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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2014 - Part 2

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


April 30, 2014


Three liqueurs blacker than Loch Dhu

And more tarry and even smoky than old Ardbeg or Port Ellen. Right, I may be dreaming, but anyway, drinks that contain a lot of tar do hint at some of Islay’s biggest in my experience, that’s why they could well be real malternatives, in a way… So let’s have three of them, all rather unlikely and certainly intriguing.

Terva Snapsi, Samarkand Balsam, Clacquesin >>

Terva Snapsi (21%, OB, Finland, tar liqueur, +/-2010)

Terva Snapsi (21%, OB, Finland, tar liqueur, +/-2010) Two stars A nice little bottle that a whisky friend from Finland gave me a while back because I was rather often quoting tar liqueur among my descriptors. Time to crack it open! Colour: coffee. Nose: starts very fragrant, very balsamic, very sappy and very resinous, but there is some elegance in this nose, it all reminds me the ‘oils’ that you add when having a sauna. No wonder, it’s a Finnish drink. There’s also something funnily ‘Islay’, it’s probably the huge tar and even these hints of kippers and brine – now, I may be dreaming. Kippers, really? But I have to say I quite enjoy this. Mouth: ah, this is much sweeter than expected, but it’s not bad. The feeling of kippers grew much bigger, or heavily smoked salmon, while the tar remains, say approachable. Really, this isn’t bad, there’s an appealing exoticness in this little liqueur – exotic to me, at least. I guess one could make some excellent ice cream out of it, or prepare some funny sauces. I’m sure our Finnish friends have already thought about that. Finish (ha): not very long, but that’s the low ABV. Otherwise it’s clean and rather fresh, and the sugar does not leave a cloying feeling on your palate. Comments: a good surprise, really. But then again, any fan of old-style Ardbeg is addicted to some of these flavours. SGP:814 - probably around 75 points – yes, this much.

Samarkand Balsam (45%, OB, herbal bitter, Uzbekistan, +/-2010)

Samarkand Balsam (45%, OB, herbal bitter, Uzbekistan, +/-2010) A strange liqueur from Samarkand, made with no less than 28 herbs from the Zarafshan valley. According to our Russian friend Mikhail, I quote, “it is rarely found in Russia nowadays but was quite popular in Soviet Union along with many other "balsams". In fact, Samarqand winery was one of the most famous in the Russian Empire before the Soviet Era, but was nicely kept afterwards by Mikhail Khovrenko (misspelled Xovrenko on the label), the remarkable Russian winemaker of the early 20th century”. Ah, knowledge, thank you Mikhail! Colour: liquorice black – or an extreme ristretto coffee. Nose: I must be becoming a little perverted, I just enjoy this as well. It’s sweeter than the Finnish, which ain’t too good, but it’s also rather complex, you can feel that there are many herbs. Only herbs, really? Because I do find quite a lot of tar and sap as well, burning pinewood, resins, some menthol, strong cough lozenges, then roots, our beloved gentian, some smoke as well (lapsang souchong)… In short, I do enjoy this! Isn’t that a little alarming? Mouth: no, nein, nicht. I mean, niet. It’s too bitter and astringent for me, and even if I won’t deny that there’s some interesting things happening, there’s a little burnt plastic or assorted chemical tones that make it hard to swallow. Literally. Finish: absolutely endless, and that may be the problem. Even Fireball, the extreme cinnamon whisky that we had the other day, tastes like a three years old Glenkinchie at 40% vol. in comparison. Comments: a very intriguing nose and a palate that’s extremely difficult. I guess I’d need much more training. SGP:493 - around 35 points.

Goudron Hygiénique Clacquesin (OB, France, pine tar liqueur, +/-1920)

Goudron Hygiénique Clacquesin (OB, France, pine tar liqueur, +/-1920) Four stars Clacquesin is a legendary drink that used to be popular pre-WWII and, I believe, made with natural tar obtained from cooking/distillation of Norwegian pines. What’s also quite funny is that the very first Whisky Live Paris, even before it was christened ‘Whisky Live’, took place in the stunning old Clacquesin distillery in Malakoff near Paris. These old bottles are very rare and, I insist, quite legendary, especially because they shelter a truly long-forgotten taste. Colour: ristretto, black chocolate. Nose: well, it’s the driest of them all, the smokiest as well, the most tarry for sure (goudron means tar in French) and probably the most complex. No wonder these old bottles are much sought-after, especially by today’s poshest mixologists who will blend it with Armand de Brignac Champagne (a brand that we French never touch, in case you’re wondering). There’s some ham, some smoked tea again, whiffs of freshly redone tarmac, notes of pencil lead, bicycle inner tube, touches of new leatherette, black raisins… No no no, I’m not describing an ex-sherry 1976 Ardbeg! What’s sure is that it’s quite an experience again, but careful, the palate could be much more… err, segmenting. Or challenging, if you like. Mouth: ooh this is lovely. Again, it’s much more complex than the others, starting with bitter oranges and quinine, pine sap again, cough syrup, some honey, then a growing tar, as expected, but nothing too violent. Some lemon too, honeydew, little touches of smoked fish, eucalyptus, more pinesap (drops)… All good. It’s no very strong liqueur, I’d guess it was bottled at around 35% vol. Finish: long, with the sappy side winning the fight – but it was no fight. Also a little dill, aniseed, or is it fennel? Comments: the bottle was almost 100 years old, so I couldn’t tell you whether the liqueur changed a lot or not at all over the years, but I really like this a lot. I’ve never tasted something like this before, and sadly, shall probably never encounter it again. A time capsule, as they say. SGP:563 - around 85 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: king of rasta blues Corey Harris. Track: Fish ain't bitin'. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 29, 2014


Tasting a little bunch of Glenlossie

As we often do, we’ll first have the lighter ones, whether old or not. I think Glenlossie’s style is a little in the middle of the road, sometimes very enjoyable, sometimes a little… I’ll say it, boring. But after all, isn’t it entirely designed for blending? Let’s have a few.

Glenlossie 1974/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice)

Glenlossie 1974/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Two stars An old bottle from the ‘40%’ times. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s the grass and it’s the oak that are talking first, which makes the whole dry and pretty tea-ish. A lot of cereals too, a little burnt bread, touches of mint, cocoa powder… Very old style, without a single touch of anything sweet. I even find a little smoked salmon, as well as drops of manzanilla. Right, walnuts. Mouth: more sweetness this time, but also a lot of cinnamon powder and cocoa again, so the dryness remains. Malt, something slightly metallic (silver spoon), a touch of sourness (cream) and then more and more white pepper and nutmeg. I’d add that we’re not quite used to this low strength anymore, I think it makes the oaky dryness stand out even more. Finish: short, drying, tea-ish. Comments: there are some pleasant sides, but I think it’s a little too flat and dry globally. SGP:271 - 74 points.

But let’s try another ‘CC’…

Glenlossie 26 yo 1978/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill sherry hogshead)

Glenlossie 26 yo 1978/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill sherry hogshead) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. The previous one was probably coloured. Nose: same style but more naturalness, more oomph, and more herbal notes, such as dill, chives and green almonds. Other than that, same kind of porridge, cereals, grass and, again, a little mint. Oh, and manzanilla. Mouth: this time, it’s another world. While the base is similar, this has much more zestiness, oranges, sweet barley, limoncello, custard… Having said that an oaky dryness isn’t absent, and there’s a good deal of cinnamon once again. A little cumin too, cloves… Finish: rather long, drying again. Cocoa powder, cinnamon, black tea. Comments: maybe not the winner among the winners, but I like this one much better than the 1974. SGP:361 - 79 points.

