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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2008 - Part 2
April 2008 - part 1 <--- April 2008 - part 2 ---> May 2008 - part 1

April 24, 2008


There won't be any updates of Whiskyfun from tomorrow until, say Tuesday or Wednesday, because:
1. We're very busy with work (no, this isn't our job)
2. It's the Whisky Fair in Limburg and 'of course' we'll be there.
3. We ran short of tasting notes (because of 1.)
4. Spring is in the air.
5. We're moving our whisky cellar.
6. There's a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on TV.
7. We are a little tired (which may have something to do with one or two of the above reasons)..

Oh, and we're even more sorry about the fact that we don't manage to answer all our emails these days (especially related to fake whiskies.) If you've been expecting an answer since quite some time now, our sincerest apologies, we'll try to reply to you as soon as the above poor excuses valid reasons are over. Talk to you later.

The Barbican, London, April 15th 2008
Mavis Staples Few singers can have a greater right to trade off the memory of Dr Martin Luther King (whose name, sadly, is often taken in vain by the unworthy) than Mavis Staples, the voice behind the sixties gospel-turned-soul band, the Staples Singers. They did, after all, provide the soundtrack for the civil rights movement in the United States in the years preceding and immediately after Dr King’s assassination in Memphis one April day forty years ago. And having joined Stax records as it tried to redefine itself as the label of the Black Power movement, they went on to become Number 1 sellers.
Pop Staples, the Mississippi-born patriarch of the band who had been touched by the blues of the likes of Charley Patton as a child ("I was a Christian man. I figured blues wasn't the right field for me”) was an intimate of the Doctor. After first hearing him speak in 1963 he told his children (also his band) "If he can preach it, we can sing it.". And they did. This is the spirit that’s conjured up in Ms Staples’ occasionally masterly 2007 album We’ll Never Turn Back, produced by and featuring Ry Cooder, along with son Joachim, drumming giant Jim Keltner and the Ladysmith Black Mambazo choir. And its success, coupled with the anniversary of Dr King’s murder, makes it a timely opportunity to tour.
I think they’re still selling tickets, but the Barbican is almost full, and the evening is kicked off with incredible energy by Jhelisa Anderson and her band, featuring young British pianist Robert Mitchell. I would hesitate to find an easy comparison for her eclectic style – I thought most of Cassandra Wilson, but only just – but she gave as powerful a start to a gig as I can recall for a long time. Maybe that’s because she knew what was coming. You could feel the anticipation in the hall melt away when the MC announced “Well, we nearly cancelled tonight’s show due to Mavis Staples’ illness, but she insisted on playing”. Ms Staples was suffering from a bad throat infection, and was clearly very, very unwell. Her band looked on anxiously through the night, and somewhat disapprovingly, and it became clear from the sheepish grins that the tale of her throwing a fit when they tried to lock her in the hotel bedroom was not too far from the truth. And it’s an interesting dilemma – we’ve paid our quids to see a show, so should we be given less than full value? And should Ms Staples be risking her health (and voice) further by performing when she’s ill?
Well the dice were thrown and we all had to make the best of it. Ms Staples’ voice was firing for the most part at about thirty per cent (although the fact that she did manage “R E S P E” before choking on the remaining two letters in ‘Respect yourself’ might, from a purely statistical perspective, have put her voice on around seventy per cent). But her spirit and soul were peaking at around one hundred and eighty, and there wasn’t even a cynic like me in the house who didn’t melt just a little bit when she explained “I had to come out tonight, for you. You’re my people. You’re my people’. After which she could really do no wrong. Mavis Staples
So she coughed and spluttered her way through new songs like ‘’Eyes on the prize’, and ‘Down in Mississippi’ (born in Chicago her childhood was divided between the city and the Delta), and classics like Steven Still’s ‘For what it’s worth’, ‘The weight’ (the Staples Singers performed with the Band for The Last Waltz), ‘Why (am I treated so bad)’, ‘Freedom’s Highway’, and their number one hit ‘I’ll take you there’. That ended the show with a standing ovation that brought Ms Staples to tears. Surprisingly she returned for ‘We shall not be moved’ (more tears, but those could have been caused by the Barbican’s terrible singing) and finally from the new album ‘Turn me around’.
It was a show of great spirit, but would not have been pulled off but for the tight band behind her (her backing singers, including sister Yvonne looked frankly unimpressed by the whole thing) led by guitarist Rick Holmstrom, who, as they say, stepped up to the plate to try and fill some of the gaps left by Ms Staples’ ailing voice.
Holmstrom He’s a fantastic rootsy and gutsy blues player with echoes from Ry Cooder to Marc Ribot, but with a sound all of his own.With drummer (and Tom Waits veteran) Stephen Hodges and bassist Jeff Turmes (who both play on Holmstrom’s most recent and highly-recommended album Late in the Night) they carried the night, taking their own ten-minute spot (whilst the Misses Staples and Co had a sit down and ‘bit of a rest’ at the back of the stage) to play ‘Tutweiler’ from Holmstrom’s album. And between every song it was Holmstrom who talked to Ms Staples, asked her if she could carry on, and suggested songs she might like to try.
An altogether impressive performance that made a potentially disastrous evening most enjoyable. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)


