(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2014 - Part 1

March 2014 - part 2 <--- April 2014 - part 1 ---> April 2014 - part 2


April 14, 2014


A short verticale of five Glen Garioch

They are like the middle-aged Longmorns, +/-20yo Glen Gariochs are growing on trees these days, and we just won’t complain as they’re often very, very excellent. And sometimes a little old-school. Let’s check these relatively new ones…

Glen Garioch 20 yo 1993/2014 (55.1%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #808, 226 bottles)

Glen Garioch 20 yo 1993/2014 (55.1%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #808, 226 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a raw, citric one, one that takes no prisoners as they say. Cherries and grass smoke, strong green tea, orange zests and juice. Whiffs of nail polish as well. Again, its raw spirit. With water: two whiskies in one. This baby loves water, it becomes fresher, smoother and fruitier. More complex as well, with touches of patchouli and eucalyptus. A wee coastal side, maybe (empty seashells). Mouth (neat): once again, it’s a very strong baby when neat, quite aggressive, spirity, rather acrid, with a varnishy fruitiness that would involve greenish oranges and many limes. Really punchy when undiluted. With water: and yet again, it becomes all smoothness and fruitiness. Melons, peaches, tangerines. Finish: long, very fruity when reduced. Some barley sugar and black tea. Comments: very excellent, but needs water. Or you like rough whiskies… SGP:651 - 86 points.

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1992/2013 (52.8%, Acla da Fans, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1992/2013 (52.8%, Acla da Fans, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: styles are similar, but this one has more depth and complexity when unreduced, but that may come from the lower strength as well. I find aromas that used to be found in older Glen Gariochs (1965, 1971), with this kind of ashy smoke and this blend of ripe oranges with tobacco and cedar wood. Great nose for sure. With water: it’s one of the rare cases when you find OBE in new whisky. Old tools, metal polish, hay, shoe polish… Mouth (neat): superbly peaty and orangey, with great body and quite some tobacco again. Something rooty/earthy too, and touches of passion fruits. What’s not to like? With water: more of all that. Leafy ashes, I’d say. Finish: long, very ashy, sooty. A lingering high-level OBE, very funny and interesting. Comments: simply a great one that hints at much older vintages. Should be a shared cask according to the outturn, where’s the other half? SGP:453 - 88 points.

Glen Garioch 20 yo 1991/2012 (54.6%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #4454, 238 bottles)

Glen Garioch 20 yo 1991/2012 (54.6%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #4454, 238 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this one is different again, this time with whiffs of oils and waxes rather than fresh fruits or straight smoke. Light olive oil and paraffin, putty, then grass and branches. The most austere, but once again, water may completely change it. Let’s see. With water: not quite, it remains austere, waxy, chalky and slightly grassy. Nothing that I do not enjoy. Mouth (neat): very excellent and kind of Clynelishy. An east-coast maritime side, wax, oils, citrons, lemons, lemongrass… Excellent mouth feel, the whole is chiselled and tense. With water: hurray! A drop of guava juice comes through, otherwise it’s superbly citrusy and waxy. Finish: long, with a bitter grassiness that cleans your palate. Comments: we’re well on the Pulteney – Clynelish – Glen Garioch line. Some train! SGP:462 - 89 points.

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2013 (51.5%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, refill hogshead, 272 bottles)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2013 (51.5%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, refill hogshead, 272 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s the style of the 1993 that’s back, with something raw, both acidic and acetic, but there are lovely medicinal touches in the background. Aspirin tablets, antiseptic… With water: a little dairy cream and quite some soaked barley, wet wool and all that. Slightly muddy, not obligatorily a bad thing, but this one hasn’t got the others’ immediacy. Mouth (neat): ah yes! I wasn’t too fond of the nose, but this really delivers, with a medicinal side again, lemongrass, a feeling of clay, bags of grapefruits and some very tense notes of sauvignon blanc. With water: grapefruits, a smokiness, touches of earth, gooseberries, green tea. Finish: long, with more lime and lemon. That’s nice. Comments: rather an unusual one. Very good, but may lack impact and precision. Remember, only one guy’s opinions. SGP:352 - 84 points.

Glen Garioch 23 yo (54.3%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 2013)

Glen Garioch 23 yo (54.3%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 2013) Five stars Could be a 1990 again, but there’s no evidence. Either that or 1989. Say it’s 1989 so that we’ve had a nice and clean verticale ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: smoke, leaves, chalk, dry white wine and grass. That’s all folks, but I love that. Could be manzanilla if you ask me. With water: just the same, plus maybe touches of mustard. Mouth (neat): high impact, ultra-narrow, smoky and very grassy. Wheelbarrows of fresh walnuts, lemon, pepper and earth. So simple, so great. With water: exceptional, with a great salinity. Very peaty for a 1989-1990 Glen Garioch. Finish: very long, very grassy, quite briny in fact. You may add a tiny pickled gherkin. Comments: I had hoped we’d find a 90+ today, we’ve found one. But again, it’s very simple whisky, and watch out, you have to like the briny side… SGP:354 - 91 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Garioch I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ (hard jazz!). Performer: Donny McCaslin. Track: Says Who. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 12, 2014


Two extreme young whiskies from Frisco

(Almost) live from sunny San Francisco, two very different whiskies that have been bottled for two of the city’s most famous whisky shops. Both should be quite beastly…

Balcones ‘1’ (53%, OB for CASK San Francisco, USA, batch SM 13-10, bottled 11/6/13)

Balcones ‘Special Release’ (53%, OB for CASK San Francisco, USA, batch SM 13-10, bottled 11/6/13) Three stars The fact that it’s for the CASK whisky shops isn’t written on the label, but the shop assistant did swear to Vishnu that it was. It’s a single malt. Colour: dark amber. Nose: an avalanche of roasted coffee beans at first nosing, as well as pencil shavings and quite some pomegranate jam, then more menthol, eucalyptus and ginger. Also a little thuja wood, bananas flambéed and liquid liquorice. I find this quite spectacular, probably very extractive but I think it works. With water: even more burnt wood and caramel, but the general profile doesn’t change much, although it’s now rather less piny. Mouth (neat): the oak’s very apparent, and frankly this is akin to a kind of oak-and-pinewood liqueur, but bizarrely it’s quite to my liking. Huge notes of burnt caramel, dark toffee and ‘spice mix to make mulled wine’.  Star anise, cloves, cinnamon… Also some concentrated chestnut honey, perhaps. With water: more fruits, such as pomegranates again, as well as bitter oranges. The wood is still very apparent, but it’s mastered. Finish: pretty long and very spicy. I even find chillies, some lime and quite some coriander in the aftertaste. A lot of caramel and fudge too. Comments: probably one of the rare occurrences where a very heavy woodiness works. I wouldn’t quaff more than two or three cls at a time, but in its own genre, this young wood-doped spirit is one of the best examples. Craft indeed. SGP:471 - 80 points.

Talisker 5 yo 2008/2013 (58.2%, The Speakeasy, K&L Wine Merchants, USA, refill hogshead, 345 bottles)

Talisker 5 yo 2008/2013 (58.2%, The Speakeasy, K&L Wine Merchants, USA, refill hogshead, 345 bottles) Four stars A bottling done by Douglas Laing for the famous San Franciscan merchants. I think it’s interesting to try an ultra-young naked Talisker. Colour: white wine. Nose: formidable! It reminds me of an 8 years old that Milroys had ten or twelve years ago. I find this spirit (because it’s maybe not exactly ‘whisky’ even if it legally is) extremely mezcally, with loads of black olives, brine, earth, coal and grass smokes, antiseptic, seawter and tar. The olivy side is very spectacular – and I love olives. With water: big saponification (soapiness being created), which almost always happens when you reduce young peaters in my opinion. Only one way out, to wait… (zzz zzz zzz). Good, it needed almost 15 minutes to get rid of the soap, but then it got beautifully earthy. Some seaweed too. Mouth (neat): instant peppery and briny peat, with great lemons and grapefruits in the background. We always say that Talisker is peppery, and this is obvious proof since the pepper cannot come from the oak here (the oak’s very discreet). A super high-impact, this little whisky is very brutal and even quite acrid. Not for the faint-hearted, as they say. With water: lovely notes of pink grapefruits, drops of cranberry juice, pink peppercorns… All that on a smoky and ashy brine. Civilisation! Finish: long, on ashes, peppercorns, brine and limejuice. Harder again, in a good way. Comments: brilliant, provided you like extreme whiskies. The smokiness is huge, it’s just that it’s all a little ‘difficult’… in a good way. Probably for die-hard peat lovers only, but then… SGP:358 - 87 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Cuong Vu. Track: All the things you are. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 11, 2014


Yet another little bag of blends

We’ll try to select better ones this time, because blend isn’t always crap, says Vox Populi.

Nevis Dew ‘Special Reserve’ (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

Nevis Dew ‘Special Reserve’ (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Two stars and a half A variation of Ben Nevis’ well-known Dew of Ben Nevis. Should be the entry-level bottling. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I think the malt shines through, and in this case it’s a young and rather vibrant Ben Nevis, with this very typical burnt fruitiness. It’s all quite clean here, despite – or maybe thanks to – a wee soapiness that’s not unpleasant. Rose petals? Or better yet, gewürztraminer. Also roasted malt and whiffs of wood smoke. This nose has character. Mouth: good! Sure it’s no big whisky but again, it’s quite characterful, with some malt, roasted nuts, these very peculiar oranges that are usually to be found in Ben Nevis (Marcel’s kumquats?) and something flowery. The middle is weaker though, and a little cardboardy. 43% would have been welcome. Finish: short and thin, sadly. Loses points here. Caramel and sugar cane, orange squash… Comments: it’s a lovely composition, we’re far from many bland blends, but more oomph was needed for it to fetch 80+ in my book. SGP:442 - 78 points.

