tarry’ liquorice. Just superb, getting more and more lemony. Kind of an ueber-ti-punch if you like. Great. Finish: long, still very lemony, tarry (very), peaty and waxy… And a pinch of salt. Excellent and entertaining. 93 points.
Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2007 (56.7%, The Whisky Fair, 150 bottles) Hard not to guess who provided The Whisky Fair with this bottling ;-). Colour: pale amber. Nose: more cask influence in this one and even if the label says it’s a bourbon hogshead, I’d bet there’s a little sherry (maybe a few staves?) with the typical rubbery notes. Now, it’s true this one is much more on vanilla and toffee (Werther’s) at the start, but the peat blast does happen after that and the whole gets then more medicinal, camphory and iodized than the 1980. Excellent again but maybe simpler and less ultra-clean than the 1980. And less unusual. Mouth: indeed, it’s more classical than the 1980, much less lemony but certainly not less thrilling. More tar, probably a little more peat than in the 1980, all that coated with a little caramel, vanilla and camphor/eucalyptus (cough sweets). Extremely compact, getting very liquoricy (salmiak), rich, almost thick but never lumpish… Err, peat marmalade anyone? Finish, long, very long, still very compact, peaty and tarry, with the just the right amount of caramel and maybe even fir honey to prevent it from getting too sharp. Immensely tarry aftertaste. Maybe a little better than the 1980 on the palate, but I like the 1980’s nose a little better… Hmmm, scratch, scratch… okay, same rating: 93 points. Well selected, whisky flair! I mean, whisky fair…
MUSIC Recommended listening: why not a little Andrew Bird today? Not that he needs any further support but, well, we do like his Heretics.mp3 (a demo version I think). Please buy Andrew Bird's music. Andrew Bird

April 19, 2007

Glen Grant WCOA Glen Grant 25 yo 1952/1977 'Silver Jubilee' (43%, OB, Directors’ Reserve) That’s right, we already had this one and we rated it very poorly (55 points) while wondering if it wasn’t a defective bottle. Now, after having admired the wonderful Helen Mirren in Stephen Frears’ The Queen right yesterday and, more seriously, after having received a sample from another bottle from our friend Carsten (MARA), I’m more than happy to be able to give it another try.
Colour: pale amber. Nose: right, I’m rereading my older notes and indeed, this has nothing to do with the stale rotgut I had two months ago. This one is loaded with high-class OBE, roasted caramelized nuts, mint, camphor, wax polish and honeydew. And, not to forget, very ripe mirabelle plums (the little yellow ones), spearmint and lemon balm – and also dried parsley, getting back to the most beautiful metallic aspects of OBE. Superb, very, very classy. Mouth: again, an attack in top form considering its age. Not exactly powerful but certainly not wobbly, still very malty at first sip, nutty, candied and slightly mentholated. Okay, the middle is slightly weaker and maybe a tad cardboardy and drying but it’s still most pleasant, with enjoyable notes of tea. Finish: pretty long, honeyed, a little cereally, with more mint again, cough sweets, tea… The whole is beautiful whisky, especially the magnificent nose and the great attack on the palate. The rest is a little weaker but who cares, it’s royal indeed. 91 points. (and many thanks, Carsten). Now, a warning, the first sample I had came from an unscrupulous retailer, a bad egg who seems to have sold as ‘regular’ samples several rests of old stale long-opened bottles via the Internet. So, please check any seller’s reputation before you fall into this kind of ugly trap and ask him to tell you when he opened the bottle(s).
Glen Grant 40 yo 1959/1999 (48.9%, Whisky Club of Austria, issued 2007, 22 bottles) It’s our friends Heinz and Konstantin from the WCOA (K. is also a Malt Maniac of course) who could put their hands on a stash of old unlabelled Glen Grants, which they just decided to issue under their own label. Hey Konstantin, nice label by the way, very ‘The Avengers’, vintage 1967! Anyway, let’s try the content now… Colour: amber. Nose: what’s really impressive is that we’re more or less in the same league, with just more sherry (beautiful ‘artisan’ chocolate) and probably more roasted nuts and honey-coated fruits. Faint start of OBE, slight mustiness and indeed something ‘delicately’ metallic. And then the same mint and fresh herbs (parsley again, chives, sage) plus a little genuine balsamico. Also whiffs of wet hay and of ‘the cleanest of the smallest wet dogs’. Just as beautiful as the royal 1952. Mouth: how thick and concentrated this is! You almost need a spoon. Starts on rather classical sherry (very clean) but gets then superbly ‘freshly’ fruity, which is very unusual with these very old so-called sherry monsters. There’s quite some ripe pineapple, morello cherries, kirsch (Austrian of course), crystallised oranges, ‘arranged’ rum… Then it’s the praline, something resinous (mastic sweets?), argan oil (which I looooove), hints of rose-flavoured Turkish delights and then mint drops… And contrarily to the 1952, it never, ever ‘wobbles’. Finish: long, still very thick and almost pervasive (in a good way), beautifully candied. Yes there are some tannins and a slight vinosity but they never manage to get the upper hand. Konstantin, where did you say you found this lot? 93 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening: Janis' younger sister? No, no, she's Beth Hart and she's singing I'm the one.mp3. Please buy Beth Hart's music. Beth Hart