Summer is around the corner... Well, not quite, but time to try three Rosebanks - but old and punchy (and legendary) ones. So much for the Lowlanders’ lightness. (thanks, Konstantin)

Rosebank 1967/1994 (51.7%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #4398) Colour: full gold. Nose: discrete and almost shy at first nosing, but things keep improving after a few seconds. Minutes actually... First there’s some unusual smoky notes, like a mixture of wood and coal, then it’s the leather and plain wood that arise (and cigar box), then pu-erh tea, then pure and plain peat smoke... The our beloved camphor and eucalyptus... Still not an ‘aromatic monster’ but water should probably help here. With water: not much changes, except for added meaty hints. Ham. Mouth(neat): wohoho, this is another story, even when undiluted. Big, big notes of crystallised citrus fruits (all of them), superb notes of quince jelly (and eau-de-vie – delightful), then all kinds of waxy and resinous touches, then an avalanche of various spices... All that with the citrus always present. Admirable palate and no need of water here, I’m sure. Finish: as long as Cleopatra’s nose (wtf?), always on lemons and oranges, with also a little ginger from the wood – a perfect wood, at that – and then loads of pepper. Well, this is a stunner of a Rosebank. Comments: a big, big Rosebank, extremely concentrated. Unusual peatiness on the nose but none on the palate. SGP:663 – 92 points.
Rosebank 20 yo (57%, OB, Distillers Agency, Zenith, clear glass, 2580 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: just like the 1967, it’s a bit shy at first nosing, but then it gets even more on coal smoke and shoe polish, like many of the old dumpies by Cadenhead. Also more kumquats and lemon marmalade, but I’m sure water will be needed again. So, with water: plain shoe polish! Reminds me of my days in the army – don’t ask me why I like shoe polish then. Faint whiffs of wet dogs (not army dogs). Mouth (neat): fantabulous attack, but not one that would please everyone. Thick and oily, starting extremely tarry and almost metallic (nah, this bottle had a cork stopper), with the lemony notes starting to act on your tongue like myriads of mini-explosions (err, or something like that). Then it’s kumquats, bitter oranges, mastic, peanut butter, lemon-flavoured toffee, crystallised fruits (all kinds)... Wowie! With water: even better, even more complex. Gorgeous whisky. Finish: we haven’t gotten all day, have we? Comments: a legendary bottle, an ode to the Lowlands of Scotland (don’t be silly, Serge.) SGP:662 – 93 points.
Rosebank 15 yo (61%, OB, Distillers Agency, Zenith, clear glass, 2400 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: same as the 20yo in style but even less expressive when neat. Almost closed, except for hints of rubbed lemon skin. Lets wait... Well, even with the addition of water, this one remains rather closed and grassy. Rough. Mouth (neat): we’re not too far from the 20yo as far as the profile is concerned but this is much more aggressive, kind of dirty (dust), very bitter (like some herbs)... Water is obligatory here. With water: ah, that worked this time, but it never gets as complex as the 20yo. Rounder, more candied, more citrusy, also saltier... Finish: long, on lemon marmalade and something like chlorophyll chewing-gum. Comments: very, very good but not legendary I think. Lacks a little more ‘sexiness’. SGP:451 - 86 points.

April 23, 2008


'for Jean-Marie'

In case you don’t know, Inchmurrin is one of the variants of single malt whisky they make at Loch Lomond Distillery. Usually not a blue chip, but you never know, and some older casks have quite a reputation.

Inchmurrin 34 yo 1967/2001 (45.3%, OB for Sweden, Part Nan Angelen, 1800 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: hey, this is very nice! Starts very flowery ala Balvenie (yellow flowers, nectar), but also with quite some smoke and something slightly medicinal (antiseptic). Also beautiful notes of hot butter (not butyric), wine-poached pears, almond milk, avocado... Something faintly resinous as well... All that is very aromatic, and after quite a while it’s the smoke that prevails. Unexpected, really. Mouth: did I say unexpected? This starts all on oranges, ripe apricots, something camphory (cough syrup), mint... Then sultanas and roasted peanuts, maple syrup, gingerbread, coffee (not unlike Irish coffee). Keeps developing on spices, mostly cloves and cinnamon. What a surprise! Finish: not the longest ever but very clean, candied, with absolutely no excessive oak despite the old age. Comments: keyword ‘surprise’ – and perfect balance. SGP:554 – 90 points (not just because it’s a surprise, it’s really worth 90 in my book).
Inchmurrin 1974/2003 (54.4%, Cadenhead’s Chairman's Stock, 210 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: less cask influence but a bigger sharpness. Not really flowery this time at first nosing, rather a ‘greener’ spirit, grassier and waxier. Less sexy in a certain way but it’s still very good spirit. Quite some smoke again, with a rather big oakiness coming through after a moment. A little austere but let’s try it with water: yes, that works. Added notes of praline, cappuccino, and nutmeg, with also a little vanilla. Less green and more rounded. Mouth (neat): punchy but very drinkable at cask strength, even if the high spirit gives it something slightly too ‘pearish’. Big oak and quite some pepper, I feel this needs water like on the nose. With water: excellent now. Still a little simpler than the 1967 but perfectly enjoyable. Ginger and all sorts of spices, including big notes of cardamom. Finish: rather long, a little more on the oaky side (white pepper here) but still pleasant. Comments: well, it can’t be a surprise anymore, thanks to the 1967, but this is very good whisky again. SGP:362 – 86 points.
And also Loch Lomond 20 yo (55%, OB, Limited Edition for Xmas 2003, cask #8) Colour: straw. Nose: this is completely different, much more on pears and porridge, feints, wet paper, paraffin... Sort of pleasant but in no way as classy as the Inchmurrins. With water: even more porridgy! Grains, grains and grains. Mouth (neat): softer than expected, creamy, oily, rather simple (orange drops, pear drops and eucalyptus sweets), getting then a little too hot – and oaky. With water: mm, really resembles the famous and shiny Loch Lomond ‘blue label’ now, just with more oak and a slightly bigger complexity. Finish: medium long, peppery and prickly, getting bitter. Comments: for lovers of oaky porridge. SGP:360 – 73 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. The great, great Carla Bley and her super sextet plays Healing Power.mp3 (from her 1987 album 'Sextet' - easy!). Watch Hiram Bullock's guitar! And please buy Carla Bley's music!

