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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2009 - Part 1

March 2009 - part 2 <--- April 2009 - part 1 ---> April 2009 - part 2


April 15, 2009



An excellent issue in my view (especially since I haven't contributed this time ;-)). Already twelve years that our e-zine exists, and counting. Well done, Johannes and gang!


100 Club, London, April 3rd 2009

I’m not sure how many people remember the Troggs. My old mum does – I asked her - “disgusting”, she said, “tight trousers and filthy lyrics”. There are six of us who do (who all, I should add, jumped at the chance for tickets), and a few more besides in the 100 Club, but it is, let’s say, far from crowded for a Friday night. It’s a shame.

The Troggs, you may recall, were propelled to stardom in 1966 when only their second record, a song called ‘Wild thing’ (written by American composer Chip Taylor) went to number one in both the United States and the UK. Hard-edged, with a distinctive driving guitar and suitably risqué lyrics, it became an overnight classic. They followed this up with a string of hits over the next couple of years.

One, ‘Anyway that you want me’, was also written by Taylor, but the remainder were penned by front man and vocalist, former bricklayer, Reg Ball, otherwise known as Reg Presley, thanks to an adroit name change by then manager Larry Paige (whom they shared, with amongst others, the Kinks). Presley certainly had a way with words: ‘Give it to me’, ‘With a girl like you’ and ‘I can’t control myself’ (banned by the BBC) were three of his more suggestive works. But his most famous, and the Troggs’ final chart hit of any measure was 1967’s ‘Love is all around’, adopted by Richard Curtis as the theme for his film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and as performed by Wet Wet Wet, a British number one hit for fifteen weeks. Reg, known for his interest in the para-normal (his 2002 book Wild things they don’t tell us displays his love of conspiracy theories), used much of the money to fund research into crop circles, a phenomenon of some importance in Presley’s native Hampshire. Which, of course is where his piratical West Country burr comes from, a somewhat disarming accent for an apparently salacious and scandalous sixty-eight-year-old rock and roller.

Reg Presley
He is an effortless performer, barely breaking sweat as the band work through fourteen songs including all of their hits and a smattering of R&B standards such as ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘Walking the dog’. The hard work was being done by the band, and notably original Troggs guitarist Chris Britton, whose crunching guitar sound defined ‘Wild thing’, and earned the Troggs their status as one of the forerunners of punk and garage rock, their influence acknowledged by the likes of Iggy Pop and the Ramones. It’s interesting to compare Britton’s technique (or possibly lack of it) with that of Jonathan Brentman, lead guitarist with the Foxes, whose quick-fire melodic pop tunes (strongly reminiscent of Joe Jackson I thought) made up the first set of the evening. Brentman was very good, but if there was a difficult way to play something then he chose it. By comparison Britton took route one each time, and it has to be said, to far greater effect. Presley leered and letched his way through the songs (with an unnerving steely glance with which he held the audience captive) and added a few reminiscences between numbers. The audience danced, sang, and playfully heckled in absurd accents, and generally enjoyed a very good, if undemanding, Friday night’s entertainment.
The Troggs are about to tour the UK with what’s left of the Move and Love Affair in one of those dreadful sixties packages that seem to be cashing in on the ‘grey pound’ at the moment, so if you are in the UK there’s a chance to see them in some of the lesser venues that the country boasts (I used to live in Bedworth, but does anyone else really even know where it is?). However in the meantime you could always get a taste of Reg and the boys at work by listening to the ‘notorious’ Troggs tapes, said amongst other things, to have inspired a scene in This is Spinal Tap. Enjoy. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Troggs

Listen: MySpace pages of Chip Taylor and a fairly recent medley by the Troggs on the inevitable Youtube. Oh, and Wild Thing on... an iPhone:

Alambic's Special Islay Malt 2000/2008 (42.9%, Alambic Classique, Germany, finished in Pineau des Charentes cask, cask #81122, 498 decanters) A very strange treatment on this undisclosed Ardbeg (oops). Pineau des Charentes is a fortified wine that old and sometimes decrepit French women use to drink as an aperitif (it’s always aperitif time in France anyway). Colour: pale gold. Nose: ermnlmblrmln… Wazzat? It’s not that it’s ugly, mind you, but strange it is. Gin fizz, orange tonic, lemongrass and ginger liqueur, heavily peppered melon, smoked beef, effervescent vitamin C… Then ham and bacon… Not unpleasant I must say, especially since these fizzy notes do slowly vanish and leave more room for the ‘raw, naked’ spirit. Mouth: well, this works, at least for the first five seconds, but there’s something a little, say twisted happening after that. Peppered lemon juice? Spiced-up cranberry juice? The same notes of ripe melons develop on the palate, even very ripe apricots and plums, with Ardbeg’s smokiness creating kind of a… third dimension? Finish: medium long, first creamily fruity and then a tad grassy and bitterish, with a little caramel and honey in the aftertaste. Comments: one of these U.F.M.s (unidentified flying malts) that are very funny to try and assess but I’m not sure a whole decanter would go down quick enough… I’d say it’s ‘not bad at all’, but Alambic Classique had and has many excellent bottlings that are much more to our liking. SGP:636 - 76 points.
Ardbeg 13 yo 1994/2007 (59.7%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 348 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a raw, yeasty, porridgy young Ardbeg with quite some vanilla, lemon and a lot of… alcohol. Not much peat, this one reminds me a bit of the famous ‘Kildaltons’ 1980/1981. A little hard to enjoy when at full strength, let’s add water. With water: more of the same, and even more porridge and baker’s yeast but also more maritime notes (seashells, ‘a walk on the beach’ and all that jazz). Improved a bit. Mouth (neat): powerful, crisp, very smoky this time but once again, not extraordinarily peaty as such. Quite some pepper, grass (green tea), green vegetables, chlorophyll gums… An unusually grassy Ardbeg. With water: it got good, with a pleasant combination of dried fruits (notably quinces and oranges) with soft spices, a good smokiness and a few resinous notes that really are an asset here. Finish: long but quite bizarrely, the yeasty and porridgy notes stroke back, as if they wouldn’t melt into the peat and the fruitiness. Comments: very good on the palate when diluted, otherwise just above standards (not Ardbeggian standards!). SGP:356 - 80 points.
Ardbeg 1993/2005 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s strange how this one sort of glows, with great moments that remind us of the old 10s (coal smoke, ash, lemon), and then plain yeasty and porridgy phases, all on warm yoghurt, wet cardboard and soaked grains. Keeps improving after that but lacks a little more oomph and ‘straightforwardness’ for a young Ardbeg. Let’s say it’s ‘decent’. Mouth: really in keeping with the nose, with maybe a little less cardboard but also more grass, liquorice wood and ginger. Notes of aspirin, not too pleasant, and quite some salt as well. The peatiness is rather big that is, but the whole experience is a little frustrating. Finish: medium long but nicer because of the funny notes of sweetened mustard that do appear. Comments: maybe a slightly bigger body, brought by a bottling at 46% vol., would have made this puppy more, say noticeable. Now, it’s perfectly drinkable youngish Ardbeg. SGP:366 - 78 points.
Ardbeg 1992/2007 (51.6%, Scott's Selection, 'Single Highland Malt') Whether Islay should be considered as being in the Highlands or not… I don’t know. Probably not. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely close to the Cadenhead’s in style, only a little more austere and flinty at first nosing, and then a little farmier (cow stable). Once again, there’s a lot of lemon and porridge, and no real peat blast when at cask strength. With water: it’s now that this one really overtakes the Cadenhead and the others, as it gets crisper, cleaner, smokier and simply peatier. Nice farmy notes (wet sheep, hay.) Okay, not a revelation but it’s a nice Ardbeg. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re close to the Cadenhead’s but this one is rather more expressive, sort of better composed, with the holy trinity well in place (peat, lemon, pepper). Good balance despite the relative ‘brutality’. With water: once again, this is flawless and most quaffable at roughly 45% vol. Good stuff, reminding me a bit of the Airigh Nam Beist (I got the name correct, didn’t I!!) Finish: long, clean, with just enough of all worthy Arbbeggian ingredients (no need to list them). Comments: this one is very good. A clear and, to tell you the truth, very easy winner. And no, anything with the name Ardbeg on it isn’t always stellar and worth insulting prices. SGP:458 - 88 points.

