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March 2011 - part 2 <--- April 2011 - part 1 ---> April 2011 - part 2


April 14, 2011



Tasting two fruity Imperial

Just like Littlemill, Imperial was one of these malts that we didn’t see too often in the past – and we weren’t really complaining. Its higher reputation is very recent and could have something to do with Duncan Taylor’s stocks.

Imperial 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, for Germany, bourbon) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s one of these very fresh, slightly grainy and very fruity/estery Imperials that burst with gooseberries, apples and marshmallows but that also display more, including minerals/rocks, almond oil and just touches of fresh butter. It’s not complicated whisky but it’s pretty flawless. Mouth: same as on the nose. Sweet, maybe even a tad sugary and then a little oilier (not talking about mouth feel here). Apple juice, a little liquorice, ‘green’ spices… Finish: medium long, with a little more toasted bread. Comments: a rather typical young Speysider in its naked glory (well, from some lazy casks). It won’t make you scratch your head but the spirit was of high quality. One for summertime. SGP:641 - 83 points.

Imperial 19 yo 1990/2010 (59.9%, The Stillman's, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: same profile as the 1997’s, only with more vanilla and toasted bread – as the colour suggested. Not only marshmallows, some bubblegum as well, a little nutmeg… With water: more of the same plus whiffs of freshly cut carrots. Nice. Mouth (neat): a fruity explosion, quite spectacular! Apples, pears, gooseberries, white cherries, melon… All that with a little pepper and ginger plus quite some vanilla… Once again, it’s quite simple but that simplicity is perfect. With water: same. Well, maybe a little more on apples. Finish: medium long, on the same notes. Apples and corn syrup plus a little green tea. Comments: it’s not easy to come up with something more detailed than ‘it’s nice and good’. SGP:641 - 84 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


I hope I won't get jailed for this... What's more, according to the Daily Mash ;-), people are now drinking more to distract themselves from constantly worrying about cancer...



BONUS: recent arrivals (without much litterature)
Terra Almost Incognita: seven Canadian blends
I may or may not publish 'deeper' notes for these nice babies in the coming weeks or months (or years).

This is why websites are sometimes useful ;-): I know next to nothing about Canadian whisky but my compadre Davin de Kergommeaux has got a magnificent website all about that very topic so I’ll simply link to his pages whenever I need to – which may happen several times.

Seagram 83

Seagram’s 83 (40%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2010) Not much that I know about this baby, except that it’s supposed to be a very old recipe. Even Davin’s canadianwhisky.org doesn’t know it. Colour: gold. Nose: spirity, grainy and quite dusty, with whiffs of rye behind all that. Raspberry Jell-O. Hints of cheap blended Scotch as well (caramelised malt). Frankly, it’s not repulsive but malt drinkers won’t enjoy this. Also some damp chalk. Mouth: not much but again, it’s not repulsive. Ovaltine, honey, vanilla and corn syrup. Corn syrup with a little neutral alcohol? A little liquorice too. Finish: shortish but not bitter, which is already an asset. Comments: what’s to be said? Many guys insist I should taste more entry-level whiskies. I’m afraid this doesn’t encourage me to do that... SGP:330 - 60 points.

Royal Canadian

Royal Canadian (40%, OB, small batch, Canadian blend, +/-2010) Two stars A complicated story, better read it at Davin’s place. Buffalo Trace seem to be behind this. Colour: full gold. Nose: richer, fuller, more aromatic than the ‘83’. Earthy tones, some lavender, sugarcane, ginger and vanilla. Probably some newish oak involved here. Quite nice. Mouth: creamy and very sweet, thick, liqueur-ish. Barley sugar, maple syrup (but of course), date liqueur and then these faint earthy/spicy tones that may come from a rye content. Finish: medium long, very sweet, nearly cloying. Comments: better than the ‘83’ of course but this is still too sweet for this taster. A matter of taste here, there aren’t any obvious flaws. SGP:630 - 70 points.

Forty Creek

Forty Creek ‘Confederation Oak Reserve’ (40%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2010) Three stars and a half A small batch from Kittling Ridge. Davin’s got the story there. Colour: full gold. Nose: very modern, very ‘bourbon’. Vanilla, honey and maple syrup as well as warm sawdust, pencil shavings and notes of roasted pine nuts. Maybe sesame oil, pecan pie… It’s quite expressive. Mouth: rich, coating, sweet, almost thick. Same kind of mouth feel as the Royal Canadian’s, probably with less individuality but also more ‘state-of-the-art modernity’. Oh well… Loads of vanilla and maple syrup plus some black pepper and maybe even chillies. Ginger. Finish: not very long but sweet and candied, honeyed. Touches of chilli again in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, very modern. Part of the current climate, well-mastered American oak. Romanticism? SGP:741 - 83 points.

Caribou Crossing

Caribou Crossing (40%, OB, Canadian blend, single barrel, +/-2010) Four stars Not too sure the barrels are numbered here, in any case, I don’t know which number this baby belongs to. Davin commented on this one there. Just like the Royal Canadian, this is made by Buffalo Trace. Colour: full gold. Nose: ah, this is drier and smokier than the 40 Creek, although the sweet oakiness is very similar in its domination. Fir cone smoke, pencil shavings again, toasted oak… At times it smell like at a cooper’s! Also sandalwood, maple syrup yet again, stewed fruits, caramel… Mouth: an explosive fruitiness this time, it’s much fruitier than on the nose. Oily mouth feel. Mirabelle pie, many jams, peppered mango chutney (wot?), orange zests, a bit of icing sugar and then the spices from the oak. Pepper, ginger, touches of cloves and a little cardamom. Finish: the longest so far, with more orange marmalade and quite some white pepper. Juniper berries in the aftertaste. Comments: this is excellent in my opinion, very easy to quaff (but not dull!) And very modern… SGP:652 - 85 points.

Proof Whisky

Proof Whisky (42%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2010) Two stars Davin didn’t write about this one yet but Lawrence has got a few lines. A kind of concept whisky? Let’s try it. Colour: gold. Nose: very nice at first nosing, with good balance between the rye and the American oak and a pleasant freshness that none of the others had so far. Very sleek fruitiness as well, tinned pineapples, white chocolate, maybe a little Muscat (grapes), litchis… Not very far from a nice liqueur cocktail but it’s not overly simple, not at all. Mouth: same feeling as with the nose, starts on a huge fruitiness, more green apples here. Sadly, it gets then very, very bubblegummy. Did they dump marshmallows into each cask? It’s not only the rye, it’s something else (in my opinion). Finish: fairly long, extremely liqueur-ish, with just a little pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t know how they do this. It’s very spectacular and certainly not unpleasant, it’s just quite far from whisky as I know it. Is there only whisky in there? SGP:830 - 75 points.

Canadian Mist

Canadian Mist ‘Black Diamond’ (43%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2011) Three stars and a half One by Brown-Forman, made in Ontario. Premium of course. Here’s what Davin has to say about it. Colour: full gold. Nose: pencil shavings all over the place at first nosing as well as, as Davin wrote, Coca-Cola. Is this pre-mixed? ;-) Seriously, it’s a nice nose even if yet again, the domination of American oak may surprise Scotch drinkers. A lot of vanilla ‘of course’, a little graphite, whiffs of freshly cut grass… Yes, it works, even if it’s extraordinarily austere after the extravagant Proof Whisky. Mouth: another rich one, very sweet but also nicely spicy and maybe a little more complex than the others. Not as ‘technological’ as some of its colleagues despite (or maybe because) a slight plankishness. Nice touches of kiwis, caraway seeds, lemon grass, orange marmalade, honey and ginger. I like this. Finish: quite long but the oakiness has the upper hand now. Nutmeg. Stale pepper? Comments: I’m not fond of the finish but other than that, I really like this because it’s rather less ‘obvious/modern’ than some others. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Wiser's Legacy

Wiser’s Legacy (45%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2011) Four stars A brand by Corby Distillers, made in Windsor, Ontario. I think this is pure rye. Davin has a press release there. Colour: full gold. Nose: sure there’s the extra-kick from the higher ABV but not only that, I believe we’re in another dimension here because of the perfect balance, which should please Scotch drinkers as well as lovers of exuberant fresh-oakiness. More ‘elegance’ (albeit an oaky one), more ‘complexity’ (for instance leathery/phenolic notes, an earthiness… ), more grassy/herbal notes… I like this nose a lot. It’s probably the most ‘tertiary’ of them all. Maybe I’ll explain what’s ‘tertiary’ as opposed to ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ one day – it’s a concept from wine anyway. Mouth: big fruitiness that reminds me of the Proof Whisky but this is more elegant. Many liqueurs and jams plus a great spiciness and, once again, quite some tertiary notes. Tobacco, dried bananas, Turkish delights, cinchona, liquorice wood, cough syrup… Excellent. Finish: quite long, on a great fruits/pepper combination. Comments: the rye shines through here. The whole is wonderful in my opinion – it’s probably not very PC to make a large corporation win these days but there, you have it, it’s my favourite. Only problem: it’s too easy to kquaff. I mean quafft. You’re right, quaff. SGP:552 - 87 points.

I'm surprised by the high quality of these Canadians (on average)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is a tribute to our friend Emmanuel who sometimes does some whisky and cigar pairings for WF. Emmanuel just started a great bar in Singapore that's called the Auld Alliance and I've seen he's already got some stunning whiskies there! Anyway, this is French fusion band Sixun and their tune is called... Singapore. Please buy Sixun's music and go to the Auld Alliance.