Wait, I remember I’ve also got a very old Glenlossie…

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 6 yo (86 proof US, OB, Chas. Mackinlay & Co., US import, for Army and Navy Stores, +/-1910s)

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 6 yo (86 proof US, OB, Chas. Mackinlay & Co., US import, for Army and Navy Stores, +/-1910s) Five stars A very rare pre-prohibition bottling for the US. Colour: gold. Nose: ooh these old bottlings! Lovely notes of old books and metal (old coins, stove, tools), some soot, some metal polish, then almond oil, ashes, barley water, broken branches, hay, a little ‘fine’ dust, touches of shoe polish… It’s not quite big, but it’s not weak either. Mouth: ha-ho! You would have thought it would have gone flat – not at all. This is even big, earthy, rooty… There are mushrooms, bitters, quinine, bitter oranges, gentian, touches of caraway… A smokiness too, maybe even a little peat. And it’s not void of any sweetness, with a little apple crumble and maybe one or two slices of crystallised ginger. Excellent! Finish: rather long, sweet and bitter at the same time, like an old herbal liqueur of the best quality. The smokiness stays on your palate for a long time, together with notes of grapefruits and alwa ys this earthiness. Comments: six years in wood and one hundred years in glass, that may be the best set-up for maturing whisky. I’m just joking! SGP:463 - 90 points.

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 20 yo 1993/2014 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hoghsead, 252 bottles)

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 20 yo 1993/2014 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hoghsead, 252 bottles) Four stars This one’s new. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it’s rather typical of a part of this range, this is fully naked malt whisky. On the one hand, it may lack aromas and expressiveness, but on the other hand, it’s well, pure. Barley, barley sugar, a little lemon, porridge and plenty of grass. It’s maltier than malt, of you see what I mean. With water: grist all over the place, farmyard... Mouth (neat): sweet barley, oranges, lemons and bubblegum. A lot of bubblegum! Also hints of fruity Californian IPA beer, such as Lagunitas. I love Lagunitas. With water: much less bubblegum (phew) and more sweet apples. Finish: medium length. Apple juice, barley water, drops of orange juice, touches of nutmeg. Nice cocktail. Comments: this baby’s so perfectly natural that it would have pleased Jean-Jacques Rousseau (what?) SGP:561 - 85 points.

Glenlossie 25 yo 1978/2003 (54%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless, cask #4802, 212 bottles)

Glenlossie 25 yo 1978/2003 (54%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless, cask #4802, 212 bottles) Three stars and a half From the times when Duncan Taylor used to issue many great old malts at fair prices. Colour: gold. Nose: quite perfect! As straight as the Cad, but rather more complex, with a wider fruitiness and maybe a little more depth. Some vanilla, golden raisins, stewed apples, sweet barley, then salted toffee, croissants, grass and lime tea. All fine! With water: hmm… Gets too grassy and oaky now. The tannicity comes out and the fruits have gone away. Mouth (neat): perfect fruitiness, great body. All kinds of apples and citrus, with some sweet barley yet again, a little toasted oak, some white pepper and a spoonful of spice mix to make mulled wine. With water: no changes this time. Finish: quite long, rather liquoricy. I’m not too fond of the rather astringent aftertaste. Comments: really great at times, less great at other times. SGP:551 - 84 points.

All right, one last chance to find a winner (the antique one doesn’t count!)…

Glenlossie 1984/2010 (60%, Scotch Single Malt Club, sherry, cask #2534, 563 bottles)

Glenlossie 1984/2010 (60%, Scotch Single Malt Club, sherry, cask #2534, 563 bottles) Four stars and a half A strong baby that did very well at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s powerful like these bourbons that are bottled at 70% vol., with quite a lot of oak, then soot and shoe polish. Also curious smells of cauliflowers, as well as oranges and vanilla. Nicely strange and restless so far, I’d say. Water may make things calm down. With water: water often brings farmyardy notes out, and it’s the case here. Hay, cow stable, then a little tar and rubber (new tyres), also some smoke (campfire). Like this! Mouth (neat): high impact, very fruity, very zesty and rather mentholated. A little anise. ‘Probably great’, but at this strength, water is more than obligatory. With water: truly excellent, big, citrusy – lightly so – fruity. Various herbal teas as well, chamomile, fennel, and maybe even hints of light-style rum. Finish: good length, more on apples and guavas, with more tea again in the aftertaste. Comments: a great one, from an excellent cask. Probably refill sherry – nothing beats good refill sherry. SGP:552 - 89 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: son of Pat Metheny and Egberto Gismonti (ha) Michael Felberbaum. Track: Phosphor Essence. Please buy his music...

April 28, 2014


Another flight of Glendronach

Plenty of official Glendronach to taste, so let’s have a few today. There will be some sherry involved!

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (55.3%, OB, fresh virgin oak hogshead, cask #1743, 312 bottles)

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (55.3%, OB, fresh virgin oak hogshead, cask #1743, 312 bottles) Three stars This one’s very interesting, since most current Glendronachs are being matured or re-racked or double-matured or finished (you name it) in sherry. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather grassy/oaky style, not as sweet, rounded and fat as I had expected. There is some vanilla for sure but also some heavy nutmeg, white pepper and cinnamon. Touches of gooseberries as well, then a little apricot and plum jam, but it remains globally dry. With water: sweeter, with the expected vanilla cream and coconut. Mouth (neat): very fruity this time, creamy, and extremely bourbony. More and more pepper and ginger after that, the oak’s quite loud. No, very loud. With water: more new oak, a wee earthiness, green apples and plenty of cinnamon. Finish: long, on rather green tannins, grass and, well, bourbon. Comments: this one must have come from Glendronach’s sub-distillery in Kentucky ;-). It’s certainly very good, but there’s rather too much oak for me. SGP:471 - 80 points.

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (54.1%, OB, Taiwan, PX Sherry Puncheon, cask #1513, 482 bottles)

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (54.1%, OB, Taiwan, PX Sherry Puncheon, cask #1513, 482 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: rich amber. Nose: powerful, with a rather leathery sherry at first nosing, with some ham, tobacco, hints of cooked broccoli and then more cigars and gunpowder. Touches of rich rum as well (Demerara), then Maggi, lovage, sauce sauce… With water: the cigars come out more, which is something that I enjoy. Crème de cassis as well, prunes… Mouth (neat): very rich and chocolaty, a little biting, with plenty of raspberry jam, pepper, leather again, tobacco… Yet it’s no sweet and heavy PX, especially the spices make it relatively ‘nervous’. With water: the oak feels, with ginger and nutmeg coming to the front. Also raisins. Finish: long, rather spicy and very chocolaty. Comments: a good example of the style. A little rougher than some of its brilliant sister casks (712!), but it’s a very fine liqueur. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Glendronach 15 yo 1995/2010 (46%, Swedish Whisky Association, PX Sherry Puncheons, cask #1520,1522, 1392 bottles)

Glendronach 15 yo 1995/2010 (46%, Swedish Whisky Association, PX Sherry Puncheons, cask #1520,1522, 1392 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rather dry one again, many aficionados believe PX makes sweet and rounded whiskies but that’s not always the case. In fact, this is very close to cask #1513, just lighter because of the lower strength. Nice notes of marmalade, though, and whiffs of geranium flowers. Maybe cranberries and grenadine. Mouth: there’s an interesting herbal side that detracts from the expected ‘PX’ style. Tobacco, a little thyme, chocolate, black raisins, cloves, nutmeg, dark toffee… Gets drier and drier. Finish: quite long, all on chocolate and raspberry jelly, with a spicier aftertaste again. Comments: another very fine one! SGP:551 - 83 points.