April 14, 2009

Caol Ila


Caol Ila 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, Chieftains, Rum finish, casks #90361/90366, 2016 bottles) There are more and more young (or less young) peaty malts that are finished in rum casks by the indies these days. Is that because they also bottle rum and hence have a lot of free rum casks at hand? Colour: white wine. Nose: easy smoky and mineral Caol Ila, the rum being very discreet here. Quite some peat and iodine as well as whiffs of sparkling water/ginger tonic. Slight mouldiness, hints of wet chalk, then fresh mint and also lemon fizz. Lemon balm. Probably not totally grandiose but the fairly huge minerality is pleasant. Mouth: round, sweet at first, then ‘smoothly’ peaty yet spicy and peppery, with a good peatiness and some very, very discreet rummy notes (not molasses). Good saltiness as well and some faint notes of violets-flavoured liquorice (Zan, if that rings a bell). Not violet perfume! Very satisfying version of a young Caol Ila. Finish: not the longest but clean, with a little mint this time. Would make for some nice toothpaste ;-). Comments: rather a classic, even if a little simple. One to drink, maybe in Summer, on a crushed ice and mint leaves (don’t shoot!) For the best mojito? SGP:446 – 82 points.
Caol Ila 13 yo 1995/2008 (59.1%, Alambic Classique, cask #8102, 120 bottles) From a refil hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: a raw, even more mineral and flinty version of Caol Ila. Rather pungent and aggressive without water, so let’s water it down right away… With water: it’s its youth that comes out, with wagons of pears and a kind of fruity smokiness that’s hard to describe. Very simple spirit, but very appealing spirit. Superb notes of raspberries coming through after a few seconds. Fruit eau-de-vie from Islay? Mouth (neat): very strong, extremely sweet, and tasting just like some kind of a peated pear spirit that just ran out of the still. Brutal! With water: ah yes, now it became absolutely superb… except that it’s much more gentian spirit than whisky. Amazing – did the cask transit through the Alps? Finish: long and majestic (even if rather simple), under the ruling triumvirate gentian- peat smoke- salt. Comments: a little hard and young when undiluted but sparkingly zesty when watered down, especially on the palate. SGP:447 - 87 points.
Caol Ila 12 yo 1995/2008 (60.8%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #10017, 591 bottles) We loved this baby when we first tried it 100% blind at the MM Awards 2008. Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, a very mineral (and ashy) but also very strong and harsh version. Added notes of milk chocolate, unusual but very pleasant. With water: top class nose, one of the flintiest and ashiest I could came across in the last months. Ueberclean. Mouth (neat): a perfect Caol Ila at very high strength, almost drinkable without water (well, one may be able to swallow a few drops). Apple peelings, marine salt and fresh limejuice – this will wake you up, as sure as eggs is eggs. With water: excellent and 100% Caol Ila now. Rather close to the official CS if memory serves. Finish: long, ashy, peaty, vegetal (apple peeling, walnuts), salty and spicy (green curry). Comments: extremely good – as good as it gets at just 12yo. Water is obligatory. SGP:467 - 89 points.

proposes his malt cocktails for the Springtime

TODAY: "French Romantic Glen"

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
- 6 cl Glenlivet 15 yo french oak 40%
- 2 cl rose liqueur and 1 dash rose syrup
- 1/2 lime juice
- 2 cl pink grapefruit juice
Shake then strain into a cocktail glass decorated with one dwarf rose.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: a very rare treat, a band that's got exactly the same name as the whiskies we just had, that is to say Caol Ila. So, here's Japan's Caol Ila (Steve Reich beware) playing an 'Abstract' (from their CD 'Abstracts - Music for CD Player', Label IOS). Please buy Caol Ila's music!

Caol Ila

April 13, 2009


The Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, London, March 28th 2009
You see, Serge, the problem with all these reviews and ratings is that sometimes people take them seriously. Take the case of the nice little (I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is, so let’s say, nice little joint), quite possibly near to the Bush Hall. It’s always had a good reputation for its food, but was recently on the receiving end of a five-star review in an unnamed national newspaper. Boy, can’t you tell. At 7.00pm, when normally you might see a few gigsters taking protein before going into action and a few lovestruck couples, refugees from the cruel grasp of Blomfontein Road, it’s packed. And these aren’t your normal Shepherd’s Bush crowd: rather it’s hoity-toity Chiswick types, maybe even a few from Notting Hill. Trader Monthly
To make it worse we’ve got a loud New York banker (OK, I apologise for the tautology) with his joyless partner next to us and who doesn’t seem to have read the newspapers recently. Unaware that he belongs to one of the most despised professions on the planet (and in the UK that’s an understatement) he begins with a moronic interrogation of the menu before launching into a top volume muse on the expensive places he has holidayed in, and the expensive places where he still has to go. Next he catches sight of a colleague in the place and bad mouths him remorselessly, before smiling, waving and shouting across the room “yeah – we must all meet up for drinks”. Finally, he pulls his red-hot Blackberry from his pocket and urgently recites the contents of a just-in email to his companion, which describes the intricacies of the sort of banking deal most would now wish outlawed, and what’s in it for him. Breathtaking, but no doubt the sort of thing that Jonathan Richman would, on a good day, manage to craft a few pointed songs from. Leave the restaurant and go back to the lonely financial zone, I say.
Richman is in London for four nights: Dingwalls, the Borderline, the painfully groovy Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen and tonight, the first of the visit, the pretty little Bush Hall. He’s on stage with a miked-up Spanish guitar, dancing shoes, and drummer Tommy Larkins. He’s not only shorn of his band, the Modern Lovers, but his thick long black locks are gone too. With close-cropped hair, goatee beard, and the intense, quizzical, almost pleading expression with which he engages the audience, he could be a Shakespearian actor making a fairly good fist of Richard II, rather than a rock and roll singer. He’s grown up (he is older than me after all) over the years and his more recent material marks a most reflective and thoughtful view of the world. Not that his childlike, naïve and very often, absurdist, sense of humour has gone, simply it’s now moderated by a distinct and sometimes pungent, whiff of mortality. Jonathan Richman
He’s also gone Iberian in a big way, so much of his new album, ¿A que venimos sino a caer?, (which he helpfully translates for us as ‘What did we come here for but to fall?’ when he sings the title song) is sung in Spanish, and this set is infused with restrained Latin rhythms (very good for the dancing) and flamenco-style guitar. And when it comes to playing, Richman can swap marvellously between his Velvet Underground-inspired punk glory days, sounding as though he’s never played the guitar before, and some wonderfully structured and technically superb phrases and riffs. In one of the best moments of an outstanding performance, Richman stopped dead during ‘In che mondo viviamo’ (i.e. ‘What a world we live in’) to berate Barney the sound-engineer for allowing the noisy air conditioning to be switched on, and with equanimity restored, played a beautiful flamenco riff. His guitar, barely heard by the microphone, soared through the silence. ‘That’ he said, vindicated and defiant, ‘is what this hall was made for’. Cue applause.
This captivating set was nicely balanced between recent and older, reworked material. Songs like ‘You can have a cell ‘phone’ and ‘When we refuse to suffer’ show an impatience with the modern world (he doesn’t have a website and I doubt he has a cell-phone); this somewhat at odds with the sentiment of ‘Road runner’ which he rightly refused to sing despite some requests although I suspect that ‘Cell phone’ might share the same two chords as ‘Road runner’. The tender ‘Le printemps des amoureux est venu’ was sung in a French less accomplished than his Spanish, and like almost every other song afforded an opportunity for Richman to place his guitar gently in its case and dance for us, half break-dancer, half shaman. Jonathan Richman
‘Affected accent’ was a wonderfully humorous look back at schooldays (“In High School I was such a brat I spoke with an accent I didn’t have”) whilst ‘Let her go into the darkness’ was a dark take on a familiar boy-loses-girlfriend subject. ‘Dancing in a lesbian bar’ caused mayhem, and Vermeer got Richman’s treatment, like many artists before him, in ‘No one was like Vermeer’ (“Vermeer was eerie, Vermeer was strange, he had a more modern colour range”). He also sang ‘Pablo Picasso’, whom, you may remember, “was never called an asshole”.
And talking of assholes – why is it that some people just can’t keep their mouths shut at gigs, and are so selfish and rude that they don’t even think for a minute that it might disturb someone else? When the worst offenders were asked, not for the first time, if they could lower their voices, the response was so foul-mouthed and aggressive as to make one wonder what people like this could have been doing at a Jonathan Richman concert, unless it was just to provide a rhyme for Picasso. Don’t they get it – or are they just like our banker dining companion? Well even the prize assholes did in the end, and maybe it was just the strength of Richman’s performance that shut them up as he sang his final song, ‘As my mother lay lying’, his description of watching his mother die. Not many artists would choose to end a show with a song like this, but in Richman’s case it was a tour-de-force that brought a brilliant show to a worthy end. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Jonathan Richman
Listen: Jonathan Richman's page
on MySpace
Glenfarclas 22 yo ‘Spirit of the Millenium’ (43%, OB, 2000 bottles, +/-2000) Colour: gold. Nose: very expressive, starting on apricot jam and honey, with a very discreet smokiness in the background. Gets then beautifully fudgy and caramelly, with a growing meatiness from the sherry casks – but I wouldn’t say this is ‘very sherried’ as such. Whiffs of hay. Beautiful nose, very aromatic and elegant, that’s got something of Balvenie. Gets even more honeyed after a few minutes. Mouth: indeed, this is very round and creamy, all on honey again, old sweet white wine, sultanas and toffee/nougat. Maybe not extremely complex, so it won’t make it to 90, but bl**dy good for sure. Gets a little salty. Finish: very long, on buttered fudge and dark toffee, a little drier now. Hints of strawberry jam in the aftertaste. Comments: mighty good and all pleasure. SGP:631 - 89 points.
Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, Blue ceramic, mid 1990s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much drier and less fruity/honeyed than the 22yo at first nosing, with an unusual grassiness and notes of cured ham. It’s also rather flintier, mineral, and even kind of metallic, which was certainly unexpected – unless that comes from he ceramic decanter. An unusually dry and austere version of Glenfarclas. Mouth: more ‘wideness’ than on the nose, its actually quite close to the 22yo in style, only toned down and a tad grassier, with also a faint dustiness. Picks up steam after a few minutes, getting spicier (quite some pepper) and maltier. Finish: longer than expected, rather malty and coffee-ish. Comments: a nose that’s a little ‘undecided’ but the palate is very nice, with good body. SGP:441 – 84 points.
Glenfarclas 30 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008) I’ve always found the ‘30’ to be rather inconsistent, ranging from very high marks (90) to ‘good’ ones (84) depending on the batches. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s got more to say than the 25 for sure, starting on a lot of raisins and notes of cognac, with a little camphor and eucalyptus. Gets then more resinous and raisiny (sultanas) but it does not quite reach the 22yo’s sultriness. Notes of pine needles, lovage (and Maggi!), liquorice allsorts and fresh putty. I must say this is much more to my liking than when I first tried this recent batch. Mouth: what’s rather obvious here is that there’s much more wood and spices than in the 22 and 25, with a rather big ‘tannicity’ (tea, liquorice wood) and then notes of prunes. Just like the 22, it gets then rather salty, with even hints of black olives. That’s fun! Finish: long, going on in the same vein. And always these black olives! Comments: I really missed this one when I first tried it but it grew on me – and I adore black olives! SGP:451 - 89 points.
Glenfarclas 21 yo (104°proof US, OB, Grant Bonding Co, USA, late 1960's) ‘A princely whisky for a royal occasion.’ Colour: gold. Nose: amazing! Imagine a bigger smokiness than in most Glenfarclas, coating fruitcakes and thousands of minuscule micro-aromas that I wouldn’t list here. Call the anti-maltoporn brigade! A myriadic whisky (wot?) Mouth: extraordinarily good, assertive, hugely elegant and complex, everything being very perfect. Probably less ‘Speyside’ than one would have imagined, and more of an Islander. Imagine a vatting of the best Highland Parks and Springbanks… Finish: as long as Der Ring des Nibelungen but much more entertaining. And saltier. Comments: mantraic (how stoopid is that?) SGP:662 - 94 points.
Glenfarclas 1979/2003 ‘Edition #9 Alexander Graham Bell’ (54%, OB, 1200 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: a more spirity 30yo, maybe a tad grassier and meatier as well (chicken broth, ham). Other than that it lacks a bit of amplitude so to speak, let’s try to wake it up with water. With water: it does improve indeed but stays a little shy. Beef bouillon, butterscotch and apple compote. Mouth (neat): punchy but not exactly rich, maybe a little monodimensional (orange marmalade.) Once again, let’s add water. With water: yes it improves once again, but once again that isn’t quite enough. Malty and vanilled, and now more sherried. Now, this one had the death seat after the stupendous old 21, we’ll try to taste it again another time. Finish: rather long, more vanilled and toffee-ish. Comments: let’s be fair, this is very good whisky. It’s just that there are many better Glenfarclas, as we could find out once again. SGP:431 – 82 points.