April 13, 2011



Tasting two natural Aberlour

Aberlour 14 yo 1993/2008 'Flying Short Bread' (59.4%, Juuls, Flying #7, cask #7367, 232 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, young and lively! All on garden fruits, typical Aberlour from some refill wood (not second!) A great deal of apples and gooseberries, green melons and plums, on a bed of grass and a little paraffin. Notes of barley sugar as well, sweet white wine (‘simple’ Bordeaux moelleux and such). With water: a tad waxier and a little more grass. Also nice whiffs of damp earth, roots... Mouth (neat): again, Aberlour’s big fruitiness shines through. More lemony this time, oranges, grapefruits, then apples and pears… Very powerful, very nervous. With water: rounder and smoother, very sweet and fruity. It’s almost a pack of fruit drops. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity but also a tad soapy, which often happens with very fruity young whiskies. Comments: a fairly perfect middle-aged Speysider, very ‘naturally fruity’. I liked the damp earth in the nose. SGP:641 - 82 points.

Aberlour 20 yo 1990/2010 (52.9%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon cask) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one is interesting as it displays heady notes of custard tart and caramel-and-chocolate drink at first nosing. Butterscotch, millionaire shortbread… Well, you see what I mean. Gets then a little tighter, more on vanilla and soft oak, with a grassiness that’s similar to the 1993’s but rather less fresh fruits. Very nice nose, nice development. With water: more café latte and then the same whiffs of damp earth as in the 1993, only a tad more discreet. Mouth (neat): smoother and more complex than the 1993 but just as fruity. More bananas and pineapples this time (no tropical monster though, not at all), apples, a little liquorice, barley sugar, sweet oak, wee hints of Turkish delights, orange blossom… I must say this is very good and very, very ‘natural Aberlour’ in my opinion. With water: a fruitbomb – all garden fruits -, with a dash of muscovado sugar. Finish: rather long, fruity, with some spices as well and an unexpected salty touch. Only the aftertaste is a tad less ‘clean’ in my opinion (burnt herbs). Comments: yup, all good. Probably refill bourbon. SGP:651 - 85 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



BONUS: recent arrivals (without much litterature)
A bunch of blends
I may or may not publish 'deeper' notes for these nice babies in the coming weeks or months (yes, or years).


Monkey Shoulder (40%, OB, William Grant, blended malt, +/-2011) Three stars Sorry, I don’t know about the actual batch number, what's sure is that it's very recent. Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh and quite fragrant. Peonies and green apples, pears (Glenfiddich?) and strawberry drops. Pleasantly estery. Mouth: sweet and malty, quite inoffensive, ‘Chivasesque’ if I may say so. Some fudge and vanilla, apple pie, ripe plums, sultanas, violet sweets… . Finish: medium. A little coffee, café latte. Comments: an easy dram, well made. . SGP:531 - 80 points.

Spice King

The Spice King 8 yo (40%, Wemyss, blended malt, +/-2011) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: rich, honeyed and faintly smoky ala HP. Gets peatier then, slightly earthy, with some sherry. Cinnamon, cedar wood. Very nice nose! Mouth: drier than on the nose and peatier as well. Leather, salt, pepper, cinnamon. Good body despite the low strength. Finish: quite long, smoky, slightly briny. Liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: reminds me of the old official Taliskers (early 1980s). The palate is surprisingly dry but it’s very good globally – in my opinion of course. SGP:345 - 82 points.

Martins 20

James Martin's 20 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, Glenmorangie plc, +/-2011) Four stars I tried the 30yo a while back, it was great (WF 89). Colour: gold. Nose: delicate yet rich, complex, starting on figs and quinces and going on with more mead, cigar box, ripe plums and a very nice minerality. Wet gravels. Slight sooty/smoky whiffs. Mouth: excellent body, with more peat now, bitter oranges, jams… More spices then, touches of ginger, a little coriander as well (fresh notes). Also quite some liquorice. Finish: rather long, rather nervous. Touches of pepper and smoked tea in the aftertaste. Comments: very nicely composed, high quality vatting. James Martin’s is a big brand in Portugal – or so it seems. SGP:553 - 86 points.

Martins 30

James Martin's 30 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, Glenmorangie plc, +/-2011) Four stars and a half Let’s have a newer version of this baby while we’re at it… Colour: dark gold. Nose: more or less the same profile as the 20s but deeper, rounder and more aromatic at the same time. Mead again, mushrooms (fresh morels, yeah!), humus, liquorice, then quinces and dates as well as touches of peat. High quality for sure. Mouth: excellent, spicy, slightly smoky, nervous yet smooth… Some lemon marmalade, ripe strawberries, maybe touches of passion fruits. Becomes just a wee tad too cinnamony for me at some point. Finish: long, complex… Orange zests and milk chocolate plus a little ginger. Comments: high class blend. 89 again for me. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Antiquary 21

The Antiquary 21 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, +/-2011) Four stars The base camp of the Antiquary is Tomatin, so there might be a fruitiness in there. Not sure it’s all malt by the way, as expected we’re all confused now with the new appellations. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s much waxier than the others, a bit more cardboardy as well. A very different profile. It’s also earthier, even earthier than the Martin’s 30. Rocks, seaweed, mint… An more earth and roots. Not a lazy old blend for sure. Mouth: once again, this profile was unexpected. Smoky, earthy, peaty and quite oaky, all that on a bed or honey, orange marmalade and white pepper. Good body. Finish: fairly long and drier. Tea, liquorice, white pepper. A tad cardboardy. Comments: not one of the smooth, languid old blends. I like this one too. PS: thank god we don’t score packaging. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Tweedale Blend

The Tweeddale Blend 10 yo (46%, OB, blended, +/-2010) Four stars Another new whisky with a story (Google is your friend!) This is a blended Scotch for sure, no 100% malt. Colour: straw. Nose: ha-ha, it keeps its head high after the Antiquary! This has nothing to do with the ‘big brands of blend’, being rather mineral and unexpectedly briny at first nosing. Quite some linseed oil as well, waxed papers, motor oil… There’s also a little chilli, peppercorns and then more and more grass. Agave.  Pleasantly dry nose. Mouth: sweeter and rounder now but the peat is quite big (‘commercial’ blends never display so much peat). Also brine, olives, then more roundness. Custard tart and maple syrup. Finish: long, quite peaty, salty and gingery. Some caramel. Comments: excellent, with a nice triangular profile (peat, minerals, sweetness). Probably high malt content. Funny ‘glowing’ peatiness (comes and goes). SGP:443 - 85 points.

Peat Chimney

The Peat Chimney 8 yo (40%, Wemyss, blended malt, +/-2011) Three stars A peated version, obviously. Colour: gold. Nose: the peat isn’t very big here, it all starts rather on pineapple and pear drops as well as a little rhubarb jam and just traces of cough syrup. It’s after a few seconds that a ‘fruity’ peatiness rises, a moderate peatiness. Mouth: more peat and more dryness, more leather as well, the whole hinting at the Spice King that we tried above. This is smokier of course, sootier and ashier. Finish: medium long, earthier, rootier, briny and liquoricy. Comments: I’m wondering if dryness is a still that’s common to the whole series. Anyway, a good dram for sure but I liked the Spice King a little better. SGP:346 - 80 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some straightahead jazz today but it's about Scotch - well, partly. She's Hinda Hoffman and she sings Peel me a grape (it's on Moon and Sand). Please buy Hinda Hoffman's music.

Hinda Hoffman

April 12, 2011


Tomatin 1976

Tasting another two 1976 Tomatin from refill sherry butts

Tomatin 34 yo 1976 /2011 (51%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, refill sherry, cask #6822) Five stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: wonderful! A soft, fruity sherry combined with Tomatin’s soft, fruity… err, fruitiness. It’s quite extravagant to tell you the truth, with an avalanche of honey, nectar, quinces, ripe plums, old Sauternes… Also touches of aromatic herbs, dill, sage, celery… and a whole beehive. Let’s cut a long story short: it’s fab. Not whisky, a sin. With water: H2O only confirms what we already know. Mouth (neat): extravagantly fruity, spicy, herbal and resinous. Coating. Wonderful profile, perfectly balanced. Everything’s perfect here. Wow. Really. With water: ditto. Finish: long, coating, caramelly in a good way. Comments: this series is outta this world. Refill sherry at its best. I guess this could be a buying signal (wot???) SGP:651 - 93 points. (heartfelt thanks Herbert)

Tomatin 1976/2011 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill butt, 309 bottles)Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely close to its sibling, maybe just a tad drier and more on vanilla and oak. Also a little more mint and grass. Let’s not split hair, it’s of similar (very high) quality. With water: same comments. Maybe a little more oak here, maybe… Well, certainly, but quality is similar. I love these whiffs of ‘a beehive that you just opened’ (watch the stings). Mouth (neat): once again, it’s just marginally different but this time it’s even fruitier, more candied and maybe a little more citrusy as well. Firm, tight, rich, lively… Again, wow. With water: wowie! Extravagant, sexy, fruity… Finish: ditto. Comments: again, high quality. Don’t bother with the 1-point difference, it’s very personal and another taster could have put it the other way ‘round – and he would have been just as right. How many of these lightly sherried 1976s do they still have? SGP:651 - 92 points.

While we’re at it, let’s quickly try another 1976, a much younger one…

Tomatin 18 yo 1976/1995 (43%, The Ultimate, Van Wees, cask #27636) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: nice! The fruitiness is well here but the dilution didn’t do it too much good, as it’s slightly more cardboardy. Other than that, the profile is similar. Not really ‘younger’ in fact. Curious about the palate… Mouth: yes, one can feel there was a ‘turbo’ here a while back (before dilution) but it’s all gone down too low at some point. Hints of lavender sweets and paper. Now, the fruitiness and honeyness are very nice. Finish: shortish but clean, fruity and honeyed. Comments: this could have been very great but I guess the market just wasn’t ready for loads of Tomatins at cask strength back in 1995. Probably refill sherry as well. SGP:431 - 80 points.