Glendronach 18 yo 1994/2013 (56.6%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #68, 621 bottles)

Glendronach 18 yo 1994/2013 (56.6%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #68, 621 bottles) Four stars and a halfThis baby won a big fat silver medal at the MM Awards 2013 (with an average of 89 points, so very close to gold). Colour: almost coffee. Nose: it’s a slightly flinty oloroso, very rich but also wonderfully spicy (soft curry) on top of the usual raisins and prunes. Chocolate, freshly roasted coffee beans, then touches of saltpetre. Christmas cake. With water: touches of kirsch, zwetchke spirit, red berries and liqueur-filled chocolate. Mouth (neat): feisty and zesty, not heavy at all, rather very chocolaty (dark chocolate). A lot of coffee too, it’s like crunching beans. With water: the fruits come out more. Oranges and redcurrants. Finish: very long, always very chocolaty. A blend of coffee and chocolate! Comments: a very chocolaty an coffeeish oloroso, quite spectacular. I’ll agree with my compadres. SGP:362 - 89 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (59.1%, OB, Abbey Whisky, Oloroso sherry butt, cask 33, 592 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (59.1%, OB, Abbey Whisky, Oloroso sherry butt, cask 33, 592 bottles) Five stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: yes! This time we’re all on great Armagnac, with prunes, raisins, only a faint oaky side (pencil shavings) and then smaller notes, earl grey tea, chocolate, cappuccino, maduro cigars… It’s a great nose! With water: more of all that, with a mineral side, flints, a very great mustiness in the background... Mouth (neat): yes it’s perfect. Rich yet vibrant, not that sweetish, very chocolaty, with a lovely spiciness between cloves and pepper, some gingerbread, some chestnut honey and touches of bitter oranges. What’s not to like? Ultra-classic sherry monster. With water: what a great swimmer! A lot of herbal teas, blackcurrant buds, blackberries… Finish: long and, dare I write, very ganache-y. I know, I know. Comments: ultra-classic indeed. As long as some keep making these – whatever the way they make them - not everything is lost. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Glendronach 17 yo 1992/2009 (58.8%, OB, Parkers Whisky, oloroso sherry butt, cask #401, 626 bottles)

Glendronach 17 yo 1992/2009 (58.8%, OB, Parkers Whisky, oloroso sherry butt, cask #401, 626 bottles) Five stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: oh, we’ve gone one step further. This is perfection. Pipe tobacco, prunes, raisins, orange liqueur, chocolate, coffee, marzipan, cigars, incense, tamarind jam, praline… With water: the cigars come out more. Almonds, Armagnac, peonies. Mouth (neat): amazing, a little drier than expected, with wonderful oranges and grapefruits, then the obligatory raisins, coffee, chocolate and rounded spices. Also raspberry and blackberry jelly, and just a few green tannins that you’re feeling on the sides of your mouth. With water: perfect. No need to say more. Finish: long and amazingly ‘focused’ for a sherry monster. Comments: one of the best middle-aged ones in my opinion. Textbook richly olorosoed Speyside. SGP:661 - 92 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 1992/2013 (51.8%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1159, 220 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1992/2013 (51.8%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1159, 220 bottles) Five stars This one should have been shared, because 220 bottles from a butt isn’t much. Colour: mahogany. Nose: let’s be quick, this a slightly less tobacco-ed, and slightly rounder and fruitier version of the previous one. Very lovely again. Let’s move on… Mouth: same, and once again it’s a slightly jammier one. Otherwise, same winning combo, with prunes, raisins, jellies and jams, complex spice mix, oranges (all of them) and then a small earthiness and grapefruits. Excellent. Finish: long and… excellent. A little pepper and ginger in the aftertaste, which ‘lifts’ it. Always great not to have a phat and cloying aftertaste – unless you’re ready to go to bed ;-). Comments: what could I add? These are the ones, just like the 1971/1972s. SGP:661 - 92 points.

And a last one for the road (not)…

Glendronach 27 yo 1985/2013 (53.7%, OB, Batch 9, PX Sherry Puncheon, cask #1035, 290 bottles)

Glendronach 27 yo 1985/2013 (53.7%, OB, Batch 9, PX Sherry Puncheon, cask #1035, 290 bottles) Four stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: this time we’re starting with coffee-schnapps, more roasted coffee with a smoky side (wood smoke), unexpected notes of custard and quite some milk chocolate. In the background, herbs and grasses and even a little bread. Pencil shavings. I have to say it’s got some traces of new white oak, which is kind of funny. With water: even more so, with also a farmyardy side. Mouth (neat): a firm and zesty attack on bitter oranges and white pepper, with quite a lot of cinnamon that gives it a drying side. The oak really comes out, there’s a feeling of strong black tea. With water: same. Also chocolate again, marmalade and ginger. Finish: rather long, more on coffee again. A rather oaky aftertaste. Comments: we haven’t reached the same heights as with the 1993s and 1992s in my opinion, but this remains extremely fine. Just a little drying. SGP:462 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: COUNTRY BLUES. Performer: Jorma Kaukonen. Track: Prohibition Has Done Me Wrong. Please visit the great man's website and buy his music...

April 27, 2014


The quest for malternatives,
another go at tequila

Ha, tequila. Not much luck with tequila so far, as soon as you leave the best brands such as Arette behind, you just don’t find any worthy malternatives. But we’re stubborn, aren’t we, and hopefully we’ll have better luck today.

Calle 23 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Calle 23 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars and a half The reposados are tequilas that spend just a few months in oak, so they’re paler than the anejos. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I have to say I like this better than most ‘commercial’ anejos, because it’s purer and cleaner, without any soapy tones and not much feeling of ‘cheap gin’. I really like this blend of gherkin brine, green olives, agaves and damp earth, as well as the touches of grapefruits. It’s not quite as big as the good mescals, but we’re getting there. The oak is hardly detectable in my opinion. Mouth: a little sweet for my taste, but other than that it’s all very fine, easy, quite fruity, with some salt but little smoke. A little vanilla and maybe tinned peaches. Also touches of crystallised ginger. Finish: rather short but clean and more agave-y. Comments: no big spirit but quality’s certainly high despite the relative thinness. SGP:440 - around 78 points.

Arette 'Reposado Suave' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Arette 'Reposado Suave' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars Suave means smooth, which is a quality that’s gained by extending ageing. So this should be a reposado that’s aged for a longer time, without being an anejo of course. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: a lower strength but a brighter, more expressive nose, although this style is very close to that of the Calle 23. Maybe a little more spices, especially soft ones such as pink peppercorns. I also find a little mango. It is a very beautiful nose, slightly fruitier than the Calle 23 in fact. Mouth: it’s got this sweetness that’s a little disturbing, and maybe the 38% are too low, but otherwise it’s a fine tequila, smooth indeed, with notes of oranges and grapefruits plus a little caraway. Pretty undemanding, in fact. Finish: short and slightly sugary. Grapefruit liqueur? Comments: the Calle 23 beats it on the palate, I think this sweet smoothness is actually a handicap. But hey, I know next to nothing about tequila… SGP:630 – around 73 points.