April 11, 2009

Sometimes we feel the urge to go see what happens ‘somewhere else’. This (spring)time it’s going to be 19 rums from various countries but warning, we know next to nothing about rums, so please take our notes with even more salt than usual. Moreover, we don’t feel like issuing ratings on a 100-scale here so let’s only use 5-point categories if you don't mind (55, 60, 65, 70…)


Angostura 1919 (40%, OB, Trinidad) This famous rum is entirely distilled in column stills from molasses, the youngest ‘component’ in the vatting being 8 years old. Globally, it appears that Trinidad produces rather light rums. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely soft, extremely round and extremely sweet like banana liqueur. Then vanilla cake and plain caramel, with hints of nougat. It smells like a ready-made cocktail, really. Explosively aromatic but too smooth for my taste. Mouth: good attack, round and extremely sweet (tankers of banana liqueur) then light honey and roasted hazelnuts. Gets really light-bodied after the attack, with a thin middle. Hints of coconut milk. Finish: short but pleasantly sweet and clean. Comments: this on ice under a hot sun… My, that would be a massacre. Good engineered drink. SGP:630 - 70 points.
Barbancourt 4yo *** (40%, OB, Haiti) Haiti bears French tradition and makes rum the way the French islands make it, that is to say mainly double-distilled in pot stills. What’s more, Barbancourt is entirely matured in French Limousin oak. Colour: gold. Nose: a little harsher than the Angostura, and less talkative as well. Sort of more ‘serious’ and restrained. Vanilla, ginger liqueur, slight grassiness and a few spices (cloves and cinnamon). Keeps keeping quiet for a long time… Forever? Mouth: once again this is more serious and much less ‘engineered’, and rather closer to malt whisky. Actually, it’s got a slight maltiness and also quite a lot of salt. The Atlantic again? ;-) Other than that this rum is rather grassy. A little white pepper as well and finally crystallised oranges. Finish: medium long, with a welcomed aftertaste on sugarcane. Comments: good dram. I mean, glass. Rather complex. SGP:441 – 75 points.


Trois Rivières 3yo Cuvée du Moulin (40%, OB, France/La Martinique) The original distillery was founded around 1660! Trois Rivières is a name that’s often mentioned among whisky lovers for being of high quality. Let’s see if the buzz is right. Colour: full gold. Nose: right, despite being only 3 years old, this has strictly nothing to do with both the Angostura and the Barbancourt. Emphatically vanilled, honeyed and spicy at first nosing, getting then rather minty and herbal (straight camphor and eucalyptus) and displaying even faint coastal notes, it is simply superb. Keeps developing for a long time but more on ripe strawberries and other red fruits. Mouth: right, the palate couldn’t match the nose, obviously (would have been a miracle). We’re rather in presence of a sweet, easy, fudgy and raisiny spirit that very, very easy to swallow. We won’t complain. Finish: medium long, even more on raisins, with just hints of candy sugar. Comments: the nose is fab, even if maybe a tad too flattering. SGP:530 - 80 points.
Saint-Etienne VO (42%, OB, France/La Martinique) A blend of rums from 3 to 5 years of age. Colour: gold. Nose: less extravagant than the Trois Rivières, this one starts more on leather and wood (polish), develops more on dried bananas and gets finally even more ‘mentholated’. Once again, it’s excellent rum on the nose. Gets seriously grassier over time. Mouth: well, it seems that it’s got what the Trois Rivières didn’t have on the palate. Bigger, wilder, much more herbal (verbena, thyme tea) and with a more obvious woodiness. All that gets maybe a little rough and disorganised after a while but it’s still pretty excellent. A ‘Highlander’ of rum? Finish: rather long, more on bananas flambéed and liquorice. Comments: impossible to tell you which Martiniquais I liked best. Tie! SGP:441 - 80 points.
Karukera Reserve Spéciale (42%, OB, France/La Guadeloupe) A blend of rums of more than five years of age. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re much closer to spices and resins here. Very pleasant notes of cloves, dried ginger and straight pine resin, with quite a load of freshly ground pepper that dominates ‘the end’ together with whiffs of hot caramelised apple pie. Another rather superb nose. Mouth: starts much more flavourful than both Martiniquais but maybe also too exuberantly fruity. Imagine a fruit juice cocktail into which you’d have poured, well, rum… And Turkish delights, and tinned litchis, and pineapples… To a malt drinker this may be too easy. Aren’t all malt drinkers a tad masochistic? Finish: rather long, a tad less fruity now, the spices gaining control over it. Comments: spectacular rum, extremely pleasant and easy to savour. SGP:731 - 80 points.


Demerara Solera N°14 (40%, Rum Nation, Guyana) Demeraras are said to be quite heavy so maybe I should have started with the Peruvian instead but the latter comes from an older solera so it ought to be much subtler. Right, right… Colour: amber. Nose: this is very unusual! It starts boldly and assertively on all things ‘rum’ (sugarcane, dried bananas, soft spices and so on) but really loses steam after a few seconds, which was certainly unexpected. What was also unexpected were the very nice notes of ripe kiwis and fresh oranges. Picks up steam again after five minutes, much more on dark raisins, strong honey and candy sugar but that was expected. A ‘roller coaster’ nose. Mouth: certainly the thickest and the fattest so far. Huge, concentrated, maybe a tad cloying to the average malt drinker (which I am as you may know) because of its mega-huge sweetness and fruitiness… As thick as a liqueur in fact. Let’s say banana liqueur with added orange blossom honey and pure sugarcane syrup. Finish: long but still extremely sweet and candied. Comments: I liked the nose a lot but the palate is too unbalanced for my taste. SGP:820 – 70 points.
Cartavio 12 yo Solera (40%, OB, Peru) This one comes from a solera that dates back to 1929! 1929? Is it, quite appropriately, rum for recessionistas? Now, it doesn’t seem that Peru is a famous rum nation but I’m probably totally wrong. Colour: full gold. Nose: have you ever smelled a full bunch of overripe bananas? Add to that dried figs and dates plus hints of orange blossom and you’ve got it, even if this one is actually much subtler than you may think after these very poor tasting notes. Mouth: this is certainly less sweet, jammy and thick than the Demerara but once again, it starts all on dried and overripe bananas. Is this distilled bananas? The good news is that there are also various other very nice flavours, such as cloves, bitter chocolate, mocha, cough drops, orange marmalade… In other words, a fine palate. Finish: medium long and more candied. Comments: not an absolute wonder methinks but it’s certainly more elegant than the Falstaffian Demerara. SGP:620 - 75 points.


Diplomatico Reserva (40%, OB, Venezuela) This brand is fairly recent but has been very successful since its beginnings. Venezuela seems to be a huge producer of aged rums… Colour: dark amber. Nose: all on caramel and butterscotch toffee. Imagine Werther’s Original liqueur, this is it. Monodimensional? Maybe but it’s a rather nice dimension… Mouth: caramel again. I mean, full caramel then only hints of prunes. Extremely sweet, going on with mega-ultra-extra huge notes of vanilla. Once again, this is more a liqueur than a spirit and really calls for a few ice cubes. Finish: rather long but extremely thickish. Comments: it seems impossible that somebody could make this by putting straight spirit into regular oak. Somebody else must have added ‘something’. SGP:810 – 60 points.
Ocumare 12yo Golden Reserve (40%, Venezuela) Made from canes that grow in the Amazon. Fancy packaging! Colour: very dark amber. Nose: once again, this is very caramelly but less so than the Diplomatico on the nose. Still, we’re very ‘Demerara’ here, even more so than Demeraras it seems. A little more spices and hints of sugarcanes as well as sandalwood. Very aromatic! Mouth: it’s a true relief after the monstrous Diplomatico (so much for Hugo Rafael Chávez!) Still very thick and rich and sweetish but better balanced, with rather nice notes of coffee liqueur. Oak-aged Kahlúa? Finish: long, candied, coffeeish… But a tad cloying I must say. Comments: it’s really a matter of taste and I’m sure some people must like these heavy Venezuelans, but as a lover of old-skool Highlanders, I’d say both are way too far from my references. The Carribeans really rule so far! SGP:720 - 65 points.