Putachieside 12 yo (40%, Cadenhead, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

Putachieside 12 yo (40%, Cadenhead, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Four stars One of the famous old blends by Cadenhead (Moidart, Campbeltown Loch, Putachieside…) Colour: white wine. Nose: as always in the best blends, the malts do all the talking and the silent spirits (the grains) just keep quiet. This time it’s a whole basket of orchard fruits, especially apples, complemented with almonds, marzipan, orange blossom and a fatty/greasy touch that cannot not hint at Springbank, or rather Longrow. Perfect nose for a blend. Mouth: absolutely terrific, the Longrowness strikes first (not sure at all there’s some Longrow inside, but it really feels like that), with some smoke, lemongrass, chlorophyll, a wee feeling of antiseptic, mouthwash and fresh orange juice, then straight malt and toasted bread. A little grapefruit too. Finish: abnormally long considering the strength, and perfectly sooty and orangey. Comments: love this blend by Cadenhead. We’re so far from the large-volume ones! SGP:552 - 85 points.

While we were talking about Moidart…

Moidart 10 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Scotch blended malt, +/-2013)

Moidart 10 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Scotch blended malt, +/-2013) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re extremely close to Putachieside, I had thought this would be more different. It seems that the juice is almost the same, or I am very tired. And yes I know this is all malt, while the other baby had some grain inside. Same smoky, medicinal, sooty profile. After ten minutes, the malty side gets bigger than that of the Putachieside. Phew, it wasn’t me… Mouth: same, just bigger. Can you smoke bananas? So peat, vanilla, drops of brine, a little cough syrup, apple juice and eucalyptus drops. Perfect body. Finish: long, smoky, sooty, malty, lemony, perfect. Spicier aftertaste. Comments: hide the label and claim it’s 1987 Longrow. Well, almost. SGP:553 - 87 points.

The Moidart was a trap, which blend could still put up a good show after it? Let’s try another little-known blended malt… And if that doesn’t work, we’ll simply stop.

The Feathery (40%, Spencerfield Spirit, Highland blended malt, 2014)

The Feathery (40%, Spencerfield Spirit, Highland blended malt, 2014) Three stars This baby by the good people who are behind Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose. Purely Highlands but careful, it’s only 40% vol. And remember Speyside lies in the Highlands. Colour: dark gold. Nose: well, I like this. It’s rather ‘Highlands’ indeed, with a waxy minerality and lovely whiffs of leather, tobacco and oranges, then polished woods and a little earth. There is also some nutty sherry inside, with walnuts and a wee touch of ginger and curry powder. Well composed for sure! Mouth: cerealy, but the oak feels a bit too much for my taste, with some ginger, spicy fudge and cloves (re-racked?) Develops on rather un-Scottish notes, such as rye, but quality remains quite high. Bitter oranges, two or three violet bonbons. Loses steam a bit… 40% isn’t enough. Finish: a little too short, and that’s a shame because one can feel that the composition works well. Comments: a very good, but curious blend of old-schoolness (the nose) and modernity (the palate). A little more oomph would have been welcome. SGP:531 - 80 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Blends I've tasted so far



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: Marvin Sease. Track: Bad love affair. Please buy his music...

April 10, 2014


Another bag of blends, some really cheap

Because, you know, we ought to use the whole 100-scale or some will start to complain…

Statesman (40%, OB, Scotch blend, Aldi, +/-2014)

Statesman (40%, OB, Scotch blend, Aldi, +/-2014) This baby’s very cheap, around 10€. It’s bottled by a certain Abbeyhill Distilling Co. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a little molassy, with also quite some overripe (okay, rotting) bananas and other than that, I find some fermenting grass. All that is quite weak and reminds me of some Indian whiskies. Mouth: sweet and burnt at the same time. Same notes of overripe fruits, then some wood alcohol, cheap strawberry jam and a lot of caramel. Almost no body. Finish: very short, sugary, with again these notes of rotting bananas. Burnt sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: I guess this is kind of drinkable on a lot of ice. And hey, we’ve seen worse. SGP:410 - 34 points.

Scottish Glory (40%, OB, Duncan Taylor, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

Scottish Glory (40%, OB, Duncan Taylor, Scotch blend, +/-2013) This one is said to be three years old on various websites. It’s very expensive at around 30 to 35€. Colour: gold. Nose: straighter and maltier than the Statesman, more discreet, more on roasted nuts as well, then warm bread. Some dust and milk, mashed potatoes… Very dry, there isn’t much happening in the glass, I’m afraid. Mouth: a little honey, Ovaltine, brioche and maple syrup, which is relatively pleasant. Things don’t improve after the arrival, it gets a little dirty and dusty. Having said that there’s a little orange liqueur, not too unpleasant. Stewed fruits. Finish: short, with some caramel and apple crumble. A little pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: goes down. Very entry-level, but it’s a shining star when compared with the rather horrible Statesman. SGP:321 – 60 points.

William Lawson’s (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

William Lawson’s (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) I had tried an old version (+/-1980) and it’s been barely okay. I think William Lawson’s is better known for their catchy commercials. In France, a bottle will coast you around 12 or 13€. Can’t be the Koh-I-Noor of whisky, can it. Colour: gold (I agree, they’re all golden anyway, thanks to massive doses of caramel.) Nose: same as the Scottish Glory, more or less. Mashed potatoes, dust, cardboard, grains, bread and Ovaltine. Maybe a little more grass. Weak! Mouth: again, same ballpark, it’s a weakish grainy and rather burnt whisky, with a flat mouth feel and an obvious dustiness, plus a little liquorice and corn syrup. Improves a bit over time – but you have to be patient – with more stewed fruits. Finish: short, burnt and syrupy at the same time. Comments: meant do be drown in other liquids, I imagine. Somewhat potable. SGP:331 - 56 points.

Let’s see if the 12yo is more to our liking…

William Lawson's 12 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

William Lawson's 12 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Two stars I haven’t seen this bottle very often in supermarkets. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a firmer version of the NAS, with a similar grainy and mashy background. Quite some apple peelings and maple syrup, a little burnt wood, a little caramel, maybe a little more barley. Also touches of mint, which is pretty nice in this context. The whole remains very light. Mouth: this is frankly better. More body, more fruits, more jams. I find sultanas, a little orange liqueur, some honey, sponge cake, brioche… And just a little pepper in the background. The whole is a little too flat, but relatively pleasant. Finish: short, fruitier and more honeyed. Bananas flambées and sultanas. Comments: I find this one very acceptable, only the nose was a little non-existent again. SGP:431 - 72 points.

William Grant's 'Ale Cask Reserve' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014)

William Grant's 'Ale Cask Reserve' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014) Two stars This one by another William. It was finished in ale casks. Why not? Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather grassy and yeasty – not sure that comes from the ale casks – with whiffs of sawdust and hay. Then there’s something curiously camphory, with even a little eucalyptus. And don’t I find a little myrtle as well? Quite unusual. Mouth: good arrival, on stewed apples, cinnamon and sweet barley. Some fudge as well, a little triple-sec, maple syrup, then white pepper and cinnamon. Maybe some beer, but I’m not too sure. Light body, but it’s not flat whisky. Finish: short, but fruitier. Honey, then tinned peaches and pineapples. A little sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: a very fair blend, clean and fruity. SGP:431 - 76 points.

Let’s try to find one 80-pointer to round this off…

The Lost Distilleries Blend (50.9%, The Blended Whisky Company, batch #4, 97 bottles, 2014)

The Lost Distilleries Blend (50.9%, The Blended Whisky Company, batch #4, 97 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a half A tiny vatting of Rosebank, Littlemill, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Keith and Port Ellen. Should be a blended malt then *! Colour: straw. Nose: all right, 80+ for sure. The peater is roaring in the background and works like a spice over the typical orchard fruits from Imperial and Glen Keith, Littlemill and Rosebank’s citrus and Mosstowie’s… erm… lighter fruits. The combination works very well, we’re almost having some kind of smoked fruit salad. Also hints of cough syrup, mint, sea water, incense and tobacco. Mouth: I found the nose very nice, I find this palate just great. The peat’s quite big – but then again you don’t need much for it to shine through in such a combo – while the fruits, both western and tropical, are plenty. Starkrimsons, watermelons, white peaches, stewed guavas… There’s also some wax, liquorice, almond oil, barley water… All that’s relatively fat and creamy, with an oily mouthfeel. Finish: long, quite peaty, maybe a tad hotter and rawer now. Vanilla and a touch of burnt sugar. One pear sweet. Comments: love this blended malt, even if I find it expensive (400€). SGP:643 – 89 points.
it's well a blend, there's some Port Dundas inside.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Blends I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Rudresh Mahanthappa. Track: brilliant fun in Abhogi. Please visit the website and buy the music...

April 9, 2014


Three Japanese sherry monsters

… But before the sherry monsters, let’s have a ‘simple’ hogshead as the aperitif to prepare our palates. I think it’s always better to do that before tussling with these extreme sherried whiskies…

Hanyu 1988/2005 ‘Vintage’ (56%, OB, Ichiro's Malt, hogshead, twist cap, 600 bottles)

Hanyu 1988/2005 ‘Vintage’ (56%, OB, Ichiro's Malt, hogshead, twist cap, 600 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: starts very fruity, in an unusual way. A lot of rhubarb and oranges, then rather kiwis. Bags of kiwis. That makes it slightly eau-de-vie-ish but the fruitiness is really spectacular. After a few minutes, there’s more moss and pinesap, as well as touches of wild mushrooms. Globally very lively and ‘nervous’. This should be perfect before the sherry monsters… ;-). With water: the sappy notes come out more. Some chlorophyll too, cut grass, a kind of sweet smoke… Mouth (neat): same feeling, except that everything is mixed, including some smoke this time, as well as all these rather citric fruits. The smoke’s a little rubbery, in fact. With water: it’s the oak that plays first fiddle now, but the orange remain there in the background. Finish: long, rather green and acrid, but all that isn’t unpleasant. Comments: a notch too oaky but other than that, very fine. I think we’re now ready for the three sherry monsters… SGP:461 - 84 points.