Yes I know that was surprising considering it’s Arette, our favourite brand of tequila! Let’s try another one, maybe we’ll have better luck…

Arette 'Unique' (40%, OB, extra- añejo, +/-2013)

Arette 'Unique' (40%, OB, extra- añejo, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This one was aged for six years, which is very long for tequila. Having said that, the colour is very pale, so it could have been third or fourth fill wood, which is a good thing in my opinion. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s a much grassier one, more austere, rather smoky and quite mineral at first nosing. It’s only after twenty seconds that it becomes rounder and delicately honeyed, without losing its freshness. Only wee whiffs of brine. A rather light nose, in fact. Mouth: good body this time, not big but sufficiently firm and tense, with some grapefruits and olives at first sips, then more smoothness again, with a little fir honey and maple syrup. Pinesap, a little earth. Finish: a little short again but I enjoy this blend of earth, resins and honey. A dash of white pepper. Comments: we’re still far from the stunning – and very expensive - ‘gran clase’ single casks, but it is high quality tequila. Just a little weak again, which is the main problem I find in tequila. SGP:540 - 79 points.

Tapatio 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Tapatio 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This one seems to be quite ‘artisan’ according to the best online whisky retailers ;-). The 38% are scary though. Colour: almost white. Nose: indeed, this was aged for almost two years I think and yet there’s no oak whatsoever. But it’s a clean, very mineral and slightly smoky tequila, with also drops of brine and lemon juice, as well as a micro-gherkin. Coal smoke. A perfect nose as far as aromas are concerned, but it’s extremely light and you really need to work on it, which is a little tiring. Mouth: yes, a crying shame, really. It’s a lovely spirit, perfectly balanced between smoke, rocks, lemon, ginger/caraway and salt/brine, but it’s much too light for my taste. That’s extremely frustrating when the spirit’s seemingly excellent. Finish: short, but the briny/salty part is quite perfect. Comments: I like it as much as the latest Arette, but I just cannot go to 80 because of the flatness. That weakness is the main reason why tequila cannot make for a malternative in my opinion, and there aren’t many exceptions, it seems… SGP:451 - around 79 points.

Don Julio 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Don Julio 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) We had tried a high-end version called 1942 last year, and I thought it was a little too sweet. Maybe this cheaper version will be appropriately tenser… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s shier than the Tapatio, there isn’t much happening, I’m afraid. I do enjoy these touches of melons, lemons and grapefruits, as well as the discreet mineral notes (gravel), but all this is very shy indeed. The Tapatio was a monster in comparison. Hello? Mouth: nada. I’m sorry but this is weakish, flattish, uninspiring spirit. Or maybe it’s not meant to be sipped like this? Tinned fruits, peaches, pears… Finish: short. Comments: it’s not bad but I find this really too weak. Puts you in a bad mood, grumble grumble grumble… SGP:330 – around 60 points.

Oh my, should we really go on?... After all, there’s always hope…

El Jimador 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

El Jimador 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars A very large brand, it seems. In case you’re wondering, a jimador is a farmer who harvests agave. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the first time I find so much oak, and it’s not the nicest oak, we’re navigating between sawdust and pencil shavings. Having said that, it’s not an unpleasant nose, I think the rather heavy vanilla that’s here as well blends well with the agave. Touches of cloves, nutmeg, cumin… It’s all rather spicy. Mouth: it’s fair, rather smooth, more on stewed apples than the others, with also fruit bonbons and touches of bananas and vanilla fudge. Believe or not, this one reminds of Jameson! Finish: short, but sweet and fruity. Extremely easy. Comments: I think this is not bad at all. Not much character but it goes down very well. If you’re thirsty… SGP:530 – around 75 points.

Pfff… Not much luck today, we’d better stop here and try a few other tequilas later.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Kazumi Watanabe. Track: All Beets Are Coming. Just don't listen to the very dated drumming. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 25, 2014


A bag of Pulteney including one peater

We’re expecting orchard fruits and sea breeze. And some peat in this intriguing newish official that’s supposed to be lightly ‘peated’, that’s why we’ll have it at the end.

Old Pulteney 10 yo 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, recoopered hogshead)

Old Pulteney 10 yo 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, recoopered hogshead) Three stars and a half Jean Boyer’s malts are usually crisp and spirit-driven, which is very appreciable. Colour: white wine. Nose: lovely young nose, all on barley and various garden fruits, all rather ripe. Apples, gooseberries… There’s also a little smoke, rather charcoal smoke. No peat. Add to that hints of warm croissants and you’re getting something pretty… err, French. Mouth: there is a wee saltiness in the arrival, then there’s more applejack, cherries, barley and brioche. It’s all very easy, rather sweet, and eminently drinkable. Finish: rather long, sweet, rather more candied now. A little Demerara sugar and plum jam. Comments: good body at just 43% vol. Another fair, loyal, natural and honest malt whisky by Jean Boyer. Nice Pulteneyesque saltiness on the palate. SGP:542 - 83 points.

That one was the apéritif, let’s have the heavies now…

Old Pulteney 2006/2013 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13033, 124 bottles)

Old Pulteney 2006/2013 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13033, 124 bottles) Four stars Colour: light amber. Nose: gunpowder and used matches strike first, then leather and roasted chestnuts. Goes on with more meaty notes, a feeling of teriyaki, a lot of fresh parsley and lovage, then some sugarcane and walnuts as well as drops of mustard, manzanilla-style. A polarizing style for sure, I have to say I quite enjoy it. With water: gets way smoother and more honeyed. Lovely notes of mead and honeydew. Mouth (neat): it’s the best part. Litres of bitter orange liqueur, rhum agricole, tinned pineapples and sweet curry. Definitely something exotic, despite a growing liquoricy side, as well as emerging notes of pipe tobacco. Very different, very fine. With water: excellent, compact, honeyed and peppery. Quite some cloves and something Christmassy. Finish: long, both sweet and spicy. Oriental, in a way. Comments: a lot happening in this very young baby. The gunpowder fades away – or your brain just filters it out, that’s hard to say. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Old Pulteney 12 yo 2001/2013 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, barrel, 351 bottles)

Old Pulteney 12 yo 2001/2013 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, barrel, 351 bottles) Four stars Is that Alice on the label? Are we in Wonderland with this little Pulteney? Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re back on a style that’s very much akin to that of the Jean Boyer, with naked orchard fruits at first nosing (green apples first), also flowers from the fields, but then there’s more mandarin and touches of bread and baker’s yeast. I seem to detect a wee sea breeze too, but I may be dreaming. What’s sure is that this baby is very fresh and clean. Mouth: I like this, it makes me think of the official 17 at times. Drops of brine in a fruit salad (plums, oranges, apples, grapes) with a mild spiciness and a little light honey. What I call ‘breakfast honey’. Maybe also a touch of chalk. Finish: medium length. A little more barleyish and slightly yeasty again, but it’s all fine. Something slightly burnt in the aftertaste, maybe. Comments: rather clean and crisp, so very Pulteney. SGP:542 - 85 points.