Macollo Black 12 yo (38%, OB, Mexico) This one is organic and comes from Mexico’s Jalisco state. Of course they also have a red label ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a much grassier and more austere rum, but also one that’s much more elegant than the Venezuelans, and pleasantly ‘distant’? Unexpected hints of marc de Bourgogne, olive oil and then more common notes of banana skin. Nice and dry. Mouth: soft, smooth and much, much sweeter and caramelised than on the nose. Molasses, candy sugar, banana liqueur and café latte, with a little Chinese anise in the background. Not unpleasant! Finish: rather short but clean, half caramelly, half grassy. Comments: a pleasant drink. Funny how different nose and palate were. SGP:441 - 70 points.
Mombacho 8yo (40%, OB, Nicaragua) A merchant’s brand of very high reputation (it seems). Colour: dark gold. Nose: this one is much more on coffee and bitter chocolate, with hints of flour. But nutshell: all things coffee-ish. Of course, it’ll all come down to whether you like coffee or not. Mouth: a mix of coffee liqueur and Cointreau with dark chocolate. Slightly soapy for a while, then quite a lot of burnt sugar. Finish: shortish and a little more chocolaty but these brunt notes do remain. Comments: a tad rough and too much on burnt sugar for my taste (you may call that bitter caramel). The nose was straighter. SGP:530 - 65 points.
Don José-Pesé 1997/2007 (46%, Renegade Rum Company, Panama, Port finish, 1,390 bottles) So, not only whiskies are finished these days! Colour: gold. Nose: extremely strange! We’re far from all the rums we already had, and actually closer to malt whisky (not only because this is from a Scottish bottler), like, guess what, a rum-finished whisky! Something like a young Springbank… Notes of crystallised oranges, tea, blackcurrant buds... It’s only after quite some time that a plainer ‘rumminess’ comes through (overripe bananas and candy sugar). A little mint. Certainly more complex than many ‘100% rum’. Mouth: very, very, very strange… A drink that really causes me a lot of trouble… Grass, resin, banana skin (like when you bite into an unopened banana), malt whisky (did the Port cask contain malt whisky before it was used for this rum?)… Straight oak as well. Finish: long and more on wood. Comments: again, I couldn’t quite follow this one, I’m lacking references. SGP:451 - 70 points.


Savanna 5 yo (43%, OB, France/La Réunion) This one comes from the northeast of the beautiful island of La Réunion. Colour: pale gold. Nose: right, this is much, much cleaner than most of the rums that we tried before, which doesn’t mean it’s simple stuff. Much more on tropical fruits (bananas ‘of course’ but also pineapples and mangos), then ripe strawberries, then much bigger notes of straight vanilla pods and finally hints of wood varnish. Very pleasant and certainly flawless. Mouth: good, sweet, candied but maybe a little too simple now. Crystallised pineapples and very sweet liquorice. Lacks dimension if you see what I mean, but otherwise it’s flawless. Finish: medium long, a little more honeyed. Comments: good, clean, easy rum. I liked the nose better than the palate. SGP:530 – 75 points.
Savanna 7 yo (43%, OB, France/La Réunion) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, yes! Now we’re talking! We’re more or less in the same class as the Trois Rivières but even higher. Emphatic, extremely aromatic but certainly not heavy, with wonderful oaky notes, sandalwood, incense, cedar wood (cigar box), liquorice, figs, Mirabelle jam and gingerbread (huge). Also faint whiffs of fruity cheese (young comté) and finally immense notes of pureed black olives. Great stuff, pleasantly whacky (sort of)! Mouth: excellent! Warming, very ‘tropical’, complex, superbly bittersweet. Olives again, date spirit, figs liqueur (just hints, not the very cloying stuff), various honeys and, I don’t know why, something that reminds me of a young Highland Park. Ah, we’re not in terra incognita anymore! ;-) Finish: long and on something fabulous my dear wife use to prepare: orange salad seasoned with honey and olive oil). Comments: my fav of the flight so far. Very entertaining. SGP:552 - 85 points.
Savanna Grand Arôme Vieux 2001 (46%, OB, France/La Réunion) Colour: gold. Nose: more classic and closer to an older and more mature 3yo than to the rather amazing 7 but it’s as complex, just less ‘whacky’. The black olives are well here but really toned down (it’s maybe rather green olives), other that that we have the usual ripe bananas, pineapple liqueur, papayas and very obvious notes of quince jam, then straight sugar cane, Armagnac-soaked raisins and whiffs of resiny wine (Retsina). Mouth: very good attack but there’s much, much more straight oak than in the 7yo. Notes of olives again, capers, a little salt (tinned anchovies?) and overripe bananas. Rougher than the 7, with a ‘greenness’ that grows bigger and bigger. More capers, more olives… And even pickled gherkins. Finish: long and even more on olives – and maybe even kippers plus bitter oranges. Comments: a spectacular spirit but it’s probably not for the fainthearted. The Laphroaig of the rum world? SGP:371 - 80 points.
Dzama 3yo (52%, OB, Madagascar) From the north of the island. La Maison du Whisky says that its floral notes come from the fact that there are ylang-ylang plants next to the canes. Let’s check that… (but what the hell do ylang-ylang flowers smell like?) Colour: gold. Nose: oh, this is totally different from the Savannas, even from the gentle 3yo, for it’s all on crystallised kumquats, orange zests and orange blossom water, with maybe just hints of geraniums and lilies. It’s simple but it’s rather wonderful. Mouth: is this relabelled Grand-Marnier? Or did John Glaser’s very good Orangerie? John, if you read this, try to put your hands on a bottle of this, you’ll find it very, err, funny. An amazing product, but is it really possible to make an orange liqueur just by distilling sugarcanes? An alchemist’s stuff… Finish: long, simple but wonderfully orangey. Comments: this is a surprise. It’s very good stuff and I say hauts les coeurs, Madagascar! SGP:721 - 80 points.


Matusalem 15 yo Gran Reserva Solera (40%, OB, Dominican Republic) A brand that’s got a long and troubled history as it used to be in Cuba before Fidel. According to Dave Broom, it’s actually a blend of various Caribbean origins. Colour: deep gold. Nose: much, much less expressive than the four ‘Indians’ that we just had, rather subdued and mostly on roasted nuts and light fudge at first nosing. Slowly takes off after a moment, with more notes of figs and old wood and a faint meatiness that we didn’t get in any of the other rums. Globally, a lightness that reminds me of Glenfiddich’s Solera 15yo – and it isn’t only the name. ‘Nice’ and pretty harmless. Mouth: wood, caramel, vanilla and orange liqueur with a little mint. Rather simple when compared with the nose, good but lacking character. Gets a little too sweet and sugary. Strawberry drops? Finish: rather long but a little too caramelly. ‘Simple’ honey and chocolate cake. It’s only in the aftertaste that very pleasant notes of cane sugar do develop – a bit too late. Comments: good but sort of commercial. What a middle-range blend is to whisky. SGP:431 – 75 points.
Mount Gay Extra Old (43%, OB, Barbados) This one should be roughly 17 years old as I understand it. Colour: amber. Nose: certainly the most complex of them all at first nosing, but it isn’t really bold. An interesting maltiness, then whiffs of burnt wood, wood smoke, cigar box and dark honey (also beeswax) as well as notes of orange marmalade and tamarind. Gets more and more complex, with more leathery notes and hints of cold tea. Also strawberry ganache but it’s globally drier than the Matusalem – and a tad less easy/commercial. Mouth: yes! Sure there may be a little too much oak but the whole is perfectly concentrated, rich, nutty and minty. Aniseed, eucalyptus drops, sugared mocha, a little salt, bitter oranges and notes of oloroso sherry (what, sherry casks?) Finish: long, ‘malty’, liquoricy. Comments: we aren’t too far from some sherried malts here. Something of Aberlour? Just to give you an indication… Much bigger than the slightly disappointing Matusalem for sure. SGP:441 - 80 points.
CONCLUSIONS - To be honest, I’ve been a little disappointed with some of these rums, even if none was meant to be a true premium product. Well I guess a rum maniac who would have tried almost only cheapo young malt whiskies or blends would have been disappointed as well… Anyway, these rums were maybe more ‘monodimensional’ than most traditional malt whiskies (banana, coffee, vanilla, caramel) and a little less varied as well, but that may come from raw materials that are more expressive than our dear barley. What’s more, rums seem to mature much quicker than whiskies. So, that’s it with our rummy adventures this year as we probably won’t try any other ones before the end of 2009, except if we manage to put our hands on a few interesting samples. Oh, one last piece of advice: get a bottle of Savanna 7yo, that one really stood out! As for books, Dave Broom's book 'Rum' (Mitchell Beazley) is truly excellent.
BONUS - CRAZY RUM ADS for Matusalem (poor Fidel!)
Top: 'Fidel's tradition of long speeches began in 59, when he had to explain to Cubans why he expelled their best rum'.
Bottom: 'The Caribbean has never seen a pirate like Fidel. He stole an island and threw the treasure away'.
Well, maybe Fidel simply knew a lot about rum...

