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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2015 - Part 1


March 2015 - part 2 <--- April 2015 - part 1 ---> April 2015 - part 2


April 14, 2015


A bed of roses, or a bag of Littlemill

It’s a bottomless pit! There’s more late 1980s – early 1990s Littlemill around, and I’m sure nobody will complain. BTW, remember Littlemill, before it was closed and then destroyed for good by a fire, was the oldest working Scottish distillery (1772 and some luminaries even wrote circa 1750.)

Littlemill 22 yo 1992/2014 (46.7%, Archives, hogshead, cask #43, 59 bottles)

Littlemill 22 yo 1992/2014 (46.7%, Archives, hogshead, cask #43, 59 bottles) Five stars A micro-bottling, and probably a shared cask. Colour: gold. Nose: this will be quick. Clay and oranges, with touches of passion fruits in the background, then lilies. Obvious and ‘irrefutable’. Mouth: irrefutable indeed. These Littlemills represent one of, if not the sexiest style of malt whisky ever, with both the emphatic fresh fruitiness that some Irish can display, and the fatter, perhaps better textured and earthier body of Scotch. Well the style of the bigger Lowlanders, especially since this one’s rather more full-bodied than others. A la Rosebank, if you will. I may be dreaming, but I even find some kind of peat. Finish: long, both fruity and perfumed, with one marshmallow – or is that icing sugar – and a grassier aftertaste. Tinned pineapples in the aftertaste. Comments: bingo again. Hope this little session won’t be too boring. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Littlemill 21 yo 1996/2014 (52.9%, The Whisky Mercenary, bourbon cask)

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2014 (52.9%, The Whisky Mercenary, bourbon cask) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a slightly more aromatic, fatter, jammier Littlemill after the Archives, but styles are – of course – similar. This cask was probably a little more active, since I can find a touch of menthol and a little more vanilla, but other than that, this is a fruit exotique extravaganza. Also big table Muscat grapes, then a little more clay, chalk and paraffin, which adds texture. Another irrefutable one. With water: this is pure multi-vitamin fruit juice. Mouth (neat): pure Littlemillness (read above) plus something a little more almondy/waxy. Ideally, some great Slivovitz could taste like this. With water: we got extremely close to the Archives. Both are almost undistinguishable when at roughly the same strengths. Finish: same comments. Comments: I’m afraid this session will be a bed of roses indeed. Let’s see of we’ll manage to go… under 90 points ;-). SGP:651 - 90 points.

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2014 (53.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, 320 bottles)

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2014 (53.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, 320 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: gold. Nose: oh interesting, there’s less extravagant fruits in this one, and rather more grassy/herbal notes, with some patchouli, something like eucalyptus-scented candles, honeydew, green bananas (or plantains), wax… That’s all pretty interesting I have to say. And nice. With water: oh, no, wait, it was kind of shut down by water. But I enjoy these discreet hints of sunflower oil. Or something like that. Perhaps sweet maize. Mouth (neat): lovely and unusual! More like raisins dipped in grapefruit-and-mint jam. I also find notes of brandy, as if this was an ex-armagnac cask – which it wasn’t, obviously. Fun and pretty pretty good. With water: becomes a little more citrusy. Finish: rather long and even more citrusy. Grapefruits reign supreme. Comments: a different early 1990s Littlemill, perhaps a little less ‘instantly wow’ but very very good, nonetheless. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Littlemill 22 yo 1991/2013 (47.2%, Eiling Lim, 4th Release)

Littlemill 22 yo 1991/2013 (47.2%, Eiling Lim, 4th Release) Four stars and a half A Malaysian bottling, how cool is that? To think that between Glasgow and Kuala Lumpur, there are 10,537 kilometres as the crow flies! Colour: white wine (ah!) Nose: it’s a discreeter one, more secretive, with interesting hints of vegetables (tomatoes, for example, or fresh asparagus), peelings, lemon skin… We’re very far from the wham-bam Littlemills, and that is kind of refreshing if you ask me. Now the tropical fruits do come out a bit, but they remain elegant and subtle. Mouth: nah, there, this is how to disabuse oneself. Full zesty/fruity Littlemill, on lemons, grapefruits, maracuja, mandarins… Having said that, there is a delicate herbalness, and indeed wee touches of vegetables again. Maybe sweetish celeriac? Finish: rather long, and I cannot not think of some lighter Jamaican rum. Must be the celeriac. Or this earthy side that takes off. Comments: great tipple, great tipple. Not all +/-1990 Litlemills are the same, after all, which is just great. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Littlemill 23 yo 1991/2014 (48%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 275 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1991/2014 (48%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 275 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: another interesting one, this time with rather more waxy notes, although I wouldn’t say there aren’t almost as many vegetables as in the Eiling. That would be fresh white asparagus again (season is open, hear, hear!), then almond oil and broken branches and roots. There are some tropical fruits, but that’s the most discreet side of this baby. Mouth: nah, once again, my palate proves me wrong. There are pink grapefruits, even a wee feeling of smoked/dried bananas, some very great notes of blond tobacco, an unexpected drop (or two) of manzanilla, and even a pinch of salt. And a drop of earthy mezcal. In fact, this is a rather coastal Littlemill. Finish: long, earthier. That’s lovely. I even find a little gentian. Comments: takes its time, and hates to be rushed, but especially the aftertaste and retro-olfaction are totally magical. Maybe a little intellectual for a Littlemill. But there. SGP:561 - 91 points.

That’s five of them already. Shouldn’t we go on a bit? What do you say?

Littlemill 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.6%, Maltbarn, 158 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.6%, Maltbarn, 158 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: quite similar. There are vegetables, peelings, then a mineral side that I hadn’t found in the others, an earthiness for sure, some mineral oils and other liquids (wait, brake fluid?), something almondy and waxy… And fresh cultivated mushrooms? Vieille prune? Quite different, in fact. Mouth: superb. Earth, with vieille prune indeed (but infinitely better than all vieilles prunes I’ve tasted), marmalade, some kind of grassy and earthy citrus fruit (that can’t be kumquats, can it?), pu-erh tea, then papayas and dried apricots… What’s sure is that this baby’s much more muscular than many Littlemills, and did not play it ‘just passion fruits and basta’.  Finish: long, with some saps and resins that I had not expected. It’s also a tad heavier and fatter. Comments: another rather different Littlemill. They ain’t all the same, definitely. SGP:551 - 89 points.

I’ve also got quite a few from the late 1980s, but we’ve already tried quite a bunch of Littlemills, haven’t we. Better call this a session.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Mike Westbrook. Track: Part IX of Metropolis (1971). Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 13, 2015


A row of Longrow

How’s that possible that WF hasn’t won the World Crappiest Headline Award yet? Anyway, let’s have a few (more or less) peaty Longrows by Springbank Distillery.