April 18, 2007

IAN SIEGAL AND HIS BAND The 100 Club, London, April 12th 2007
Ian Siegal
Telecaster, Stratotone, pin-striped jacket, Cornell amp and Jim Beam Black...
Eagle-eyed readers may remember that I recently wrote that hot-shot USA guitar sensation Joe Bonamassa liked to wear his influences on his sleeve. Well move over big boy (did I mention that Joe appears to be aiming for Gallagher’s girth as well as his guitar technique?), English blues prodigy Ian Siegal has gone one better. He wears his influence on his left arm, where he sports a huge tattoo of McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, who along with Chester Burnett (the Howling Wolf) are probably his greatest inspirations. You can hear this on his excellent 2005 album Meat and Potatoes, but if you want to get the full impact of this British take on an urbanised Delta style, then you must see him live with his equally excellent band. It’s quite simply a blues sensation.
It’s another steamy night in the 100 Club, with a highly partisan crowd, many of whom are regulars at It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, where Siegal had a virtual residency last year. There are the usual horde of hoary old blues hands, and a notable contingent of ladies of all ages, many of whom take to the front of the stage as Siegal’s performance progresses. The layout at the 100 Club isn’t the best in the world – and I’m perched in front of a pillar a few feet from stage centre almost eyeball to fret board with Siegal. Believe me it’s uncomfortable taking notes at such a visible proximity, so apart from a few scribbles I adopt the same rather vacant and witless expression of a blues guitar anorak (which comes remarkably easily) as do most of the males around me, and instead write up the gig in the cab on the way home. And it’s a Thursday – no beer, no wine. Siegal
Andy Graham Siegal takes the stage in an ill-matched pin-striped suit and snakeskin cowboy boots clutching a bottle of Jim Beam Black. He picks up a 1950s Harmony Stratotone H44 (pick-up apparently held on only by sellotape) and lashes into the first tune (title unknown, apparently from his forthcoming new album), followed by a blistering version of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Groundhog blues’ and ‘Cath 22’ (not a spelling mistake, a new song, but I might have misheard). The guitar (he’s using a bashed up Cornell amplifier) has a fantastic crisp sound – the groove is pure Delta meets Chicago, driven by drummer Nikolaj Bjerre and bassist Andy Graham who occasionally sounds like Norman Watt Roy. Anyone would think he had two sets of hands!
And what shines out even more than Siegal’s intense playing is his voice – it’s a mastery of styles, mainly Waters and Wolf. But it’s not pastiche, it’s more about vocal technique and style – here’s a quote from Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues (talking about Waters) that explains exactly what Siegal was up to: “he screws up the side of his face and then relaxes it, opens and contracts his throat, shakes his jowls, constantly readjusts the shape of his mouth cavity, all in order to get different, precisely calibrated vocal sounds, from the purest falsetto to deep, quivering moans to a grainy, vibrato heavy rasp”. The only time it gets uncomfortably close to copying is when Siegal dispenses with his Harmony (did I mention it was a Stratotone H44?) to sing ‘God don’t like ugly’, best described as a bit of a Tom Waits moment. Siegal
The second half of the set sees Siegal playing his gloriously battered Fender Telecaster (it might have been the ’69) as he works his way through a few songs from Meat and Potatoes – ‘Sugar rush’, ‘Revelator’ and ‘She’s got the devil in her’ (during which he finds time to smoke a Black Devil and shift half a large glass of bourbon). His songs are good – with interesting structures (despite the restrictions of the 12 bar medium) and darkly witty lyrics (even if he does go a bit Apocalyptic on ‘Revelator’). On the Telecaster his playing is as strong and aggressive as on the Harmony (you know – the Stratotone) until he moves to ‘conventional’ single string lead guitar style where he’s not quite as convincing – but hey, then neither was Muddy Waters. He leads the band along a sometime unpredictable path – they seemed as surprised as us when a verse and chorus of ‘Fulsome Prison Blues’ came out of nowhere in one of the earlier songs. For the final tune Siegal is joined on stage by harmonica player Johnny Mastro, who with his band the Mamas Boys (their first gig in the UK) had played a rollicking support set, and his guitarist Dave Melton for a hastily agreed ”Muddy Waters blues in G”. He then returns, as the clock pushes eleven o’clock, with ‘Falling on down again’, an R&B ballad that Stax would have been proud of. 
So our Mr Siegal is quite a piece of work, both CD and live performance highly recommended. Mature song writing skills, a great and versatile voice, a seriously studied blues vocal style, a fierce and frenetic guitar technique, an engaging and authoritative stage presence, a bit of the sexy stuff thrown in, and he has a 1950s Harmony Stratotone H44. Oh yes – he likes bourbon too – but I suppose you can’t get everything right … - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Many thanks, Nick. Well, I guess you can't really expect somebody wearing snakeskin boots to quaff Brora 30 or Talisker 25, can you? I beg your pardon? You say people wearing pin-striped suits do? Hmm... yes, but do they have Telecasters? Agreed, this leads us to nowhere, sorry. Let's rather admire The Photographer's beautiful pictures of drummer Nikolaj Bjerre and of Johnny Mastro and listen to two great tunes by Ian Siegal on his Myspace page.