MUSIC – Recommended listening: we already posted quite some jazz and blues violin on WF (Lockwood, Grappelli, Ponty, Papa John Creach, Joe Venuti and others...) but I think we never posted anything by the great Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris, who was in Zappa's band before Ponty (on Weasels and Chunga) and once recorded a 'violin summit' with him and a few others. Let's repair that and listen to his marvelous Carlsbad, recorded in 1975 (LP Keyzop). Please buy the great man's music!

Don Sugar Cane Harris

April 9, 2009

Now that the youngest possible bottlings are more than 25 years of age, as the distillery was closed in 1983, Banff is getting rarer and rarer. Maybe this 5-session will be the last ‘big one’ we’ll ever manage to do with Banffs – sob!
Banff 1974/1998 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather big and aromatic on a very ‘idiosyncratic’ mix of orange juice, mustard and coal, but gets then a little drier and dustier, with some slightly stale/sourish notes (old white wine). Whiffs of farmyard after the rain, apple juice, then more coal, stove, soot… Old style for sure, unlike any ‘current’ whisky. Mouth: sweeter and a tad rounder, a good attack on notes of mead and arak, figs, prunes and then something more cardboardy and slightly tea-ish. A little more pepper too, but the palate is a little more easy-easy than the nose. Finish: medium long, clean, on figs and café latte. Not much ‘Banffness’ here. Comments: a good dram, easily drinkable but not lacking character, even if Banff is usually more extreme. SGP:342 - 83 points.
Banff 32 yo 1974/2007 (47.8%, Douglas Laing, OMC, ref 3521, 272 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: once again, this is very different, and big time, for it starts on a full plate of oysters, including lemon and seaweed, and develops more towards wet gravel and earth, soot, saltpetre, tonic water, wet stones and iron (gun, car engine). And once a gain, these typical mustardy notes flying around, and then more seashells (clams?). A style of its own, very beautiful. Mouth: exceptional, nervous, rich, concentrated, with tons of citrus fruits, spices and these oily tones that are so unusual. Cinchona, bitter oranges, pepper, sweet mustard (the one they sometimes use on the bratwursts ;-)), tangerine liqueur, citrons, coriander… A wonderful palate, very assertive, the antithesis of many modern easy-easy doped malts. Finish: very long, wonderfully clean, citrusy, phenolic, spicy (a lot of coriander left), with some cloves… Comments: state of the art old malt. Shall we cry? SGP:463 - 91 points (and thanks, Alain.)
Banff 1975/2008 (48.3%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 256 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: it seems that there’s much more oak influence here, as we’re starting on rather big whiffs of newly sawn wood, vanilla, ginger (or speculoos), then café latte, caramel and nutmeg (huge notes.) Banff’s markers aren’t quite there yet but the whole is pretty nice, even if it smells a bit like some malt that would have been re-racked in new oak or fresh bourbon. It’s only after a few minutes that whiffs of oysters and horseradish manage to come through. Mouth: rich and creamy, rather closer to the OMC for a while (but with more spices and pepper), the rather heavy oakiness taking control after the attack, with something a little dry and tea-ish plus vanilla and a lot of ginger. Gets better once all that has mingled a bit, with more fruits (fresh oranges) and a more obvious ‘Banfness’ that shines through. You got it, mustard! A little peat too. Finish: long, still nervous, not too oaky (phew!) and spicy. Peppered apricots? Comments: interesting how the heavy oakiness goes and comes in this one. Maybe not the best Banff ever in my view – and it had the death seat after the Douglas Laing - but there are less and less opportunities to get a nice newly bottled one, so… SGP:452 - 85 points.
Banff 29 yo 1976/2006 (52%, Cadenhead's, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re even more on new oak than with the Cross Hill here, but there’s also a very pleasant fruitiness that we didn’t quite get in the siblings. Apple pie, ripe plums with cinnamon, something farmy, hay, white pepper… And once again these mustardy notes in the background. A rather round, but very pleasant Banff again. More a Banff ‘de salon’? Mouth: we’re closer to the DL now, with this nervous, compact and focused attack on fruits and spices. Bitter oranges, cloves, pepper, cinchona, sweet mustard and… more pepper. Let’s see what happens with water: more of the same actually, but it does get rounder indeed, with the very same notes of ripe plums and raisins that we had on the nose. Excellent. Finish: medium long, with more oak and more spices. And sweet mustard, really. Comments: another excellent Banff, punto basta. Maybe a bit easier to tame than others. SGP:552 - 89 points.
Banff 24 yo 1976/2001 (55.8%, Signatory, cask #2251, 284 bottles) Colour: Nose: pale gold. Mouth: ho-ho, this one is totally different, and truly unlike any other malt whisky. Imagine some new rubber boots, a lot of Dijon mustard, a lot of motor oil, a lot of bitter rocket salad, quite some apple peelings, asparagus peelings, green tea, plain grass, even wasabi, pepper… And not even one single fruity touch. In other words, this one is extremely grassy and austere, hence quite spectacular in its own genre. With water: same, with more peat and even more pepper. Unexpectedly Taliskerish, if I may dare to say so. Mouth (neat): aaah yes, this is something. Wonderful bitterness, grassy, not aggressive but quite, resinous, liquoricy, peaty and phenolic/smoky, lemony… This is big whisky, maybe a tad raw but so satisfying and ‘anti-commercial!’ (wot?) With water: and the fruits do kick in now. Oranges, bananas, ripe apples, even blueberries… How excellent! Finish: giddy-up! Comments: just great. Sometimes we feel that some rants about closed distilleries are very vain, as many did not really make stellar malts, but Banff IS a sad loss. We’ll probably upgrade it from third to second grand cru classé next time we’ll revise our ‘funny’ ranking. SGP:573 - 91 points (and thanks, Konstantin.)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Vancouver's Cameron Latimer - Empty Saddle (from his CD Fallen Apart). Please buy Cameron Latimer's music! Cameron Latimer

April 8, 2009

Benriach 31 yo 1977/2008 (51.3%, OB, hogshead, cask #7186, 212 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a typical ‘new’ Benriach, starting on full baskets of fresh fruits (tangerines and bananas) and going on with hints of fresh mint (spearmint), vanilla custard and then soft spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Gets finally a tad more camphory, with also whiffs of eucalyptus and just hints of fresh oak. A classic, very fresh and clean yet complex. Returns on praline and nougat. Mouth: rich and fresh at the attack, but the oak strikes harder than on the nose, with quite some overinfused green tea, then butter and marzipan. Banana skin, hints of plum spirit. Also hotter than on the nose, let’s add water: that did not make it less oaky, rather grassier. Finish: long, half grassy, half fruity, with a ‘greenness’ from the wood. Comments: beautiful nose but the palate is maybe a little less convincing. SGP:651 - 87 points.
Benriach 32 yo 1976/2008 (50.3%, OB, hogshead, cask #2014, 271 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s more happening in this one than in the 1977, even if the overall profile is rather similar. Emphatically fruity (same notes of tangerines and bananas but also passion fruits and mangos here), more herbs as well (dill, mint, coriander) and whiffs of fresh pastries, orange blossom and touches of leather. This one is exceptionally aromatic but never ‘heavy’. A wonderful cask! Mouth: superb attack! Wonderfully citrusy (lemon marmalade, kumquats, tangerine liqueur), going on with notes of peppermint and coriander (even a little savory), with the spices soon to kick in (curry, Szechuan pepper). Constantly fresh and lemony. With water (even if water is probably not obligatory here): a little more on orange zests. Exceptionally good. Finish: long, fresh, superbly fruity, even if less exuberant than at the attack. That’s good news actually, otherwise it would have been a little tiresome ;-). Comments: one of these great old Benriachs, enough said. SGP:641 – 92 points.
Benriach 19 yo 1988/2008 (53.6%, OB, Virgin American oak, cask #4020, 296 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is, as expected, extremely oaky and ‘modern’, starting on orange peel and nutmeg, then quite some ginger, coconut and vanilla and finally mega-huge notes of fresh orange juice. Also a little nutmeg. More straight oak coming through after that (wet sawdust) as well as even more vanilla. The good news is that it never gets ‘too much’, which is rather incredible considering it was in fresh oak all along. Rather simpler than the 1976/1977, though. Mouth: rich, creamy, oily, starting all on these very gingery/nutmeggy notes that one can find in most ‘oak-made’ Glenmorangies (Artisan and the likes.) That gives it a very ‘modern’ taste that should appeal to many malt lovers, but I must say I prefer more natural Benriachs, even if this is perfectly made. Goes on and on with a lot of vanilla, bitter oranges and tinned pineapples. With water: more nutmeg, sign of a rather talkative oak. Finish: long, clean and unexpectedly balanced. Benriach’s fruitiness works well with the new oak here and leaves your mouth fresh as a baby’s. Comments: again, not a style that I cherish but I must say this is perfectly made. Quite spectacular. SGP:652 – 87 points.
Benriach 28 yo 1979/2008 (51.2%, OB, lightly peated, bourbon barrel, cask #10771, 149 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a very ‘funny’ start on ancient roses, muscat and litchis, very ‘gewurztraminer’ (very obvious). Settles down a bit after that, getting a little less exuberant and more on vanilla and soft spices, but there’s also a return on both kiwis and cut grass. This one is highly entertaining but we get very little peat. Mouth: it’s amazing how the palate is in the keeping with the nose, for it’s all on gewürztraminer again. That is to say litchis, Turkish delights, ripe strawberries and a fresh spiciness that gathers ginger, cloves, star anise and cardamom. Quite spectacular and unlike any other malt whisky, let alone a Benriach. Once again, very little peat. With water: it IS gewürztraminer. More muscatty notes as well. Finish: long and all on marc de gewürztraminer. Not kidding! Comments: very good and very unusual, this cask must have had a strange story. No obvious peat that I can get, or maybe it’s the peat that gave this one its funny ‘gewurztraminerality’? SGP:731 - 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: The Woodsmen and their I Been Rich All My Life (that's on Frisco Frisco). Please buy the Woodsmen's music... Well, actually, they're giving it away on their website! ('we figured we'd never make it big time, so we kept our day jobs and instead of touring, recorded albums that we paid for ourselves. does it make any sense? no.') Woodsmen