Old Pulteney 1990 'Lightly Peated' (46%, OB, Limited Edition, +/-2014)

Old Pulteney 1990 'Lightly Peated' (46%, OB, Limited Edition, +/-2014) Three stars From bourbon and sherry casks that had previously contained peaty whisky. So, is this a blended malt? Err... Colour: pale gold. Nose: I don’t find more peat than in regular Pulteneys at first nosing. It’s a rather leafy and slightly yeasty/barleyish one at first nosing, with plenty of cider apples and, I have to say, a beautiful earthiness and superb whiffs of ‘new cigar box’. Is that the advertised peat? Mouth: the peat is more obvious now. Very obvious! We’re around Ardmore levels, in fact. The peaty component combines pretty well with Pulteney, giving it a zestier, almost lemony style, but it may have made it narrower as well. I also find sultanas and something slightly dusty. Finish: quite long, smoky, slightly acrid despite the raisins. Comments: this baby loses you quite a bit, we’re rather in blended malt territories indeed. In a way, either there’s too much peat, or there isn’t enough. But yeah, it’s a fine dram. SGP:353 - 80 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the soullful trombones of Jacob Garchik. Track: The Heavens. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 24, 2014


A few Speysiders supposedly
from that distillery

Well, some are, definitely, since the name of that wonderful distillery’s written on the label in big bold letters…

Eagle of Spey 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, Riegger's Selection, sherry finish, cask #611)

Eagle of Spey 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, Riegger's Selection, sherry finish, cask #611) Four stars This baby was bottled on Christmas eve last year. There might be some fruitcake inside... Colour: gold. Nose: rather hot at first nosing, with maybe touches of sherry but certainly not an immense one, and actually rather notes of spicy bourbon/rye I have to say. Vanilla, touches of coconut, then butter pears and fudge. With water: it’s the oranges that come out now, with more raw barley and hay as well. Mouth (neat): really rich and apricoty, with also plums and quite some eaux-de-vie, around plums indeed. After that, more oranges and raisins as well as a little ginger and cinnamon. With water: very good, rather lighter and fruitier. Blood oranges, dried pears, maybe a slice of ripe kiwi… All good. Finish: long and this time it’s the custard that comes to the front. Vanilla and sultanas. Comments: this one likes water! Very good stuff, I think. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 13 yo 1980/1993 (59.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 13 yo 1980/1993 (59.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars This one is a miniature, not sure it was ever bottled as a full bottle. I wanted to try it because it’s very pale. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely raw and aggressive, this is almost new make. A lot of alcohol, fruit stones, rocks, almonds and even something soapy. Water should help. With water: it helps greatly, there’s oil and wax, herbs, moss, mint, grapefruits… This really shows how great the naked spirit of Glenfarclas is. Mouth (neat): indeed, almost new make when neat, but this time the huge fruitiness makes it interesting. Loads of oranges and gooseberries, then grass and beeswax. With water: lovely honey, lemon and grapefruit juice. Superb zestiness. Finish: long, sweet and honeyed when reduced. Grapefruits again in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect spirit that needs water. Very different from the Riegger’s, but of very similar quality. SGP:541 - 87 points.

An Iconic Speyside 27 yo 1984/2011 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2033, 229 bottles)

An Iconic Speyside 27 yo 1984/2011 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2033, 229 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: interesting, this time we’re rather on rhum agricole, with this very specific grass and the notes of burnt sugar, then a lot of almonds and marzipan. There’s also something bourbony, just like in the 1993. With water: as often, some porridge comes out. Gets quite farmyardy. Mouth (neat): it’s really marzipan and oranges, with a big mouth feel, but sadly, there’s something slightly soapy/too almondy that comes out, as well as strange notes of sweet white wine that may not quite fit. With water: improves for w while, with more marmalade, but the soapy tones are soon to come back. Nothing too big, but they sure aren’t an asset. Finish: quite long, rather on orange skin and then always almondy soap. Comments: it’s a rather great whisky, only the soap is off the marks in my opinion. But you know, soap… SGP:551 - 79 points.

Blairfindy 23 yo 1980/2003 (43%, Blackadder, sherry butt, cask #5983)

Blairfindy 23 yo 1980/2003 (43%, Blackadder, sherry butt, cask #5983) Two stars There have been some great Blairfindy by Blackadder. Colour: mahogany. Nose: very strange, as it rather starts on rotting oranges and some kind of carbon paper covered with cod oil and rubbed orange zests. It’s really bizarre, there’s also something too metallic and a little sulphury, which is a shame as I also find some great notes of Havana cigars. What to think? The palate should tell us… Mouth: no, it’s all hard to say? Cruel, cruel dilemma… On one side, some very nice notes of dried porcinis and cigars again, with even touches of camphor and eucalyptus, but on the other side, there’s something both ‘rotten’ and chemical. The chocolaty side is very nice too. Really a dilemma! Finish: long and really peppery this time. Peppered chocolate and orange zests. That’s nice! Comments: I just can’t make up my mind. SGP:461 - 75 points.

Only one solution in this case, find another 1980 by the same (usually very excellent) bottler…

Blairfindy 21 yo 1980/2002 (57.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, sherry butt, cask #5983, 300 bottles)

Blairfindy 21 yo 1980/2002 (57.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, sherry butt, cask #5983, 300 bottles) Four stars Indeed, the very same butt, bottled one year earlier at cask strength. Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: same indeed, only more austere and flinty. With water: the dried fruits come out, with also a little ginger and whiffs of damp gravels and clay. Mouth (neat): it works this time, it’s much more on glazed chestnuts, honey, chocolate and raisins. Very wee touches of plastic, though. With water: same, more or less. Heather honey. Finish: quite long and very chocolaty. Comments: I don’t know what happened with the diluted version. I guess the water was rotten, that’s all. It’s always water’s fault anyway, isn’t it? SGP:551 - 85 points.



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Snarky Puppy. Track: Bent Nails. Please visit their website and buy their music...

April 23, 2014


Three Clynelish including a 1972

A classic line-up, not much else to add. We had to recover by playing it safe after yesterday's very bizarre, err, drinks.

Clynelish 1997/2013 'Apple Basket' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 339 bottles)

Clynelish 1997/2013 'Apple Basket' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 339 bottles) Four stars How many 1997s have we already tried? A few dozens, I guess. Usually great stuff! Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well, it’s Clynelish. The most implacable wax-garden fruits combo known to Man. This one’s actually rather gentle, there are rather less oils and greases than in other ones, and a crisper fruitiness. Apples and citrons, I’d say. And paraffin! Mouth: starts with a massive fruit explosion that tops the waxy side. Tangerines, lemons, apples, even cherries, maybe apricots (apricots in Clynelish?) All that makes this baby sweeter than expected, and in that sense a tad un-Clynelish, but it all works very well. It’s only after a good thirty seconds that waxier and even dirtier (dirty in a great way) notes start to appear. Finish: long, with more white pepper and green tea, which fights the massive fruitiness and makes the whole less sweet. I almost wrote sugary. Comments: excellent, as expected, just a notch less ‘chiselled’ than earlier 1997s by Wemyss. Ah, the 'Spiced Chocolate Cup' from last year! SGP:641 - 85 points.

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (56.2%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #12794, 622 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (56.2%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #12794, 622 bottles) Four stars The Whisky Exchange and affiliated brands have already issued some fabulous Clynelishes in the past, so our expectations are deep now, although I think sherry can be a little tricky on Clynelish in my experience. Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah. Its not an ‘obvious’ Clynelish indeed, and it does remind me of some sherried ones by Cadenhead’s. The sherry brings out a leatheriness as well as many meaty notes such as smoked ham, or beef jerky. It’s actually rather winey as well (old wine barrel) and a little cigary. With water: I love my water, because it made the spirit stand out. Clynelish! Mouth (neat): big stuff! Massive doses of bitter oranges, curry, thick apple liqueur, with notes of chlorophyll and green tobacco. With water: once again, water unleashes the spirit’s original character. Wax, minerals and blood oranges in this case. Finish: long, and much zestier when watered down. Comments: I’ve had some medium-aged sherried Clynelish that had been quite dirty, but this one isn’t. So it’s rather an interesting – and very good – variant that should appeal to Clynelish lovers who’ve already got six or more different ‘natural’ expressions. And it loves water. SGP:562 - 87 points.