Glenlivet Glenlivet 37 yo 1968/2006 (41.7%, Duncan Taylor's Lonach) colour: pale gold. Nose: expressive and much fresher and cleaner than expected, starting with lots of flowers (dandelions, buttercups), pollen and fresh white fruits (peaches). Goes on with a little vanilla and quite some fresh butter, never getting woody. Hints of fresh mint. Not enormously complex but very pleasant and surprisingly young despite all what the angels have stolen. Mouth: starts rather light but not weak, with quite some wood now but it’s far from being unbearable. Enjoyable spiciness (nutmeg and white pepper as well as quite some cinnamon). Other than that we have vanilla, pecan pie, apple compote… Again, it’s not really complex but pleasant and flawless. The finish isn’t too long, though, but balanced, vanilled and still not drying. A good oldie that didn’t go off the rail despite all these years. 85 points.
Glenlivet 1971 (45%, Samaroli, single cask, circa 2002) Colour: full amber. Nose: this one starts much more on sherry (lots of sultanas), with also lots of caramel and toasted brioche as well as apricot pie. Something ‘old’ like in old bottles. Hints of metal, mint, slight mustiness. Gets even more candied after that and very orangey (Grand Marnier). Hints of coal and wet stones. It never gets vinous and rather stays always quite elegant and delicately candied, with notes of coffee-flavoured toffee. Quite beautiful, this Glenlivet by Samaroli, I’m wondering why nobody knows of it. Mouth: the attack is drier, on lots of unsugared espresso and bitter chocolate but with balance. Notes of old rancio developing, cloves, Seville oranges and a little candy sugar. Maybe a little simpler than on the nose. Quite some raisin as well (more Smyrna than sultanas) and notes of old rum. Finish: quite long, on bitter caramel and coffee… Well, there was more happening on the nose but it’s still an excellent old Glenlivet. 87 points.