Yamazaki 1994/2006 'Owner's Cask' (63%, OB, sherry butt, cask #4R70109, 452 bottles)

Yamazaki 1994/2006 'Owner's Cask' (63%, OB, sherry butt, cask #4R70109, 452 bottles) Five stars Colour: red mahogany. Nose: chocolate, chocolate and chocolate everywhere, plus drops of crème de cassis. Maybe whiffs of burning tyres as well, but this is so strong, I won’t take any further chances with my nostrils. So, with water: perfect! Much more complex, as expected, very tertiary, with some earth and tobacco, engine oil, old cellar… A lot of humus too, which I enjoy madly. So, who was the Japanese gentleman who used to own this cask?  Mouth (neat): really massive, with a lot of sherry of course but what’s also striking is this feeling of spices, especially ginger and nutmeg. First fill European oak? It’s very, cough, cough, strong. With water: perfection made whisky. Huge stuff, ridden with plums and prunes, then liquorice, chocolate, ‘sucking a lead pencil’ and dozens of more minor flavours. Finish: very long, now a tad fresher, with more bitter oranges, for example. Only the feeling of new oak in the aftertaste is a little less to my liking, it’ll lose one or two points here. Comments: no, seriously, who was the owner? He/she deserves loud applauses! SGP:662 - 91 points.

Yamazaki 1993/2012 (57.5%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #3T70070, 300 bottles)

Yamazaki 1993/2012 (57.5%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #3T70070, 300 bottles) Five stars This baby won one of the only 4 Gold Medals at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2013. Just like Karuizawa, Yamazaki is one of the Ferraris of the MMAs, they win often! Colour: coffee. Nose: it’s a fruitier version after the 1994, but that may be the ‘easier’ strength. There’s also something Glendronachy, in a way. Coffee, earth, menthol, black raisins… With water: a calmer version of the 1994, better polished thanks to the extra-seven years of ageing, with rather more marmalade and various plums, all very ripe. Or the jams made thereof. Mouth (neat): there is not, this time, a heavy gingery side, but nutmeg can be felt, as well as cinnamon. In other words, screams first fill. Other than that, there’s a lot of ganache, or eau-de-vie-filled chocolate. Raspberry, kirsch… And pipe tobacco, heavy Balkan style. With water: a little greener and leafier this time. Orange zests, pepper, strong liquorice. Finish: very long, with excellent balance between the greeny spices (forgot to mention cardamom) and the fruits, whether fresh or dried. Funny aftertaste, with some strawberries now coming to the party. Comments: same very high quality as the 1994. Very rich whisky again. SGP:661 – 91 points.

Karuizawa 30 yo 1981/2012 'Founder's Cask' (60.8%, OB, Number One Drinks, cask #2084, 347 bottles)

Karuizawa 30 yo 1981/2012 'Founder's Cask' (60.8%, OB, Number One Drinks, cask #2084, 347 bottles) Four stars I think this one’s quite rare. Well, all Karuizawas are rare, aren’t they. Colour: coffee. Not fast-food coffee! Nose: this is completely different from the Yamazakis, and yet it’s massively sherried. It’s much drier in fact, more mineral in a way, with a lot of ‘guns that just shot’ – unless that’s one single huge machine gun - at first nosing, and once that’s gone away, splendid notes of cigar humidor, cocoa, soy sauce, balsam and dried porcinis. My kind. With water: the machine gun is back, as well as the cigars. Smoking a Cuban double-corona in front of a huge humidor. An open humidor, of course. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the Yamazaki this time. Feels rather less ‘engineered’, with probably more very tiny flaws, but also a much bigger complexity. Maybe you just cannot have it both ways. There’s even a very tiny soapiness here, but even that is an asset, in a way. Great whisky, but it’s very strong, so… With water: oops! Water did not work too well, a lot of soap came out. That can happen, so let’s wait and check if that goes away (knowing that we already always wait for a few minutes before tasting a whisky after reduction, which should be obligatory in my opinion)… zzz… After fifteen minutes: not. Finish: long, a notch cologny and metallic when diluted. Almost impeccable when neat, very dry and peppery. Comments: I think it’s not the first time I find a glorious Karuizawa at super-high strength that doesn’t quite swim. Only one solution then, have it drop by drop, unreduced. I’m afraid it has to lose points because of that – dura Lex, sed Lex at Whiskyfun Towers. SGP:363 - 85 points.

(With mille mercis to Bert and Michal)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Duke Pearson. Track: Christo Redentor. Please buy Duke Pearson's music...

April 8, 2014


A little bag of very unusual whiskies

Bits and pieces, really, but some might be great, or at least of interest, we’ll see…

Hazelburn 10 yo 2003/2014 'Rundlets & Kilderkins' (50.1%, OB, 12000 bottles)

Hazelburn 10 yo 2003/2014 'Rundlets & Kilderkins' (50.1%, OB, 12000 bottles) Three stars and a half So Springabnk treated their ‘Lowlander’ with these small casks that they’ve already used for their flagship malt that was bottled in 2012. Colour: gold. Nose: not big, and slightly sooty at first nosing, but some honey and wax start to come out after a few seconds, together with some burnt wood and even charcoal. A very wee earthiness too, but I think it’s no roaring malt whisky at this point. With water: that works! Lovely slightly smoky lime and lemon plus these very peculiar coastal notes (say hessian and sea water) that can often be found in all three malts from Springbank Distillery. Mouth (neat): very creamy mouth feel and some very sexy lemony notes, but I feel the oak started to take over, with some green curry, plenty of very strong black tea and some kind of green, tart curry. It’s not unpleasant, at all, but probably a little ‘too much’. With water: it’s very okay now, more or less on peppered grapefruits. Finish: rather long, with some peppermint, lemongrass and simply fresh oak. Comments: this baby likes water. I was more a fan of the Springbank R&K (WF 87), I guess you need a really big spirit to stand small casks like those. SGP:561 - 83 points.

Kilkerran 10 yo 'Port Wood' (46%, OB, 2014)

Kilkerran 10 yo 'Port Wood' (46%, OB, 2014) Four stars I don’t think this baby’s out yet, but that should happen soon (in May). It’s part of a set that includes other full-wine-casks matured Glengyles. Indeed, it’s not a finishing. Please note that this is only a pre-production sample. Colour: well, it’s extremely pink. Dark rosé wine. Nose: I have to confess that I was very scared, but this works. It’s not quite whisky, it’s not Port either of course, but indeed it could have been some kind of ‘fine de Porto’. I find morello cherries and raspberries, peonies, blackberries, blood oranges (everything in your mind is getting red anyway once you’ve seen this baby’s extreme colour)… It’s only after a good five minutes that the spirit starts to talk a bit, but it won’t tell us much. Minerals? Flints? Tobacco? Leather? What’s really astonishing is that this juice is balanced. Mouth: oh! This is spectacular. Even less whisky, even more fruit liqueurs. Heering, Pimm’s, bitter oranges, Pepper Mint… Then more leaves, capsicum and caraway from the oak – I guess - and lastly, a lot of pink peppercorns. Finish: long, extreme, more or less on strawberry and raspberry jams with a few bay leaves and pickled ginger for good measure. Comments: not really whisky, but I quite loved it. Only the finish was a little ‘too much’. SGP:752 - 85 points.

Adnams 'Single Malt No 1' (43%, OB, England, 2013)

Adnams 'Single Malt No 1' (43%, OB, England, 2013) Two stars‘Made from 100% East Anglian malted barley and matured for over three years in new French oak casks’. Adnams seem to be brewers (I know nothing about beers, remember) and this baby’s exactly 3 years and 1 day old. That isn’t much, is it? Colour: gold. Nose: erm… It’s rather light and the French oak does all the talking. Juniper, capsicum, ginger, cinnamon, cumin… To tell you the truth, this baby smells just like aged Dutch genever (right, Dutch gin). Having said that, I enjoy good genever… Mouth: it’s fine, well made, balanced, with good sweetness and good spices… But it just doesn’t taste like whisky. Well, not like Scotch for sure. In a way, it reminds me of early bottlings by Tasmania’s Lark. Finish: relatively long and a little sour (sour apples, artisan cider, weizzen beer). The French oak takes control of the aftertaste. Comments: interesting, and even rather to my liking, but it’s not a style of spirit I’m too fond of. It’s very spicy. SGP:371 - 70 points.

Burnside 1992/2013 (52,6%, Gordon & Company, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #7350, 312 bottles)

Burnside 1992/2013 (52,6%, Gordon & Company, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #7350, 312 bottles) Four stars Burnside is the name of a ‘vatted’ – actually administratively teaspooned – Balvenie. See the picture of another cask that I’ve taken ‘somewhere in Scotland’. Colour: white wine. Nose: not all the Burnsides I could try – not that I’ve tried thousands – have been very nice, but this one reminds me of the old ‘As We Get It’ that a company named Macfarlane Bruce and Co. used to bottle quite some time ago. It’s very clean, simple, vivid, rather all on yellow plums and greengages, with also touches of quinces. Also hints of Schweppes-Lemon, maybe. With water: plums, light honey, apricots, quinces. Unmistakably B.

Mouth (neat): take plum eau-de-vie. Add freshly squeezed lemons, drops of cane sugar syrup and a dash of white pepper, and you’ve got this. No, that is not a Scottish mojito. With water: just excellent. B.’s a top-drawer Speysider and this is more proof. Finish: not too long, and quite simple, but balance is good, with some grass and leaves. The aftertaste’s a little drying though. Comments: not mindboggling, but much to my liking. SGP:541 - 85 points.