Hmm… Let’s try to do better, with an even younger 1976 and a much stronger one this time…

Tomatin CAD

Tomatin 13 yo 1976/1990 (60.5%, Cadenhead's) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: oh no! You know what, age does matter! This is too young, too aggressive, too spirity and frankly un-noseable. And these whiffs of flour, cardboard and capsicum are frankly hard to enjoy. With water:  that worked, but barely. Green bananas? Fermenting grass, manioc… Mouth (neat): much, much, much nicer than on the nose when unreduced but it’s still some aggressive and ueberpunchy whisky. Burns your lips (that’s why serious tasters bear moustaches ;-)). Although I like these notes of orange cake and baklavas, I must say… With water: indeed, the palate is much nicer than the nose, it’s already got this delicious honeyness that older 1976 Tomatins can display (please see above).

Finish: very long, between sharpness and luscious fruitiness. Comments: this one was very interesting, it showed us how a palate can be already ‘ready’ while the nose is still immature and brutal (unless you doctor it using newish oak, peat or wine – but that’s another story). SGP:551 - 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: warning, geniuses! Vietnamese vocalist Huong Thanh and famous French jazz guitarist Nguyen Le are doing the superb ballad Drifting on the Water (from their CD Fragile Beauty). Wow. Please buy Huong Thanh and Nguyen Le's musics.

Le Thang

April 11, 2011


Tasting two storytelled whiskies

Shackleton Snow Phoenix

On the Web 2.5, storytelling is paramount and more and more brand owners are starting to use ‘stories’ to position – and sell - their whiskies, especially the smaller ones who think – or hope – that blogs, Twitter and Facebook will reshuffle the cards. Stories are often ‘external’ events that brands use to catch a little more light (royal weddings, old ships, famous people, History…  as long as no fees are due ;-)) but sometimes, those stories are related to the ‘liquid inside’ indeed and some even come with charity operations.

We’ll have two good examples today, with Mackinlay’s ‘Shackleton Replica’ and Glenfiddich’s ‘Snow Phoenix’ (notes long overdue here). And as these babies came with (freezing) stories, my notes will be even longer than usual, obviously!

Shackleton: there’s no use talking… let’s TASTE IT!

Still, a few words ;-). Frankly, it was obvious that Whyte & Mackay, who now own the old Mackinlay brand, were going to make something out of Shackleton’s story.

It was probably too good to resist doing a replica bottle, quite in the vein of the Macallan’s ‘Replicas’ from a few years ago. Except that this Mackinlay has got a ‘good ‘ story (let’s not talk about the Macallans’ today) and even a few funny ‘controversial’ catches, such as the idea of replicating a whisky that spent 100 years in ice while the brand’s very engaging master blender doesn’t stop threatening anyone who would dare adding an ice cube to a dram with death – always with pre-emptive humour of course.
So, we have a sample of that replica on our desk today. What’s to be expected? That it’ll be an accurate recreation of a malt that spent 100 years in ice (never put whisky into the fridge, the old connoisseurs always used to warn) - and probably used to lie in contact with the cork and not standing? Or that it‘ll simply be excellent because the skilled Richard Paterson would have composed a great ‘old style’ blend, whichever the actual organoleptical profile of the original? Let’s see…



Mackinlay 'Shackleton Replica' (47.3%, OB, blended malt, 2011) Four stars and a half Related charity: Antarctic Heritage Trust – 5% from every sale. 50,000 bottles were produced. I guess with the appellation 'Highland Malt Whisky', no Lowlander or Islayer could be used for this, but what's sure is that there's some Glen Mhor, the latter having been Mackinlay's home distillery by the way.
Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is fresh, grassy and slightly estery whisky at fist nosing (green apples, gooseberries) rather ‘young’ Speyside in style but with a slight rawness that gives it an extra-dimension. There’s also a sootiness that, indeed, hints at Glen Mhor (from refill wood).

Develops more on lime and graphite oil, maybe a little coal smoke, even touches of seaweed… Much more leather, smoked tea and soot after ten minutes. This is very surprising because I had thought it would be Dalmore-ish but it isn’t in my opinion. I must say it does remind me of an Old Mull from the same era as the original’s indeed. Interesting! Mouth: ha-ha! It does taste like an old Highlander indeed. You know, especially the ‘Inverness trilogy’ from refill wood which G&M used to have more than twenty years ago. Albyn, Mhor, Millburn… It’s dry whisky, rather rawish (which I like), grassy, leathery, with some lemon zests and cardamom, liquorice, something mustardy as well, bitter herbs (Jägermeister). In short, it’s robust whisky! Finish: medium long, a wee tad fruitier (oranges, white chocolate) for a while but the aftertaste is grassier again. Acrid lemons. Comments: when I saw this stunt coming I cocked my gun but now I rather think the brand owners deserve flowers. Whether this is how the original ‘Shackleton’ tastes these days or not (but Dave Broom, who tasted it, said it was amazing and I always believe what Dave says), the recreation is excellent. By the way, can we also have some Malt Mill Replica, Stromness Replica (Double-O will do), Parkmore Replica… Please? SGP:472 - 88 points.

PS: in 1914, Shackleton rather took supplies of Vat 69 on his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Shall we see some Vat 69 Replica as well anytime soon? As for Captain Scott, he had chosen Peter Dawson Scotch and did not drink or take Shackleton’s stash when he visited the abandoned hut later on, but maybe he’s the one who hid it? His crew seems to be sitting on such cases in this old photograph from LIFE magazine…


Onto Glenfiddich's Snow Phoenix...

A vatting of casks that were exposed to lower temperatures for a short while because the roof of the warehouse had collapsed under heavy snow. But why the name ‘Phoenix’, you may ask? Because according to the press release, ‘a photographer was shooting the scene and rather fittingly, when we looked at the pictures, the light shining through the warehouse roofs looked like a phoenix rising above us.’ All right, why not, let’s try it…


Snow Phoenix

Glenfiddich ‘Snow Phoenix’ (47.6%, OB, 2010) Three stars and a half Related charity: special contribution to the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team (amount unknown).
Colour: pale gold. Nose: seriously, it’s not extremely different from the Mackinlay at first nosing, which really surprises me. Sure it’s a little rounder and less sooty but other than that, it’s also a rather big and nervous malt whisky. The development is rather different, though, with more oranges and ripe apples, but the grassiness is rather similar. They really diverge after ten minutes, this one becoming lighter (but it’s no light whisky), fruitier and, in essence, ‘younger’.

Mouth: this is punchy! The oak’s relatively big while the spirit is relatively light, but the combination works in my opinion. Quite malty and very ‘malt whisky’ (I know that sounds silly but I think it’s a profile that’s ‘right in the middle’ – oh well…), with also notes that are often to be found in the aged versions of Glenfiddich, between beeswax, honey, nutmeg, wood polish… Also  cartloads of apples (ripe, overripe, cooked, dried…) Finish: medium long, rather soft and, just like the Shackleton, rather fruitier. More apples and touches of pears – I often find pears in Glenfiddich. Comments: very good, I believe it shows to a fairly ‘general’ public that there’s something else behind the ‘easier’ core range. Something that the 15yo CS already did in the past. SGP:551 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a very speedy jazz and some stunning, pirouetting sax by Stefano di Battista, with a Moroccan feeling. No wonder it's called Essaouira (no Gnawa stuff here). It's on the superb Trouble Shootin' album. Please buy Stefano di Battista's music!

Di Battista

April 10, 2011



Tasting another three old Longmorn

Longmorn 35 yo 1975/2010 (48.8%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead, cask #2943) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: oh wow, it's one these honeyed and flowery Longmorns. Ultra-typical, on honeycomb, quince jelly, ripe mirabelle plums, ripe bananas and papayas, with ony touches of eucalyptus and parsley in the background. A classic. With water: as often with old whiskies, water brings out more notes of banana skin, herbal teas and wet hay, while the fruitiness is less obvious, but it's still a beautiful Longmorn. Also something funnily 'Chinese', it reminds me of a sauce they serve with Dim-Sums. Luv'it. Mouth (neat): a fruitbomb in a gangue of nutmeg and paprika. Passion fruits, oranges, bananas, quinces... Archetypical. With water: perfect balance between the fruits and the oak's components, plus a lot of tiny tertiary things. Finish: long, a little more herbal, with quite some liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I think this was bottled just on time. Perfect balance. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Longmorn 34 yo 1976/2010 (50.2%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 139 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one is a little less fruity than the 1975 and much more chocolaty. We're not talking about 'dark' chocolate like in some sherry monsters, rather about milk or even white chocolate. Also notes of café latte, the whole suggesting some more active wood than in the 1975. Whiffs of newly sawn oak as well. With water: more towards that direction. Brioche, toasted bread, marzipan, a little leather... More vanilla as well. Mouth (neat): same feeling, this is drier, woodier and spicier than the 1975. The fruits are well here but the oak's spices have the upper hand. With water: they do indeed but water improves the balance. Finish: medium long, a tad drying. The aftertaste is a tad chalky. Comments: excellent - I was about to add 'of course' - but the Limburgian gang had better Longmorns in my opinion, especially the ones for The Whisky Fair. SGP:461 - 86 points.

Longmorn 1976/2011 (51.5%, Malts of Scotland, cask #5892, 132 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: almost the same whisky as the TWA, only a little more on café latte. Also hints of strawberries that I didn't find in the two other ones. With water: the beehive woke up! ;-). Beeswax, pollen... Very nice - and I'm partial to anything from the bees anyway. Let's save the bees!  Mouth (neat): yes, same comments as about the nose when neat. The oak dominates the spirit a bit even if the fruits (apples, oranges, papayas) manage to shine through here. With water: well, we're somewhere between the W-F and the TWA. A tad dry but a significantly fruity at the same time. A little mint as well. Finish: rather long, mentholated and liquoricy. Comments: I think that contrarily to what happened at sister distillery Benriach, 1976 wasn't always pure magic at Longmorn, no ideas why! Maybe a matter of wood allocation at Seagram's? But still, this is excellent. SGP:551 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great late actor and singer Philippe Léotard sing's Ferré's Je chante pour passer le temps. Please buy Philippe Léotard's music.