April 17, 2007

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH by Johannes van den Heuvel


It has been a while since we published a fresh issue of Malt Maniacs (some seven weeks, to be precise), but now that the festival season has started again we have plenty to write about, so Malt Maniacs #103 is emerging on the horizon. To keep you informed until it arrives; here's a very quick impression from the Pot Still Festival in Leusden, Holland which was attended by Michel van Meersbergen and yours truly.

In the middle of April we enjoyed some glorious summer weather that would make Al Gore proud. It was the earliest 'summer day' recorded since the Dutch climate institute started making notes. At a few places temperatures even rose past 30 degrees celcius, qualifying the day officially as 'tropical' by the moderate Dutch standards - less than a month after Spring has officially started. We could be in for a hot summer...
But enough chatting with myself about the weather... I THOUGHT I had made an amazing discovery in the form of a Convalmore 28 yo OB (great 'retro' label) but as it turns out we already tasted it (and gave it solid silver) at the MM Awards 2006. Well, since we taste the samples 'blind' I hadn't seen the bottle. Very nice indeed - would look great on my shelf but it's a lot of money... I hung around the Duncan Taylor stand for quite a while and was surprised by the range of VERY old whiskies they presented at the festival. Personal favourits included a Caperdonich 38 yo 1968/2006 ( 56.3%, Duncan Taylor, 88 points) and a Bunnahabhain 38 yo (43.1%, Duncan Taylor, C#11571, 87 points). At the other stands the bottles that made a big impression were the Ayrshire 32 yo 1975/2007 (46%, Signatory, C#556, 265 Bts., Ladyburn distillery, surprisingly affordable), a peated (!) Bunnahabhain 9 yo 1997/2007 (59%, Signatory Vintage, C#5272) and a Longmorn 1973/2006 (51,4%, G&M, C#6350).
Anyway, I hope to publish a fresh report on Malt Madness or Malt Maniacs shortly - and Michel and Thomas are working on a 'festival' report for MM#103 as well. As far as other news is concerned: Ulf's latest whisky book (about the 'UD Rare Malts' range from Diageo) won a luxurious award for 'the best spirits book of the world 2007' - or something along those lines. Congrats, Ulf!
Caol Ila
Caol Ila 25 yo 1982/2007 (55.5%, James MacArthur, Special Reserve, cask #731) Colour: gold. Nose: not too explosive, rather smooth at first sniffs, with rather notes of fresh butter, dairy cream and apple juice. What’s interesting is that it gets then beautifully smoky, but it’s not the ‘peaty’ kind of smoke, rather beech smoke, cold fireplace and matchsticks. The whole is rather fresh and very clean. Faint hints of mint leaves and celery… And finally lots of fresh fruits (fresh strawberries and pears). Smoked fruits? Pleasant development, this one is multilayered and you must give it time. With water: huge soapiness, which is quite normal. Let’s wait… Ah, now it got a little more silent, much less smoky but maybe a little fruitier. Quite some vanilla now. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very peaty, with an unusually high fruitiness (the strawberries again). Much less complex than on the nose, with no coastal notes at all, but bl**dy drinkable, even at cask strength. With water: oh, now we have beautiful notes of gentian spirit (which I looove), roots, pepper, liquorice roots and quite some salt, the ‘coastality’ arising now. Finish: rather long, balanced, maybe simpler again, peaty, peppery and fruity (cooked apples). Very good; maybe not magic but very good. 88 points.
Caol Ila 22 yo 1984/2007 (55.9%, The Whisky Fair, 287 bottles) From our German friends’ brand new series. Colour: gold – amber. Nose: this is very different, there’s quite some sherry in there. Starts on lots of flint stones, then we have the sherry itself (quite dry, Smyrna raisins and bitter chocolate) mingling with a rather massive smokiness and hints of camphor and iodine. Another case where sherry and peat are really holding hands and don’t fight each other. Very elegant I must say, with also a little mint coming through after a while. Also notes of pu-erh tea, which is always good news, and a discrete rubber. With water: it gets wilder, much more farmy and peaty, the sherry sort of beating a retreat – to the point where it almost smells like bourbon-matured Caol Ila. Very interesting and very ‘funny’. Mouth (neat): powerful, probably more sherried than on the nose, creamy, oily, almost ‘spoonable’. It somewhat reminds me of some Sauternes-finished peat monsters – the few very good ones, that is. (No, I’m not suggesting you can achieve the same results generally speaking!) With water: not a lot of difference I must say. Smoked and peppered sweet fruits (yellow peaches, apricots, hints of pineapples). Always quite sweet, especially at the rather long finish. Classy stuff even if there’s probably a little more happening on the (dry) nose than on the (sweet) palate. An unusual but effective ‘partnership’ between Caol Ila and the sherry. 90 points.