Carla Bley

April 22, 2008

Bunnahabhain 1989 (40%, G&M MacPhail's Collection, circa 2000) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very, very close to the official 12yo that I’m using as a benchmark, but softer, more a ‘whispering’ bunny when compared to the 12, that got a bit bigger in recent years. Butter, soft honey, hay and sultanas. Shy. Mouth: same comments. Slight smokiness but other than that it’s slightly weakish. Finish: medium long, caramelly and then a bit drying (cardboard). Comments: not bad. SGP:341 – 74 points (the official 12 is more like 433 – 82).
Bunnahabhain 1990 (40%, G&M MacPhail's Collection, circa 2003) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is somewhere between the 12 and the 1989. Same style, just more expressive and thus more pleasant that the latter. Mouth: closer to the 1989 on the palate but again, a little bigger and more flavourful. Raisins, coffee, fudge. Finish: a little longer than the 1989, less drying. Comments: more body, more pleasure. Not a big dram, that is. The 1991 at 45% is much better than both the 1989 and 1990 in my book (87). SGP:442 – 78 points.
Bunnahabhain ‘Toiteach’ (46%, OB, 2007) Toiteach means ‘smoky’ in Gaelic. I believe this is only for the French market. Like the older ‘Moine’, I believe it’s from the famous peaty batches they made in 1997 for the ‘peatophiles’ (dixit the ever engaging John McLellan, distillery manager). Colour: white wine. Nose: fragrant but young and simple at first nosing. Something like peated pears, should that exist (and why not, eh?) Totally flawless but very simple because I’m trying hard to find other aromas but I just do not manage. Right, a little sea air... Mouth: a little more complex now. Ultra-clean, with less pearish notes and more ripe apples, the whole coated with peat smoke and fresh almonds as well as a little salt. Finish: zing, as simple and clean as peaty whisky can get. Comments: good but very simple I think, with something that reminds me of some very good gin. Would probably gain from longer maturing, I like the regular 12 better, it’s more complex. SGP:515 – 79 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. This is very rare (but I have the original 27cm!), it's Bernard Peiffer playing Willow weep for me.mp3 in 1952, at the age of 30. What a fantastic pianist this Frenchy was! Please buy his music...