Good, since we’ve had a sherried one, we could s well go for the full monty, don’t you agree?...

Clynelish 1972 (61.5%, Cadenhead for Oddbins, cask #5643, early 1990s)

Clynelish 1972 (61.5%, Cadenhead for Oddbins, cask #5643, early 1990s) Five stars I guess there’s no need to tell you about 1972 at Clynelish (and at Brora, and at many other Scottish distilleries). A miracle year! Colour: red amber. Nose: I don’t think I’ll need to describe this nose for you. I’ll simply say that it’s a slightly flinty and cigary, yet pretty magnificent and vibrant 1972 Clynelish from a more than perfect sherry cask. Big, big stuff. With water: excuse me, but wow. I mean, wow! Fir trees, mushrooms, a box of puros, blood oranges, burning vine stock, old chartreuse, burnt beef, gingerbread, hundreds of spices… Mouth (neat): hits you right between the eyes. High-impact orangey sherry, fabulously zesty and thick at the same time, with an incredible body and plenty of smoked meats. Will that do? With water: yeah, leather, tobacco, a curious feeling of overripe strawberries (that can happen with sherry casks), guavas, more blood oranges, an amazing spice mix… Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: very long, smoky, jammy, spicy and, as expected, rather waxy as well. After all, this is Clynelish. Sadly, the aftertaste is a notch drying and too chocolaty for my taste. Loses one or two points here. Comments: absolutely superb, although it’s maybe not the best Clynelish 1972 ever to be honest. But we’re very close for sure! SGP:463 - 92 points.

(with thanks to Phil and Simon)

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Lucky Peterson. Track: Prince's Purple rain. Please visit Lucky Peterson's website and buy his music...

April 22, 2014


Four mistakes, some quite horrible

I’ve tasted some superb American whiskies while in California, especially ryes and bourbons including some brilliant old ‘Very Old Fitzgerald’ or Four Roses’ recent Small Batches (a million thanks again, Adam, Dave and Steve), not to forget a few good tequilas and local beers (lovely Pliny IPA, thanks Tim!) But I also came across a few very weird spirits and I thought it would be fun to formally taste them here, just because almost by law, weird stuff always makes the good ones even better.

Tequila Rose (15%, OB, liqueur, USA, +/-2014)

Tequila Rose (15%, OB, liqueur, USA, +/-2014) A mistake I made in a liquor shop, the name made me think it was tequila that would have had rose petals inside or something such as a weird tequila ‘rosé’. Not at all, this is a premix made with strawberry cream liqueur and tequila, the kind of stuff I normally avoid like the black plague. But since we’re now having some in our library, let’s try it… Colour: why do you think the bottle is black? To hide a horrendous pink and milky colour. Looks like a milkshake. Nose: smells like a newly opened pack of strawberry sweets. Do you know Haribo’s Tagada? Or low-fat supermarket yoghurt, full of gelatine and artificial flavours. No alcohol that I can detect. Mouth: yuuuukkk! Tastes like flour, plastic and artificial strawberry flavours. No body, no substance. Gooey mouth feel. Finish: very short, which is great. This feeling of cheap milkshake again. Comments: terrible stuff, with absolutely no tastes of tequila. I cannot see who would like this kind of thing. Even worse, the alcohol is completely masked, so teenagers may get easily plastered without even noticing. I think this shouldn’t be legal. SGP:810 - 5 points.

Fireball (33%, OB, cinnamon whisky, USA/Canada, +/-2014)

Fireball (33%, OB, cinnamon whisky, USA/Canada, +/-2014) This one is not a mistake I made. Well, not a full mistake. The label says it’s ‘whisky with natural cinnamon flavors’ but I’ve been checking the Web and just learned that it’s actually ‘a cinnamon-flavoured whisky-based liqueur produced by the Sazerac Company’. So not flavoured whisky, which could have been interesting, rather a kind of liqueur. The whisky inside is sourced in Canada. Colour: gold. Nose: cinnamon! Cinnamon here, cinnamon there, cinnamon everywhere. There’s probably more cinnamon than in cinnamon. I just cannot detect any whisky aromas. Mouth: starts smooth and very sweet, and even ‘a little good’ despite a soapiness, but it’s soon to become very spicy, peppery and gingery. I find more ginger than cinnamon after a few seconds, and it’s all becoming quite hot, just like some very extreme cinnamon mints that one can find in the US. Still no taste of whisky. Finish: ultra-long, very spicy and sugary. Comments: wrecks your palate, you just cannot try anything else after this, apart from more Fireball. That may have been the whole point, from a marketing POV it’s a rather brilliant idea! SGP:808 - 25 points.

… A long break, a lot of water and a little coffee to let our palate get back to normal…

Cabin Fever (40%, OB, maple flavoured whisky, USA, +/-2014)

Cabin Fever (40%, OB, maple flavoured whisky, USA, +/-2014) This shouldn’t be a liqueur. Well, hopefully not. It’s supposed to be three years old rye infused with maple from Vermont. It’s made in Ohio, but I guess the whisky comes from somewhere else, maybe Canada. The name’s quite scary, isn’t it? Colour: dark gold/orange. Nose: reeks of butterscotch, Werther’s Originals, vanilla fudge and plain caramel. It’s only after a few seconds that a little toasted oak does come through, together with small whiffs of white-spirit. Would make all these modern new-oak-doped Scotches smell like Clynelishe’s new-make in comparison. Mouth: very sweet and rather sugary, so pretty liqueurish. Not too sure whether there’s been sugar added or not, or if that would be legal, but it feels like it, or is it just the maple wood? So it’s all sweet but less so than expected, with butterscotch again, fudge, then quite some wood tannins, I guess that’s the maple talking. I think its drinkable, you just need quite some crushed ice. Finish: extremely long, although not as long as that of the terrible Fireball. Some strong tea, some wood, some maple syrup and… more maple syrup. The aftertaste is more peppered. Comments: I don’t like this too much, but I guess it would work well in some cocktails. I have to add that the taste of maple is not something we’re accustomed to here in Europe. SGP:722 - 50 points.

And now for something different…

Yukon Jack Jacapple (40%, OB, flavoured whiskey, Canada, +/-2014)

Yukon Jack Jacapple (40%, OB, flavoured whiskey, Canada, +/-2014) Two stars This is ‘blended whiskey with spice, apple and other natural flavors’. It seems that it’s made in Quebec (tabarnak!) but it’s widely available in the US. Good old Wikipedia tells us that this juice ‘was selected by the South Alberta Light Horse as its Regimental liqueur.’ Oh, and it seems that it’s a Diageo brand. Colour: gold. Nose: well, after strawberries, cinnamon and maple, here come the apples! There’s a bit of cinnamon too, but other than that, we’re in front of an apple pie spread with quite some iced cider (that they also make in Canada). I have to say I quite enjoy this, probably because I love apples. Hope the palate is in keeping with the nose… Mouth: indeed, not too bad despite the invading sugary side. We’re not too far from apple iqueurs such as the ones that they make in Spain, or iced cider again (actually, they let the apples freeze and concentrate on the trees before harvesting them, it’s a bit like icewine/Eiswein). There are spices too, such as cinnamon and maybe nutmeg and cloves, but we’re very far from the monstrous Fireball (ptew!) Finish: of medium length, rather too sweet now. Comments: the growing sweetness calls for ice, but other than that, I this is a rather fine drink, you just have to like apples. I’m glad we could have a pretty good one to close this weird session up. SGP:711 - 70 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the very delicate guitar of Torben Waldorff. Track: You Here. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 19, 2014


A quartet of naked Speysiders
for the weekend

Light in colour, rather simple, quite fruity and close to the raw materials, especially barley, these babies aren’t usually mindboggling, but they’re often easily quaffable.