April 7, 2009

Willett We’ve tried very little Bourbons or other American whiskeys so far (at least ‘seriously’), so let’s start to fix that while Barack Obama is in Strasbourg (at time of writing), with three rare spirits from the old Willett Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. The old Willett Distillery stopped distilling in 1984, you may read the whole story there. We’ll try more American whiskeys, including by Willett, in the near future.
Vintage Bourbon 1983/2000 (43%, OB, Bourbon, batch #BROI.27) Colour: amber. Nose: starts fresh and quite fragrant, on vanilla pods and whiffs of bananas flambéed as well as quite some heather honey, orange marmalade and nougat. Something that reminds me of Jamaican rum rather than malt whisky, the balance being perfect here. A classy nose for sure, that keeps developing towards a faint ‘malty meatiness’ that I hadn’t expected. Mint sauce and beef bouillon. High standards. Mouth: big and assertive at just 43% vol., maybe a little too drying just at the attack (a lot of cinnamon and white pepper, flour), but the development is very nice, sweet and rounded, with something like honey sauce, quite some vanilla, hints of coconut milk and just some faint notes of bubblegum and marshmallows that I like a little less, especially since they’re a little strange when combined with the spicy oakiness. Other than that, this is very fine whiskey. Finish: medium long, slightly dusty but the rich honeyness and the spices work perfectly well together. Orange liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: very pleasant and highly drinkable, far from the low-standard heavy selling brands. SGP:641 – 85 points.
Willett 22 yo 1984 'Family Estate' (68.35%, OB, Kentucky rye, for Ed Ledger, barrel #8, 216 bottles) This one comes from the very last batches made at the distillery. Colour: deep amber. Nose: at first nosing, it’s close to the 1983 as far as the profile is concerned, only a little more caramelly and, of course, hot, even if it’s easily noseable at such high strength. Develops more on ‘good’ varnish, old precious wood (huge notes of thuja wood), sultanas, prunes and beef jerky, with also notes of banana liqueur. Very superb and not assaulting at almost 70% vol. With water (down to +/-45% vol.): exceptional!!! Loads of dried fruits (dates, bananas…), fine herbs (verbena, lemon balm…), precious oils (linseed, turpentine…) and various kinds of resinous substances (putty, camphor balm, propolis). The spiciness is quite fabulous and very ‘wide’. Better stop here if we want to avoid maltoporn. I mean, rye-o-porn. Mouth (neat): very strong but so smooth… Fantastic spices and honey coating caramelised fruits. With water: the oak is more obvious but the fruitiness is so big that the whole is still beautifully balanced. Ripe strawberries and pineapples, cardamom, cloves, gingerbread, bananas, cane sugar, chocolate… And a slight earthiness that makes it even more beautiful. Finish: maybe not eternal but clean, a little more roasted, with a funny strawberries and mushrooms combo in the aftertaste (faint mouldiness). Comments: I wouldn’t say this was a surprise, as these old ryes by Willett’s have quite a reputation, but still… Too bad there is so little of this in the market. SGP:752 - 92 points.
Willett 24 yo 1984 'Family Estate' (69.4%, OB, Kentucky rye, for Glen Fahrn, barrel #14, 218 bottles) This one comes from the very last cask from the Willett Distillery, there won’t be any more of this. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this baby starts a little drier than cask #8, rather less on sultanas and prunes and more on leather and roasted chestnuts, with also a little more spices from the wood (cinnamon) and just a slight sourness (mashed strawberries). Other than that it’s brilliant whisky once again. With water: funnily, this one is now rounder and smoother than #8, more on dried fruits, sultanas, other raisins, and then there’s a more distinct woodiness (at the carpenter’s.) A tad less complex and multidimensional but certainly not less enjoyable. Mouth (neat): very strong, let’s not take chances (although we could check that this one seems to be rather oakier and drier than cask #8). With water: indeed, the oak is a little more ‘invading’ but it’s still balanced and beautifully smooth. A strawberry pie topped with honey, spices and vanilla sauce. Finish: long, quite beautiful once again, with unexpected mouldy notes that remind us of the best old pu-erh teas. Fantastic. Comments: I had first thought cask #8 would have easily defeated this one but it’s not the case at all, mainly thanks to this one’s wonderfully complex finish. SGP:642 - 91 points.
Everything is nice in Ralfy's work. The tone of voice (and the accent ;-)), the content (content over function, that's the Web as it should be), the 'live' feeling... and of course the spirit. Watch for instance his recent interviews with Glengoyne's Duncan (clips #41, 42, 43), they are just excellent. Very well done, Ralfy, I'm a fan.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Canada's Molly Johnson - Sleep In Late (from her CD Another Day). Please buy Molly Johnson's music. Molly Johnson

April 6, 2009

Caol Ila
There’s a constant stream of new indie Caol Ilas these days, whether young or quite old (1979-1984) and that’s good news since all of them range from very good to excellent.
Caol Ila 28 yo 1980 (50.5%, Exclusive Casks, finished in fresh American oak, cask #4936) The Exclusive Casks are a part of David Stirk’s excellent range, all bottlings having been finished in new oak for three months. We’re expecting quite some vanillin… Colour: pale gold. Nose: interesting! A typical Caol Ila encapsulated in a rather elegant oakiness, not a vanilla bomb at all actually. Fresh oysters, seaweed, wet limestone, dill and only hints of grated coconut, ginger, caramel and Alexander cocktail (say Bailey’s). Faint grainy notes (porridge). The oakiness gets more obvious after fifteen minutes. Mouth: it’s the oak that strikes first now, pretty much in the style of the young ‘wooden’ Glenmorangies (post oak, Missouri, artisan et al). The combo works well here, and it seems that it makes the saltiness stand out. Other than that we’re all on café latte, vanilla fudge, gingerbread, pine resin and kippers, the peat working more as a spice. Finish: rather long, Caol Ila’s usual coastal peatiness finally winning the ‘fight’ over the new oak. Comments: a Caol Ila that’s got something Californian, whatever that means. Great as a variant. The most vanilled of the four. SGP:546 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2009 (55.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2741) Colour: straw. Nose: fresher and more vibrant than the ‘exclusive’, with much more citrusy notes, including tangerines, grapefruits and plain lemons. Gets maybe just a tad sourish/acidic but that adds to this one’s particularities. More and more on a plate of lemon-sprinkled oysters. Medium peatiness. With water: superb. A working kiln on Islay (not at Caol Ila, obviously), sheep, seawater, old leather, Havana cigars… Great nose! Much less lemon when reduced. Mouth (neat): perfect attack, very typical, extremely well balanced. Half-rounded like some older CIs can be but getting very lemony once again, which is quite beautiful. Gets sharper and sharper, beautifully so. With water: excellent. Everything is there in the mix, peat, spices, coatal elements, fruits (dried), spices… And lemons. Finish: long, in the same vein. Classy. Comments: a winning Caol Ila from a good year. Strange that they were making such good spirit at Caol Ila while so many distilleries were tottering back then. The most lemony of the four. SGP:456 – 89 points.
Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2009 (63%, The Perfect Dram, 120 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a little silent when compared with its sibling, probably because of the very high strength (63% at 26 years of age, not bad!) Apple peelings and fresh walnuts, linseed oil, iodine. Austere and sharp. With water: the same kind of development as in the DT, only even bigger. Extremely organic. Then seafood (fresh oysters, scallops), leather, ginger… And a little vanilla/ginger that reminds us of the Exclusive Cask. Grassy smokiness (garden bonfire under the rain.) Gets the more mineral. Flintstones. Mouth (neat): very, very strong but one can feel that it is great whisky- huh! With water: very vegetal and grassy, also with a bigger smokiness than in its bros and sistas. Apple peelings, green tea, liquorice, smoked trout (rather than sea fish), even smoked ham… Finish: long, clean, liquoricy and salty. Comments: the most coastal of the four. SGP:357 - 89 points.
And now, an older official version for good measure…
Caol Ila 21 yo 1977/1999 (61.3%, Rare Malts) Colour: straw. Nose: very different from the indies, much more on fresh butter and various herbs (dill, fresh cabbage, spearmint.) Whiffs of metal and motor oil. With water: well, not its best part. Wet cardboard and yoghurt – not a good swimmer? Mouth (neat): extremely different once again. Very powerful but kind of ‘chemically pleasant’ (I’m sorry, I know that doesn’t make much sense), with bags of lime, lemon squash, citrus mint, asparagus and white sauvignon, then sorrel, absinth, fennel and icy mint. Bidis (these small Indian cigarettes). With water: very unusual development, still in the same directions, that is to say sort of chemical. Smoked ‘things’ (sorry), lemon squash, rocket salad, vitamin C tablets and ginger tonic. Hugely almondy, in fact. Finish: long, a little more on the tracks but still unusual. Comments: a little strange that the official version is the most singular. A good Caol Ila anyway, the grassiest of the four. SGP:366 - 85 points.

proposes his malt cocktails for the Springtime

TODAY: "Kill Ming"

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
- 6 cl Yoichi NAS 40%
- 2 cl Mandarine Impériale liqueur
- 1 cl Soho (lytchee liqueur)
- 2 cl lime juice
Shake, Strain into a glass with an "asiatic look" of your choice, then finish moderately with Perrier or Schweppes Agrum's.
Deco: exotic fruits.
Comment: This Yoichi NAS is a perfect blender whisky for exotic stuff, but you may try this cocktail with other young japanese whiskies ; or/and with different exotic liqueurs (mango, pineapple, passion fruit...).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the good old Dr. Feelgood doing All Through The City (from Down by the jetty, 1975, with Lee Brilleaux and Wilko Johnson). Please buy Dr Feelgood's music. Dr Feelgood

April 5, 2009

Glen Albyn


Glen Albyn was one of the three Inverness distilleries, together with Glen Mhor and Millburn. All three were mothballed in 1983. I’ve always had troubles with Glen Albyn but I haven’t tried hundreds of them.