Longrow (46%, OB, +/-2014)

Longrow (46%, OB, +/-2014) Four stars and a half Loved this baby when it first came out three years ago (WF 88). Sure it’s NAS but it’s also priced like NAS, which they were already doing with the CVs, which is totally and utterly kosher in my book. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very, and I mean very lovely. There’s a steely touch at first nosing, then a light briny smokiness, then lime, chalk and Band-Aid. I don’t find as much ‘good’ sulphur as in the earlier batch, but this is even cleaner and fresher. Indeed, lovely. Mouth: amazingly zesty and briny, always with a perfect freshness. Drops of passion fruit juice in olive brine, seawater and liquid smoke. Also a little earth, tobacco (when a little piece of tobacco goes into your mouth while you’re smoking an untipped cigarette – remember untipped cigarettes?), and oyster. Finish: long, with this mineral signature (graphite or something) and more brine. Comments: I simply adore this style. Could be 3 years old, I’d still adore it. It’s also peatier than earlier Longrows. SGP:356 - 88 points.

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (53.7%, OB, Australian shiraz, 2013)

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (53.7%, OB, Australian shiraz, 2013) Two stars and a halfHum, the former ‘Cabernet’ version did not please me at all (WF 70), but it’s to be said that on my very own palate, red wine in whisky usually works just as well as mustard in my coffee. Colour: bright orange. Nose: ah, this seems to work! Maybe does the metallic and spicy side of a proper syrah/shiraz work better? No red fruits, rather butterscotch and walnut cake, on a sooty/smoky bed, then touches of balsamic vinegar and old humidor, as well as pot-pourri and old roses. So far, so good, despite something slightly unusual. That’s the roses! With water:  gets rounder, rather on shortbread and cake. How strange – and pleasant. Mouth (neat): it is a little more unlikely, with quite a lot of green tannins and pepper, grape pips, apple peelings and all that. Beneath all that, I find blood oranges and a gingery smokiness that’s a tad dissonant. Maybe. With water: ginger mints and ginger cake, the spices won. Finish: long, spicy. Bitter oranges and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: really something else. Liked some parts rather a lot, but I think it’s having a hard time after the immaculate NAS. SGP:364 - 79 points.

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (51.8%, OB, fresh Port, 2014)

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (51.8%, OB, fresh Port, 2014) Two stars and a half Port is the enemy! Don’t get me wrong, I love good Port, just not in my whisky. Colour: golden/apricot. Nose: the masters seem to have exercised restraint here, which the colour already suggested (no girly pink/rosé colour). Even more walnuts than in the shiraz, maybe two strawberries, some soft mustard and tobacco, some nutmeg for sure, more and more muesli, and then some rather penetrating (?) oranges. It’s fruitier than the shiraz, but all remains fine. With water: no luck, I now find notes of old vase water. Not too sure… Something a little sulphury as well. Mouth (neat): very oily mouth feel. Plenty of spices once again, rather around cumin and juniper this time, tannins, spicy oak, pepper, cinnamon… Bitter oranges as the fruity base. I’m not sure the spirit, however characterful, has a lot of room here. With water: swims pretty well. Some kind of orange cake with ginger and caraway. Finish: same profile, for a rather long time. Comments: very spicy and tannic. Not the most spirit-driven malt in da world ;-) and indeed some might be wondering about this baby’s algorithm, as we say these days. SGP:364 - 78 points.

Longrow 15 yo 1998/2014 (48.1%, OB, Distillery Release, Open Day, Madeira hogshead, 186 bottles)

Longrow 15 yo 1998/2014 (48.1%, OB, Distillery Release, Open Day, Madeira hogshead, 186 bottles) Four stars and a half In my book Madeira’s one of the wines that work with whisky, although there are several kinds of Madeira, from bone dry to totally sweet. It’s like sherry, between fino and PX. Let’s see. Colour: full gold. Nose: dry Madeira! So this is straighter, drier, much earthier and full of tobacco than the reds. In short, a better planet to live on. Perfect leather, old box of Cuban cigars, then dried kelp, pu-erh tea… All that, I rather love. Mouth: oh yessss. Old vin jaune, fino, walnuts, tobacco, peppermint sauce, dried porcinis, liquorice wood, crystallised ginger (but not too much of that!), bitter chocolate… This earthiness is just superb. The spirit’s smokiness is roaring in the background. Finish: long, with ginger, tobacco, sweet mustard, a touch of wasabi, bitter oranges… Perfect. It’s even kind of fresh, despite the fairly ‘heavy’ style. Comments: killed the Reds. No, not a matter of politics or sports. SGP:355 - 89 points.

Good, this is going to get tricky since I wanted to end this wee session with an un-winised Longrow. Let’s try to find a big ‘natural’ one…

Longrow 18 yo 1990/2008 (54.1%, OB, private bottling for Magnus Fagerström, cask #178, 237 bottles)

Longrow 18 yo 1990/2008 (54.1%, OB, private bottling for Magnus Fagerström, cask #178, 237 bottles) Four stars I remember some older Longrows - not talking about the 1970s here - could be a little too sulphury. Let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s some Demerara sugar at first nosing, which is a little surprising but just fine. I also find more linseed oil, bandages, black earth (not a matter of colour of course, rather a matter of fatness), then some very unexpected whiffs of crème de cassis, these Cuban cigars again, prune sauce, champignons… And yet it remains kind of light and fresh. Very intriguing. With water: seawater with candles and orange zests. How very 1990 Longrow. Mouth (neat): there are traces of a kind of wackiness that I used to find in these vintages indeed, such as notes of rotting oranges, of bitters, and of paraffin… And yet that works, it’s just that the combo’s pretty unusual. With water: same, with just an added sweetness. Finish: rather long, with that Demerara sugar again (where does that come from) and a ‘leathery coastalness’ (yeah right). Comments: one of my favourite early 199Os Longrows. Well done Magnus. SGP:464 - 87 points.

(Mucho danke schoen, Konstantin and Morten)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Lonnie Liston Smith. Track: Sunbeams. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 12, 2015


Malternatives on Sunday,
today rowan eau-de-vie

While ‘obvious’ fruit eaux-de-vie and spirits, such as pears or raspberries, do not make for serious malternatives in my book, because of their one-dimensional style - however great they can be - that’s less the case with small berries of various sorts, sometimes because their stones add much more complexity. Right, sometimes a little too much prussic acid as well, that’s why one should not drink too much of them. And as some statistician would say, the smaller the berries, the bigger the stones. Relatively, of course. Right, let’s have some rowan today…

Sorbier des Oiseleurs (43%, OB, René de Miscault, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Also called sorbier des oiseaux, simply sorbier, or Vogelbeer in German, or rowan in English. The small red berries first macerate in neutral spirit (apple) and are then distilled, although some old guys used to make some ‘pure’ fermented sorbier as well. Imagine the yield, would make a Scottish accountant cry – or worse. Colour: white. Nose: ah yes, this is wonderfully almondy. The stones are doing the largest part of the job here, but these notes of marzipan, barley water, fresh artisan-made varnish and maraschino are just beautiful. It’s a delicate and complex spirit. Mouth: sadly, there’s a little too much sugar in the arrival, which I’ve already noticed with this maker, but apart from that slightly liqueury side, there’s a perfect earthy/almondy development, with touches of absinth, marzipan, grapefruit liqueur and sweet liquorice. Good body, and a perfect strength. It’s even a little hot. Finish: long, almondy, with these varnishy touches that aren’t detrimental, quite the contrary. A salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: very good rowan eau-de-vie, we’re approaching the realm of the great white tequilas, in a way. A pity that there’s this sugar.  SGP:551 - 79 points.