Caol Ila 27 yo 1979/2006 (58.1%, JWWW Old Train Line, cask #2442, 200 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is different. It’s the flintier, more austere side of Caol Ila, probably more maritime as well. Too bad there’s a little soap at first nosing (no, it’s not the glass) and maybe a little too much rubber, but once all that has vanished we’re really on freshly ground black pepper, peat smoke, oysters, a little mercurochrome, apple skin, fresh walnuts, paraffin… With water: this is amusing, there’s a lot of fresh mint now, and then it gets a little yeasty and mashy, almost like a youngster. As often, it got also much more farmy and ‘organic’ (wet hay and dog and such). It works. Mouth (neat): excellent and unusual attack, extremely lemony and sort of camphory and minty. Not unlike some lemon balm flavoured sweets (or something like that). Lots of green tea as well, pepper, soft curry, mustard and apple vinegar… Unusual indeed, and truly beautiful. With water: not much changes except for some added notes of bitter almonds and maybe a little oilive oil. Finish: long, more resinous now, peaty as it should be… Excellent bitterness. Another winning 1979 Caol Ila – and interesting again, at that. 91 points.
Caol Ila 1979/2006 (60.4%, McKillop’s Choice) Colour: full gold. Nose: pretty much the same whisky. Please read above. Maybe (I said maybe), a little more vanilla and milk chocolate and a little less peat. Maybe… And maybe a tad grassier. Splitting hairs here. With water: this one got directly farmy and much, much peatier than when unreduced. Superb notes of clean horse stable and dried mushrooms. Now, we’re still in the same territories as the ‘Jack’. Mouth (neat): again, we’re quite close to the “Jack’ but maybe a little more classic. Peat, lemon and pepper but less unusual condiments. With water: even more classic, with maybe a slight sourness in the background (cider apples). Finish: very long, clan, sharp, grassy, peaty, peppery and lemony. Yeah, classic. 89 points.
Caol Ila 23 yo 1978/2002 (61.7%, Rare Malts) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is sharper, even more austere, grassier and less smoky and peaty. Hints of mercurochrome. I suppose water is needed… Okay, water gave it a much waxier profile, even more austere (if that’s possible), extremely grassy and still not very smoky. A little mint. Mouth (neat): now it’s sweeter, bizarrely rounded, smooth… Fruitier as well (apples – of course – but also fresh strawberries) but that could be the alcohol. Little smoke and peat until now. With water: closer to the 1979 we just had but maybe less clean and pure, and a little too green for my tastes. And maybe a tad too simple although it’s totally flawless other than that – of course. Long finish but still a little too much on green apples for my tastes. Very good but maybe not the purest expression this time, whilst the Rare Malts are (should I say were) usually the cleanest expressions of any distilleries from Diageo’s portfolio in my books. 86 points.(and thanks Antoine) Caol Ila 1978
MUSIC Highly recommended listening: our friend trombonist extraordinaire Darren Kramer and his Organisation (DKO) have a new CD out entitled 'Electric Quartet'. Not only it's very good - just like his earlier CD's - but there's also his Scotch Suite (aka The Water of Life Suite) on it, which makes it even more special to us. The Scotch Suite is composed of four movements: Oban-Wan Kenobi (Oban 14yr), The Hollow Where The Mill Is (Lagavulin 16yr), Hebridean Afterglow (Talisker 10yr) and A Cask Of Thousands (Macallan Cask Strength 12yr). Not too sure about the name 'Oban-Wan-Kenobi' ;-) but all the music is really excellent and full of energy - and Pat Bianchi is at the B3! So, please buy Darren's great new record (you can listen to samples of the Suite there).