April 21, 2008

Bowmore 1989
1989 was an important year at Bowmore, as it seems that it’s in that year that Suntory bought more shares of Morrison Bowmore and decided to invest much more money into improving the general quality of the whisky (thanks for confirming this, Misako). As we already said, we believe that it’s somewhere in 1989 that the famous ‘lavender and geranium’ aromas (coined ‘FWP’ by some friends, remember?) more or less vanished from the spirit. Let’s have a few now if you please – too bad we don’t know of all months of distilling.
Bowmore 15 yo 1989/2005 (55.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 3.104, 'Slow motion Islay', distilled 05/'89) Colour: pale gold. Nose: spirity and farmy, very rough, violent, medium peated. Little ‘lavenderish’ notes, that is. With water: even feintier. Mashed potatoes, butter, apple peeling. Little added lavender notes I must say. Mouth (neat): big but sugary, weirdly meaty and bitter at the same time. Bubblegum. Kind of dirty. With water: a little better for a while (pleasant saltiness) but there are weird soapy notes indeed. No more sweetness and a huge bitterness arising (grape pips). Finish: long, raw, acrid... Comments: I would not say it’s flawed but it’s really hard to enjoy. SGP:272 – 71 points.
Bowmore 9 yo 1989/1998 (59.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 3.48, distilled 05/'89) Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful, raw, spirity, mashy... Smokier than the 15yo, which may prove that peaty aromas fade out a bit with age. A tad more ‘lavenderish’ but that’s very faint. With water: indeed, a little lavender in this one, soap. Little pleasure. Mouth (neat): even more sugary than the 15, extremely raw, extremely spirity. Notes of roots. Needs water! With water: gets half-sweet, half-soapy. Less salt than in the 15yo. Cardboard. Finish: long, less acrid than the 15 now. Chalky. Comments: marginally better than the 15, I think, but no pleasure. SGP:373 – 75 points.
Bowmore 12 yo 1989/2002 (46%, Signatory, cask #20938, distilled 06/’89) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: less spirity (but that may be the lower ABV), less smoky, fruitier (apples). Hints of lavender indeed, getting a little dusty and cardboardy. Mouth: certainly not clean! Bitter, cardboardy, offbeat, feinty... Hard! Finish: long, buttery and feinty. Comments: well, if they improved the spirit indeed in 1989, that probably didn’t happen before July ;-). What's more, o ther 1989's by Signatory have been much better. SGP:162 – 62 points.
Bowmore 15 yo 1989/2004, (52%, Jack Wieber, Castle Series, cask #6126, 192 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: I don’t know in which month this was distilled (Jack, if you’re reading this...) but it’s much more pleasant on the nose. More complex, with very nice notes of dried oranges and kumquats (something that reminds me of some Bowmores distilled in the early 1970’s), wet wool, wet stones, humus... Medium-smoky but very clean. No ‘FWP’ whatsoever and probably a more active cask. With water: here comes our friend the wet dog. And more raw wool, porridge, farmyard... Less citrusy notes. Mouth (neat): good attack on citrus again (more grapefruits) and something very grassy. Sharp! Quite some tannins. Lemon juice. With water: gets slightly soapy (some say ‘Schweppesy’) now but that’s okay. Crystallised lemons. Finish: medium long, saltier. Comments: sort of ‘instable’ but certainly better than the May/June distillations. Or was it just a better cask? SGP:354 – 83 points.
Bowmore 1989/2004 (58%, Dun Eideann, cask #6184, 328 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is different again. Very sharp, ‘austere’, almost mineral. Wet stones, lemon skin, big notes of fusel oil and paraffin... Smells more and more like lager beer. With water: here they are, these soapy-lavenderish notes. And soot, coal, metal polish... Not really pleasant but interesting in its own style. Mouth (neat): oh no... Something chemical right at the attack (cheap lemonade), plastic... And quite prickly at that. Water may be obligatory here. With water: it got rather better indeed. Crystallised lemons. But then it’s back on plastic and paper... Finish: long, soapy and peppery. Comments: you got it, this came probably not from the ‘good’ (say better) part of 1989. SGP:353 – 73 points.
Now, is it possible to claim that there’s a specific date when Bowmore’s new make got frankly better in 1989? Maybe not, because we already tried some from the first part of the year that were quite good (some by Signatory and several by Dewar Rattray, for instance.) It’s not impossible that they tried various settings within several months, especially various kinds of cuts (remember, the later you cut it, the most ‘congeneric’ - peat and so on - it gets.) I may well be completely wrong here, actually. BS? Oh well... But again, what’s absolutely certain is that we never came across a ‘bad’ Bowmore that was distilled from the early 1990’s on.  
Womb Ore Bonus – a relief we hope! Womb Ore 9 yo 1998/2008 (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 420 bottles, Bowmore) Colour: straw. Nose: the first feeling after all the 1989’s is that this is much more ‘maritime’ and ‘medicinal’, and certainly much, much cleaner. There’s iodine, seashells, then grapefruits... The ‘links’ with the older versions are the notes of wet stones and wet wool. We have also ashes, apple peeling, fresh walnuts... There’s some smoke but not a very big one. Overall impression: very straight and very pure. Mouth: it’s more on the palate that the differences with the older Bowmores are obvious. This is much cleaner, much straighter. Nice, sweet attack (kumquats that remind me of the ‘Jack’), the whole getting then rather drier. Green apples, oatcakes, smoked fish, marzipan, mastic and a slight saltiness.
Finish: long and a tad spicier now (cloves and black pepper). Very slight cardboardiness. Comments: much better than all the 1989’s for sure, and pretty mature at just 9yo. Oh, and much more ‘Islay’. SGP:255 – 85 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. French bluesman Paul Personne does a very good Où est le paradis?.mp3 (where's paradise?) from his album Instantanés. Please buy Paul Personne's music!