Tusacn wines

Wine - Nice little red Tuscan blind tasting last night at our Süf Club. Sassicaia 1994 was crushed but Tenuta San Guido 2001 made it to 3rd place. The Rosso di Montalcino Col D’Orcia 2007 was #2 while  the Brunello di Montalcino La Gerla 2003 won the evening. Very nice global quality but the best Sangiovese easily defeat the best cab-based Super Tuscans, which I always found a little too uninspired and ‘global’. Picture: the three winners.


April 8, 2011



Tasting two very different Macduff

Glen Deveron 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2011) Two stars As you know, Glen Deveron is the other name of Macduff (or MacDuff). The older versions of Glen Deveron were quite humble in my opinion. I had for instance a 10 yo bottled around 2000 that did not really inspire me (WF 72). Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these malts that poach on deluxe blends’ territories (Chivas 12 and so on). There’s some caramel, butterscotch, porridge, a faint yeastiness, butter, toasted bread, cornflakes… The porridgy notes grow bolder after a while. Damp cardboard. Mouth: sweet and rather fruity (oranges), all that in a gangue of caramel and toasted bread. Corn syrup, Ovaltine. Finish: shortish and a little too bitter. Roasted nuts. Comments: decent. SGP:341 - 74 points.

Macduff 20 yo 1990/2010 (54.3%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead, cask #1428, 156 bottles) Four stars I really liked sister cask #1422 bottled as a 19yo (WF 85). Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: we have a heavy, hyper-leathery sherry here, with whiffs of rubber bands, aged cured ham, bacon, hints of petrol and quite some gunpowder. Saltpetre, soot, shoe polish… There’s also a little fruit such as wild strawberries and quinces. Some dried kelp as well, chocolate. It’s rather extreme but it keeps developing for a long time, becoming fruitier and fruitier. With water: a typical development on humus, mushrooms and old leather. Hints of balsamic vinegar as well. Mouth (neat): powerful but smooth at the same time, fruity, mainly on orange and lemon marmalades, notes of old rancio, touches of salt, figs… Something that reminds me of some old Madeira, with a good spiciness. Cardamom. With water: rich, fruity, candied and rather elegant. More chocolate and prunes. Finish: long, rather more herbal. Jägermeister. Comments: a very nice sherry monster between a chocolaty dryness and quite some marmalade. Lots happening in this one. SGP:462 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what, some flute? Yeah but she's Bobbi Humphrey and she's got an amazing soul-jazz sound and the greatest band ever. Let's listen to Jasper country man that's on her Black and Blues album (how many records are named 'Black and Blues'?). Please buy Bobbi Humphrey's music.

Bobbi Humphrey

April 7, 2011



by Nick Morgan


Half Moon, Putney, London, February 19th 2011

Paul Young’s career began, you may remember, with a food obsession (‘Toast’) and the burgeoning pub-rock scene that earned his ‘Q-Tips’ the reputation of being one of the UK’s best live performing bands.  What followed was a spectacular chart-topping career, his soulful vocals carving out worldwide hits for covers of songs such as ‘Wherever I lay my hat is my home’ and ‘Love of the common people’.

Famously, Young was the first and last voice on the Live Aid record ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ and he sang his biggest hit ‘Every time you go away’ at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium.  This despite recurrent problems with his voice which led to extended periods of absence from the music scene.  He eventually lost his major recording contract in the 1990s, along with a huge amount of quids unwisely invested in the property market.  Since then, ably demonstrating that what goes around comes around, he has spent much of his time pursuing his passion for food and cooking (celebrity TV cooking programmes, planned cookery books, working in restaurants and even as a chef for a ‘Rod Stewart Live with Dinner By Paul Young’ promotion), and playing with Tex Mex pub-rock band Los Pacaminos.

I should add that ‘pub-rock’ hardly does the band’s accomplishments justice and although they are short-handed (pedal steel guitarist Melvin Duffy, and sometime Shortlist keyboard player, accordionist and chartered psychologist Matt Irving are absent through illness) they are a prodigiously proficient bunch.  Young’s voice may not be the thing of beauty it once was but he can still turn out a good tune, and, it turns out, is a pretty handy guitarist with a lovely Gretsch 6121 (the second in less than a week).  On guitar and vocals is Drew Barfield, a seventies new-wave survivor and song writer, who on the night is easily as sweet-voiced as Young.  Lead guitarist Jamie Moses, whose list of credits is a bit of a who’s who of British rock and roll, spends the evening playing with effortless virtuosity, throwing off licks as other people might sweet wrappers.  Moses and Young front the show, exchanging banter remorselessly (we could have had a couple more songs and a little less chat), in a fashion that wasn’t much  short of  Richard Keys and Andy Gray.  The evening’s aim  is light-hearted (rounds of ‘tequila’ are served to the band at regular intervals) but the songs are played with serious intent.  And just to amplify the effect,  the new kitchen of the Half Moon (installed as part of a plan to avoid closure last year) infused the once smoke-filled back room with unmistakable aromas of the best of south-western American cuisine.   Or was that the bloke standing next to me?


Which reminds me.  The musical fare was indeed Tex Mex.  A combination of some of the band’s self-penned and lovingly-crafted songs such as ‘Belle’ (beautifully sung by Barfield), ‘Mañana’, and ‘Do we want the same things?’  and carefully-selected covers.  Junior Brown’s ‘Highway Patrol’, Ry Cooder’s version of the Elvis classic ‘Little sister’, an ace version of a song I only knew through the once marvellous Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, Merles Travis and Tex Williams’ ‘Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette’ and ‘Wooly bully’ completed as the curfew drew nigh.  All played with much respect and gusto and all much enjoyed by the packed and pleasantly beery Saturday night Half Moon house.  If only we could all end our careers with such gastronomic gusto. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)


Loch Lomond

Tasting Captain Haddock’s preferred again

Loch Lomond is one of the most mysterious distilleries in Scotland, able to produce a variety of styles depending on the way they 'tweak their stills' and switch the condensers and similar devices on and off. Let's try two of their flagship bottlings today...

Loch Lomond (40%, OB, NAS, +/-2010) one star and a half Captain Haddock's preferred - but remember Archibald Haddock was a super-boozer.  Well, not too sure it was the same Loch Lomond - the labels don't match - and I doubt Hergé would have done product placement in his cartoons. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, the lightness of it all! One of the lightest malt whiskies on earth but on the other hand, it's far from being unpleasant. Notes of overripe apples, porridge, cornflakes and a little maple syrup and roasted peanuts. Also something flowery, but lightly so. A little cardboard as well. Anyway, again, it's not unpleasant. Inoffensive, I'd say. Mouth: same as on the nose. Very light, even weak but balanced at first sips. To bad it gets then sugary and cardboardy, with notes of cheap tea (we call that English Breakfast - no offence meant). Finish: short, a little drying. Cardboardy. Comments: some parts weren't unpleasant. Let's pull out a 100% PC comment: I've tasted much worse. Seriously, this is meant for mixing. SGP:231 - 68 points.

Loch Lomond 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2010) Two stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is harder than the no-age-statement version. Much more buttery, dirty-ish and oddly flowery this time (heady whiffs of lis), with also notes of sour wood, chicken bouillon and butter cream. Also hints of Fanta, which cannot be good news. Mouth: ha-ha, this is much nicer! Cleaner than the nose, caramelly, candied, maybe a tad 'burnt' at times and very malty. Sadly, the same cardboardy notes as in the NAS version are soon to invade your palate. On the other hand, there are also pleasant notes of Seville oranges. Finish: medium long, with more Seville oranges and more pepper. Comments: really acceptable. We're touching the level of some older batches of Glenfiddich NAS - but today's 12 is much better for sure. SGP:341 - 70 points.

And also Loch Lomond 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2005) Two stars Colour: full gold. Nose: porridge and pecan pie, toasted oak, liquorice and cooked strawberries. Gets then dirtier, with notes of old clothes, cabbage soup and a little burnt tyre. Oh well… Mouth: a little better, with some caramel. A lot of caramel (sweet, not dry). The oakiness is a tad prickly. Strawberry jam, a little pepper… Distinct notes of violets (bonbons). Finish: medium long, on caramel and pepper. Comments: not as bad as it sounds. 72 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

April 6, 2011


5,000,000 - Let's celebrate!

I should confess I do not check WF’s stats often enough. I did on Sunday and found out that on March 16, this lousy little website welcomed its 5,000,000th visit since we have proper statistics (2004).

In fact, WF now draws around 1,800,000 visits a year - not all ‘worthy visits’ of course because sadly, the few guys looking for Ellen 18yo or Charlotte 19yo may well not be into whisky or good music… Anyway, is it too late to celebrate? Maybe not! Maybe we could do an ‘emblematic’ tasting session?

Ardbeg Girl
Maybe something that we haven’t done since quite some time because the market has changed a lot in recent years… It’s true that the old glories have become extremely rare and expensive (you know them, the Bowmores, Springbanks, Laphroaigs, Taliskers, Highland Parks, Lagavulins, Ardbegs or Macallans distilled in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s – not to mention the best closed distilleries)… But I feel aligning a dozen old GlenWonkas wouldn’t be worth it and maybe we should try to do something more enlightening (supposedly).  Like check to which extent a particular distillery that we all know very well and that starts with an A has changed through the decades. Yes, Ardbeg… We’re quite close to having tasted 300 different Ardbegs for Whiskyfun so why not add a few today? Look, this is what we’ll do if you don’t mind:
  • Choose two different previously untasted Ardbegs per decade, from the 2000s down to the 1960s.
  • Taste them vertically (most recent first)
  • See if we can discern a pattern, despite the various ages and wood types …
What do you think? Right, let’s go…

Ardbeg 2000

Tasting nine Ardbeg, vertically

First, Ardbeg in the 2000s...