April 16, 2007

The 100 Club, London, April 4th 2007
Larry Love It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard much of the Alabama 3 - apparently they’ve been locked away in a studio making a new album (“some great tunes, gotta say” says my inside source). And they’ve hardly been on stage, and at the moment only have a few random gigs planned for the later this year. But that hasn’t stooped the indefatigable Rob Spragg, aka Robert Love, aka Larry Love, from continuing to gig with his slimmed down version of the band, Alabama 3 Acoustic, sometimes known as the Larry Love Showband.
We last saw them about three years ago at Dingwalls – a marvellous night of red wine and dancing, so with a free Good Friday night we jumped at the prospect of another night of honky-tonk sweet pretty motherfucking country and western acid-house music. And did I mention that it’s a holiday? A holiday, the first one of the year, and there’s a wonderful Bank Holiday boozy madness in the smoke-filled fetid air of the 100 Club (not for much longer I have to add). Perfect.
There are four members of this unplugged outfit. In the engine room is guitarist Rock Freebase (Mark Sams) whose open tuned guitar and delta style slide provide the rhythmical backbone to proceedings – it’s very crude, very simple (actually it’s bloody difficult but you know what I mean), and very effective. Providing the overdrive is harmonica player Harpo Strangelove (Nick Reynolds) and powerhouse vocalist the deceptively diminutive Devlin Love (Zoe Reynolds, wife of Nick). Actually there’s also a lot of rhythm coming from regular A3 backing singers B Attwell and Erroll Thompson who toast and grime their way through many of the songs.
Rock and Devlin
Rock Freebase and Devlin Love
Centre stage of course is the laconic Larry (“Here’s another motherfucking miserable song for all you folks out there”) a latter-day Man in Black, rarely parted from a beer or smoke of one sort or another, who growls his way through the set.
Set list
Jozzer stole the set list!
Luckily Jozzer – who managed to get back from his costermonging in time to hook up with us and his doll Trizza for a pre-gig Rioja or two and a bite to eat - got hold of the set list before the gig. Nice work Joz – but maybe you should have put it back as poor old Rock looked very confused without it. Anyway, believe me the Brixton mob were in and it wasn’t a safe place for a little black notebook – but fortunately I didn’t have to attempt to remember what they played. I do remember Larry thrusting a microphone in front of my face and me saying (rather unpersuasively I thought) “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” but the rest of the evening, strangely like a lot of the Photographer’s pictures, is a bit of a blur. Having said that, suspend critical facilities – this is just about having good fun, which is what we, and everyone else, did. That’s what holidays are for, after all. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Johnny Cash, but what’s this story about The Photographer’s pictures being blurred? I don’t think they are if you ask me, I’d bet it’s rather the famous Tempranillo effect. Dear reader, please have a look at these: Rock Freebase, Devlin Love and Larry Love - B Attwell and Erroll Thompson - Devlin Love - Larry Love - Nick Reynolds 1 - Nick Reynolds 2 - The End, are they blurred? No, they aren't! - S.
Strathisla Strathisla 30 yo 1976 (46.2%, Exclusive Malts, Cask #2913, 156 bottles, 2007) Colour: gold. Nose: an expressive, fruity and fresh start on freshly squeezed oranges, ginger, oak and hints of eucalyptus. Something unusually maritime (sea breeze), apple juice, notes of linseed oil, wax polish… It smells then more and more like mint leaves that you’d have rubbed between your hands, with also notes of lemon balm and camphor. Complex and nervous considering its age, perfect.
Mouth: slightly rougher, less polished than on the nose but still very expressive. Nuttier, saltier and more liquoricy. Goes on with caramel sauce and toasted brioche, oak, pecan pie… More on crystallised oranges after that, but there’s always lots of caramel and praline. Very good. Finish: long, candied, caramelized and still slightly salty. And still no vinosity. Extremely palatable and quite fresh globally. Far from the usual ‘thick’ sherry monsters. 90 points.
Strathisla 1967/1986 (57%, Duthie for Samaroli, Sherry wood, 360 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: this one starts heavier but not lumpish, with a rather fresh sherry (roasted nuts, milk chocolate, praline and sultanas). Nice notes of old rum, triple-sec. It’s more and more on praline and freshly roasted coffee beans but also dried figs and bananas. The balance is perfect and there’s no vinous and/or sulphury notes whatsoever here and no meatiness either. Heavy ‘soft’ sherry, I’d say. Mouth: very nervous attack, woodier than the 30 yo and more on varnish and eucalyptus as well as crystallised oranges. Lots of candy sugar, liquorice and salt (it’s saltier than the 1976). Truly concentrated, almost thick, fat, also with more tannins than the 1976 – it’s a little ‘mordant’. Long and coating finish, with all these notes of candy sugar and oranges but also the eucalyptus that’s back (cough drops). Concentrated indeed, just as excellent as the 1976, but not really better, for it’s really fatter. Same rating then, 90 points.