Ballechin 'Sauternes Cask Matured’ (46%, OB, 2013)

Ballechin 'Sauternes Cask Matured’ (46%, OB, 2013) Three stars and a half It’s the 8th Ballechin-of-Edradour, fully matured in some special wood again. I have to say that other Sauternes+peat bottlings didn’t really convince me, apart from Jean Donnay’s works in Brittany, some having been quite brilliant in my opinion. But let’s try this little Ballechin… Colour: gold. Nose: all right, the Sauternes is relatively light here, all for the better if you ask me. I find some salted butter, custard, soot, saltpetre, then earth, coal smoke, clay, pitch… As far as the wine’s concerned, there are a few ripe plums, golden raisins and apricots, but they remain light. The combination gives us also notes of almond oil. Mouth: this is funny, and this is quite good. I think they managed to keep it balanced. Imagine tinned pineapples and cigar ashes mixed together, that shouldn’t work, and yet it does. Mirabelle jam, tangerines, citrons, fresh coriander (very obvious)… Maybe a pinhead of mustard, somewhere... Finish: long, maybe a little fat now (butter cream with vanilla), not unlike many Sauternes. The aftertaste is a little more unlikely (kippers, juniper and honey?) Comments: these whiskies are always fun in tastings. I think the oloroso version (#4) remains my favourite Ballechin, but this one worked too. SGP:645 - 83 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Laith Al Saadi. Track: Morning Light. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 7, 2014


Another bag of Longmorn

There are literally hundreds of independent Longmorns around, especially 1992s. But why not? They’re usually very good in my opinion…

Longmorn 1992/2013 (52.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 86 bottles)

Longmorn 1992/2013 (52.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 86 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s the typical blend of garden fruits with beeswax and paraffin. So a Speysider with rather more oomph and presence than others. With water: careful with water, because water on these paraffiny notes can create… a kind of soapiness. Let’s wait… After ten minutes, this all cool, the barley came out. Slightly farmyardy, which was expected. Mouth (neat): once again, a typical very fruity Longmorn. Apples, cherries, peaches, acacia honey, custard, beeswax and a little gueuze beer. It’s also very faintly fizzy – of course it’s not, that’s just a feeling. With water: fruits to the max. Cherries, tangerines, icing sugar, bubblegum, strawberries. Finish: good length, always very fruity. Comments: one of the fruitiest ones – once you’ve watered it down. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (54.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13014, 224 bottles)

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (54.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13014, 224 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this one is unusual, much grassier, oilier and more mineral. So more austere. Sunflower oil, a little chincona, more paraffin than in the previous one, some custard… Not an extremely sexy one so far. With water: some green tobacco, tea, charcoal smoke… Mouth (neat): more fruits but they’re soon to be rejoined by a lot of grass, glycerine, some kind of bitter beer and quite a lot of lemon peel. I quite like this very dry style, but again, its not easy. Tickles your tongue a bit. With water: the fruits are out, but the grassy/spicy greenness remains. Finish: rather long, on green tart grapefruits. Comments: a good variant if you’re looking for more citric Longmorns. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Longmorn 18 yo (57.8%, The Whisky Exchange, Whisky Show 2011, 150 bottles)

Longmorn 18 yo (57.8%, The Whisky Exchange, Whisky Show 2011, 150 bottles) Five stars See how fast I sometimes am ;-). This was probably another 1992. Colour: gold. Nose: a little hot and rough, but that’s the very high strength, I’m sure. Let’s not argue… With water: splendid. Olive oil, fruit salad, honey, orange blossom, pummelos, vanilla, maple syrup. Implacably sexy and elegant at the same time. Mouth (neat): ha, this is amazingly fruity, and rather more tropical than other Longmorns. A fruit salad made out of both fresh and tinned fruits. Melons, bananas, papayas, apples, oranges, even grapes… I simply love this, and even at this very high strength, it’s drinkable. With water: absolute perfection made fruit. Erm, whisky. Finish: quite long, with no touches of ginger and pepper to prevent it from getting too fruity. But can whisky be too fruity? Comments: the upper echelon. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Now, go beat that one… Unless we’re resorting to whisky-howitzers! Let’s try until e manage to beat the TWE/TWS’s stunning example, just for fun…

Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo (40%, OB for Claretta di V. Rosignano, ‘Highland Malt’, 1970s)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo (40%, OB for Claretta di V. Rosignano, ‘Highland Malt’, 1970s) Four stars An earlier ‘straight malt’ version was superb, but it had been bottled at 43%. Colour: straw. Nose: really lovely, less a fruit bomb than the TWE, and rather more ‘old Highlands’ in style, with more oils, rocks and old books. Its very subtle whisky, it’s not tired, it’s wonderfully balanced and it’s a very serious contender. It does have something of Old Clynelish, which is obviously great. Sea air. There are also many honeys, especially heather honey. Mouth: first, it’s very big for its strength and considering the long time it spent in its bottle. But then it got a wee tad too metallic, maybe, and a little too inky. Other than that, I love these grapefruits and tangerines, the notes of cider and all the other fresh fruits. Finish: not too long but beautifully fruity (citrus). AZ little fragile now, perhaps. A little cardboard in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely old thing. They’re not very expensive at auctions and even if some bottles can be less thrilling than others (such as this very one), they’re all worth the gamble in my opinion. SGP:541 - 86 points.

It seems that we’ll need heavier artillery, such as this…

Longmorn 1969/2011 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for Van Wees, cask #5294, 402 bottles)

Longmorn 1969/2011 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for Van Wees, cask #5294, 402 bottles) Five stars These old Longmorns by G&M can be simply unbeatable. Colour: amber. Nose: a little blocked because of the amazingly high strength, but one can feel that this is just a perfect fruity sherry monster. Not quite a monster, actually, it seems to be quite fresh and, just like the others, very fruity. Figs, raisins, chocolate, drops of old cognac, melon jam, oriental pastries… Oh well… With water: oh, no! I mean, oh, yes! Pipe tobacco, morels, tar, whiffs of gunpowder, ham… Mouth (neat): a.m.a.z.i.n.g. A work of art, a grandiose fruit monster, exceptionally fresh, zesty, partly tropical (the most wonderful blood oranges, bananas)… It’s really immense whisky, hard to beat indeed. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade, thanks. Finish: long, immensely fruity. Liqueurs, jams and syrup but nothing cloying or sickly sweet. Comments: friends who are over-sensitive to gunpowder or struck matches might consider there’s a little too much of that in the nose. I think not. SGP:652 - 93 points.

Hey, there’s always room for one more…

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, sherry, Cask #910, 210 bottles)

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, sherry, Cask #910, 210 bottles) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: all right, perfect sherry. It’s not a very fruity sherry, it’s rather a very tertiary one, with some tobacco, leather, smoked ham, dried mushrooms, cedar wood, tea, tiger balm, rocks, cardamom, cinnamon, bitter chocolate… Well, indeed, after a few minutes more oranges and lemons do come out, making it fruitier. So far, so splendid. With water: earl grey tea and orange blossom. Tea in a posh pastry shop in Istanbul – or something like that. Mouth (neat): instant pleasure. What I particularly enjoy here is the fact that it’s both dry, say fino-ish, and fruity and sweet, so sweet oloroso-ish. Although the wording ‘sweet oloroso’ has just been banned in Jerez, as genuine oloroso cannot be sweet, unless it’s been artificially sweetened. Anyway, this is superbly balanced ;-). With water: very excellent. As fresh as fresh orange juice. Finish: long, juicy, fruity, with more raisins and a little mint. Remains fresh, which is quite a miracle. Comments: just lovable, and particularly easy to quaff despite the main style. SGP:651 - 92 points.

And another 1968 that should be much more ‘naked’ according to its colour…

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (57.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 94 bottles)

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (57.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 94 bottles) Five stars This one should be interesting as most Longmorns from the late 1960s have been filled in active sherry wood. Not quite the case here, apparently… Colour: gold. Nose: we’re not too far from the style of the Whisky Show’s 18 years old, except that this one’s superbly polished, without having lost any zesty fruitiness. In fact it starts a little simple, on apples, oranges and just a little beeswax, but then it starts to rise and rise and rise, gaining complexity through many tiny aromas, most being of the waxy/oily kind. Pollen, more beeswax, old Sauternes, plums, cigarette tobacco, wax polish, wild flowers, touches of Barbour grease and shoe polish… With water: a leafiness is coming out. Some mint, incense, sandalwood… Mouth: really big, starting with quite some pine resin this time, eucalyptus drops, then we have apples, especially small dry ones (calvados apples), oranges, grapefruits and only small amounts of honey. Also fresh almonds. It’s quite superb and incredibly tense, almost young in fact. With water: sacrebleu! It’s now almost the same whisky as The Whisky Show’s 18yo. Big, big fruits. Finish: long, fruity and resinous. Did this baby age in pinewood? Comments: lovely old Longmorn that tastes young. Could be an Hollywood actress, in a way… Ha! SGP:561 - 91 points.

After 1969 and 1968, I think we should have a 1967 as well but after that one, I swear that’ll be it.

Longmorn 44 yo 1967/2011 (48.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, LMDW, Book of Kells, refill sherry hogshead, cask #592)

Longmorn 44 yo 1967/2011 (48.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, LMDW, Book of Kells, refill sherry hogshead, cask #592) Five stars Colour: coffee. Refill??? Nose: the oak’s impact is so huge that one could think this is an old bourbon at first nosing, but of course things change over time. There’s more and more chocolate, millionaire shortbread, praline, walnut wine, dried mushrooms, more cocoa, a little tar, earth… Also some heavy honey such as our beloved chestnut honey that I often mention. I really love this nose but careful, it could suggest the palate will be overoaked and too drying… Mouth: not so, which is a miracle. There’s more oak in the nose, which is very unusual with old whiskies. Now, there’s a lot of chocolate and cocoa indeed, strong black tea Russian-style, mint drops and cough syrup, stewed strawberries, something slightly smoky and then even more chocolate. Ganache. Finish: long but, indeed, maybe a little too drying now. Swallowing a spoonful of Van Houten cocoa. Now, orange liqueurs and drops of Jaeger in the aftertaste really do the trick. Something medicinal. Comments: I think this baby’s flirting with the limits at times but it remains a rather stunning old Longmorn. SGP:572 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Longmorn I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: FUNK. Performer: Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Track: Diane. Please visit the website and buy the music...