Ardbeg 10 yo 'Ten' (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars Most probably distilled around the year 2000, with maybe some slightly older batches thrown in. Colour: white wine. It’s getting paler and paler year after year. Nose: rather pungent and peaty at first nosing, briny and almondy, with also a little butter and hints of pineapple sweets. Also hints of dill and carrot tops, roots, gentian and earth. Calms down after a few seconds although it becomes smokier (exhaust fumes). Globally dry and with little fruitiness apart from the faint estery notes at first nosing (pineapples). I like this nose! Mouth: sweet and earthy start, extremely close to what the nose delivered. It’s not immensely smoky, rather ashy for a while… Until the peat gradually takes over, that is. A saltiness and more and more smokiness, liquorice wood, maybe hints of cumin, ginger… And gin? Only touches of lemon. I think the Ten becomes more and more dry and less and less fruity but I must say I enjoy this kind of profile quite a lot, so I won’t complain. Finish: long and saltier. Anchovies? Comments: excellent whisky in my opinion. Maybe it’s not as complex as it used to be but the profile is perfectly ‘focused’ and the smoke is, well, big. SGP:358 - 87 points.

Alambic's Special Islay 10 yo 2000/2010 (59.4%, Alambic Classique, Ardbeg, refill sherry, cask #10424, 154 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: quite big, starting on these very peculiar notes of gunpowder that sherry + peat usually create (nothing to do with sulphur here in my opinion). It’s very dry whisky, with something fino-alike, whiffs of flor (yellow wine), walnuts, apple peelings and then more soot. Graphite. With water: exhaust fumes all over the place, cooked asparagus… I know what you think, but those notes go away, leaving room for more buttery and earthy notes. A lot of leather too. Mouth (neat): very rich, sweeter than the official but that may come from the higher ABV. Pear and pineapple sweets plus a lot of pepper. With water: same plus more leather again, dry herbal teas, smoked tea (huge!) and salt. I’m sorry, a saltiness. Finish: long, with notes of oranges from the sherry, with the pepper back in the aftertaste. A lot of pepper and salt, this one could be used as dressing. Comments: very good but I liked the OB’s more precise profile a little better. SGP:457 - 85 points.

Ardbeg 1998

Ardbeg in the 1990s (the two sister casks count as one ;-))

Ardbeg 16 yo (46%, Duthies, 1110 bottles, +/-2011) Two stars and a half Owners Cadenhead had quite a few 1994s in the past so this is possibly from the same batches. It’s a brand new bottling. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s definitely fruitier than the ‘2000s’ and closer to the grain, with more yeasty notes (not feinty), more lemon ad apples as well, more leather, more butter, more soot and more tar… And rather less peat. Sea water. In a certain way, it’s a little ‘dirtier’ and rawer but also a little less ‘commercial’. Curious about the palate… Mouth: rather bizarre… Starts rather well, peaty, maybe just a tad soapy (and with notes of lavender sweets)… But falls apart after less than one second, leaving a very weak middle with only touches of lemon drops and ink/paper. Strange… Finish: medium long, very briny. Barley sugar. Rather bitter aftertaste. Comments: not an easy one. It makes me think of last year’s 1994s by Cadenhead, I liked one of them a lot while a sister cask was very MOTR. Maybe was Ardbeg’s output very inconsistent at the time? SGP:376 - 78 points.

Ardbeg 1998/2008 (54%, OB, Feis Ile 2009, new toasted oak hogshead, cask #1189, 252 bottles) Three stars Our reporters on Islay, the Lindores Boys, had mixed feelings about these two ‘new oak’ casks that were bottled for Feis Ile 2009. Time for us to try them as well. Colour: full gold. Nose: vanilla and ginger all over the place plus hints of quinces, cough syrup, coconut and banana liqueur. Quite some camphor as well after a few minutes, tiger balm… Much less ‘Ardbeg’ than all the previous ones, and very, very modern and bourbonny. The peat doesn’t even have much to say here. It’s pleasant but it’s not Ardbeg. With water: doesn’t work at all, it became very flat, with notes of vegetables. Cooked salad and paper. A very nice Ardbegness in the background but it just won’t make it through. Mouth (neat): a liqueur, or smoked bourbon? Very strange, imagine a mixture of coconut oil, salmiak and honey. Thick mouth feel. With water: it’s okay now. More dryness, some putty, marzipan… Finish: rather long but a tad indefinite, between coconut and diesel oil. Comments: these casks were experiments. As long as they remain experiments, we’re all fine (just an opinion of course). Seriously, it’s very fine whisky but call me a traditionalist if you like, coconut plus Ardbeg just don’t do it for me. SGP:647 - 80 points.

Ardbeg 1998/2008 (54.7%, OB, Feis Ile 2009, new toasted oak hogshead, cask #1190, 282 bottles) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: similar to its sister cask, only a little shier, a tad more herbal and dry. Notes of orange marmalade. With water: this cask takes water a little better. Nice whiffs of mint and chocolate (right, After Eights). Mouth (neat): even thicker than cask #1190. A little less coconut and a little more lemon. Other than that’s, it’s all very similar… With water: jelly beans and lemon drops all over the place, plus a little brine. Finish: medium long, on smoked… jellybeans? Comments: most people like the other cask better but I think they’re in equal quality. Both are similarly transgressional ;-). SGP:747 - 80 points.

Ardbeg 1978

As you know, there were little Ardbegs distilled in the 1980s and the distillery was even closed between 1983 and 1989. So, let’s rather have two bottlings distilled in the late 1970s…

Ardbeg 1978/1999 (43%, OB) Five stars I liked the soft 1978/1997 quite a lot, I think it was the first bottling by new owners Glenmorangie (WF 88). I believe this one was the last sequel. Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes, it’s the gentler side of Ardbeg but it’s still a dry and sooty/smoky whisky, rather more medicinal than all the other ones that we just had. Soot, coal, fresh butter, burnt papers and fresh walnuts. Indeed, not quite the very gentle Ardbeg – which is its reputation – as long as you don’t try it ‘against’ the 1975s and 1977s that were issued around the same time. Mouth: same comments, it’s not as discretely smooth as its reputation suggests. Very good mouth feel, great zestiness, huge smoke (who said this wasn’t smoky?), many herbs, nuts, tar, liquorice, a little pine sap, cough drops (do you know Pulmoll?), shellfish… Clams? Excellent. Finish: right, it’s not too long but very briny and ‘kippery’. Some lemon marmalade. Comments: excellent, really. Maybe I find these vintages even more appealing because they’re vanishing from the market but I feel this one is even better than the 1978/1997. SGP:357 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 1976/1993 (46%, Duthies for Alte Tabakstube Germany, cask #921, 341 bottles) Five stars There used to be a 1976/1993 by Duthies for Samaroli that was very good if not totally stellar (WF 90). The Alte Tabakstube is a pioneering shop in Stuttgart that’s been into malt whisky before many others. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is a much wilder one! Starts on unexpected notes of chenin and even a little vinegar, before it becomes typically ‘old Ardbeg’, with this superb combination of bitter oranges, walnuts, tar, almonds, bonfire, putty and liquorice. Also a little humus, fresh mushrooms, touches of lime, lemon grass, kumquats, earth, old pu-erh tea… Humus indeed. Huge complexity, extremely different from the younger bottlings. Superlative. Mouth: oh! Let’s not mince our words: this is as far as any whisky at 46% vol. can go. Anchovies, brine, marzipan, walnuts, tar, liquorice, cider apples, bitter almonds, smoked tea, pu-erh tea, eucalyptus lozenges… And so many other things. Perfect mouth feel, great body (and plenty of legs – wait, no…) Finish: long, chiselled, salty, smoky, almondy… And many other things. Comments: we’re starting to touch the stars. These vintages built the distillery’s reputation. Well done Alte Tabakstube! SGP:357 - 93 points.

Ardbeg 1973

Ardbeg in the early to mid-1970s, which many whisky lovers think was when the distillery made its best ever whiskies…

Ardbeg 1974/2005 (51%, OB, for Norway, bourbon, cask #2749, 120 bottles) Four stars This one is quite rare I think. Mind you, only 120 bottles… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not one of the most wham-bam old Ardbegs but everything’s there, only a little muted. Almond oil, soot, seashells (clams), tar, smoke, coal, liquorice, lemon marmalade, kippers, flints, humus, earth, roots, old papers… Even touches of very fresh garlic (I insist, very fresh garlic – it’s not garlicky at all!) Again, everything’s in place but the whole is a little shy. Maybe water will make it more ‘talkative’? With water: oh no, that didn’t work too well. It became a little stale and cardboardy. Nice whiffs of fresh oysters, though… And some grapefruit too. Mouth (neat): I’m afraid it’s not quite up there with the 1976 by the Old Tobacco House, although it’s great  - of course. There are wee hints of soap and plastic for a start (which can sometimes happen in my experience) and then a very briny avalanche that spoils it a bit in my opinion. Salt in whisky is great, but a salty whisky can be too much. In short, this one is a little too raw and brutal and lacks ‘fondu’ (never found an English term for that – blendiness? Meltedness? Moltenness?) but water should help. Also something a little too ‘chemical’ (cheapo lemon soda). With water:  better but not very complex. Finish: medium long, slightly bitter. Comments: very good, obviously, but maybe not one of the best ‘MCs’ from the mid-1970s. SGP:347 - 87 points.