Glen Albyn 27 yo 1981/2009 (55%, Signatory, cask #49, 225 bottles) This one from a hogshead. Colour: straw. Nose: powerful but not very aromatic. Starts on grass and wet chalk, getting then more and more mineral and, well, chalky. Clay, limestone, apple peeling, green tea and then even more grass. Notes of leather. With water: more soaked grains, wet hay and then chives, and hints of ginger tonic. Also something like sorrel and lovage. Gets farmier, not just from the watering. Horse sweat. Mouth (neat): it is fruitier this time, starting on orange drops, pineapple drops and touches of tinned litchis. It’s also very hot so let’s ad water again. With water: works well but once again, this is unusual whisky. Chlorophyll gum, spearmint, liquorice… The fruitiness almost vanished with the addition of water. Finish: very long, more resinous and grassy again, as if it went back to the initial aromas on the nose. Comments: I guess nobody makes this wild style of malt whisky anymore in Scotland (peat rules anyway), so it may well deserve a few extra points. Glen Albyn really starts to be History. Anyway, this one is the best I ever had. SGP:362 - 84 points.
Glen Albyn 33 yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, The Clydesdale Company, cask #0016/1601, 248 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little fruitier and more expressive than the 1981 but still very grassy. White cherries, kirsch, butter, green apples and hints of porridge. And the same notes of wet rocks as in the 1981. With water: ah, this works beautifully. Morels, old leather, moss, tobacco, eucalyptus and hints of patchouli. An unusual dram. Mouth (neat): very close to the 1981 but with an added spiciness (green pepper). Very lemony in fact, rather than orangey. A little fuller than the 1981. With water: excellent! Lemon balm sweets, lemon marmalade, speculoos, apple spirit (white calvados) and cough drops. Finish: rather long, all on squeezed lemon (skin included). Comments: the best Glen Albyn I ever had ;-). SGP:462 - 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: excellent new jazz by Ken Vandermark's Vandermark 5: New Acrylic (from the CD Beat Reader). Top notch! Please buy Vandermark 5's music... Ken Vandermark

April 3, 2009


The Barbican, London, March 10th 2009
Isn’t it nice, Serge, and wonderfully satisfying, when you discover the answer to a long-standing mystery? I, for example, had never figured out where all that Sci-Fi P-Funk stuff that underpinned George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic, and Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band, came from. It seemed, as the youth of today might say, somewhat ‘random’. But now, thanks to Jerry Dammers, founder of both the Specials and the 2-Tone record label, I know. Collins and Clinton were following the lead of band-leader, cosmic philosopher and electronic keyboards pioneer, Sun Ra, and the various manifestations of his jazz Arkestra, who still perform today, over fifteen years after his death. Where did Ra get his ideas from, I hear you asking? Well that’s simple. He went to Saturn, possibly in the late 1930s, an incident, that as one might imagine, shaped his life for ever after. Ra, already a practised professional musician, used this experience to reshape his musical and political ideas – with the Arkestra donning outlandish costumes inspired by both outer space, and Ra’s interest in all things Egyptian - and increasingly pushing at the musical boundaries of jazz. Ra was quick to adopt new musical technology, including one of the first prototype mini-moog synthesisers, but at the same time showed an enduring respect for the great ‘standards’ and a particular liking for the songs of Walt Disney: Ra and his Arkestra collaborated with Hal Wilner for his first venture into a Disney tribute album.
So what? Well, Jerry Dammers, something of a recluse since his great days in the late 70s and 80s, has put together what might be termed a rather sophisticated tribute band to Sun Ra and his music. It’s the Spatial AKA Orchestra, and in this one-off Barbican show they’re performing ‘Cosmic Engineering’, described as a tribute to Sun Ra “and other musical mavericks”.
Jerry Dammers
Jerry Dammers
I’m not sure if Dammers has been to Saturn (let’s face it, Coventry might have been enough), but he certainly seems to have taken the Sun Ra stuff right to his heart: “a lot of times it was humorous, and a lot of times it was ridiculous, and a lot of times it was right on the money”, said one former band-member. The stage is dressed with left-over exhibits from the Tutankhamen exhibition at our great 02 in Greenwich last year, and a bevy of redundant props from the BBC’s fantastic Dr Who series (vintage 1963-2008). Overhead a spaceship hangs in the air, piloted by lifeless aliens.
To the stage left, Dammers, cloaked and masked to both the front and back of his head, is surrounded by a crescendo of keyboards and begins to vamp out a typically disjointed and abrupt Raesque solo. It’s so engrossing that it’s a while before anyone notices the band, chanting (there’s a lot of chanting) and playing ‘After the end of the world’, as they walk, costumed from head to toe like the extras from ‘Carry on Cleo’, to the stage. When the Photographer sees them she starts, fearful that a childhood nightmare of being attacked by Cybermen is being played out for real.
Photographer's worst
The Photographer's worst nightmare
What followed was a wonderfully entertaining and joyful hour and a half delivered by a top class band featuring the stellar saxophone line-up of Denys Baptiste, Larry Stabbins, Jason Yarde and Nathaniel Facey. Zoe Rahman complements Dammers on keyboards, while Francine Luce provided vocals, Anthony Joseph (author of, amongst other things, The African Origins of UFOs) poetry, and Space Ape some memorable singing and, to use an unfashionable phrase, toasting. But there are another dozen or so in the band, all excellent as well. Dammers it may be noted, has a bit of a reputation as a control freak, and he’s certainly in charge here, anxiously flipping the pages of his ring binder (the musician’s badge of authority), striding out to the front of the orchestra and conducting in a sort of scarecrow way, pointing out soloists, and occasionally waving notes at them. But no-one seems to mind – in fact the enthusiasm of the band, which lasts from start to finish (when they chant their way off the stage to ‘Space is the place’ and end up playing outside the coat-check) is quite infectious. As is the music (not all Sun Ra compositions or arrangements): there are some Alice Coltrane tunes; ‘Jungle madness’, written by ‘the High Priest of Exotica’, Martin Denny, and ‘Bird’s Lament’, written by Rastafarian Mystic Cedric Brooks. And some of it – like ‘Unmask the Batman’ – is very funny. But they all get the Dammers’ take on Sun Ra. The eclectic keyboards, tightly-arranged brass lines, the odd band chant or chorus, sparkling solos (it’s invidious, but I’ll call out Nathaniel Facey for his solo on Ra’s ‘Discipline in retrospect’) crumbling into cacophony (there’s a lot of cacophony) and finally recovering into structure. It’s nothing short of bloody brilliant.
Now did I mention the Specials? That was Dammers’ band; we’re off to see them next month minus Dammers, as they’ve chosen to reform without him (“not so”, they say, “yes it is”, says Jerry). Anyway, Jerry referred to his former band only once, so I’ll do the same. What I’ll end on is the sensational version of the Specials’ 1981 hit Ghost Town. It always was the most chilling of songs – as bleak and threatening as the dreary derelict urban landscape it described. Dammers’ Sun Ra version, after a jolly start where we all gargle the introductory melody, turns into an even more sinister and dark piece, with Space Ape giving the lyrics added vibrancy and poignancy. When this was a hit, if you don’t recall, we were in a recession in the UK, businesses were falling like flies, unemployment was soaring and innocents were being murdered in Northern Ireland. Ring any bells? Too much fighting on the dance floor indeed. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: check the musicians' MySpace pages (links in the review)


Old Pulteney 8 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Licensed bottling, late 1970s) Colour: gold. Nose: rather punchy, starting all on a metal (aluminium, pan), grass and paraffin. Slight fruitiness behind all that (cider apples) but the grassiness is rather extreme. Whiffs of car engine. With water: it’s extremely leafy and leathery now, with a rather big peatiness and a general profile that reminds us a bit of almost neighbour old Clynelish. Motor oil, wax, shoe polish and ‘old Jaguar’. Well… Also hints of quinces. Mouth (neat): excellent and big, superbly waxy/resinous with a lot of orange marmalade and a distinct saltiness. Much more expressive than on the nose when neat. Goes on with quite some walnuts, cloves, pepper, lime juice, liquorice and mint sweets… Not the most complex palate ever but it’s superbly ‘full’. Water is not needed but we have to respect our procedures, so here goes… With water: exceptional. Call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: long, magnificent, emphatic. Comments: simply one of the most sublime 8yos ever, of much higher quality than the more mundane 70°proof – even when reduced to +/-40%. Perfect bottle ageing here, no way this was as great when it was bottled. Sorry, there’s no batch code on the back of the label, not sure all batches were that phantastic. SGP:672 - 93 points.
Old Pulteney 1995/2009 (61.2%, OB for Pipefest Basel 2009, cask #2971) The profits of this bottling will be transferred to a Swiss association that helps children who suffer from cancer (Kinderkrebs Stiftung Regio Basilensis). Just because of that, this bottling deserves a 99 score - or more. Colour: pale straw. Nose: much fruitier than the old G&M (Williams pears) but the grassiness is well here, as well as whiffs of wet leaves, paraffin again, fresh almonds, seaweed and sea breeze, apple peeling and graphite/linseed oil. Very, very... well, Pulteney. With water: bursts with fermented pears (you know, the stuff that distillers use to distil pear spirit) and then the same kind of leafy/leathery notes as in the old 8. Very restless, we like that. Mouth (neat): sure it’s very strong but once again, it’s not unlike the old (undiluted) 8yo but with some added fresh fruits (apples, pears, pineapples). With water: even more fruits (a little bubblegum and quite some strawberries) and an obvious coastal character coming out (salt, oysters). Finish: long, with some pepper and even a little mustard joining the dance. Comments: a true malt whisky, without any of these tiresome modern tricks. SGP:731 - 87 ‘organoleptical’ points, 99 ‘emotional’ points.