April 6, 2014


Sunday malternatives, rhums and rums

Let’s keep learning rum. I think we’re making good progress, but the list of worthy malternatives remains short. We’ll try to avoid the sugary, molassy ones today…

Saint James 'rhum vieux agricole' (42%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013)

Saint James 'rhum vieux agricole' (42%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013) Two stars I believe Saint James is the largest distillery in Martinique. This should be pretty commercial stuff, said to be around 4 years old. Colour: orangey amber. Remember orangey hues hint at… caramel. Yes with whisky as well. Nose: it’s a fairly pleasant, very compact, kind of bourbony rum, with a lot of vanilla and toasted oak, then oranges and a massive amount of caramel and fudge, then a curious feeling of rye and geranium flowers. Not unpleasant, really. Mouth: a little thin this time, with again a feeling of bourbon that should come from some very active oak. Sawdust, bitter oranges, orange drops, corn syrup and caramel. What’s quite curious is that there isn’t much sugar cane as such, and yet it’s an agricole. Finish: not very long but it leaves some pepper on your tongue. Comments: not quite sure this was meant for sipping, but I’d say it’s pretty honest rhum. Just not for sipping… I like the fact that it’s not very sugary. SGP:621 - 70 points.

Let’s try to find other young ‘Martiniquans’…

HSE ‘Rhum Vieux Agricole’ (42%, Habitation Saint Etienne, Martinique, +/-2013)

HSE ‘Rhum Vieux Agricole’ (42%, Habitation Saint Etienne, Martinique, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Pretty much the same pedigree, but this should come from Distillerie Simon. Not too sure, things are shady… It’s not expensive rhum, around 25€ a bottle. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is much aromatic, with many more tropical fruits, which some might find a little too much. A lot of coconut and bananas, then vanilla, honey and oranges, then just a few soft spices. Very easy and quite sexy. Ahem. After a few minutes, whiffs of wood smoke. Mouth: same feeling after the Saint James, this is fruitier but also oakier and spicier. Not rye, no geranium, rather bananas and cinnamon. It’s also quite bourbony I have to say, must be the oak. Finish: rather short, on oranges, cinnamon and white pepper. A little drying (tea). Comments: again, honest and loyal stuff. There’s rather more happening, actually. SGP:621 - 77 points.

While we’re at it, we could also have an older HSE…

HSE ‘Très Vieux Rhum’ (45%, Habitation Saint Etienne, Martinique, Réserve Spéciale, +/-2013)

HSE ‘Très Vieux Rhum’ (45%, Habitation Saint Etienne, Martinique, Réserve Spéciale, +/-2013) Three starsAgricole again of course, and ‘very old’ this time, that is to say around § years here. Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re closer to the Saint James this time, with more roundness, syrups and vanilla and rather less fresh fruits. But this is more complex, even if the bourbony side is big again. Not saying bourbon isn’t complex, naturally. Funny notes of wafers filled with raspberry jam. Ah, childhood memories! Mouth: same feeling, the style of the Saint James, only ‘better’. Rye, oak, vanilla, oranges, orange blossom water (litres!) and beeswax, then more drying spices. Strong tea. Finish: rather long, with oranges, nervous touches of lime and oak spices in the aftertaste. Oh and rye. Comments: I find this quite excellent despite the fact that it’s very oak-oriented. The tempo was good. SGP:631 - 80 points.

More Martinique? Your wish is my command, we have more ‘vieux’ stuff (which means very young, of course)…

Dillon ‘Rhum Vieux Agricole’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013)

Dillon ‘Rhum Vieux Agricole’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013) Two stars A very popular brand in France, you find these in every supermarkets. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a pushier one again, very aromatic and quite simple. Oranges everywhere, bitter ones, plain ones, Seville ones… Add to that some maple syrup and this is it, more or less. Another one that isn’t unpleasant, just very, very simple. Mouth: same. Oranges, oranges, oranges and just a few spices, from the usual cinnamon and cloves to hints of caraway and juniper. It’s got something of aged gin. Finish: short, sweet, a little sugary. So less spicy than the others, and certainly easier. Comments: it’s downable, albeit probably a little dull. SGP:630 - 73 points.

Enough Martinique, let’s have a commercial Guadeloupean ‘Vieux’ instead…

Damoiseau ‘Rhum Vieux’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2013)

Damoiseau ‘Rhum Vieux’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2013) Two stars Damoiseau is made at Bellevue, and we know that Bellevue can be superb (as several indies have recently shown us). This is approx 3 years old. Young stuff! Colour: full gold. Nose: yes! It’s another world, more phenolic, with more sugar cane, oils… It’s not heavy Caroni of course but we’re going towards that style. It’s also much earthier and rootier. This is (young) rhum! Mouth: sadly, what we found in the nose isn’t quite on the palate. We rather have liquorice and candy sugar, which isn’t bad but it’s not quite enough. A little short in flavours. Finish: relatively long this time, but monolithic. Big liquorice. Comments: I suppose this is just too young, but the foundations are there. I really enjoyed the nose. SGP:551 - 76 points (the SGP is better balanced).

I’ve got another Guadeloupean that I really ant to try but as that one was bottled at a very high strength, let’s rather have a few other lighter ones – from other parts of the world.

English Harbour 5 yo (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2013)

English Harbour 5 yo (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2013) Two starsWe’re in Antigua this time. I have next to no experience here. Colour: full gold. Nose: I like. It’s got these notes of old petrol, garage, oils, gravel… So it’s a little Jamaican style, except that all this tends to vanish in the air, leaving more ‘dull’ fruits. Very evanescent, I’d say. Mouth: sadly, it’s a little too sweet for my taste, when you can taste sugar, it’s all over. Same with molasses, of course, which doesn’t always happen with molasses-based rums of course. They can be stunning. But this is weakish, despite some more interesting spots here and there. Such as droplets of liquid tar, or pitch. I also find unexpected touches of cooked asparagus. Finish: short and sugary. Definitely not the best part. Comments: I’d love to be able to taste this with less sugar and a higher strength. The spirit inside seems to be great. SGP:730 - 73 points.

Let’s resort to some low strength Guyanese, before we let the stronger ones enter the dance…

Enmore 1990 (40%, Mezan, Guyana, Demerara, +/-2013)

Enmore 1990 (40%, Mezan, Guyana, Demerara, +/-2013) Four stars We’ve already tried quite few very good ones by Mezan. Only the strengths are a little ridiculous, aren’t they. Now, it’s better than 37.5% vol. Remember Enmore is/was made in a wooden continuous still, from molasses. Colour: white wine (great!) Nose: yessss. Superb herbal, oily, phenolic, olive-y profile, very typical. Something medicinal as well, bandages, then more fresh oranges and quite a lot of peat. Of course it’s not peat but the smoky feeling is very similar. Not all Enmores are great, but this one is, let’s only hope it won’t be too weak on the palate. Mouth: no, the spirit is big enough, the low strength holds. Well, for a while, because it tends to nosedive after fifty seconds. A crying shame, because the spirit is pretty perfect, phenolic, petroly, olive-y, smoky, herbal… There’s even a Laphroaigness, believe it or not. Finish: unexpectedly long and, guess what, as salty as an Islayer. Comments: we’re almost on Islay. If you’re an Islay fan, and never tried these rums, I think you should try to source a bottle. Yes, even at 40% vol. Watch out, not all Enmores are as ‘peaty’ as this. SGP:453 - 86 points.

Let’s fly back to Martinique, with an indie one…

Galion 8 yo 2002 (45%, Alambic Classique, Martinique, +/-2011)

Galion 8 yo 2002 (45%, Alambic Classique, Martinique, +/-2011) Four stars and a half Le Galion distillery lies in La Trinité in Martinique. Colour: gold. Nose: ha, yes! It’s a perfect sooty, grassy and, err, agricoly one, essentially on raw sugar cane. That’s great. Behind that, peaches in syrup and then more and more olive brine. Even black olives. Great! Mouth: quite perfect. No, very perfect, lemony and tarry, then very, very olive-y, with a lot of salt and behind all that this time, a lot of smoked ham. Serious! And ashes as well. This tastes like genuine artisan agricole, we’re very far from the ‘commercial’ brands. Great character. Finish: very long, on tar, sugar cane and black olives. And salt. Comments: I’m impressed. Once again, whisky bottlers show us that they might be the better placed to select great rums. SGP:453 - 89 points.

Let’s see if my newly found theory works ;-)…

Barbados 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2012)

Barbados 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2012) Four stars This ‘should’ have been made with the ex-Rockley still that is now located within the West Indies Rum Distillery. It’s a story that seems to be similar to that of the old Demerara distilleries. Colour: white wine. Nose: ha! The story is similar and the style is similar. It’s just another petroly, tarry and smoky rum, very natural, without any dull fruitiness and no oak either. Once again, we’re more or less on Islay. Mouth: quite! It’s less briny than the Galion, rather less extreme, mineral and saline, and a notch sweeter and rounder. Having said that, we’re more or less in the same league. Very oily mouth feel. Finish: long and saltier. There are even kippers, imagine! Comments: another Islay of rum, it seems. I’m far from being familiar with this ‘stuff’, but I sure will try to dig deeper… SGP:452 - 87 points.

Things are improving, aren’t they? Let’s go on…

Travellers 8 yo 2005/2013 (49,5%, The Whisky Agency, Belize, 282 bottles)

Travellers 8 yo 2005/2013 (49,5%, The Whisky Agency, Belize, 282 bottles) Three stars Belize? It seems that I’ve tried only one rum from Belize so far, and that I enjoyed it (Fair Rum - WF 82) Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s another style, somewhere between the petroly ones and the sweet/rounded ones. What comes out first is some orange liqueur with touches of smoke and walnut cake, roasted chestnuts and then more butterscotch and croissants. It’s actually only in the background that a little tar and engine oil are hiding. A kind of crossbreed, so far. Mouth: same feeling, expect that it’s even sweeter. A lot of honey, toasted oak, jams, plums, raisins, bananas… And then again, in the background, some soft spices (Sichuan pepper, very obvious in fact) and just small touches of liquorice and tar. Finish: long, rather more on charred oak, vanilla, maple syrup… It’s that ‘bourbonness’ that we first found in the commercial Martiniquans. Comments: rather less my style than the wonderful Caroni that came out at the same time, but we’re still way above average. SGP:731 - 80 points.