Ardbeg 17 yo 1973/1991 (55.4%, Dun Eideann, Donato Import, Italy, cask #3933, 450 bottles) Five stars In my short experience, 1973 at Ardbeg could be either stunning, or, err, bizarre… Was the rectifier working intermittently? Colour: amber. Nose: how many whiskies are there that combine heavy peat and sherry in such an otherworldly manner? Port Ellen 12 James Mac Arthur? Ardbeg 1976 Feis Ile? Laphroaig 1974 OB? Caol Ila 15 yo Manager’s Dram? Kingsburies? Maybe ten. Okay, twenty. Tasting notes? Nope. With water: it’s like a very, very old Madeira – if you see what I mean. Very gamy and beautifully so. Mouth (neat): bang-bang-bang-bang! Okay, it’s maybe not as utterly brilliant as on the nose when neat but what a fab combo! Let’s keep this short: peat and sherry can sometimes create a third dimension, and that’s what’s happening here. With water: this is very funny, it became extremely fruity, not unlike a sangria (made with Alvaro Palacios’ best ;-)). Blood oranges galore, strawberries, blackberries, big fat juicy ripe black cherries… That was unexpected! Finish: more sangria ;-) plus a lot of smoke – of course. Comments: weren’t those tasting notes almost void of any tasting notes? Seriously, this Dun Eideann is one of the most entertaining whiskies I could ever taste. SGP:658 - 94 points.

Ardbeg 1965

And lastly, Ardbeg in the 1960s… What would be the price of a brand new (and not tired) 1965 or 1966 Ardbeg today?

Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, hogshead, cask #2443, 264 bottles) Five stars There were three or four different casks of Ardbeg in this series that, like many other 'Moons', seem to inspire several contemporary bottlers as far as label design is concerned. I already tried this cask a long time ago (WF 93) but never took proper notes. Now’s the time, as Charlie would say (Parker, not MacLean). Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes, this is smoother, maybe a little more elegant and obviously shier than the versions from the 1970s, even if it’s younger whisky. It’s not big and it’s rather more on soot, apple peelings, orange zests, linseed oil and then mint and eucalyptus. What’s striking is the way it suddenly becomes much earthier. Huge notes of humus, damp earth, our bellowed old pu-erh teas, also camphor… Maybe this was some very old cask of cough syrup that’s been wrongly stencilled as Islay Malt Whisky? Mouth (neat): ho-ho-ho, now we’re talking! We aren’t very far from the 1972-1976 Ardbegs in fact, even if quite unexpectedly, this baby is rather fruitier, on oranges and maybe overripe apples (the red ones). As for the rest, it’s an avalanche of kippers, anchovies and green olives. Much, much more oomph than in the official 1965 from a few years ago (the one that was delivered with white gloves) but it’s true that it’s much younger. What’s sure is that it didn’t loose much power in glass. Finish: long and classically ‘old Ardbeg’, on almonds, brine, lemon marmalade, ashes and tar. Comments: probably not 95+ material, for that it would need a little more oomph and ‘wideness’, but quality is ultra-high. I had this baby at 93 before and won’t change my score. SGP:457 - 93 points.

Ardbeg 28 yo 1965/1993 (54.4%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half Older 1965s by Cadenhead in their dumpy bottles could be hit or miss so I'm curious about this one that I never tried before. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s rather incredibly punchy after 28 years in wood and 18 years in glass… And very dry, almost chalky. Also very grassy… A lot of bitter almonds, new newspapers (right, ink and paper), maybe artichokes, marzipan, fresh putty, pine sap… It’s not quite an Ardbeggy profile so far – and it became very dry. Quite some bitter chocolate and pepper as well. With water: greener for sure. Grass, fresh peppercorn… Also wet papers, grapefruits, melon skin… In short, more grass, less smoke. Quite some pine sap as well, carbolineum…  And some chocolate too. Mouth (neat): a beast, a beast! This could have been distilled eight years ago, which is amazing. No signs of old age, no ‘smoothness’, no ‘roundness’, rather a very peaty pack, with a lot of salt, notes of topical fruits (kind of a mango and banana compote), some tobacco… There’s also a sourness that hints at some ‘average’ sherry wood… Quite some pepper too, green cardamom… With water: very good but not stellar. A little too dry with water, grassy, cardboardy… Let’s be honest, water kills it (I tried twice). Finish: long, between a beautiful Ardbeggian sooty smokiness and a less beautiful dryness (chalkiness). Comments: I know that such iconic old malt deserves respect and reverences but in truth and even if it’s excellent, there are dozens of 1972-1976 Ardbegs that would easily smash it in my opinion. SGP:368 - 89 points.

All great - almost. The only problem that grew bigger and bigger since 2005 (not to mention 2004 or even 2002, when little Whiskyfun was launched) is this. On the other hand, Ardbeg now use girls in their adverts, so why would we complain?



MUSIC - Recommended listening for our '5,000,000' celebrations: London’s Limelight Bandits doing Nick Lowe’s (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding.

Limelight Bandits
The Bandits are Jon Allen, Kate Kavanagh (WF’s interstellar gig photographer), Nick Morgan (chief of WF’s supersonic concert review department), Leon Tutssel and Martin Will. The track is on their excellent new EP ‘Extended Play’ and I chose it also because it’s sung by Bill Murray in the ‘whisky movie’ Lost in Translation - but the Bandits do it 1000 times better, of course! Please buy the Limelight Bandits’ music (if you can find it) and attend their gigs!




... And a little gift to celebrate a little further...
Annie Tempest
A funny lithograph by Annie Tempest that's on the walls here at WF Tower

April 5, 2011


Tasting four newish Clynelish


Sorry about the silly alliteration. Would you imagine that last time I wrote tasting notes for Clynelish 14, that was in 2004? Yes, time to put things right today and we’ll add three other new Clynelishes for good measure, some old, some younger.

Clynelish 14yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this is no easy whisky in my opinion, it’s got something a little hot and a little spirity at first nosing, rather close to the barley. So, little compromises here at first nosing but a development that’s long and constantly improving, with whiffs of honeycomb arising, then the expected minerality (also hints of clay) and the trademark waxiness (not quite paraffin, not quite beeswax, somewhere in-between), and then some garden fruits such as gooseberries. Also some lemon squash, citronella oil… Mouth: punchy attack, more salty and briny than the nose, with even notes of black olives. The middle is a little less big and more on wax, orange marmalade and ginger (a little), with a pleasant bitterness (chlorophyll gum). Finish: medium long, crisp, with this salty touch in the aftertaste and some chlorophyll again. Comments: I think it’s rather cleaner and crisper than older versions. Of course it’s good. SGP:352 - 85 points.

Clynelish 13 yo 1997 (55.6%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #4607, 283 bottles, +/-2010) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: at first nosing it’s rather the 14 with more oomph, but then it becomes rather more aromatic, with the citrus notes more to the front as well as a little sandalwood. It’s also quite flowery, with whiffs of jasmine. Other than that, it’s pure Clynelish so far. With water: more pure, uncompromising Clynelish, very mineral. Paraffin, clay and seawater. Mouth (neat): what can I say? This is simply 100% Clynelish. Tight, with citrus to the front and wax just behind. Perfect – I mean, totally to my liking. With water: ditto. Finish: very long and with echoes of old pre-1967 Clynelish. Comments: this is why Clynelish is so highly regarded within the whisky industry. It’s whisky with a ‘true’ body (no cosmetic surgery here). Highly recommended. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Clynelish 15 yo 1995/2010 (52.7%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams for Germany, bourbon) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: much more austere, with much more vanilla than in the Exclusive and rather less fruits, but the ‘Clynelishness’ is soon to arise above the vanilla, together with more and more grassy and briny notes. Lemon. With water: rougher, grassier and more mineral. It’s a good kind of roughness in my opinion. Mouth (neat): more or less the same as the Exclusive Malt, maybe a little grassier, saltier and more bitter. Let’s see if water will set them more apart. With water: very good but not 100% extra-pure Clynelish, maybe the cask was a wee bit too active (yes, I believe casks can be too active). Finish: long, citrusy, slightly bitter. Very nice notes of pine sap in the aftertaste. Comments: this is excellent, it’s just that there are some even better ones around in my opinion, including quite a few by The Nectar. SGP:362 - 86 points.

Clynelish 28 yo 1982/2010 (46.4%, Silver Seal, 30th Anniversary, 138 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is obviously different from the youngsters, even if we’re well in the same family. Richer, more complex, more phenolic and more on spices from the wood, although those aren’t the usual spices. There’s quite a lot of cedar wood, eucalyptus leaves, then herbal teas such as rosehip (and rosehip jam as well), spearmint, touches of lavender… Quite unusual indeed. With this kind of nose the palate could be a little too bitter (dry/extractive), let’s see… Mouth: indeed, the oak’s big here and the attack is a little drying/tannic, with a ‘cinnamony feeling’ if you see what I mean. That is a little too bad because everything that’s behind the tannicity is quite beautiful and typically 1982/83 Clynelish, from wax to marmalade and from tropical fruits to fresh almonds. Let’s see what water will do to it: it does improve it a bit, making the waxiness more vivid and, quite surprisingly, the tannins softer. It’s actually excellent but the problem is that most drinkers will never add water to a malt that was bottled at around 46% vol. In this case, you’ll miss most of it.  Finish (with water): medium long, honeyed and waxy. Some apricot as well, marzipan… Comments: the problem is to come up with a fair score here. Without water, it would be around 84 but with water it reached the 90-mark, whilst little people will add water to this baby. Hem… A straight average will do. SGP:461 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: we're in 1987 and Mark Isham and Art Lande record their superb album We Begin for ECM. There were many gems on it, one of them being Lande's solo piece titled Sweet Circle. Please buy Art Lande's music (and thanks mucho, Chris!)