Sorbier 'Tradition' (40%, OB, Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2014)

Sorbier 'Tradition' (40%, OB, Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2014) The house Miclo’s located in Lapoutroie, which is in the Welche part of Alsace, which is its tiny French-speaking part. The Pays Welche is Celtic and not Germanic – and by the way, my ancestors were Welche, which is why my name doesn’t sound Germanic. So kind of French in Germanic Alsace, which lies in France. Complicated enough? I can do worse ;-). Colour: white. Nose: it’s a fresher and earthier style, with whiffs of roots and gentian (didn’t they just distil gentian and not thoroughly cleaned the pipes? I’m joking.) Then a touch of celeriac, as well as, perhaps, more fruitiness. A nose that’s a little less easy/sexy, but that usually suggests a nicer palate. Yeah, same as with whisky. Mouth: not 100% sure, there’s a whacky dirtiness, and a lack of definition, with something meaty and burnt. Not what you’re looking for when you make fruit eau-de-vie, even out of small berries. Finish: medium, with some caraway this time. Pepper. Indeed, unexpected. Comments: not too impressed. SGP: 461 – 60 points.

Vogelbeer (42%, OB, Lantenhammer, Bavaria, +/-2014)

Vogelbeer (42%, OB, Lantenhammer, Bavaria, +/-2014) Three stars Lantenhammer are also the owners of Slyrs Distillery in Schliersee, but they’ve been smart enough to not distil whisky in their fruit stills – and conversely. So, this is a different distillery. Great people by the way, with a lot of attention to detail. Colour: white. Nose: back to the style of the Miscault, with rather aromatic notes of fruit stones, almonds, varnish, barley water, and amaretti. It’s fresh and clean, and relatively easy, it seems. Mouth: it is a little bit too sugary again, but not that sugary. The rest is rather excellent, earthy and almondy, with some fresh touches of myrtle and gentian (again), fennel, bay leaves… Finish: rather long, a wee bit bitter (Campari) but that’s all fine. The sugar doesn’t feel – provided there was any in the first place, and only the aftertaste is a little soapy, but that almost always happens with stone fruits, it’s not a flaw. Comments: sehr gut in meiner Meinung. SGP:361 - 82 points.

Sorbier des Oiseaux (45%, OB, J. Nussbaumer, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2014)

Sorbier des Oiseaux (45%, OB, J. Nussbaumer, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2014) Three stars Again, maceration instead of fermentation here. Nussbaumer is a highly reputed house that’s located in Steige, a wee place where just everybody used to distil fruits or else in the old days. You’re right, life expectancy was not so high at the time. Colour: white. Nose: first these celeriac-like notes that come together with some fennel and a very wee hint of catnip, then a brand new box of amaretti. We’re relatively close to some good kirsch (cherry) at this point. Maybe a tiny touch of rubber. Mouth: big! An ‘Islay’ of eau-de-vie, with big earthy flavours, some roots, almonds of course, more kirsch, a little cinchona or quinine, and then hints of triple-sec/Cointreau that will prevent the finish to become too bitter. Well, in theory, let’s check that. Finish: indeed, the slightly orange-y side adds some roundness, while the almondy/rooty side keeps singing loud. A long, almost invading finish. Comments: it’s a tad brutal at times, a tad peasant, but that adds authenticity. And I don’t feel any added sugar. Same league as the Bavarian. SGP:461 - 82 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Horace Silver. Track: Incentive. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 10, 2015


Tasting beef broth. I mean, Mortlach.

As usual, 1. a worthy aperitif and 2. a few stronger beasts.

Mortlach (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1985)

Mortlach (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars This old NAS Mortlach could have been bottled a little earlier than 1985, not too sure. Anyway, the market was low at the time, so there may be some old Mortlach inside. Colour: white wine. Nose: very interesting! Starts with whiffs of bicycle inner tube, which isn’t quite rubber mind you, certainly some ‘mineral’ sulphur (not eggy notes at all), then we find the trademark meaty things (rather cured ham), and lastly, some fresh butter with linseed oil, plums and fresh mint. Never found so many plums in Mortlach. What’s great is that no sherry’s there to kind of mask the spirit. Mouth: it’s amazing how meaty this is. Beef and chicken bouillons, miso soup – you might call this umami – then Chinese dumplings, chives, parsley, salt, Maggi, lovage, more ham… This is no whisky, it’s a sandwich! Sure the low strength feels a bit but the spirit’s really fat. I mean, its style is fat. Finish: kind of long, very bouillony. Ha! Comments: very hard to score, we’re extremely far from any contemporary malt whiskies. There’s not one ounce of sweetness in the palate, only the finish had half a raisin. SGP:262 - 85 points.

Mortlach 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, The Warehouse Collection, ex-bourbon finish octave, cask #W8/1208, 72 bottles)

Mortlach 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, The Warehouse Collection, ex-bourbon finish octave, cask #W8/1208, 72 bottles) Two stars Not to sure about what an ‘ex-bourbon finish octave’ exactly is, but as G.W. used to say, who cares? Colour: pale gold. Nose: there are whiffs of bourbony vanilla at first nosing indeed, and those come with a little coconut and warm sawdust, as usual. After that, I do find floral touches (dandelions), then maybe violets (not sweets), and then just a little yoghurt. Or rather that yoghurt sauce that our Turkish friends make. I wouldn’t say you find much Mortlachness in this, but it is a pleasant nose. Mouth: sure the oak is singing loud, but I think this works well… for a while. Because there’s a green tannicity as well… well we remain below the limits. So, fine. Other than that, a green kind of liquorice and plenty of green tea. Green’s the keyword here. Liquorice wood. Finish: long and tannic. Comments: fine but that’s the problem with these octaves. I’m glad I could try other new whiskies by The Warehouse Collection that have been much more to my liking. More about them soon on WF! SGP:371 - 74 points.

Mortlach 15 yo 1999/2014 (56.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, sherry butt, cask #2)

Mortlach 15 yo 1999/2014 (56.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, sherry butt, cask #2) Four stars W&M like oloroso, this should be oloroso. We like oloroso too. Colour: pale amber. Nose: chocolate and oak, I’d say. Does cocoa wood smell like this? Like these notes of dried mushrooms as well, but the whole remains a tad closed. So… With water: yess. Maggi and oxtail soup, plus drops of soy sauce. What one would expect from a Mortlach + dry oloroso combination. Mouth (neat): big fat chocolate and walnut eau-de-vie (should that exist). Distilled Marsala, or dry Madeira, or Manzanilla, or something like that. Very heavy, and yet kind of approachable, should you enjoy high extractions and, well, walnuts. A little mad, perhaps. With water: swims like a champ. Sure the oak got a tad too loud for my taste (walnut stain) but these notes of coffee, miso soup, soy sauce and Chinese plum sauce (the one they serve with Peking duck, always forget the name) are spectacular. What a concoction! Finish: very long. I know salted coffee’s not supposed to work too well, but there, salted coffee and I like that. Comments: extreme and spectacular. Some sides were a little unlikely, but I loved its… say assertiveness? SGP:462 - 87 points.