April 15, 2007

Glen Garioch 1988 Glen Garioch 17 yo 1988/2006 (53.6%, Signatory, sherry hogshead #4111, 254 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts on full vanilla-mode, with just hints of that slight meatiness that one can find in many recent Glen Gariochs (ham). Then we have mostly beeswax and pollen for a while, before it gets a little harsher and more spirity. Quite nice but rather simple. Let’s try it with water: now we have huge whiffs of buttered mashed potatoes but it gets then quieter again. It didn’t change a lot in fact. Quite neutral.
Mouth (neat): sweet, fruity, spirity… Lots of apples and not too ripe bananas, green tea… Maybe a little too neutral in fact, let’s add water again: not much development I’m afraid. It stays simple and, well, ‘neutral’ – and so does the finish. Not bad at all but not very inspiring I’d say. 79 points.
Glen Garioch 1988/2006 (53.9%, James MacArthur, cask #1535) Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely close to the Signatory at first sniffs, on vanilla and beeswax but with an added layer of phenols and resins. Also more fruits (mostly cider apples). But water is probably needed again: that worked better than with the Signatory, with quite some mint coming out, a little eucalyptus and camphor, wax, un-sugared black tea, cigar box… Closer to ‘Glen Garioch’ as we sometimes know it (reminds me of much older distillations). Mouth (neat): again, the attack is a little more complex (even more green tea but also more liquorice stick and apple skin). Notes of kiwis. With water: that worked again. Lots of liquorice and apple skin again but also hints of fir honey, vanilla fudge, mint-flavoured tea (ah, the medina…), mint and liquorice sweets… Excellent oakiness as well, smokiness… The finish is long and very liquoricy again, slightly salty and minty, waxy… An excellent example of a classy recent ‘old style’ Glen Garioch. Great selection by James MacArthur. 88 points. (and thanks, Peter)
MUSIC Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with Benjamin Britten's fabulous Illuminations (this part is called Villes.mp3). I think the tenor is Philip Langridge but I'm not sure. Les Illuminations op. 18, composed in 1939, are settings of poems by Arthur Rimbaud. Britten
April 2007 - part 1 <--- April 2007 - part 2 ---> May 2007 - part 1

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



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

Braes of Glenlivet 16 yo 1979/1996 (59%, Signatory, sherry butt #16045)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1984/2007 (55.9%, The Whisky Fair, 287 bottles)

Caol Ila 27 yo 1979/2006 (58.1%, JWWW Old Train Line, cask #2442, 200 bottles)

Clynelish 1995/2007 (50%, Taste Still, Whisky Live Verviers 2007, 302 bottles)

Clynelish 33 yo 1973/2006 (54.2%, Signatory, cask #8914, 455 bottles)

Glen Grant 25 yo 1952/1977 'Silver Jubilee' (43%, OB, Directors’ Reserve)

Glen Grant 40 yo 1959/1999 (48.9%, Whisky Club of Austria, issued 2007, 22 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 1990/2005 (57.2%, OB, for Sweden, cask #1602)

Longmorn 35 yo 1968/2004 (51.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 7.25)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2007 (56.7%, The Whisky Fair, 150 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1980/2006 (54.2%, The Whisky Fair, cask #2562)

Strathisla 1967/1986 (57%, Duthie for Samaroli, Sherry wood, 360 bottles)

Strathisla 30 yo 1976 (46.2%, Exclusive Malts, Cask #2913, 156 bottles, 2007)