Art Lande

April 4, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

We almost never publish press releases (because some, such as Whisky Intelligence, do that so brilliantly) but this is different. I’ll simply copy-and-paste the thing for you…

Craft Distillers support Japan
A group of independent Scottish Distilleries have agreed to collaborate to produce a unique whisky and donate all proceeds to the disaster relief effort in Japan.
Each of the seven distilleries, representing the best craft producers in the Scotch whisky business, will donate a cask of their single malt that will be expertly blended to create a limited edition whisky, appropriately called the Spirit of Unity, which will never be produced again.
The connections between the malt whisky industry and Japan are strong as few consumers are as passionate about malt whisky as the Japanese and it has been a major export market for many years.
The idea came from Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers. Mitchell explained: “Many in our industry, like me, travel regularly to Japan and have made friends and contacts with Japanese whisky enthusiasts.
“On seeing the scale and horror of the problems they are facing we were moved to help and other craft distillers immediately came onboard.”
The distillers are Arran, BenRiach, Bladnoch, GlenDronach, Mitchell’s Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank. Each of them is a multiple award-winning independent business. They have never collaborated in this way and are never likely to again.
The combined contribution will produce approximately 2,000 bottles with 1,200 available in the UK. The remainder will be shipped to Japan with some being donated for sale in New Zealand to assist with relief in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.
It is expected that the release will be oversubscribed as soon as it is made available.
With the support of suppliers and partners, including retailers, a conservative estimate is that at least £50,000 will be donated to the relief effort.
Independent whisky expert David Broom comments: “This is a marvellous and compassionate response to the dreadful tragedy which has befallen Japan and is a beautifully symbolic gesture of how the craft distillers of Scotland are working together to help their friends in that country.
“What's more, with the pedigree of the distilleries involved I know that this will be a superb whisky.
“Nothing like this has been produced before and whisky lovers around the world will be clamouring to own and taste this one-off bottling. In doing so, they will be helping aid the Japanese people."
For whisky fans the leading producers each represent acclaimed malt whisky regions in Islands, Speyside, Highland, Islay, Campbeltown and Lowland.
The producers will offer the limited bottling available through two leading online whisky retailers; Royal Mile Whiskies and Loch Fyne Whiskies, and in their respective shops in Edinburgh & London and Inveraray.
Euan Mitchell: “Not a penny of profit will be taken from this project by any of the parties involved with the packaging being donated free of charge by Chesapeake Branded Packaging.
“The Spirit of Unity will be available in store and for despatch by the end of April with details being posted on the websites of the distillers and retailers.”
Pre-orders at £59 per bottle (+p&p) are now being taken at www.royalmilewhiskies.com and www.LFW.co.uk <ENDS>

Let's all buy one!


Tasting four middle-aged Bowmore



Some of these casks were ex-oloroso and I could try a few so far that were not to my liking at all, as I thought the combination created some kind of mega-huge sulphury nightmare. I mean, really sulphury (eggs, cabbage, asparagus water and such). Let’s see if any of these will follow the same path…

Bowmore 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Murray McDavid, Enhanced in Petrus casks, 1200 bottles) Three stars As you know, Petrus is the most famous Pomerol. Merlot ahead! Colour: straw with salmony hues. Nose: it was probably not some first fill Petrus barriques as it’s Bowmore that has the upper hand here. Very little winey notes, maybe touches of blackcurrants and cherries but that may be autosuggestion. Other than that, it’s all a very nice ‘recent Bowmore’ profile, briny, smoky, fresh and very coastal. Whiffs of charcoal as well, quite some cut grass, radish tops… Water kills any remaining vinosity. Mouth: rather sweeter and rounder, with more wine influence. Peach leaves, a little rubber, grass, hints of sweet pickling onions, then a more classical Bowmoreness… Notes of strawberry jam in the background. Finish: medium long, rather sweet. Notes of caramel and raspberry eau-de-vie. Blueberries. Comments: I think the combination works quite well. A nice variation if you’ve already got a few middle-aged Bowmores in your cabinet. SGP:556 - 82 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 1995/2010 (51.8%, Whisky-Fässle for Whiskyfest Biberach, oloroso) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s no explosive Bowmore, it’s rather an elegant one, with little oloroso character at this point. Fresh lemon and shellfish, ‘sweet’ peat, fresh butter, candy sugar and seaweed. Rather discreet but water should unleash more aromas… With water: perfect, rich, smoky and much more on espresso coffee and Cointreau. Mouth (neat): excellent! Nothing like the monsters I could try a few months ago, the oloroso is rather discreet and even elegant here. Nice notes of blood oranges and marmalade on top of the usual smokiness and kippers, orange zests, a little ginger and pepper… It’s all rather sweet. Orange and ginger salad? With water: rich and candied, more on glazed oranges, ginger and then white pepper. A little green tea. Finish: very long, with more lemon, smoked tea and a greenness (Japanese macha)… It’s in the aftertaste that’s the peat is biggest. Comments: good balance between the spirit and the sherry. Excellent. SGP:565 - 88 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 1995/2010 (51.8%, The Whisky Agency For Nantes Whisky Club, Oloroso Sherry, 84 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: of course it’s very close to the Whisky-Fässle but it’s a little different, a tad more on lemon, brine, mint and sour apples. Just a tiny-wee tad… With water: once again, we’re close but this one seems to be a little farmier. Less coffee, more wet hay. High quality. Mouth (neat): it’s the same whisky as the ‘Fässle’ version now. Or maybe not… What’s sure is that they’re extremely similar. Please read above. With water: ditto. Finish: same. Comments: as I said... SGP:565 - 88 points.

Bowmore 1995/2010 (56.4%, Malts of Scotland, Amazing Casks, cask #177, 222 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is much more austere, more on flints, soot, damp earth, mint, angelica and cut grass. Also unexpected hints of tinned pineapples and fresh mangos. It does have something of the old young Bowmores such as the 7yos from the 1960s. Interesting! Let’s see if water will push it even more into that direction… With water: wow! More vanilla from the barrel but also more humus, roots, moss and mushrooms. Extreme elegance. More flints. Mouth (neat): oh yes! Passion fruits, grapefruits, peat, ashes, big fat oysters and cider apples. The kind of flawless Bowmore that goes straight to the point. With water: even more so, with just a little more sweetness from the American oak. Finish: long, with a lot of peat, grapefruits and pepper. Comments: as good and clean as it can get in my opinion. Superb zestiness. SGP:456 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: French guitarists Boulou Ferré and brother Elios and his quintet playing the aptly named piece Brothers to brothers. Please buy the Ferres' music.

Boulou et Elios Ferre

April 3, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Friends, I've updated the list of my all-time favourites. There are 45 of them out of +/-7,000 whiskies that I could taste so far and you'll find the list in the right column, just below the three Glencairn glasses.



Tasting two Glenmorangie finished in Sauternes
Sauternes finishing (and similar natural sweet wines such as Cadillac, Cérons, Barsac and the likes) often works pretty well in my opinion, as the sweet notes do complement most whiskies and both usually go in the same direction, say like fruits and honey, while other wines – not all of them of course - sometimes go in opposite directions and are sort of dissonant. Say like coffee and mustard or chocolate and gherkins (please don’t try that at home!)

Glenmorangie  'Nectar d'Or' (46%, OB, Sauternes finish, +/- 2010) Four stars Last time I tried the Nectar d'Or that was when it was launched, in 2007. It was my favourite of the 'finished' range, by far (WF 86). Let’s try this newer batch today... Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh, very fruity and very honeyed at first nosing, but not only that because there are also whiffs of flowers, dandelions, lilac… Also quite some fresh butter as well as tiny whiffs of Muscat grapes (or rather muscadelle here). As for the fruits, it’s towards plums and quinces. Also touches of liquorice. We’re very close to a well-aged Sauternes here, which is quite amazing. The spirit is probably almost only the medium here, but the whole is beautiful in my opinion.  Mouth: the spirit has more to say here - there’s more citrus fruits, gooseberries and even strawberries – while the honeyed notes are much more discrete. It’s less smooth and rounded and rather more ‘nervous’ than on the nose. Some oak as well and a slight bitterness (green oak, chlorophyll gums). Quite some green tea as well, walnuts, orange cake… It’s all good. Finish: rather long, balanced, on orange marmalade and green tea. Some hints of grape pips or apple peelings in the aftertaste. Comments: it could be that it became more complex on the nose and a little less so on the palate. Average quality is very similar in my opinion. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Glenmorangie 1981/2010 'Pride' (56.7%, OB, 1000 bottles) Five stars Not exactly a finishing, rather a 'double maturation' as this baby spent ten years in Château d'Yquem casks. It is to be noted that Yquem (owned by LVMH just like Glemorangie) use only new casks/oak each year but that the wine usually spends three years in wood before bottling, which should balance that 'new oak' side. This new and probably expensive Glenmorangie was already bottled but it will only be available in July this year. It’s also to be noted that there was a Glenmorangie 1981 Sauternes finish bottled in 2002 (WF 88) so I guess the Pride is from the same batch that was kept in the Sauternes casks for eight more years. Colour: deep gold. Nose: more power, obviously, and just tiny eggy notes at first nosing that are soon to vanish. It’s also rather more complex but a tad more buttery as well. More herbs (verbena), old wine cellar (dampness), fresh mushrooms… More apricots as well, fruit wine like they make in Germany (redcurrant wine?)… Globally, we’re less ‘straight Sauternes’ than with the Nectar d’Or but we’re still in the wine universe. With water: more herbs (wormwood, chamomile, lemon grass) and more fruit jams, but it never becomes heady. Absolutely no eggy notes anymore. Mouth (neat): ah yes! Perfect attack, both nervous and rather citrusy on the one side and smooth and creamy on the other side… Err, it’s hard to explain. No signs of French oak extravaganza, no plankishness, rather some quite perfect notes of apricot jam, wine jelly, juicyfruits… Also some pepper and a little cinnamon, faint hints of raspberry jam… And, maybe, touches of botrytis. Yquem is often very botrytised! By the way, as these casks see only one vintage anyway (unless they were sold to smaller chateaux later on before they were shipped to Scotland), maybe our Scottish friends could add the wine’s vintage to their labels? After all, vintages have a huge importance and Yquem can be very different depending on the years. But I’m digressing… With water: not different, just easier, even if the tannicity is a little bigger (green tea, white pepper). Finish: long, with the spices more to the front and a slight toastiness in the aftertaste. Botrytis again or am I dreaming? Comments: I like this a lot, it’s more profound than the very good Nectar d’Or and rather sleeker than the recent Finealta, Sonnalta or  Signet. More expensive as well (around £1,000, I’ve heard). SGP:561 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I was looking for something ultra-sweet to go with the excellent 'Sauternised' Glenmorangies and thought Julienne Taylor's rendition of Ripples would do, even if it's no usual WF material - at all! As you know, the original version of Ripples was on Genesis' 1976 album A Trick of the Tail. Please buy Julienne Taylor's music...