Mortlach 25 yo 1988/2014 (56.8%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 576 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1988/2014 (56.8%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 576 bottles) Two stars I just loved the latest 1994/2015 ‘small batch’ (WF 91) but that one was almost totally spirit-driven. Might not be the case here. Colour: gold. Nose: these bicycle inner tubes that were in the old official NAS. I mean, it’s more a dragster than a bicycle. A box of rubber bands, then a box of cigars, then a box of prunes. A lot of boxes, I know. Not 100% convinced so far. With water: not a few inner tubes, a whole factory! Mouth (neat): yah. A strange beast, with some bitter oranges, Worcester sauce, reduced caramel and green peppercorns. This is extremely extreme, not for the fainthearted and maybe not for overly sophisticated palates. Good news, we’re not one of them. With water: really, it’s rather Pirelli 25 yo. Finish: long and probably a little tyre-ing (yeah, well done S., like, how much do we owe you?) Comments: I think you really need to be into these sorts of heavily rubbery drams. But if you do, this is paradise on earth. SGP:373 - 76 points.

Not an easy session, not an easy one. Last try, and this should be quite heavy too… Wish me luck!...

Mortlach 27 yo 1987/2015 (56.8%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #3104, 271 bottles)

Mortlach 27 yo 1987/2015 (56.8%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #3104, 271 bottles) Four stars and a half Utterly loved some sister casks, some others a little less so. High expectations anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: the oak first imparts some heavy bourbony notes, ala Pappy and stuff. Really. We’re meaning pencil shavings and all that, gunflints and vanilla pods… And very little sherryness. How very un-Jerez! Not even the hints of cured ham (that would be bellota, obviously) make it Andalucian, but on the other hand, there are very lovely whiffs of pot-pourri, Cuban cigars and vin jaune. Right, manzanilla. BTW I will fly to Jerez in three weeks, I can’t wait. With water:  there, chicken bouillon and all that, plus a touch of mint sauce. Something English, perhaps. Mouth (neat): very high impact sherry and oak, with a very thick mouth feel and plenty of Wurst/sausages. Never had such as sausage-y whisky. Add cloves, add cumin, and add juniper berries. Yeah, and even sauerkraut (choucroute or sürkrüt in Alsatian). With water: works. I had feared the oak would have become too loud, but it’s the opposite that happens. Cool! Finish: long herbal, spicy, and bouillony. Marmalade in the aftertaste, that was welcome. Comments: spicy sausage-y malt whisky, how gastronomic is that? Fun and funny – while probably quite unorthodox. SGP:372 - 88 points.

Well, Mortlach sure isn’t for vegetarians!

(and thanks a lot, Tomislav)

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Linda Hoyle. Track: Backlash blues. Please buy her music...

April 9, 2015


Glenfiddich 12, NAS and 1961

Our Glenfiddich section urgently needs an upgrade. Let’s hope that it wont, like at most software companies (Adobe, I’m looking at you), actually be a downgrade.

Glenfiddich 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Glenfiddich 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a halfThat’s right, the #1 malt whisky in the world, and with an age statement at that. In the past, it had tended to improve in my book (from WF 75 to 79) but I had last formally tasted it in… 2005. I know, ten years, but hey, I have no yearly book to feed. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely light, extremely gentle, extremely friendly. Apple juice, compote, very light honey, a touch of earl grey tea, some kind of sweet hay and then trademark pear liqueur. I find it delicate, and certainly not bland or too ‘all-purpose’. Mouth: it starts rather creamy, malty, a wee tad sugary, with good honey and maple syrup, then a half grassy, half citric profile. Orange zests in green tea? Tends to get dry. Finish: not too long, more on ripe apples and some tea. Not the best part, as often with ‘core-range’ malt whiskies, but that’s still very all right. Dry and grassy aftertaste. Comments: at the top end of the bracket. A fuller finish would have granted it with some solid 80 or 81 points. SGP:441 - 79 points.

Glenfiddich ‘Select Cask' (40%, OB, Cask Collection, travel retail, +/-2014)

Glenfiddich ‘Select Cask' (40%, OB, Cask Collection, travel retail, +/-2014) Two stars and a half As I understand it, this is from some kind of solera involving Californian red wine casks. Love California, love red wine, and love Californian reds (most), but arghh… NAS, naturally. As for the name ‘Select’, well… ;-) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a slightly harsher, less polished Glenfiddich at first nosing, with less of the aromatic gentleness that was in the 12, and certainly more vanilla and fresh nuts. Fairly nice, but modern. Tends to become rounder, all on butterscotch. Mouth: we’re closer to the 12, and styles are very similar, but this Select has got some vanilla-ed coating that may block the spirit’s fruity character. On the other hand, the mouth feel’s a little better. Hay and overripe apples. Finish: a tad longer than that of the 12, but I find a little too much sour/spicy oak. Comments: I did not get anything Opus One or Screaming Eagle, but there. It’s more than fair, but I did not like the finish too much. Yup, once again. SGP:451 - 77 points.

Good, let’s try to find an old glory… I think we have something at hand…

Glenfiddich 21 yo 1961/1984 (45%, Zenith, Italy)

Glenfiddich 21 yo 1961/1984 (45%, Zenith, Italy) Five stars I know, maths are not always our dear whisky bottlers’ stronger point. Colour: gold. Nose: great OBE in action, on some relatively fat and ‘inspired’ spirit. So that would be old leather jacket (in an old wardrobe in an old attic in an old house…), tin box, metal polish, tinned tropical fruits (papaya juice?), menthol cigarettes… Sadly, there’s also something too dryly herbal, I’d say. Grass juice and old damp cardboard? Could be a bad sign, but let’s see… Mouth: no no no, it’s very fine. Much bigger than contemporary Glenfiddich, starting with wheelbarrows of liquorice and sweet herbs and spicy sweets (there’s this ginger-based soft bonbon that they make in… Isn’t that Japan?), then salty mint, even high-strength tequila (that’s hard to find but it’s rather mind-blowing)… It even gets saltier and saltier, which really comes unexpected. Salty Glenfiddich??  Finish: very long, waxier, salty, rich, spicy… and endless. There’s also quite a lot of peat smoke, and had you claimed this was an old Islayer, I wouldn’t have cried wolf. Comments: the power and the fatness were a little disconcerting, given that this is Glenfiddich, but there, other whisky days, other ways. SGP:463 - 90 points.

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



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April 8, 2015


Quite possibly the last genuine verticale of Glenlochy we’ll ever do

A little verticale of Glenlochy, that’s unusual. Remember, the old Fort Williams distillery was closed for good in 1983, together with many colleagues. At some point it used to belong to the owner of the neighbouring distillery, Ben Nevis, before joining the DCL/SMD team. We’ll start, as usual, with a wee aperitif at rather low strength. And today, that’ll be…

Glenlochy 14 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1982)

Glenlochy 14 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1982) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a really smoky nose at first, before oranges and perhaps ripe guavas start to blend in. In the background, old copper coins, tin boxes, old toolbox and all those sorts of greasy/sooty/metallic things, then more ink and carbon paper. There might be some OBE, especially since there’s also a little pinesap arising, cough medicine, leather… All that is quite complex, let’s only hope the palate won’t be a bit tired and flat. Mouth: tired? Not at all, quite the contrary in fact. Starts tarry and smoky, a bit salty as well, with an obvious ‘old Highlands’ feeling, displaying plenty of waxes and oils, a refreshing acridness (chewing tobacco) and all these sappy notes that we already found in the nose. And it wouldn’t even lose steam, rather remaining firm and phenolic/metallic, without ever becoming dusty or cardboardy. As for the fruits, they’re still oranges. Finish: granted, this isn’t the longest finish ever, but everything remains in place, with the salt and the smoke dancing in the aftertaste. Comments: not a surprise, but quite a bit of a surprise, still. Big fat malts never die, apparently. This starts well. SGP:463 - 89 points.