Paul Personne

April 20, 2008

Girvan Girvan 1993/2007 (46%, Jean Boyer 'One Shot', single cask) Hmm, let’s see if this is any better than owners William Grant’s Black Barrel (as always, please read ‘more to my liking’.) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely clean, pure and fresh but rather close to plain spirit. Whiffs of strawberries and rhubarb plus grass and a little wood smoke. Kind of a super-Zubrovska, probably excellent chilled, on caviar (honest) or maybe smoked salmon. Mouth: sweet and balanced. Again, not much character I think, but there’s much more oak than on the nose. Unusual bitterness beyond the ‘plummish’ notes, herbs. Finish: medium long, again on Zubrovska vodka. Or un-sugared Chartreuse? Comments: maybe not the best grain whisky ever, but certainly the best vodka. Too bad caviar is so expensive these days... SGP:550 – 78 points.
North British 29 yo 1979/2008 (55.6%, Duncan Taylor, cask #39890) North British always was interesting to try, I think it’s usually a grain that’s got rather more character than others, albeit an often ‘twisted’ one. Colour: pale straw. Nose: an even rawer spirit than the Girvan at first nosing, getting then closer to fruit eau-de-vie (plum spirit). Three days old cut grass, then a little coconut and vanilla as often in these old grains. Something animal as well (hare belly, as they say in wine) and whiffs of roses and cologne. As ‘twisted’ as expected, but is it good? Let’s see what gives on the palate... Mouth: very sweet, very flavourful, starting all on coconut liqueur. You named it, Malibu. Gets more on kirsch and rum after that, and on pineapple liqueur... Finish: long, maybe a tad prickly now (oak). Comments: Caribbean! SGP:720 – 80 points.
Strathclyde 33 yo 1973/2007 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, cask #74062) I didn’t quite like cask #74060, issued in 2005 (76) but cask #74063, issued last year, was much better in my book (83). Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more classic than the North British. Typical vanilla, grated coconut, praline and coffee dregs. An unusual meatiness as well in the background (ham). Not really complex but very pleasant, actually. Mouth: very classic! Vanilla, coconut, nutmeg and black tea. This time I feel the need to add a little water, let’s see... With water: (while the nose got more on cornflakes): not really more complex but more easily drinkable. Finish: medium long, more on café latte or this thing they make at Starbucks, mixing milk, chocolate and hazelnuts. Comments: sweet stuff, liquid vanilla fudge. SGP:620 – 82 points.
Cameronbridge 29 yo 1978/2008 (57%, Duncan Taylor, cask #D5211) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely similar to the Strathclyde. Actually, it’s more or less the same whisky. Maybe just a tad more ‘roasted and toasted’. With water: again, pretty much in the same style as the Strathclyde, and again, maybe just a tad more caramelly and nutty. Mouth (neat): fruitier than the Strathclyde this time, and less vanilled/coffeeish. Notes of strawberry liqueur. Now, there’s still quite some vanilla ‘of course’. With water: fruit spirit with traces of oak and vanilla. Finish: more of the same. Comments: it’s very good whisky but is it interesting? Not for malt lovers, I’d say. SGP:620 – 78 points.
Carsebridge 27 yo 1979/2007 (60%, Duncan Taylor, cask #32902) I loved one of this one’s sister casks (cask #32901, issued 2005, 90 points) so I have deep expectations now. Colour: pale amber. Nose: almost silent but that’s probably the high ABV. Slightly fudgy. With water: my, it’s hard to awaken this one! Vanilla and coffee-flavoured fudge. Wait, and very nice whiffs of wet stones, chalk, even sea air. This is rare in grain whisky, isn’t it? Mouth (neat): hot but drinkable. It seems that we’re more on the second famous side of grain whiskies: bubblegum and marshmallows. Now, it’s very hot stuff so let’s not try to swallow more than half a drop of it. With water: ah yes, this is rather good. Creamier, rounder, wider, spicier... Peppered cappuccino with a spurt of strawberry liqueur. Or something like that. Finish: long, more on coconuts now. Comments: not one of these excellent Invergordons distilled in the 60’s but still a very good old grain – provided you don’t forget to add a little water. SGP:641 – 85 points. Cameronbridge

MUSIC – Highly Recommended listening. Don Pullen was god. Please listen to his piece called Indio Gitano.mp3 and you'll see why (it's on Blue Note' s Best Of). And then please buy Don Pullen's music!

Don Pullen

April 18, 2008



Highland Park distillery has been releasing recently a number of excellent single casks and a wonderful 21yo.

Shortage of single malts produced in the period 1995/1996 also means that the regular 12yo contains a higher proportion of older malts, going back to some 27yo casks. No whisky from this distillery contains anymore caramel for colour adjustment, which means that the colour consistency is achieved with older/sherry casks in higher proportions.

Highland Park is also about to release in April a 40yo at 48.3% as a regular non numbered bottling. Retail price should be around £899.

Highland Park 40yo (48.3%, OB, 2008) The colour is gold amber, not tired at all.
Highland Park 40
The nose exhibits intense fruity aromas, underlined with the typical heathery/peat character that makes this distillery so distinctive. Light creosote, liquorice, apples, pears flavours, heather, honey, raisins and sherry notes all fight together to reveal some stunning character. The palate is more peaty than the 25yo or 30yo official release. It feels almost medicinal/organic and definitely maritime, very long and powerful (amazing strength for a 40yo!). The sherry influence is great. Some light sulphurs bring some gunflint flavours. Of course there is also some oak on the finish, but it feels nicely integrated. I would call this whisky a masterpiece and can only salute the work of the team at Highland Park that crafted this bottling. Perhaps there are a couple of 'emotional' points included in my 96pts rating, but there is nothing I would add or take away from this whisky.- Olivier Humbrecht
MUSIC – Recommended listening. The obligatorily legendary Legendary pink dots doing A velvet resurrection.mp3. Spacy and... legendary. Please buy there music. Pink dots

April 17, 2008




It's at http://www.harpers.co.uk. Many MM's have already cast their votes and the 'no' votes were at 75% this morning. And then, suddently, the number started to drop quite dramatically within minutes, down to 70%. Johannes sent an alert and at time of writing it's back to 74%... But you could still add your own vote and confirm all this. Watch for this space on Harper's homepage (image at the right).