Let’s push it all harder…

Caroni 1997/2013 (61.3%, The Rum Swedes, Trinidad, bourbon, 249 bottles)

Caroni 1997/2013 (61.3%, The Rum Swedes, Trinidad, bourbon, 249 bottles) Four stars Oh, no! Colour: dark amber. Nose: ah, yes! Now, this is very strong. Too strong, I think, we’ll need water to unlock it. Loved the pine wood smoke, though… And I don’t know if that’s because these guys are from Sweden, but I’m getting ‘sauna smells’. Strange oils and such… With water: hem… To be honest I think there’s a little too much oak, which translates into quite some ginger. On the other hand, we’re still in a sauna… and maybe in a Corsican eucalyptus forest. Huge eucalyptus! Mouth (neat): terrifyingly huge, invading, smoky, peppery, piny and oaky… It’s almost like that chilli sauce they give you in pizzerias. Is this legal? With water: ah, the rum has something to tell us! Oranges, orange blossom water, honey, baklavas, sugar cane… It’s funny how the sweetness came out with water. Finish: very long, this time with oranges, smoke, tar, lapsang souchong and liquorice. In other words, Caroni. Saltier aftertaste. Comments: it is a little mindboggling, this baby lost me at times. I’d call him, err, it ‘a reckless wrestler’! SGP:563 - 87 points.

And one last rum, and not just any rum… And after a loooooong break…

Fine Jamaican Rum (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 1940s)

Fine Jamaican Rum (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 1940s) Five stars Mind you, this is most probably pre-WWII rum, maybe it was even distilled in the beginning of last century. Imagine, submarines, cargos, U-boats, V2s… This baby survived quite a few adventures! Having said that, it could be hit or miss, according to my feeble experience, let’s see… Colour: dark amber. Nose: Jamaica! I mean, this oldie really smells like perfect contemporary Jamaican rum, with all these petroly, oily, tarry and earthy notes. An ode to dunder! There’s also a lot of smoke – maybe more smoke than in old Islays of similar ages and vintages – and stunning mineral notes. Wet rocks, a stroll in a long forgotten cave, clay… And then the expected black olives and tobacco. This baby’s vibrancy after all these years is just unimaginable. Mouth: I just need to bow before this glorious old spirit. It’s full of mysteries, stories, romances and… minerals. Tar pitch grease petrol olives capers salt brine oysters charcoal cigars liquorice smoked tea (that’ll do, S.!) And mouth feel and body are just perfect. Finish: long, tarry, thundering and thunderous. And there’s even a wee touch of chocolate in the aftertaste. And dried pears and chestnuts. Comments: to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. How wrong I was! It’s not even the complexity that’s striking, and it’s not even very complex in the first place, it’s the fullness and the coherence. Plus, it goes down vey well ;-). SGP:662 - 95 points.

(Thank you, Dornoch Castle!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: William Parker with his organ quartet. Track: Buddha's Joy. Please visit the website and buy the music...

April 4, 2014


Funny duos, today estery Lowlanders

Well, not sure this duo will actually be funny, but one of these will be a very ‘modern’ youngish Lowlander, while the other one is old and has become very rare. And yet both are sharing a somewhat similar style in my experience and both are ex-bourbon.

Auchentoshan 1998/2013 (61,1%, Gordon & Company, Pearls of Scotland, bourbon, cask #102348, 250 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1998/2013 (61,1%, Gordon & Company, Pearls of Scotland, bourbon, cask #102348, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half It’s the first time I’m trying a whisky by this new bottler. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh-so-very Auchentoshan! It’s great to have one that’s not ridden with unlikely oaky/winey flavours, that is to say one that smells just like a huge new pack of marshmallows. And we have all flavours, pineapple, lemon, orange, strawberries, cherries… And better yet, there’s no nail polish remover and no varnish whatsoever despite the very high strength. With water: as often, there’s a kind of grass smoke coming through, together with a little barley syrup. Oh and more marshmallows. Maybe even a touch of gentian? Suze? Mouth (neat): sweet alcohol and jellybeans, mainly pear and pineapple-flavoured ones. Very strong, and yet kind of smooth. Or is it me? With water: excellent! What was added to the nose is added to the palate as well, especially this rooty/gentiany side. Love that. Finish: long, very fresh and as ueber-clean as expected. Comments: beautiful and slightly Irish, in a way. It’s not very ‘wide’ malt whisky but it fully delivers. Oh and where else shall we find this style in Scotland? SGP:641 - 88 points.

Ladyburn 37 yo 1974/2011 'Rare Ayrshire' (52.1%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, bourbon, cask #2604, 155 bottles)

Ladyburn 37 yo 1974/2011 'Rare Ayrshire' (52.1%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, bourbon, cask #2604, 155 bottles) Four stars We’re approaching our 10th Ladyburn, hurray! (hold your horses, S.) Sadly I can't remember if Ladybrun was triple distilled or not. Colour: gold. Nose: cask-aged pina colada, more or less. So bananas and coconut, then rather a lot of vanilla, meringue, apple pie and white chocolate. Also touches of sweet oak as such, but it’s not planky at all. In a way, it’s well the Auchentoshan with more age, and possibly from a slightly more active bourbon barrel. With water: it’s really amazing how close to the Auchentoshan we got, this one has just got more vanilla. Maybe melons and peaches as well. Mouth (neat): very same profile, that is to say that of some ‘cask strength’ pina colada. Bananas and coconut plus a little cinnamon and white pepper from the oak, but even after 37 years, it did not get too oaky. There’s quite a lot of vanilla, though. With water: perfect. Jelly babies all over the place plus sponge cake and just touches of oak spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Only very minor flaw, it’s maybe a little lactic, kind of. Must be the American oak. Finish: not that long but very fruity. More a fruit salad than sweets this time. Comments: typical Lowlands style, with an amazing freshness after all these years. Some very good wood must have been involved at some point. But will this be the last Ladyburn we’ll ever try? Could well be, sob sob sob… SGP:641 - 87 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Zawinul. Track: a very unlikely and sehr lustig Erdäpfee Blues. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 3, 2014


Peatophiles ahoy,
a bag of new peated unpeated

I remember, around seven or eight years ago, I was chatting with an AnCnoc representative at a whisky festival (where else?) and had asked ‘the’ question of that era, which was ‘have you started doing peaty too?’ The answer had been a half-heated yes. And eight years later…

AnCnoc 'rutter' (46%, OB, peated, 11ppm, 2014)

AnCnoc 'rutter' (46%, OB, peated, 11ppm, 2014) Three stars and a half I find it nice that some distillers would use names of stuff that’s actually linked to their craft, and not planets, gods or Gaelic esoterica. A rutter is a spade that’s used to separate the peat blocks, says the owners’ website. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a style that I enjoy, with a peat that does not kill almost everything else, and lets several fruits come through, such as peaches and pears. There’s also a light grassiness, touches of leaves, a drop of white tequila, a little almond oil and a little vanilla. The whole is very fresh, but not quite coastal. Ardmore comes to mind, which is obviously good news. Mouth: sweet, easy, yet firm, tasting a little ‘higher’ than just 11ppm but of course not monstrous. Once again, the fruits some out, such as apples, together with an obvious youth (pears and pineapples) and an unexpected salty touch. It’s not ‘wide’ whisky but I enjoy this cleanliness that makes it very different from all Islays, or from the ‘fatter’ others such as Longrow or Ledaig, or even from the peaty Benriachs. Finish: rather longer than expected, maybe a little spirity now. Comments: the closest comparison remains Ardmore. That’s good news indeed. SGP:544 - 84 points.

AnCnoc 'flaughter' (46%, OB, peated, 14.8ppm, 2014)

AnCnoc 'flaughter' (46%, OB, peated, 14.8ppm, 2014) Four stars‘The Flaughter spade is used to remove the top layer of peat which is richer, more rooty and produces more reek.’ Colour: white wine (paler than the rutter). Nose: the peatiness is much bigger, we’re closer to some Islays, although it’s not much of a coastal whisky either. What’s sure is that this is also more mineral, certainly less fruity than the rutter, with a little coal, charcoal ashes and some apple peelings. Also fresh walnuts. Nice very clean nose. Mouth: excellent! I find smoked salmon, lemons, mezcal, cigarette tobacco, smoked almonds, some salt, maybe even oysters. Indeed, there’s something maritime in this baby’s palate. I find this quite complex given its probable young age. Finish: long, quite peaty, ashy, beautifully acrid and kind of sooty… Comments: I think this one is a great young peater, in the same league as other famous great young peaters starting with L, A, B, T or C (please don’t spend too much time on that). I’m impressed. SGP:455 - 87 points.

AnCnoc 'tushkar' (46%, OB, for Sweden, peated, 15ppm, 2014)

AnCnoc 'tushkar' (46%, OB, for Sweden, peated, 15ppm, 2014) Four stars Our friends the Swedes are getting all the peatiest whiskies! Shall we have to petition? ;-) Colour: white wine (even paler). Nose: the smokiness lies somewhere between the rutter’s and the flaughter’s, I would say this one’s rather more on oil (sunflower) and even more on skins and peelings than the latter. Fresh almonds, walnuts, apple peelings, a touch of fresh butter and custard, then wee medicinal hints that I hadn’t found in the others. A drop of antiseptic. Mouth: the colour is lighter but I find more American oak, with a vanilla and some coconut that are a little more obvious. Even a little caramel and fudge, then pink grapefruits or maybe pummelos, all that on a bed of smoked lemon juice and again, something slightly medicinal. Finish: long, rather salty. Quite salty, in fact. Comments: I find this very nice baby a notch less ‘immediate’ than the flaughter – immediacy is an asset in this context – but I’m rather impressed again. SGP:545 - 86 points.