And now the main courses…

Glenlochy 27 yo 1980/2008 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, hogshead, cask #2823, 231 bottles)

Glenlochy 27 yo 1980/2008 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, hogshead, cask #2823, 231 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark straw. Nose: starts with a big sucrosity but that may be the high strength. Plenty of tinned fruits, oranges, zests, all that coated with some putty/marzipan (as opposed to putty/plasticine) and then more and more crystallised oranges. I do not get much smoke, soot, tar or metal this time, but water may change that. With water:  cancel that, there they come, old tools, rusty old machines, long forgotten paint pots, then oranges and herbal teas (lime tree, chamomile, the usual suspects). Definitely old ‘sooty’ Highlands. Mouth (neat): bonbons, bonbons and bonbons, plus a bitterish mint and a little leaven, perhaps. A little ink as well. With water: perfect, don’t we all love water. Soot, wax, tobacco, tar and smoke, liquorice… Finish: same, for a rather long time. Comments: a big bodied old Highlander indeed. Water tamed it. Quality’s very high. SGP:463 - 90 points.

While we’re at it… All these 1980s by Signatory were great anyway (well done Signatory!)…

Glenlochy 32 yo 1980/2012 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, refill butt, cask #1759, 499 bottles)

Glenlochy 32 yo 1980/2012 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, refill butt, cask #1759, 499 bottles) Four stars and a half A butt this time, so this might be a bit rounder. But have you seen the strength! Colour: pale gold. Nose: little, if not no sherry influence, this baby’s very close to its sibling, with maybe just more ‘silence’ because of the very high strength. A little sour wood, perhaps, but water will tell. With water: it’s a fighter, certainly less friendly than the ex-hoggie, it reminds me a bit of a Corsican friend – but that’s another story. The grass smoke is perfect, though (ha-ha). Mouth (neat): bang! A blade, really. Lemons and iron, plus silver and grapefruits. Extremely strong, ala old Rare Malts (more about those later). With water: perfect, lemons and grapefruits come out, with a bit of mentholated polish – or would that rather be… toothpaste? Finish: long, lemony, grassy and smoky. Comments: just excellent again, with just a little more austerity. As for the sherry, well there’s more sherry in northern Greenland. SGP:362 - 89 points.

Good, shall we go back in time?...

Glenlochy 25 yo 1969/1995 (62.2%, OB, Rare Malts, 20cl)

Glenlochy 25 yo 1969/1995 (62.2%, OB, Rare Malts, 20cl) Five stars This wee baby from the utterly lovely sets of 20cl bottles that could be found in the mid-90s. Why haven’t we bought more of those, why? Colour: pale gold. Nose: astounding, just astounding. You’re eating high-quality apples near a working coal stove, while polishing your shoes and quaffing some kind of heavily hopped IPA. With water: question, can you make shoe polish out of lemons? Also love these notes of concrete dust after a heavy shower. Mouth (neat): ooh this is good. It’s from the countryside, it’s got hay, smoke, dairy cream, barley, shoe polish, engine oil… And, yes, gunflints (well the ideas of gunflints as quoted when tasting white wine, because I’m not sure I’ve ever come across actual gunflints). With water: best of lemons and limestone. Finish: long, a bit minimal in a way, but supremely elegant. Comments: yeah, Pouilly-Fumé. Let’s spare a thought for the talented distillers who made this while listening to Honky Tonk Women. SGP:463 - 92 points.

Further back…

Glenlochy 21 yo (55.2%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection, 5cl, 1991)

Glenlochy 21 yo (55.2%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection, 5cl, 1991) Three stars and a half That’s right, a miniature. It’s said to be a rebottled 1967, but I’m afraid we have no proof. But as this is a miniature, our notes will be short… (what?) Colour: gold. Nose: there are similarities, but this baby’s unexpectedly medicinal, with a lot of antiseptic, then funny whiffs of damp gravel and chalk, then rather wet wool and, here they are again, our beloved wet dogs (we’re deeply sorry, dogs). Fun stuff indeed. With water: even more damp chalk, clay, gravel and herbs. Nosing freshly cut grass. Mouth (neat): it’s a copy of the Rare Malts, but indeed there’s something funnier. Perhaps some kind of caraway-flavoured butter cream? Some speculoos for sure. With water: indeed, speculoos covered with mint sauce. Finish: same, plus funny hints of chives. Comments: a bit unlikely at times, but yeah, it’s fun. And it’s only a miniature. Loved some parts. SGP:372 - 84 points.

And further back…

Glenlochy 30 yo 1963/1993 (52.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #761, 190 bottles)

Glenlochy 30 yo 1963/1993 (52.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #761, 190 bottles) Four stars and a half It seems that the great people at Signatory always had a crush on Glenlochy. I think we can understand why, can’t we. Colour: deep gold. There must be a bit of sherry in there. Nose: more old Highlands than the aforementioned old Highlanders. Massive shoe polish and gravel, then rising whiffs of mild tobacco and some kind of oriental orange-blossom-based jam, plus touches of wormwood and verbena that add lightness and, hum, femininity to the combo. Maybe a little dust as well, but let’s see… With water: no changes whatsoever, what a waste of Vittel water. Ha-ha. Mouth (neat): smashing oranges, grapefruits, minerals and polishes, with a very oily mouth feel, a touch of salt, always this sooty side and always these herbs, both minty and grassy/green. It’s the texture that’s most impressive, whether that came from floor maltings, direct firing, old yeast strains or the captain’s age. That’s, in my opinion, the main difference with contemporary distillates. With water: useless water! Its rare that water doesn’t change anything, neither for the better, nor for the worse. Finish: long, with the oranges singing louder – especially bitterish zests. Comments: just excellent, but in truth, I liked Signatory’s first 1980 even better. And of course the precious little Rare Malts. SGP:462 - 88 points.

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



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April 7, 2015


Kavalan here, Kavalan there

Kavalan, after Yamazaki, Yoichi, Karuizawa, Amrut, or others, is one of the names that are making some of the Scots look a bit old-fashioned these days, but being the next best thing is not always the greatest thing for your future (hey?). Kavalan win many great awards (not only the U-pay-U-win ones, mind you), but in truth, they may send Ferraris while some Scots keep sending diesel Golfs. So today let’s have quite a few Kavalans, starting with the ‘cheaper’ ones, as usual. Oh and agreed, this little session was long overdue.