Allt-Á-Bhainne 16 yo 1996/2013 (54.5%, Spirit of Caledonia, bourbon hogshead, cask #107157, 294 bottles)

Allt-Á-Bhainne 16 yo 1996/2013 (54.5%, Spirit of Caledonia, bourbon hogshead, cask #107157, 294 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a fully naked middle-aged Speysider, totally au naturel, with bags of cut apples, gooseberries and greengages, then muesli, barley and touches of butter as well as hints of candy sugar. Astoundingly simple and… natural. With water: it’s the mint that gets a little louder, as well as the barley. Quite organic, all this… Mouth (neat): sweet barley all over the place, a little grass and mint, apple compote, apple peelings and maple syrup. Did I tell you I thought this little baby was very natural? With water: more apple juice with a few mint leaves plus always a lot of sweet barley. Finish: of medium length, quite fresh, clean and very barleyish. Comments: this is truly smooth and pure barley eau-de-vie. There’s rather less bitterish grassy notes than in other youngish Allt-A-Bhainnes I could try. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Linkwood 14 yo 1998/2012 (58.5%, Mick and Tom's Bluebird Selection, hogshead, cask #10014, 300 bottles)

Linkwood 14 yo 1998/2012 (58.5%, Mick and Tom's Bluebird Selection, hogshead, cask #10014, 300 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: pretty much in the same style as the Allt-A-Bhainne, maybe just a notch more bubblegumy and even solventy, which reminds me a bit of some Auchentoshan at CS. Other than that, same feeling of apples, muesli, barley and corn syrup. Maybe also more earth and peanuts? Uncooked white asparagus? With water: even less porridge/raw barley, more sweetness. Pack of Jellybeans. Mouth (neat): same feeling of barley eau-de-vie, with a lot of apples of all sorts as well as one or two orange drops. With water: this time it’s almost the same as the Allt-A-Bhainne. A lot of sweet barley and apples, especially ripe ‘green’ ones. Finish: short to medium, sweet, on orchard fruits, sweet barley and just a touch of liquorice. A little lemon as well. Comments: same ballpark. Easy young Speysider for summertime. It should accept ice! SGP:541 - 80 points.

Miltonduff 18 yo 1995/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon barrel)

Miltonduff 18 yo 1995/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon barrel) Three stars and a half A brand new one. Colour: straw. Nose: there’s rather more happening in this one, it’s less purely barleyish and has a little more minerals and oils, as well as more beer or ale, leaves and grasses. It remains a relatively simple Speysider altogether. With water: same plus a little menthol. Globally more expressive than its two compadres. Mouth (neat): the barrel feels this time, this is more textured, silkier, creamier, with certainly more vanilla and barley sugar. Maple syrup and green tea. With water: very sweet and fruity. Juices and jams plus shortbread and custard. Tinned peaches, a spoonful of acacia honey. Good body. Finish: medium long and a notch more tannic. Green tea and a little fudge. Comments: the cask was more active, but it kept an appealing freshness. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Braes O'Glenlivet 23 yo 1989/2012 (59.7%, The Golden Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask #CM 194, 228 bottles)

Braes O'Glenlivet 23 yo 1989/2012 (59.7%, The Golden Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask #CM 194, 228 bottles) Four stars It’s the first time I see Braeval written like this ;-). John McDougall and Jane MacDuff are behind this series. Colour: light gold. Nose: this one’s older, but it’s also much grassier, rawer, mineral and, I have to say, austere. There’s also a slightly acrid smokiness. Garden bonfire. With water: sweet grasses, but no smoke anymore. Spearmint, peach leaves, a little Virginia tobacco… It’s an elegant nose. Mouth (neat): very punchy, more complex than the others, with some nice liqueurs, orange, lemon… There’s also a lot of malt, but it’s a little burning when neat. We need water! With water: pretty excellent now. Some kind of sweet artisan beer with orange zests and earl grey tea. And barley sugar, a little lemongrass… Finish: fairly long, malty, with some marmalade. Comments: I find this excellent, but this baby does need water. SGP:551 - 85 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ric Molina. Track: Medeski Martin & Wood aren't far away in The Tree. Please visit Ric Molina's website and buy his music...

April 17, 2014


High West 1512

Two great cowboy ryes live from California

From LA actually. I call these ‘cowboy’ whiskies because the bottles really look like they were taken from an old John Wayne movie, while one of them, the High West, does indeed claim that it’s ‘dedicated to the cowboy in all of us’.

High West ‘Double Rye!’ (46%, OB, USA, batch #13k21, 2013) Three stars and a half This baby comes from ‘the world’s only ski-in gastro-distillery’ that’s located in Town Park City, Utah. It’s a blend of a 2yo that contains 95% rye and of a 16yo with 53% rye and 37% corn (I know, 10% are missing from the list, probably barley). I’ve read that the whiskies were sourced from other distilleries, so it seems that this is more the work of a blending house. Colour: gold. Nose: this isn’t 100% rye – let alone double (200%) rye – but it smells a lot like rye to me, with these faint touches of rose-scented soap or candle wax and these whiffs of juniper berries, liquorice wood and bitter orange zests. It’s not massive whiskey, it’s all rather easy and soft, with a good layer of vanilla, fudge, maple syrup and butterscotch, but what I really enjoy is the fact that it does not reek of vanillin. Maybe mullein cordial. It could also hint at the best Dutch genevers, or well-aged gins if you like. Mouth: it’s got a very liquoricy and almost mentholated arrival, with some peppery oak and cinnamon mints that make it very spicy. Tends to become smoother over time though, with quite some honeydew and clove tea, then this feeling of aged gin again. Juniper for sure! Unwinds with more vanilla and maple syrup, as well as permanent touches of mint. Good body, good strength, good mouth feel. Finish: long, with roots and herbs singing louder again. Juniper, cinnamon, cloves, liquorice… Comments: tastes quite young, not too sure there’s a lot of 16yo in there, but I really enjoyed this spiciness that reminded me of the cinnamon rolls I had for breakfast this morning ;-). SGP:471 - 84 points.

1512 Spirits ‘100% Rye’ (48%, OB, USA, batch #6, +/-2013) Four stars This probably very young one was entirely distilled from rye and matured at the tiny distillery that’s located in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, California. The master distiller, who’s also a barber (you can’t make this up), is named Salvatore Cimino by the way, so probably more cowboy stuff. Heaven’s Gate anyone? Colour: gold. Nose: nothing to do with the High West, this baby’s much closer to the raw materials (eh, rye). Rye bread, other kinds of bread German-style (pumpernickel!) and then cider apples, apple pie with cinnamon and just touches of ginger. No easy/sweet smoothness whatsoever, this is fully rye-driven. Mouth: I’ll say it, I love this. It’s very dry, there’s very little vanilla, pastries or maple/corn syrup, rather a lot of rye again, the same breads as before, some cinnamon for sure, plenty of salmiak (very strong liquorice) and just a touch of caraway. Oh and a lovely yeastiness. Finish: long, always full of rye, with this time a little more sweet and spicy oak. Cinnamon and ginger, also more fudge/caramel. It’s gone down a peg in the finish, but that’s almost always the case with very young whiskies in my opinion. Comments: I absolutely love the fact that this baby’s so close to the cereal. Greatly done, Mr. Cimino! SGP:371 - 85 points.