Julienne Taylor

April 2, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

No Teafun.com I’m afraid
Right, right, yesterday was April 1st and I’m afraid Whiskyfun won’t become Teafun anytime soon, although it’s sometimes tempting I must say.

Indeed, I like for instance the best pu-erhs very much and I think that just like some sakes, cognacs or rums, they can make for nice malternatives from time to time. I’m planning to work with a famous Chinese tea master on a session that would combine some rare old pu-erhs and high-end whiskies for some French magazines, but that won’t happen soon I’m afraid. So, yes, yesterday’s post was a joke indeed! Apologies…
(and apologies to all the lovers of bamboo flutes!)


April 1, 2011


The Whiskyfun madness is OVER, please welcome Teafun.com !

Friends, I’m deeply sorry, but this is it. After +/- 7,000 different tasting notes, I’m fed up with whisky. I knew this was going to happen one day. Again, I’m sorry.


In fact, it all happened yesterday. I was going to taste an official Clynelish 8yo spring cap that had been bottled around 1930. Quite appropriately, I had put Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson on the stereo. My glasses were ready, as were a water jug and a pipette. All of a sudden, I felt a longing for tea instead of whisky. Believe me, it was a strange feeling. Like a robot, I cleared my table, poured the Clynelish into the sink and went down to my cellar, where I had started to put old pu-erh tea cakes (Bingchá) into storage a while back. A premonition? I came back up with a 65yo Jing Chang Hao that I had bought in China and a young Wao Zing Pao from 2005. Then I took my brand new gungfu chá set that I had bought at Beijing airport and had never used since then, including a genuine fake 12cl YiXing teapot, and I was on.

Tasting tea and buying Pu-erh
in China for Teafun.com
Believe me or not, it’s been the most wonderful tasting session I’ve ever done and that’s why I’ve decided, not only to drop whisky altogether, but also to turn Whiskyfun.com into Teafun.com starting right today. You may expect loads of new tea tasting notes in the coming weeks as well as quite some cosmetic changes to the cavern-age layout of this lousy website. It was about time! I’ll also become much more ‘social’, pounding Twitter, harassing YouTube and shelling Facebook. Not too sure I’ll keep all my old notes for whisky online, at least not for very long, as I’ll need storage space for my tea notes. As for the Malt Maniacs, I’ll try to win them all over to tea as well and if they ever refuse to do so, I think I’ll simply launch the Tea Maniacs very soon.

Anyway, time to publish these first notes that I took yesterday night, I hope you’ll enjoy them! Some of these teas can take 15 or even 20 steepings but we’ll do just six so that it doesn’t all get even more boring than with malt whisky.


Wao Zing Pao 2005 ‘Young Mr. Chang’s Favourite’ (China, Pu-erh, sheng, 12kg cake) As you know, sheng means ‘raw’ or ‘green’ in China, as opposed to ‘cooked’ pu-erh, that is to say artificially aged Pu-erh. Raw Pu-ehrs need much more time to mature than cooked ones and in that sense they resemble old-style malt whisky, while cooked Pu-erhs may resemble ‘bourbonised’ or ‘finished’ malt whiskies. But why am I still talking about malt whisky? Let’s try this young and probably immature Pu-erh, although they’re said to be drinkable from 5 years of age on. By the way, it comes from the Menghai county of Yunnan, where the wild tea trees grow at an average altitude of 9,200 metres above sea level.

Steeping 1 (15 sec) – Colour: yellow. Nose: not much. Uncooked spaghettis? Palate: not much more. Stewed broccolis? Finish: none.
Steeping 2 (20 sec) – Colour: yellow. Nose: hello?! Is there anybody? Palate: a bit of chalk, a bit of grass. The end of a rugby match. Finish: some.
Steeping 3 (25 sec) – Colour: yellow. Nose: this is getting boring. Palate: grass. Finish: very little.
Steeping 4 (30 sec) – Colour: pale yellow. Nose: yawn… Palate: maybe a little grass. Not sure. Finish: ?
Steeping 5 (45 sec) – Colour: very pale yellow. Nose: … Palate: maybe the taste of half a confetti. Finish: zzzz.
Steeping 6 (60 sec) – Colour: white. Nose:… Palate:… Finish:…
Comments: this ‘tea’ was one long yawn. SGP:010 - 10 points


Jing Chang Hao 65yo (China, Pu-erh, sheng, unknown terroir, pre-Mao Zedong, 350g cake) Five stars This one is a very rare old Pu-erh, made before the tea industry was nationalised by Mao Zedong. There isn’t much information to be found about these very rare cakes but beware, there are fakes in the market and you just cannot buy any of these when a genuine tea expert isn’t with you. Yes, it’s all just like that other drink we were pretty much into until very recent times...  

Steeping 1 (15 sec) – Colour: pale peony red. Nose: now we’re talking! Already deep, with notes of semi-dried Hungarian morels and pre-Castro smoked Henry Clays. Palate: smooth, on banana liqueur and pre-1960 Bowmore (S.! stop it!). Finish: not too long yet, but clean and profound.
Steeping 2 (20 sec) – Colour: peony red. Nose: bursts with notes of used motor oil (one-cylinder 1974 Ducati) and even more mushrooms (more porcinis now). Palate: superb, with some 100yo balsamic vinegar and subtle notes of Bulgarian caraway. Finish: long, refreshing, with touches of Red Rat Crazy Dog Stout.
Steeping 3 (25 sec) – Colour: peony red with amber hues. Nose: 1928 Mouton in magnum and only touches of Pakistani banknote. Palate: umami and with flying colours. Isn’t umami Chinese? Finish: very long, clean, playful, Vivaldian.
Steeping 4 (30 sec) – Colour: pale peony red with golden hues. Nose: Mouton became Lafite and 1928 became 1945. Yes, in magnum. Palate: a Prussian officer’s pickelhaube and some traces of Club Med piña colada. Finish: getting shorter, like Britney’s dresses.
Steeping 5 (45 sec) – Colour: light peony red with citrine hues. Nose: long forgotten cocaine in some Ibiza public toilets and seven years old soy sauce. Palate: Christian Dior flaming red lipstick and the inside of a Mongolian walnut shell. Finish: short, on long-abandoned raspberry-flavoured chewing gum.
Steeping 6 (60 sec) – Colour: very light peony red with no hues at all, we’re sorry. Nose: very delicate, on white asparagus and Paris Hilton’s tears plus musky Dutch roses. Palate: velvety. Barbecued Libyan scorpion and toasted marshmallows. Finish: very short, on, well, nothing much. It became unpretentious, in a certain sense, which is a great thing.
Comments: symphonic. Mahler's best. SGP:483 – 99 points

Good, I think we have our score bracket for our next tea tastings, which was all we needed to go on. Tomorrow we’ll taste a Banzhang 1997 and a Boulang 1998 head-to-head, both being ‘sheng’ chá. Curious about those two… We’ll also do some ‘home vatting’, trying to blend Lapsangs with Pu-erhs or Wulongs with Assams. Stay tuned!


PS: as I’ve learned from some Chinese websites (all most probably very trustworthy!), Pu-erh tea also has these health benefits that malt whisky may well not have: (quote) “from anti aging, prevention of heart disease and cancer, diabetic control, removal of toxins to curing dysentery, inflammation, aiding digestion and weight loss, improving the eyesight, blood circulation and reviving those who are overly intoxicated with alcohol.” Not much it doesn’t cure! Also the last bit convinced me even more that my move was right.

MUSIC - Heavily recommended listening: some wonderful solo Chinese bamboo flute. I'm sorry, I have no ideas regarding who's playing it but please buy his music! And rejoice, rejoice, I'll post much more bamboo flute music in the coming months!


March 2011 - part 2 <--- April 2011 - part 1 ---> April 2011 - part 2

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



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

Ardbeg 1978/1999 (43%, OB)

Ardbeg 17 yo 1973/1991 (55.4%, Dun Eideann, Donato Import, Italy, cask #3933, 450 bottles)

Ardbeg 1976/1993 (46%, Duthies for Alte Tabakstube Germany, cask #921, 341 bottles)

Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, hogshead, cask #2443, 264 bottles)

Bowmore 1995/2010 (56.4%, Malts of Scotland, Amazing Casks, cask #177, 222 bottles)

Clynelish 13 yo 1997 (55.6%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #4607, 283 bottles, +/-2010)

Glenmorangie 1981/2010 'Pride' (56.7%, OB, 1000 bottles)

Longmorn 35 yo 1975/2010 (48.8%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead, cask #2943)

Tomatin 1976/2011 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill butt, 309 bottles)

Tomatin 34 yo 1976 /2011 (51%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, refill sherry, cask #6822)