Kavalan (40%, OB, Taiwan, 2012)

Kavalan (40%, OB, Taiwan, 2012) Two stars and a half Bottling date taken from inkjet code on bottle. I believe this is the entry-level Kavalan. I’ve never quite enjoyed earlier bottlings. Colour: gold. Nose: full on sawdust, vanilla, and overripe apples, not unlike some softer, less sweet young bourbon. A touch of coconut. As I sometimes write, this isn’t unpleasant at all, but we’re rather in Haig Club territories. Mouth: sweet and very fudge-y arrival. Maple syrup, corn syrup, caramel, butterscotch, then a bit of gingery oak, sour apple compote and Demerara sugar. Some toasted oak as well, plus a touch of varnish and some unexpected hints of rye. Finish: not too long, a tad bitter and dry. Bitter caramel. Comments: probably no show frog, this one, but I find it fair and loyal. Maybe a little more depth than in earlier bottlings. SGP:541 - 78 points.

King Car (46%, OB, Kavalan distillery, Taiwan, +/- 2013)

King Car (46%, OB, Kavalan distillery, Taiwan, +/- 2013) Two stars and a half This baby bears the name of the owners, King Car. It’s a blend of various kinds of wood. Colour: gold. Nose: I find more walnuts, more beeswax and more raisins in this one, which makes it rather bigger and more complex than the regular Kavalan. Nice whiffs of bananas covered with custard and acacia honey. Broken branches. Mouth: starts as a punchier version of the Kavalan, with more tea, tobacco and walnut skin, before the sweeter counterparts come through, such as dried apple slices, a little pine liqueur, cinnamon cake… The oak starts to feel after a few seconds. The tea got stronger. Finish: rather long and oaky. White pepper, cinnamon, more tea… Green bananas in the aftertaste. Comments: just a little less oak and that would have been a 80. Modern style. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Kavalan 'Podium' (46%, OB, Taiwan, +/-2014)

Kavalan 'Podium' (46%, OB, Taiwan, +/-2014) Four stars This one’s matured partly in new oak and partly in refill Kavalan, so that’s more or less the cognac recipe (last time I checked you can’t use casks that have contained other liquids in cognac). Colour: gold. Nose: very close to the King Car. To tell you the truth, I find both almost undistinguishable on the nose. Maybe does this one have a little more custard indeed, but beyond that… Mouth: they’re rather different now. This Podium starts fruitier (bananas and plums, typical virgin US oak) and rather smoother and oilier (Benriach may have been benchmarked, if you ask me). Then more light honey and maple syrup, coconut water, and vanilla-ed buttercream. I have to say this goes down very well. Finish: rather long. The oak shows a bit but we’re way below the limits. Comments: not a huge lot happening on the nose but the palate’s pretty perfect. A consensual modern style that simply works a treat. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Good, let’s have a last ‘low strength’ version and then we’ll try a few competition bottles…

Kavalan 'Sherry Oak' (46%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Taiwan, +/-2013)

Kavalan 'Sherry Oak' (46%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Taiwan, +/-2013) Four stars and a half Colour: red coffee. Nose: yeah well, this is disconcertingly great. It’s great when you taste it blind (and think it’s a great 35 yo sherried Speysider, as I did twice) and it’s great when you taste it disclosed, provided you’re a bit open-minded. Long story short, had you asked me what this was, I’d have said an old oloroso-ed Glenfarclas. Very lovely chocolate, prunes, coffee, blackberry jam and all that. Very few tertiary notes, though, which is normal. Umami rather originates in Japan, doesn’t it? Mouth: makes you swear. Chocolate, tobacco, lemongrass, prunes, walnut liqueur, pipe tobacco… And there are even drops of brine, honest. Perfect mouth feel. This was one (or more?) great sherry cask. Finish: long, very chocolaty. A hint of coffee and orange liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: I know, I know. SGP:461 - 89 points.

Now, onto the b****y Solists… How shall we tackle them? I propose bourbon first, then fino, then oloroso, then wine (vinho). Agreed?... And by the way, good people have been surpirse by the fact that awards have been handed out to NAS whiskies. First, remember those were blind, and second, the Solists are NOT NAS, the vintage's in the cask number. For example, a number starting with S08 means sherry, 2008.

Kavalan 'Solist' (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #B080816080, 210 bottles, 2013)

Kavalan 'Solist' (57.1%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #B080816080, 210 bottles, 2013) Four stars According to the cask number, this baby was distilled in 2008. Colour: straw. Nose: sweet and soft (as a morning sunrise, really), with syrups and tinned fruits plus light honey and barley water. Extremely soft. With water: a few more herbs, but also more vanilla. I have to ay I worship these whiffs of fennel and celery that are yodelling in the background (excuse me?) Mouth (neat): it’s more syrup than whisky at first sipping, with a lot of marshmallows, juicy fruity, anything by Haribo, then coconut oil and, really, some kind of very powerful pina colada. One sexy whisky, I’d even say it’s a little girly, if I may. With water: stop it. An avalanche of tinned fruits, jell-Os and sweet bonbons. Finish: medium length. Multi-vitamin fruit juice and more of Haribo’s stuff. Vanilla and a little grass in the aftertaste. Comments: this style’s very excessive, and it’s not mine, but anyone fancying sweeter malts might well love it. At some point, I even found it a little Redbreasty. SGP:740 - 83 points.

Kavalan 'Fino' (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, cask #SO60814013, 558 bottles, 2012)

Kavalan 'Fino' (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, cask #SO60814013, 558 bottles, 2012) Four stars Colour: very deep amber. Nose: some walnut pie, plus ‘a new pack of untipped Camels’, plus a lot of mead or what the Bretons call chouchen, plus touches of strawberry and yellow plum jams, plus drops of soy sauce and lovage extract (akin to Maggi but that’s not Maggi). Hard to question, although it’s rather less dry than anything related to fino sherry, in my opinion. With water: more Maggi, walnuts and honey. Some kind of very old bottle of Malmsey, or something like that. It’s amazing that they created so much complexity within just 6 or 7 years. Mouth (neat): very punchy, and unexpectedly tertiary. Plenty of walnut liqueur and wine, tobacco, curry, mint sauce, pepper… This is one big beast, I can assure you. With water: gets a little dry and bitter, not too sure it swims extremely well. I had expected some kind of honeyed sultriness. Finish: long, great when unreduced – but a bit hot – and a tad tea-ish when reduced. Comments: a big beast that wouldn’t swim too well. But other than that, it’s rather fab. SGP:661 - 87 points.

Kavalan 'Solist' (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060821049, 512 bottles, 2013)

Kavalan 'Solist' (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060821049, 512 bottles, 2013) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: it’s extreme, in all senses of the word. More oloroso than whisky, more prunes than barley, and more chocolate than apples (yeah, whatever). Plus flints. Not overly expressive so far, I’d say. With water: perfect old balsamico, parsley, tobacco, old rancio, pipe tobacco, chocolate… The acetic side is just perfect (you just have to like old balsamico). Mouth (neat): same feeling of old ‘Glenfarclas’ as before, but this has more spices and blueberry jam, which works very well. Walnuts, vindaloo sauce, blueberry pie, heavy pipe tobacco, bags of prunes and some very perfect earthy touches that bring some kind of wild herbalness to the combo. Near liquorice but this isn’t quite liquorice. With water: spicy prunes. Perfect. Finish: long, with more chocolate, prunes, Corinthian raisins and stewed blueberries. Comments: it got Gold at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2013. Well deserved! SGP:462 - 90 points.