April 2, 2009



As you may know, Lochside in Montrose stopped distilling in 1992 and was demolished in 2004 or thereabouts.

Lochside 14 yo 1990/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, ref #1646, 324 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it is not one of these ultra-fruity Lochsides such as the ones from the 60s or even many excellent 1981s, rather an old-school Highlander with big notes of heather, wax and grass. Whiffs of farmyard, wet wool, leaves, kelp and then mustard/horseradish. Gets grassier and grassier. Flower shop. A very austere Lochside but the sharpness is superb… Mouth: more fruits but also an immense resinous bitterness that’s far from being unpleasant. White tequila, green apples, grapefruits… And more and more lemon. A sharp profile and quite some character. Finish: long, with even more lemon and a slight sugariness. Lemon pie. A lot of citrus in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely different from earlier Lochsides but still very nice. SGP:461 - 84 points.
Lochside 15 yo 1990/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, ref #1648, 275 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: the same kind of huge grassiness as in the 14yo but the rest is even more austere, with only hints of smoke and espresso coffee. French beans, asparagus, hints of blueberries. That’s not quite enough to make this one a little sexy in our opinion. Mouth: sharp, grassy, leafy and leathery, without the citrus fruits this time. A little pine resin. Finish: long but still very grassy, getting drying. A lot of pepper too. Comments: not much to say. Not one of the best Lochsides in my book. SGP:271 - 78 points.
Lochside 21 yo 1987/2008 (62.4%, The Perfect Dram, 199 bottles) There are very few new Lochsides these days, so this is one is great news. Colour: pale gold. Nose: once again, this one seems to be rather austere, oily and grassy but the very high strength may well block most aromas. Quite some coffee, as almost always with these very powerful whiskies. With water: very, very nice profile! Quite some nutmeg and cardamom – a lot of nutmeg actually, citrons, green tobacco (Indonesian), liquorice and just faint whiffs of kerosene. Superb profile but water is obligatory. Mouth (neat): powerful but not exactly hot, with much more fruits than on the nose when neat. Tangerines and grapefruits. Slightly bubblegummy. With water: we’re now much closer to the old-style Lochsides, with these very typical notes of passion fruits, oranges, tangerines and just hints of coconuts. Wonderfully fresh. Finish: long, with the spices kicking in (cardamom again, a little ginger, red pepper…) Comments: believe it or not, we were just starting to notice the absence of very good new Lochsides when this one came in. Serendipity! SGP:541 - 91 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: John Hiatt - Same old man (from the eponymous CD). Please buy John Hiatt's music! John Hiatt

April 1, 2009

Skye, sunset over Loch Bracadale and the entrance to Loch Harport
We have just received a telephone call from a well-informed source, the daughter-in-law of a cousin of the nephew of a neighbour of a prominent Scottish National Party (SNP) MSP whose name we have promised not to reveal. Our informant is a keen Whiskyfun reader and we are staggered by her news.
From 2012, the SNP plans a major realignment of economic activity in the Hebrides favouring energy production from renewable sources. Of the numerous projects under scrutiny, some are already through decision stage ready for rubber-stamping by the Scottish Parliament, with no opposition expected from London.
In outline, the whole Outer Hebridean economy will be re-geared towards electricity production through extensive siting of wind farms on Lewis, Harris, South Uist, Barra and St Kilda. Initial estimates of around 7,500 wind turbines have been circulating but some sources suggest an incredible total of over 12,000.
In a move that will support the SNP’s anti-alcohol agenda, economic focus in the Inner Hebrides, now dominated by single malt whisky and tourism, will be switched to biofuel production, mainly on Islay, Jura, Mull and Skye. Arran is not thought to be involved. In the next few days, all distillery-owning companies will be asked to start the process of relocating whisky capacity to the mainland by an end-of-2012 deadline. The cost of converting former distilleries into biofuel plants and compensation for any operating losses would be met in full by the Scottish government until summer 2010. It also pledges to the distilleries the purchase of their biofuel output at a price linked to Brent crude (Brent +10.7% according to leaked information), for the period up to 2060.
Stunned by information fit to alarm any malt enthusiast, we asked our source what would happen to any distillery refusing to comply with the initiative. It seems immediate nationalisation followed by closure would result. Whatever the case, moves towards large-scale whisky production on the mainland (e.g. Girvan or Roseisle) now appear to make all the sense in the world and suggest that certain spirits giants had, as often is the case, largely anticipated these new economic and environmental measures. Roseisle
Roseisle Distillery, Moray: setting new benchmarks
in energy efficiency and its environmental footprint
(photograph: BBC)
For the time being, we don’t know whether whisky brand names, mostly corresponding to places, will be preserved, but we feel neither the Scottish authorities nor the Scotch Whisky Association would deny rights to existing owners, given the huge commercial benefits at stake. However, this would be in direct conflict with the SWA’s new, soon-to-be law ‘definitions’ on Scotch. The SWA are now apparently considering their future in the light of these new circumstances and the possibility of reforming themselves as the Scottish Wind Association.
This morning we were told the SNP’s official list is as follows: Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Isle of Jura, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Talisker and Tobermory. The likely fate of the little Kilchoman distillery was not clear but it could be that the list has not been finalised. Port Ellen Maltings would be transformed into a biofuel collection and distribution centre.
And in a shock development, we have just heard that the ‘green’ Prince Charles of Wales has indicated he would be happy to transfer his coveted Royal Warrant to the new Laphroaig bio-diesel fuel.
Malt enthusiasts the world over will be up in arms…
THE NEW KISS OF DEATH (are they mad!?)

21st Century Distillers is a brand new company that’s just been established in Port Ellen, and it seems that actor Dan Aykroyd himself is one of the main shareholders. Thanks to very good contacts within the industry, especially on Islay, the owners have been able to acquire exactly nine casks of Bruichladdich’s secret ‘Octomore X8’ (732ppm) and nine casks of Ardbeg’s no less secret ‘Ultima Quasar’ (729ppm), both spirits being just 3 years old. All casks have then been vatted and finished for two weeks in Finnish Terva Snapsi tar liqueur casks (a Finnish finish, isn’t that clever?) The end result has just been bottled – very unusual bottle methinks – and will hit the shelves later in April.
Kiss of Death
It’s still unclear whether this very strange beverage will be available in the US or not, but we’ve heard that the excellent John Hansell over at The Malt Advocate has also got a preview sample from the company, so there should be good hopes – or fears?
Kiss of Death (70%, 21st Century Distillers, blended malt, 3,600 bottles, 2009) Colour: straw. Nose: waaah! How powerful! Starts on mega-huge notes of acetone and whiffs of a dragster’s exhaust pipe just after a run, mixed with hints of Partagas Lusitanias (at the purin) and brand new Nokia rubber boots (size UK 14). Huge sooty notes too. With water: the liquid tar really comes out now, as well as whiffs of burnt oregano and metal polish. I must say I absolutely adore this nose. Mouth: quite sippable at such strength (I said ‘quite’.) The tarry/smoky notes are actually completely out of control, but that’s part of the fun here in our view. But aarrgh, now it gets extremely hot, quick, let’s add water. With water: now we have a few coastal notes flying around (dead whelks - or dead wulk, said Dave Broom, who also found whiffs of rotting limpet on the nose and aromas of live fish in vinegar on the palate) but other than that it’s still immensely tarry and smoky, like if they had burned some brand new Pirellis in the kilns – yes, on top of the peat. Also ash (like eating an ashtray, really). Finish: as long as a Fidel Castro speech. Comments: mas especial indeed. No doubt this will please the most extreme peatophiles, let’s only hope that the recent news about the Islay Distilleries’ relocation on the mainland won’t prevent 21st Century Distillers from building up their range in the near future! SGP:019 – 94 points. (btw, we’ve also heard that there will be a Blended Malt/Single Cask out for Feis Ile. Guaranteed eBay fodder?)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: the phantastic Heino singing a very grrrroooovey Blau Blueht Der Enzian around 1972 (or was it 1982? 1992? 2002?) Anyway, a true master of modern rock and roll at his very best, please buy Heino's music!


March 2009 - part 2 <--- April 2009 - part 1 ---> April 2009 - part 2

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



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

Banff 24 yo 1976/2001 (55.8%, Signatory, cask #2251, 284 bottles)

Banff 32 yo 1974/2007 (47.8%, Douglas Laing, OMC, ref 3521, 272 bottles)

Benriach 32 yo 1976/2008 (50.3%, OB, hogshead, cask #2014, 271 bottles)

Glenfarclas 21 yo (104°proof US, OB, Grant Bonding Co, USA, late 1960's)

Lochside 21 yo 1987/2008 (62.4%, The Perfect Dram, 199 bottles).

Old Pulteney 8 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Licensed bottling, late 1970s)

Willett 24 yo 1984 'Family Estate' (69.4%, OB, Kentucky rye, for Glen Fahrn, barrel #14, 218 bottles)

Willett 22 yo 1984 'Family Estate' (68.35%, OB, Kentucky rye, for Ed Ledger, barrel #8, 216 bottles)