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April 16, 2014


Tasting two of the most
unusual Littlemill ever

Unusual because one was bottled at 38.5%, which was legal at the time, while the other one was finished in sherry, which might have masked or even buried the distillate’s fruitful character. Or not, let’s see…

Littlemill 30 yo (38.5%, OB, Edinburgh crystal decanter, 75cl, +/-1985?)

Littlemill 30 yo (38.5%, OB, Edinburgh crystal decanter, 75cl, +/-1985?) Five stars We’re starting with this very rare and very old expression for one obvious reason, its very low strength. It’s from a square decanter and was most probably distilled in the 1950s. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s a sherried version and I think it’s absolutely impossible to detect any Littlemillness, such is the casks’s influence. We’re very much in cognac territories, but there are also sides that remind me of some old Macallans, which cannot be bad news. So old polished woods with touches of thuja and camphor, then roasted nuts and raisins, apricot pie and then hints of pinewood. Artisan strawberry jam. It’s a very lovely nose, obviously a little ‘antique’, and certainly not worn out. Could as well have been 40% vol. No, 43%. Mouth: sure it’s no big fat whisky, but it’s still filling your mouth, with some soft tannins that offset the lightness. A feeling of very old Sauternes wine, juicy golden raisins, three drops of yellow chartreuse that echo the pinewood, some cinnamon cake, a little praline, marmalade, blood oranges… It tends to lose steam but never nosedives, so you don’t feel frustrated. Finish: not that short! Sure it’s a little drying (cinnamon) but everything remains lovely and balanced. Raisins with a little cough syrup. A little gingerbread. Comments: I have to say this is a lovely surprise, I had thought this baby would be flat and, well, dead. But a low ‘cask’ strength and a low ‘reduced’ strength aren’t quite the same thing, are they? SGP:451 - 90 points.

Littlemill 1992/2012 (54.5%, Riegger's Selection, sherry cask finish, 629 bottles)

Littlemill 1992/2012 (54.5%, Riegger's Selection, sherry cask finish, 629 bottles) Four starsAren’t we expecting a big beast? Colour: amber. Nose: mind you, there are very obvious similarities, which comes as a surprise. Sure this is a little more powerful, but not that much, while the profile, again, is very similar. Raisins, armagnac, polished wood, orange zests, roasted nuts… What’s interesting is that a few Littlemillian (what?) fruity notes start to come through as well, mostly tropical ones such as guavas and pineapples. They play well with the raisins. Even the touches of thuja wood are back. With water: we almost replicated the old 30, only with less resinous and camphory tones. Mouth (neat): this is very funny again, we aren’t far from the old 30 again at first sips, but the oak shows more after a few seconds, especially gingery tones as well as cloves. Other than that, it’s more oranges that come to the front, especially bitter ones, then fudges and toffees as well as bitterish herbal tea. Cherry stems? With water: more citrus is coming through, with something a little fizzy. Lemonade? The sherry is toned down. Finish: quite long, mostly on bitter oranges, some squash, some raisins, a little spearmint. Comments: I think Littlemill freaks will rather seek the ‘naked’ ones, but if you’ve already got two or four of those, this very good sherried version will make for a great alternative. SGP:551 - 87 points.

(with thanks to Amaury and Roger)

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



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April 15, 2014


A trio of Glendullan, one very very strange

I’m trying hard to also showcase the lesser-known distilleries on Whiskyfun, such as the strangely christened Glendullan, even if that sometimes leads to disappointments. But there can be massively good surprises too!

Singleton of Glendullan 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Singleton of Glendullan 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars Last time I tried this expression that was in 2009 and I had thought it was very okay (WF 79). Colour: amber. Nose: we’re really in the ‘above-blends’ category, with touches of many things, such as marmalade, honey, pastries, malt, raisins, cake, rose petals and grass. That makes that not much stands out, but also that the overall feeling is rather pleasant. Mouth: light but not weak, rather honeyed, with a good maltiness. An Ovaltine bar. Also roasted nuts, cake, raisins… It’s got something of some good panettone, in a way. Finish: not that long but very balanced, always very malty, with a feeling of Guinness in the aftertaste. Did the owners…. ? Of course not! Comments: I’ll happily go to 80 this time. I think it’s a fine dram, it’s got something of the old Johnnie Walker Green Label. SGP:341 - 80 points.

Glendullan 16 yo ‘Centenary Bottling’ (65.9%, OB, 1998)

Glendullan 16 yo ‘Centenary Bottling’ (65.9%, OB, 1998) Four stars From a single cask. I've already tried a sister bottling at 62.6% vol. on WF but my notes have been abnormally short. I'm not proud. As for this one’s strength, I’m not even scared… Colour: gold. Nose: not much, and that’s because of the strength. Grass and leaves, perhaps. Green tea, green oranges... Hermes have a perfume that smells a little like this, it’s called Eau d’Orange Verte. Quick, water… With water: we’re now on full barley mode, but there’s also some very nice earth and clay in the background, as well as some peppermint. We’re well in the style of the naked Rare Malts, the epitome of distillery-forward malt whisky. Mouth (neat – I’m a little scared now): cough syrup for rhinoceros, or something like that. It’s not drinkable at full strength, but half a drop shows that something very cool might be happening behind the scenes… With water: becomes extremely liquoricy, and indeed we’re not far from cough syrup. For humans this time. A lot of lemon grass as well. I like this a lot, even if it’s not extremely complex. Finish: long and grassier. A little sugar cane, perhaps. Demerara sugar as well – appropriately. The aftertaste is a little bitter (Jaegermeister). Comments: very big Glendullan. You’ll need water. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glendullan-Glenlivet 31 yo 1966/1997 (49.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Glendullan-Glenlivet 31 yo 1966/1997 (49.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Three stars and a half Many remember one of the first ‘Platinums’ by D. Laing, a Glendullan 1966 that was absolutely superb! Colour: heavy coffee, ristretto like. One of the darkest whiskies I’ve ever seen, even Loch Dhu was paler. Serious! Nose: sure it’s the sherry that does all the talking, but what a sherry! It’s a splendid oloroso, ridden with chocolate, shoe polish and tar at first sniffs, then walnut wine, liquorice, ashes, balsamico, cigars and ‘new electronics’ (unpacking a brand new iPad, if you like). I think this nose is exceptional. Mouth: sweet Vishnu! This is as thick as pitch, it’s really a strange feeling. There’s truly a lot tar, this is like tar liqueur, only thicker and heavier. It’s very smoky too, and that’s not the spirit. Diluting two hundred salmiak drops in a bottle of vodka. All the rest is trivial. Finish: extremely long, rough, always on tar and liquorice. Comments: something must have happened. They must have tried something unusual. Maybe was the cask made out of used tyres? It’s totally unbalanced on the palate, but totally fun as well. And probably illegal. SGP:382 - 84 points.

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



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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Clynelish 1972 (61.5%, Cadenhead for Oddbins, cask #5643, early 1990s)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (59.1%, OB, Abbey Whisky, Oloroso sherry butt, cask 33, 592 bottles)

Glendronach 17 yo 1992/2009 (58.8%, OB, Parkers Whisky, oloroso sherry butt, cask #401, 626 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1992/2013 (51.8%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1159, 220 bottles)

Glenlossie-Glenlivet 6 yo (86 proof US, OB, Chas. Mackinlay & Co., US import, for Army and Navy Stores, +/-1910s)

Littlemill 30 yo (38.5%, OB, Edinburgh crystal decanter, 75cl, +/-1985?)