Please wait, there’s also this new peated Glenglassaugh…

Glenglassaugh 'Torfa' (50%, OB, 2014)

Glenglassaugh 'Torfa' (50%, OB, 2014) Three stars This one was peated to 20ppm, so rather higher than the AnCnocs, but remember that those ppms are related to the malted barley, and that scales can change quite a lot after distillation, depending on the shapes and sizes of the stills, on the cuts etc... Torfa must mean peat in some language, as Torf is peat in German – and Alsatian, haha. Colour: white wine. Nose: bigger, rawer, rougher. That was to be expected, this baby should be quite younger than the AnCnocs. I cannot not think of some very young Caol Ila. Ashes, paraffin, lemons, fresh putty and seashells. Where’s the distillery again? And the warehouses? With water: much more ‘youth’. Eau-de-vie-ish. Mouth (neat): the ‘young’ fruits play first fiddles, especially pears and pineapples, which is an obvious sign of youth. On the other hand, there’s a sweet creaminess (barley syrup) that balances that, with also touches of ginger liqueur and honeydew. Smoky pears. With water: nice. The barley talks, and there’s quite some honey too. Finish: a very funny finish and retro-olfaction all on smoked salmon and limejuice. Comments: I like it that they didn’t try to ‘dope’ this youngster using ueberactive casks and silly wines. In my opinion it’s going to be another great peater once it’s fully mature, which it might not quite be yet. SGP:536 - 80 points.



Block Today: FUNK. Performer: Fred Wesley. Track: Funk for your Ass. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 2, 2014


The big Mortlach works

So! The four new official Mortlachs are now all in, and as I only believe in comparison, we’ll try them together with four other Mortlachs of similar ages, or profiles, or… whatever. Let’s see what I can find…

Mortlach 'Rare Old' (43.4%, OB, 2014)

Mortlach 'Rare Old' (43.4%, OB, 50cl, 2014) Three stars An NAS vatting of various kinds of casks. Funnily enough, the Rare Old is the least rare and the least old of the bunch. Colour: full gold. Nose: it is a very malty one at first nosing, with floral tones as well, but it’s not void of any mineral/oily notes. There’s this earthiness that’s rather typical, also notes of, say a box of old coins that you brought back from many countries, then a little butter and sunflower oil, perhaps. And vanilla. It’s not a very ‘greasy’ one but it’s no light malt either. A bit of fresh oak.

Mouth: starts a little brutal and rough, which comes unexpected. Quite some oak spices, especially cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg, before it becomes more chocolaty and slightly leathery. Some caramel as well, vanilla, raisins and honey, with always a spicy side, joined by wee touches of horseradish at some point. Finish: of medium length, always with these oak spices as well as caramel, honey and malt. Comments: I had thought this baby would be smoother and more polished, it’s actually a rather robust and spicy dram. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Which sparring partner? Why not simply the official 16 yo Flora & Fauna? It’s probably older than the Rare Old, but prices used to be similar, so this might make sense…

Mortlach 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, +/- 2011) Three stars and a half I know many enthusiasts started to lament the loss of this now discontinued baby, but I have to confess I’ve never been a huge fan in the first place. Colour: full gold. Nose: the main difference is that this one is grassier, more mineral, more waxy. In short, certainly more austere, with more rocks and, in the background, a little ham – which doesn’t make it immensely meaty, having said that. Roasted malt as well, and less fresh oak than in the Rare Old. Touches of parsley and lovage, and even fresh asparagus, since this is now high season. Mouth: once again, this one’s much more austere, earthier, grassier, more mineral, more greasy so to speak. Big maltiness, a little bone marrow and quite a lot of dry sherry and chocolate that are coming to the front. Also oranges. Finish: quite long, and this is possibly the best part, with some olive oil coming through, a smokiness, some tobacco and some cloves. Comments: life’s a bitch. I think I like it better now that it’s discontinued, but its true I hadn’t tried the F&F since ages. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Mortlach 'Special Strength' (49%, OB, 2014)

Mortlach 'Special Strength' (49%, OB, 50cl, 2014) Three stars and a half Same composition as the Rare Old, only with some extra 49-43.4=5.6%. Travel retail only. Colour: full gold. Nose: I have to say this one noses bigger than just 49% vol., it’s even a little aggressive, but it’s also a little straighter than the Rare Old, kind of better focussed. It also seems that the meatiness is a little more vivid, and that there’s more soot and metal. I seem to find a little mint as well, and even more roasted nuts.  

Mouth: its amazing what 5.6% vol. can do. Much more presence, more dried fruits, more zests, more tobacco and, indeed, more ham. And more oranges. The oak’s very discernable again, but it’s rather around pepper this time, with less drying cinnamon. Finish: long, on cocoa and pepper, then bitter oranges. With water now, just to check if we’re going back to the Rare Old: no, it’s still more to my liking, fatter for sure. Maybe I’m better at reducing whisky than the Scots! (of course I’m just kidding). Comments: it’s more or less the Flora & Fauna when reduced, while the Rare Old was not. How interesting… SGP:451 - 84 points.

As for the sparring partner, we’ll chose one that’s not too powerful and that’s probably very spirit-driven, according to its colour…

Mortlach 18 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Carn Mor, hogshead, two casks, 693 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: it’s almost like nosing a blend of sunflower oil, banana juice, sugarcane syrup and porridge. We’re very close to raw barley, with an added fatness. Mouth: sweet and creamy, very close to the barley once again, then grassier and even a little bitter. Always this feeling of quaffing sunflower oil, with a very big cerealy side. Touches of pears as well, or rather pear drops. Finish: long and both zestier and more peppery. Zests and apple peelings. Comments: I like this one for the way it let’s Mortlach’s fatness come through. We’re not very far from the new ‘Special Strength’ in fact, despite the hugely different oak treatments. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Mortlach 18 yo (43.4%, OB, 2014)

Mortlach 18 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, 2014) Four starsThis is mostly ex-European oak, so probably quite sherried. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s true that we’re actually quite close to the 16 F&F, and I guess that’s the sherry casks. But not only that, there’s also much more earth, moss and a kind of musty sootiness, as well as a little more camphor and mint. After Eights, a pack of liquorice drops, a little clay… well, straight mud! I find this very nice, and I also like the further development on roasted coffee beans, incense and sandalwood, a bit Japanese style. I seem to remember I’ve had some Hakushus that weren’t that far from this.

Mouth: it’s really powerful, that’s bugging me, it does not feel like 43% at all. I find this very good, rather roasted and toasted, even charred, with bags of cakes, brownies, black raisins, drops of armagnac, some gingerbread and then drops of triple-sec, but it never gets sweet as such. Finish: long, on coffee, Cointreau and dark chocolate liqueur. Say Godiva, since that one is owned by Diageo. Comments: a lot happening in this one, I find it very ‘black’, as someone who tastes in colours would say. You know, synesthesia and all that… SGP:362 - 86 points.

As for the sparring partner, we’ll choose another 18 years old. Sadly, I’ve only got cask strength versions, so let’s be a little careful…

Mortlach 18 yo (54.8%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 2013) Five stars With a wonderful hyperrealist painting of a ship by the older Wiebers brother. Really lovely. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s much, much sweeter than the official, with many more dried fruits and sweet natural liquids such as honey or maple syrup. Sultanas, figs, kumquats… And then, in the background, Mortlach’s fatty meatiness, tallow, ham, oils… And camphor, eucalyptus… Love this, it’s going to be a little tough for the official, I’m afraid. With water: indeed, a little tough, since this one has now even sexier fruits. Golden raisins, even a touch of banana, tangerines… All that goes extremely well with the spirit’s bigness. Mouth (neat): oh my! It’s very fat, very syrupy, and yet the huge spices manage to balance all that, with plenty of ginger, mustard and caraway. Big stuff for sure. With water: no, ite missa est. Stunning apricots, blood oranges and mangos are now coming to the front. Finish: long, superb. Oranges and honey among many other flavours. Comments: not sure this was fair, it’s a single cask at cask strength after all. Liked the official 18 very much, but love this. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Mortlach 25 yo (43.4%, OB, 2014)

Mortlach 25 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, 2014) Five starsThe oldest expression comes entirely from refill American oak hogshead. Sounds good to me… But £600 for 50cl is very, very expensive, even more expensive than Macallan. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: seriously, this is a superb nose. It’s not ‘oldish’, but it’s got this very aroma I’m a sucker for, a beehive. Beeswax, honey, pollen, warm pinewood… And then oranges, Sauternes, apricots, pink grapefruits, raisins, potpourri, cedar wood… Long story short, I love this, even if it may have lost a part of the distillery’s trademark meaty greasiness.

Mouth: yes, this is perfect. Again, it’s maybe not extremely ‘Mortlach’, but I love this medicinal side, the eucalyptus drops, all the waxes and fruit peelings, the marzipan, the oranges, the light yet very obvious spiciness (peppermint, touches of wasabi) and… well, all the rest. Finish: quite long, with the spices talking first, and more peppered fruits and honey again in the aftertaste. Comments: wonderful! Again, it’s not a heavy one at all, we’re more in the league of some other very well-known (and very expensive) old Speysiders. Does targeted blending exist? SGP:661 - 92 points.

Mortlach 26 yo 1987/2014 (57.5%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #3101, 192 bottles) Five stars Refill again and rather lighter in colour, so I think this is a valid opponent. Colour: gold. Nose: this is strong, but this time it seems that oils and greases remained within the combo, together with earth and roots, as well as grapefruits and a little grass. The jury’s still out, but it seems that this one’s quite great again. With water: oh yes it is. Grapefruits and tangerines – and truckloads of them. It’s more on tangerines than Glen MacTangerine, the winner of last year’s World Tangerine Competition (what?). Mouth (neat): huge, resinous, fruity and spicy. It’s honyedew at cask strength. Very oily, you almost need a spoon (or a long beak, says my neighbour and friend the Turckheimian stork, haha). With water: so very excellent! Oranges, grapefruits, waxes, a little chlorophyll… In truth, it tends to become a little green and bitter, but that’s nothing. Finish: very long, first on citrus, then on grass and bitterish oils. Loses one or two points here. Comments: very high-end, with a big presence. The official 25 is a notch above it in my book because it was more ‘evidently superb’, but we aren’t far. Very close, in fact, well selected again, Adelphi! SGP:462 - 91 points.

A conclusion? Well, even if I wouldn’t kill anyone for the Rare Old, the new officials are all either very good or great in my book, and are probably going to become ‘another Macallan’. In, cough, cough, every way. But there are still stunning – and cheaper - single casks to be found at the best indies'. Yet, it's true that the new official 25 is particularly brilliant...