Gold at the MMA? I may have gotten an idea…

Kavalan ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060904031, 516 bottles, 2014)

Kavalan ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060904031, 516 bottles, 2014) Five stars Supreme Champion at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2014, plus Gold of course, this is the one. While I’m at it, let me remind everyone that the MMAs are done 100% blind. Nobody knows anything (not, for example, the fact that it’s Taiwanese whisky, and not even that it’s from the ‘new world’. In other words, could be Scotch!) The problem is that it’s not. Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: hello? This one’s more minimal, probably more elegant, and certainly more austere than 2013’s winner. A bit of pencil shaving, blackcurrant jelly, dark bitter chocolate, very old Madeira, and then some fantabulous notes of Chambertin or other great pinot noir. Really, cherries, civet cat, moss and all that. With water: these notes of old balsamico come out, a bit of wood (shavings), parsley, bone marrow in bouillon (yum), thuja wood… Mouth (neat): oh this is strong! Huge pepper on massive cassis jam and more pepper… I think water is needed. Urgently. With water: perfect. Orange liqueur, ginger, a bit of oak, herbs (chives and parsley), beef bouillon and other soups, crème de cassis… Great cask. Finish: long, splendidly bittersweet, with bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: well done, compadres! (talking to the MMs). We were somewhere between an old Glenfarclas and an old Glendronach. SGP:562 - 91 points.

Kavalan 'Solist' (59%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S081217038, 523 bottles, 2014)

Kavalan 'Solist' (59%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S081217038, 523 bottles, 2014) Two stars A 2008 after the 2006. Remember, the first figures in the cask number relate to the year of distillation. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: the oak’s a little more present, and there are rubbery notes that make the whole less ‘clean’. Struck matches, brake pads after Monza (whatever!)... A different cooperage? With water: truffles and gas. That’s right. Mouth (neat): not an easy one for sure. First, it’s extremely strong. And second, these very leathery notes, bordering on sulphur and graphite oil are not everyone’s favourites. On the other hand, I also find notes of old Cuban cigar, which is just very ‘especial’. With water: falls apart. Kirsch in a blend of chicken soup and coffee. You’re right. Finish: long, very leathery, with ‘weird’ spices and quite some tobacco. Comments: strictly for Taiwanese intellectuals, I’d say. Some parts are funny, others are interesting, others are too whacky, in my opinion. Sure beauty is in the eyes of the beholder (or buyer of a bottle), but there are limits. SGP:462 - 73 points.

Let’s try a ‘vinho’…

Kavalan 'Solist' (58.4%, OB, Taiwan, vinho barrique, cask #W080225020, 192 bottles, 2013)

Kavalan 'Solist' (58.4%, OB, Taiwan, vinho barrique, cask #W080225020, 192 bottles, 2013) Two stars What this ‘vinho’ thing means, I don’t know. A barrique is what they use in Bordeaux, but they sure make no ‘vinho’ there. Sounds rather Portuguese if you ask me. Wait, Macau? BTW it’s a sister cask of the one that just won the World Whisky Awards 2015. I was a judge, and I’ve got a sample, but since it was blind, I’m not 100% sure and couldn’t use the remains of my competition sample without being 200% sure that’s the one. Please bear with me, but we have ethics (yeah yeah). Colour: red. Really, red. Nose: not un-nice I have to say, and far less winey that what some Scots have done using barriques, cabernet or else. Peonies and pencil shavings, plus an ‘idea’ of raspberry jam and an unexpected bourbony side. Fine. With water: noses like some well-aged Canadian, really. Even a sweet rye-ness is there. Mouth (neat): no, this works, despite this huge spiciness that sound very ‘European’. Grenadine and cinchona, tamarind, strawberries, cranberries, gingery oak, pepper… To be honest I find this a little unlikely, even if I very well know that Marilyn Monroe used to love strawberries with pepper. With water: we’re in terra incognita. Fruity spices? Peppery strawberries? Caraway infused in persimmon juice? Finish: not that long. Sweet, slightly syrupy, but rather spicy. Concentrated sangria? Comments: haven’t I just spent seventeen minutes of my life tasting some Taiwanese Scotch-like whisky that was matured in some Bordeaux-like cask? Please don’t tell my family. SGP:751 - 76 points.

We could go on and on, but let’s just have a last one. Like, a peater.

Kavalan 2007/2014 'Distillery Reserve' (55%, OB, Taiwan, peaty cask, 300ml)

Kavalan 2007/2014 'Distillery Reserve' (55%, OB, Taiwan, peaty cask, 300ml) Three stars A wonderful wee bottle of very early Kavalan. It was bottled on January 21, 2014. Rare stuff, this. I guess it’s the cask that was peaty, not the distillate. Let’s see what gives… Colour: gold. Nose: I often find wood smoke in whisky but here, it’s loud. And that would rather be pinewood, in fact, or even cones. Some kind of green lapsang souchong, or smoked Japanese seaweed, then flowers that wouldn’t be completely open (esp. roses), a touch of eucalyptus, a feeling of rye and juniper, caraway, clay… An unusual combination but I wouldn’t say it doesn’t work. With water: grass. Doesn’t swim too well. Mouth (neat): great! It’s fat and oily, curiously fresh, between crème de menthe, Mandarine Napoléon, ginger liqueur and… truckloads of tannins and peaty pepper. The peat never stops growing. With water: yes, it swims well now. It’s not easy to find a point of comparison in Scotland. Sadly, it tends to become dry and greenly bitter. Overinfused green tea. Much more peat in the aftertaste. Finish: long, rather astringent. Comments: many ups and many downs. Very careful with water, Eugene. SGP:463 - 81 points.

Yeah, we may have had enough.



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April 6, 2015


One Strathmill plus one

So yeah, Strathmill. I don’t quite know what to say about Strathmill. Maybe that in the olden days, the distillery was called Glenisla-Glenlivet, which had nothing to do with the whacky Glenislas that used to be distilled at Glen Keith later on. Aha.

Strathmill 21 yo 1992/2014 (46%, Coopers Choice, sherry finish, cask #9544, 350 bottles)

Strathmill 21 yo 1992/2014 (46%, Coopers Choice, sherry finish, cask #9544, 350 bottles) Two stars Why not! Colour: gold. Nose: rather buttery. Some cider, some plasticine, a touch of cassis, a kind of slightly soapy marzipan, then notes of Gueuze lambic. Young calvados. Indeed, why not! Mouth: oh well, there’s nothing to complain about. Fudge and raisins plus oak and sweet barley, with good body. Roasted chestnuts, some hazelnut liqueur and even a touch of Nutella. Raisins covered with Nutella, then sweet beer. Ale. All that isn’t unpleasant, but I find the combo a little unlikely. Finish: pretty long, with this feeling of raisiny calvados. Comments: not bad at all, but this baby may lack definition. Some 2Mio pixel malt whisky? SGP:541 - 76 points.