13:44 Update: it seems that the poll is over. Final results:
NO: 75%
YES: 20%
(I'm too drunk to even vote: 2% ;-))

Curious about what the SWA will make out of this...
By the way, Malt Maniacs #109 is online!! Excellent read...

The 100 Club, London
April 6th 2008

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but although it’s officially British Summer Time it’s been snowing in London for much of the day (more misery at our brave new Terminal 5) and it is simply freezing cold. I reckon it’s about twenty-five degrees in New Orleans, so it will be interesting to see how much of the heat Englishman John Cleary, for many years a N'awlins resident, has brought with him from the Big Easy.

Jon Cleary
He’s a busy man. Perhaps best known as pianist and composer for Taj Mahal, he’s in the middle of a short European tour with his band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, getting back home, I’m very glad to say, in time for a gig at the Tulane Crawfish Boil (mmm!). He’s then touring as pianist with Bonnie Raitt before returning with his band to Europe and in particular London in the summer, when he’ll be playing a gig at the ghastly Pigalle Club. Maybe he likes to come over to see his family – he was born in the picturesque village of Cranbrook in Kent not far from London. And in fact I wonder if the reason that the place is so packed isn’t because half his family are crammed with us into the 100 Club. It’s certainly a big crowd for a ‘little known’ (my assumption) artist, with a surprisingly young and feminine feel to it.
The Absolute Monster Gentlemen are Cornell C Williams on bass, the wonderfully syncopated Eddie Christmas on drums, and on (mostly) Fender Telecaster, Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins, who without being disrespectful is not the sort of guy you’d like to see taking the seat next to yours on a ‘plane (or a bus, cinema, park bench etc.). On a serious note – his size does not prepare you for the delicacy of his playing, particularly on the Caribbean and calypso infused ‘Zulu Strut’ (which can be found on Cleary’s 2004 album Pin Your Spin) where he duets with Cleary on guitar, or during his big solo on ‘Help me somebody’. But for the most part he plays behind Cleary who leads with his forceful keyboards which display a variety of influences from the classical New Orleans style of Professor Longhair through to more contemporary R&B. We get one Taj Mahal tune – ‘21st Century Gypsy singin’ lover man’, which Cleary co-wrote, but sadly not the wonderful ‘Cheatin’ on you’, which he also wrote. And as the band play they swing from New Orleans stomp-style such as ‘Go to the Mardi Gras’ to a more accomplished Average White Band, particularly with Big D’s backing vocals to Cleary’s gravelly lead.
Derwin and Cornell
Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins and Cornell C Williams
Needless to say Christmas’s drumming was at the heart of almost everything, and was showcased, appropriately enough, on ‘Second line’.
Jon CLeary
John Cleary
Check Jon Cleary's MySpace page for some very good music
By this time the temperature had been predictably over-adjusted, so the evening ended with us wading in pools of sweat and beer as Cleary finished with ‘Help me somebody’, ‘Groove me’, and ‘When you get back’, all of which, in the very same order, can be found on his new (and recommended) live album ‘Mo hippa’. And it was then that something very strange happened. With an audience totally engrossed in the music no one noticed the phalanx of burly blue-track-suited Chinese guys who jogged down the stairs, with what looked like promoter Jim Driver in their midst clutching a flaming torch, pushed past the backs of the crowd and out through the fire-exit by the entrance to the malodorous Gent’s urinals. Stranger than truth? Hardly. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)


Japanese Whisky - Facts, Figures and Taste, Buxrud, Ulf
to be published 2008.