More tasting notes Check the index of all Mortlach I've tasted so far




Today: JAZZ. Performer: The Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Track: Don't Stop The Dance. A retro interpretation of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music's hits. I think this worked beautifully. Please visit the website and buy the music...


April 1, 2014


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))

10,000, but that does not count. This is April 1st, after all

Friends, apparently today we’ll have our 10,000th spirit on little Whiskyfun, but it is not a milestone we’ll celebrate with much pomp, as since this is ‘Whisky’fun, I’ve decided that only whisky should count. Indeed, I’ve actually only formally tasted 9,528 whiskies, the other 471 spirits having been rums, tequilas, cognacs and a few other drinks, some very unlikely I have to add. What’s more, only a fraction of those other spirits have been genuine ‘malternatives’ in my opinion, that is to say interesting alternatives to a well-aged malt whisky.
All that means that our official 10,000th whisky won’t be quaffed and assessed before the end of this year, if all goes well. And that, we will try to celebrate indeed! But in the meantime, I thought we could still have something unusual as our 10,000th and 10,001st spirits, such as…


19th century 15 yo cognac
vs. 19th century 15 yo Scotch malt

How does that sound? As you probably know, whisky became much sought after in the end of the 19th century mainly because Cognac’s vineyards – as well as those of many other European grape-based wines and spirits - had been devastated by the well-known phylloxera epidemic, and could simply not produce, let alone export anything anymore. That’s why I thought it would be interesting, and possibly fun, to try to identify with a pre-WWI spirit enthusiast who would have compared, head-to-head, a surviving bottle of pre-phylloxeric Cognac with a new bottle of Smith’s Glenlivet, both spirits being of the very same age for good measure. Shall we proceed?

Cognac 15 yo 'Grande Champagne' (Cox & Bowring, Derby, +/-1880)

Cognac 15 yo 'Grande Champagne' (Cox & Bowring, Derby, +/-1880) Five stars Vintages were very common in the 19th Century, but it’s the first time I see an age statement. This is most possibly early landed cognac, that is to say cognac that had been exported in barrels to wine and spirit merchants and shippers such as Cox & Bowring, and further aged in the UK. It is said that those cognacs used to be softer and paler, because of the colder and wetter climate in which alcohol evaporates faster than water. Cox & Bowring do not exist anymore, but the city of Derby remains famous for its most illustrious company, Rolls-Royce.

Colour: amber, so not that light. Nose: the freshness is simply amazing. It’s not very different from the handful of pre-phylloxeric cognacs I could already try, and I wouldn’t swear it’s obviously ‘early landed’, but indeed and despite the probable 150 years between when this was distilled and today, it’s a rather clean, almost coastal style that I’m finding. Yes I know Derby’s very far from any sea, but it could be that they had warehouses near the sea! Anyway, what comes after all this freshness is rather a blend of old polished wood, the obligatory raisins, a stunning camphory side as often in old spirits, whether cask-aged or cask+glass-aged and then a wide range of pastries, brioches, pralines, chocolates… I also love the notes of orange blossom, then the touches of dried parsley and other fine herbs. On the other hand, there’s little rancio this time, so it’s not very ‘tertiary’. But stunning it is! Mouth: come on! Imagine this baby’s even rough after all these years, it’s even got this kind of leafy rawness that’s usually more to be found in artisan calvados. But after that, and despite a faint sugariness, it’s all a bed of roses, with pastries again, quince jelly, raisins, sweet old liqueurs, figs, crushed roasted hazelnuts (reminds me of halva, in a way)… The grapes only come out after a few minutes, together with hints of prunes and, again, a little calvados and even aged marc. This could come from folle blanche, that grape variety that’s still to be found in Armagnac and that used to rule Cognac before the phylloxera. In a way, it’s rather less smooth and polished than contemporary cognacs. And the body and strength are perfect, the whole almost feels like +/-45% vol.

Finish: granted, it’s not very long, and it’s rather the leafy/gritty side that comes out more, but it remains balanced. A little caramel and rubber in the aftertaste, not the best part. Comments: what’s always difficult to do when tasting these old glories is to forget about their stories and ages. You have to forget that this was distilled more or less when Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens were writing their most famous works, or you’ll just miss your main goal, which is to assess a spirit for what it smells and tastes. But that’s hard to do, I can tell you… SGP:541 - 91 points.


Smith's Glenlivet 1899/1914 'Port Jackson Vat' (John Harvey & Sons, Choicest Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky)

Smith's Glenlivet 1899/1914 'Port Jackson Vat' (John Harvey & Sons, Choicest Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky) Four stars This is an amazingly rare bottle. John Harvey & Sons, blenders and merchants in Bristol (now owned by Beam inc, unless they were just sold to another party), had shipped one or several casks of Glenlivet 1899 to Sidney in August 1912, the casks having returned to England in May 1914 before bottling, so one hundred years ago. The name ‘Port Jackson’ was that of the sailing ship that brought the barrels to Australia in 1912, and of course also the name of Sidney’s wonderful natural port. This way of trying to speed up the ageing of spirits may have been inspired by a well-known practice in Bordeaux, where for example Cos d’Estournel used to do ‘Retour des Indes’ cuvées (back from India).

Anecdotally, with great friends who had flown over from Singapore, Japan, Sweden Holland, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and of course Scotland itself – plus a BBC crew that were travelling with us – we brought this very historic bottle back to the Distillery a few weeks ago, where we cracked it open together with some enthusiastic Pernod representatives. In return, we were offered unlimited access to the warehouses, plenty of 50yo cask samples to try, thirty-six girls, twenty centilitres of ultra-young spirit to share, a private gig by the Rolling Stones, plenty of the freshest Highland waters, one Bentley Continental each, access to a lovely tasting table and very comfortable chairs, great sandwiches, a meeting with Pippa Middleton (we’ve been sad to learn that she had nothing to do with Pernod’s almost-eponymous Distillery) and five kilos of the best Russian caviar. Well, only one of those may have been true, and again, today is April 1st, but let’s properly taste this oldie now…

Colour: amber, exactly the same shade as that of the cognac. Ha! Nose: it is to be wondered why late-19th century and early-20th century connoisseurs would have considered malt whisky was a good alternative to cognac. Because after all these years, this Glenlivet has strictly nothing to do with the cognac, except for their ages and colours. But it’s just as stunning, much drier, certainly smoky (there was quite some peat for sure), with first a little paraffin, then dry oils, some clay, some pine resin, drops of menthol, some new leather and then some dry apples. Cider apples. In fact it’s relatively compact while the cognac was almost instantaneously wide, but it starts to open up more after two or three minutes, with more tobacco, cedar wood, fresh porcinis, also fruitier notes, maybe blood oranges and bergamots, a little butter cream… All that is rather delicate, certainly elegant, and obviously of very high quality. I couldn’t tell you if the +/-35,000 kilometres from Bristol to Sidney and return did change anything, but what’s sure is that this nose is absolutely brilliant and terribly moving. Err, let’s keep a cool head if you agree… Mouth: it’s a three-step palate, which does not happen very often. Cough medicine and assorted mentholated notes first, then stewed fruits with their skins, then more woody/leathery touches. It’s really funny that those remain clearly separated and did not really mingle together over the many years. To be honest, it’s not the greatest old whisky ever, it’s actually quite drying and globally rather too leafy/leathery, but some parts are absolutely lovely. Walnuts, for example, or sugar cane, or chestnut honey, or baked apples. In fact, it tends to improve with further breathing, with now notes of maraschino, cherries in kirsch, even a little peach jam, candy sugar… It’s hard to detect whether it was ‘improved’ or ‘arranged’ (with honey, pajarette, or even brandy, or whatever…) or not, but that could be. Anyway, it’s simply excellent. Remember, very old bottles may have gone horribly wrong, while this one was in pristine conditions. Excuse me, but ‘wow’. Finish: good length, a tad burnt, maybe, and unexpectedly cognacqy this time. Raisins and baked apples.

Comments: you may have noticed that brands tend to Wikipedia-ise more and more their publicity whenever they issue an oldish whisky. When the Beatles recorded Love Me Do, when Gagarin became the first human in space, when Elizabeth II was crowned, when Jaguar’s E-type was launched… Well, imagine what could be said about a whisky that was distilled in 1899! We could, for instance, mention the first Hague Peace Conference... Oh forget. SGP:452 - 87 points (but of course, 99 emotional points!)

The Russian delegation at
the Hague Peace Conference in 1899

(with kisses and hugs to the PWWT gang)


Whiskyfun fav of the month

March 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
St Magdalene 30 yo 1982/2013 (58.5%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, refill butt, 99 bottles)  - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Macallan 1952 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, late 1960’s) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Bowmore 10 yo 2003/2013 (53.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #20188, 179 bottles)  - WF 90



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Paris Jazz Big Band. Track: Galeries. Please visit their website and buy their music...

March 2014 - part 2 <--- April 2014 - part 1 ---> April 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Cognac 15 yo 'Grande Champagne' (Cox & Bowring, Derby, +/-1880)

Fine Jamaican Rum (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 1940s)

Glen Garioch 23 yo (54.3%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 2013)

Longmorn 44 yo 1967/2011 (48.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, LMDW, Book of Kells, refill sherry hogshead, cask #592)

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, sherry, Cas

Longmorn 35yo 1968/2003 (57.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 94 bottles)k #910, 210 bottles)

Longmorn 1969/2011 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for Van Wees, cask #5294, 402 bottles)

Longmorn 18 yo (57.8%, The Whisky Exchange, Whisky Show 2011, 150 bottles)

Mortlach 18 yo (54.8%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 2013)

Mortlach 25 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, 2014)

Mortlach 26 yo 1987/2014 (57.5%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #3101, 192 bottles)

Yamazaki 1993/2012 (57.5%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #3T70070, 300 bottles)

Yamazaki 1994/2006 'Owner's Cask' (63%, OB, sherry butt, cask #4R70109, 452 bottles)