The most unique whisky book released in the past few years has got to be Ulf Buxrud's Rare Malts, a coffee table quality documentation of a single series of collectors' whiskies. Well, Buxrud is at it again, this time filling an as yet unexplored niche with the first English-language guide to Japanese distilleries and their whiskies. It's about time someone wrote this book, and if early drafts reviewed for Whiskyfun are any indication Buxrud has done an admirable job. Beginning with a history of the Japanese cratur that precedes Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru, he moves on to a distillery-by-distillery tour with specifications, tastings, travel tips and side excursions. This is no esoteric adventure, as his first outing was. Ulf Buxrud
Rather Japanese Whisky - Facts, Figures and Taste is a comprehensive guide to Japanese whisky written for the interested consumer and visitor alike. Final production is underway now with release scheduled for later this year. A full review will follow on Maltmaniacs.com . - Davin de Kergommeaux
Glenburgie Glenburgie-Glenlivet 22yo 1962/1985 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is really mutli-layered. Starts on honey and pollen, gets then sort of smoky (barbecue), then very grassy and even a little acrid, and finally quite meaty (sausages, ham, tallow). Also notes of cabbage and asparagus. It’s moving to try such an old whisky but frankly, this time it’s not really a thrill. Too grassy a malt for me, even if it gets very almondy after a while, which I usually like.
Mouth: the attack is good, on walnuts and resin but then there’s something strange that happens. It gets rough, ‘green’, curiously papery and beefy at the same time... Not sure there wasn’t a flaw originally, a flaw that mingled with the rest through the years but not quite. Nails? Too bad, some aspects of this one are very nice, especially the mint and liquorice. Finish: long, very minty now, with the flawed parts having vanished a bit. Not unlike when you just had a handful of mint drops. Comments: it’s hard to make up my mind about this one. The big mintiness on the palate is spectacular but there are some flaws... Well, who cares, such an old bottle! SGP:251 - 79 points.
Glenburgie 35 yo (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, circa 2007) Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s hard to believe that this comes from the same distillery – or are G&M’s warehouses that good? Much more delicate, subtle, superbly honeyed (it’s more honeydew actually) and citrusy (kumquats, orange marmalade), starting to smell like these spices we use to prepare mulled wine (Chinese anise, cloves, cinnamon...) Also something delicately herbal, mint, leather, cigarette tobacco... Faint whiffs of diesel oil. Not a big whisky for sure but it’s very elegant. One for Epsom (nah, not Epson). Mouth: oh, some parts of the Cadenhead’s are back again, especially the mint and the ‘greenish’ part, except that they’re much better integrated here. Quite some lemon, dried grapefruits, old walnuts, liquorice, cloves... Quite some tannins as well, even green ones, but curiously, all that is pleasant. Chlorophyll. Finish: long, ‘greener’ and more vegetal but still very good. A very good old walnut liqueur? Comments: good stuff. It’s truly amazing to see how G&M made huge progress once they decided to bottle more old whiskies at 43 or 46% instead of 40%. Actually, it’s not just an impression, I calculated their general average from the Malt Maniacs Monitor and believe me, they gained quite a few points since last year. SGP:461 – 89 points (and thanks, Alain).
Glenburgie And also Glenburgie 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, circa 1990) Nose: fresh but a little feinty and not so pleasantly dry. Porridge, grass... Slightly flat. Mouth: wood glue, grains, apple juice and soft paprika. Finish: medium, not much character. Comments: better as it sounds but in no way in the same league as the recent 35. SGP:231 – 78 points.

April 16, 2008

Glen Grant 1969


Maybe you would think it would get boring to try old these old Glen Grants – please be sure it’s not!

Glen Grant 33 yo 1969 (51.5%, Hart Bros) Colour: straw. Nose: yes, not a drop of sherry this time, rather big porridgy notes, mashed potatoes, apple peeling and fresh walnuts and almonds. Add to that pretty big whiffs of newly mown lawn, hay and green tea and you’ll get the general feeling. No signs of age I must say. Paraffin. Mouth: how old is this? Ten years old? Fifteen? Very grassy, grainy, porridgy, getting then tannic and drying. The ‘background’ is nice, that is, with notes of green apples and almonds. Other than that... Finish: not too long and very grassy, with crystallised oranges making a very late arrival. Comments: let’s be diplomatic: we’ve had better ones. SGP:261 – 77 points.
Glen Grant 38 yo 1969/2008 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, Lonach Collection) another one from Duncan Taylor’s low cost collection, now with a new (nicer we think) livery. We’ve already come across some very good ones I must say. Colour: gold. Nose: yup, interesting, as it really smells like cold earl grey tea at first nosing. Goes on on apple compote and many other things made out of apples (like, err, pies), walnuts, wet wood, fresh almonds... Then big notes of fresh orange juice. Rather close to the Hart Bros, only much more expressive. Mouth: again, this is interesting. The general profile is similar to the HB’s again, just much more expressive. Funny hints of Comté cheese (my fav’), then big ‘minty’ oak, tea, liquorice sticks, almonds... Big tannins but rather pleasant ones. Finish: long, on tannins and mint. Yes, even more mint – and liquorice. Comments: big oak, but of rather high quality. For oak lovers only, I’d say. SGP:371 – 86 points.
Glen Grant 31 yo 1969/2000 (56.9%, The Whisky Exchange, 240 bottles) Colour: mahogany (I’ll eat my hat when this is not sherry). Nose: yeah, my hat is safe. Very, very classic dry-sherried old whisky, starting all on bitter chocolate, wood smoke and leather. Stays on these aromas for a while, and then the cavalry arrives! Dried oranges, ginger, cigar box, game, soy sauce, prunes, balsamic vinegar, black cherries, high-end oak, high-end varnish... And tons of other micro-aromas. Entrancing whisky, and not the tiniest whiff of sulphur. Exceptional, really. With water: Mouth: holy featherless crow! This is very sherried again, but in a different style than on the nose. Much more on Asiatic fruit sauces, fruit jams and a rather extreme old ‘rancio’. The sherry itself is very obvious but it’s a beautiful one, thick, creamy, coating, luscious... Finish: long like a Tyrolean yodeling (WTF?). Comments: some must have invented the word ‘concentrated’ just for this whisky; you might have to brush your teeth after having sipped a glass of this ‘cream’. SGP:762 – 92 points. (thank you Konstantin – liked the Tyrolean bit?)

MUSIC – Recommended listening. Classic blues by the late 'blues crooner' Johnny Heartsman: The sky is crying.mp3. Please do what you should do.


April 15, 2008








Bladnoch 13 yo (55%, OB, 2005) Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful, starting mostly on grains, porridge and muesli, maybe not extraordinarily ‘Bladnoch’ so to speak, but it really takes off after a few minutes, getting much more citrusy (lemon first, then citron and grapefruit) and rather delicately floral beyond that (lilac). Slightly fizzy – gets back to porridgy notes after a while. Now, it seems that it’s got more to tell us... With water: it’s the farmier side that comes more to the front (hay, wet grains) but the lemons are still here. Wilder lemons? Mouth (neat): a big, fruity punch at the attack, fresh and rightly lemony. Lemon marmalade, lemon drops, lemon juice... Well, all things lemon, really. A little hot but rather sippable I must say. Now, with water: it got sort of salty, very fresh now, riesling-alike so to speak (excuse my Alsatian-ness). Finish: rather long, clean, citrusy, with hints of gentian and a slight maltiness. Comments: I simply like this. Very clean spirit. SGP:641 – 86 points.
Bladnoch 1988/2000 (58.8%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask’, casks #3151 – 3158) Colour: deep gold. Nose: much more cask influence in this one it seems. Starts on cooked butter, croutons, with the lemony notes well there in the background. Alas, gets a little acidic and sour, not unlike some dry whites (it ‘sauvignonises’). Sour cream, apple vinegar, vase water... Something not quite clean in this cask – it’s not the spirit. And something ‘malolactic’. Maybe one or two sherry casks that were, well, so-so. With water: even more vinegar-like for a while but gets then a little cleaner. Very overripe oranges. Mouth (neat): sweet, punchy, better balanced than on the nose when naked (my, imagine somebody would read this while not knowing we’re talking ‘bout whisky!) but getting a little too bubblegummy this time. Big notes of fruit spirit (plums), of the wild kind. Kind of a bitterness in the background (bitter herbs). With water: gets a little cardboardy, even after good ten minutes. Also a little salt again, like in the OB. Finish: long, really better now (pleasant lemony notes) but it’s a little late... Comments: not too bad actually, but at similar age, the OB was much nicer I think. SGP:551 – 77 points.
Bladnoch 22 yo 1977/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 286 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much cleaner than the G&M at first nosing, and obviously more lemony and ‘globally’ citrusy (kumquats), with also whiffs of eucalyptus leaves and fresh mint and even camphor. Really beautiful but alas, there’s something not quite ‘clean’ again developing after a moment. Wet newspapers, wet old wood, mouldiness (old cellar). Not that it’s totally unpleasant, that is, it’s just that we’d have liked this one to be ‘straighter’, just like it started. With water: the mint and eucalyptus get bigger again, which is good news, but tthere’s also a slightly disturbing soapiness that persists (not just after watering down). Mouth (neat): way better than at first nosing. Great notes of verbena and mint and then lemon balm and, again, all things lemony. Very good! With water: yes, very good... Gets more herbal, earl grey tea, verbena, camomile, rosehip teas... Finish: long but maybe a tad boo bitter now. Heavy notes of chlorophyll. Comments: big contrast between nose and palate in this one. SGP:471 – 78 points. 
Bladnoch 13 yo 1964/1977 (80°proof, Cadenhead’s dumpy) Bladnoch had only two stills in 1964 (they added two in 1966). Colour: amber. Nose: superb this time. Bladnoch’s ‘citrusness’ is well here right upfront, coated with beautiful notes of old sherry and a most delightful OBE. Something like a blend of shoe polish, orange marmalade, walnut liqueur, thuja wood and old silverware. Very ‘antique’ indeed and truly lovable. Mouth: oh yes, this is good. Again, something ‘antique’... Old nuts, marzipan, mastic, liquorice... It’s amazing how this one remained big and punchy through all these 30 years in glass. Does brown glass make it better? Goes on with notes of old rancio, very old Modena vinegar, something waxy, honeydew... This is superb. Finish: maybe not the longest but it’s superb, doing the ‘peacock’s tail’ around notes of high-end orange marmalade (from waxy, mineral notes to aromatic herbs). Benedictine from a good vintage ;-). Comments: it seems that bottle ageing suits Bladnoch well. Good good good! SGP:552 - 91 points. Shoe Polish

MUSIC – Recommended listening. A little bit of jaz again, with Leonie Smith singing Angel eyes.mp3. Please buy Leonie Smith's music!

Leonie Smith

April 2008 - part 1 <--- April 2008 - part 2 ---> May 2008 - part 1

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



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

Bladnoch 13 yo 1964/1977 (80°proof, Cadenhead’s dumpy)

Glen Grant 31 yo 1969/2000 (56.9%, The Whisky Exchange, 240 bottles)

Inchmurrin 34 yo 1967/2001 (45.3%, OB for Sweden, Part Nan Angelen, 1800 bottles)

Rosebank 20 yo (57%, OB, Distillers Agency, Zenith, clear glass, 2580 bottles)

Rosebank 1967/1994 (51.7%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #4398)