Strathmill 23 yo 1990/2014 (50.5%, Liquid Treasures for SYC Vino & Cigar Taiwan, hogshead, 189 bottles)

Strathmill 23 yo 1990/2014 (50.5%, Liquid Treasures for SYC Vino & Cigar Taiwan, hogshead, 189 bottles) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts with whiffs of ‘new plastic bag’, then we have cider apples, then rather very dry white wine (muscadet – no Muscat in there), chalk, wet stones, grass… I also find some dry hops, like in old-style Alsatian beer. No, forget Kronenbourg. With water: malty beer. We used to have a malty Scottish-style beer in Alsace, called Adelscott. This baby kind of reminds of that one. Mouth (neat): oh, this has nothing to do with the nose. Malty bars, dry caramel, roasted nuts, marzipan… I like this. Sweet brown ale. With water: very, very malty, plus a little tobacco. Finish: relatively long, malty. Malted apples (what?) Comments: malt whisky as Nature intended, I’d say. Not sure I’ll remember this one forever, but I enjoyed the fact that we were so close to the raw materials. SGP:551 - 82 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback

(this one just to please all our good friends in the whisky industry ;-))



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April 5, 2015


Malternatives on Sunday,
today funny flower eaux-de-vie

The Alsatians do distil just anything. Granted, poire williams, mirabelle, marc de gewürztraminer or raspberries are having the upper hand, but smaller berries or even flowers are being distilled as well, with sometimes infinitesimal yields. For example, I made some pure mullein flowers myself a few years ago, and managed to produce just 3.5 litres after a whole summer spent harvesting flowers almost every morning, before the bees would arrive and plunder all the nectar, so anything fermentescible. A hard graft but it was worth it, the eau-de-vie was stellar (ach, I’m sounding like a Scottish distiller now, am I not.) Anyway, let’s try a few unlikely flower eaux-de-vies today… For the cause! What’s more, flowers can be more complex – hence closer to malt whisky – than big in-your-face fruits.

Fleur de Molène (40%,G. Miclo, Alsace, +/-2013)

Fleur de Molène/Bouillon Blanc (40%,G. Miclo, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars So that’s mullein flowers, but the ‘low wines’ were made by letting flowers macerate in neutral eau-de-vie (apples), it’s not ‘full mullein’ (which is so costly to make that one bottle would cost more than twelve magnums of Macallan M). Colour: white. Nose: noses really like… mullein flowers. Hard to describe, but it’s a bit between mead, pears and barley sugar, plus the flowery side, of course. Perhaps a hint of old roses, but it’s no oriental extravaganza. Mouth: very flowery. We’re somewhere between rosewater and orange blossom water, and yeah, I guess you could say it’s got an oriental side. Something slightly sugary as well, and hints of cologne, but all flower eaux-de-vie have got that, in my experience. The body’s a little weak. Finish: short, but very flowery and perfumy. Comments: nice if you want to discover mullein eau-de-vie, but we’re far from the true artisan ones that are made by ‘crazy’ Alsatian distillers. SGP:730 - 70 points.

Another fleur de molène, made in the same way…

Fleur de Bouillon Blanc (43%, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2013) Bouillon blanc just is another name for molène, so mullein. In Alsatian we actually say Wollbluama, so Wollblume in German. Ooh that’s complicated… I do sometimes use the ‘mullein flowers’ descriptor when tasting whisky, especially for some sweet easy ones. Colour: white. Nose: this is completely different, there are whiffs of tinned fish, celeriac, sardines and all that, and very little flowers. I don’t find fruits either. Bizarre, who said bizarre?… But I feel I have to add that when you distil some very aromatic stuff, that can happen that things get kind of saturated, which may just kill the fruit’s smells and create something new, usually fairly rotten. Well, that happened to me before. Not unusual with, for example, raspberries, especially wild ones. Mouth: better, unsurprisingly (couldn’t have been worse) but beyond the fine notes of mullein (and mead, roses, orange blossom and all that) something fishy and weirdly earthy/rooty remains. Really reminds me of celeriac spirit. Finish: very long, very rooty. So much for flowers. Comments: it’s as if the distiller was making mullein for the first time in his life. Weird salty fish notes. SGP:651 - 25 points.

Ache Odorante (43%, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2013)

Ache Odorante (43%, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars Another maceration/distillation of flowers, this time ache odorante aka wild celery flowers. Some trustworthy website advertise ache odorante as ‘helps unwind all those who have important responsibilities’. That exactly us, isn’t it. Colour: white. Nose: well, this is celery indeed, with notes that are often found in young peaters, for example. It’s pristine spirit this time, extremely clear and loud, with a lemony side that goes well with the whole. We’re a bit in chartreuse territories. Mouth: a little liqueury, perhaps, and I’m not sure they haven’t added sugar, but other than that, it’s lovely clear herbal spirit, with hints of parsley. Finish: long, and that may be the problem. A little invading, in fact. Comments: I’m sure they have added sugar, and that’s a no-no. But other than that, it’s one funny spirit. SGP:670 - 70 points.

Aspérule (43%, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2013)

Aspérule (43%, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars Aspérule is woodruff in English, and Waldmeister in Alsatian/German. Or also ‘reine des bois’ in French. It’s a very precious little flower that grows in deep forests, and I remember old Alsatians used to smoke aspérule when they wanted to quit smoking, which never quite worked as far as I can tell. Or maybe does it have psychotropic proprieties? Let’s see… Colour: white. Nose: gasp, I’m finding these sardines again, but they’re much more discreet than in the bouillon blanc. There’s a side that reminds me of oyster plant (mertensia maritima), fun stuff, that. Other than that, it’s a little indefinite, not fruity, not flowery, not earthy… Well, it’s got touches of asparagus, perhaps. Mouth: nicer, much nicer. Much, much nicer. Mint, myrtle, grapefruits, oysters indeed, a bit of fennel, a bit of dill… What a pity that, apparently, they’ve added sugar again. Sugar kills spirits, and it kills humans, geddit? Finish: quite long and pretty complex. I should spend more time on some better aspérule, made by some reputed Alsatian distillers such as Windholtz or Metté. Comments: a very interesting plant and an interesting spirit. More later (like, in three years’ time). SGP:670 - 75 points.

Good, I think we’re done with flower spirits. Let’s try a last very weird eau-de-vie-like spirit, and call this a tasting session.

Mangue (40%, Ava Tahiti, eau-de-vie, +/-2010)

Mangue (40%, Ava Tahiti, eau-de-vie, +/-2010) Good, that’s always been a dream of mine, distilling mangos. But I have to confess that I’ve never tried any mango eau-de-vie, and this is a great opportunity to do so. Will it taste like Bowmore Bicentenary? Ava Tahiti, on the French island of Tahiti, used to belong to the Alsatian Miclo family, but it seems that they sold that distillery a while back. So, this is one of the very last bottles, not sure the new owners still distil mangos. Let’s only hope no one ever added any sugar… Colour: white. Nose: well well well, this does not smell of mangos at all. How weird! Asparagus, yes. Nail polish remover, yes. Paint thinner, yes. Gym socks, yes. Mangos, no. In a way, it’s fun spirit, but I need my m.a.n.g.o.s. Bye-bye dreams of 1960s Bowmore… sob… Mouth: ah, now we’re talking! There are ‘ideas’ of mangos indeed, but this acetic, gym-socks like side remains there. It’s not totally unpleasant (no I’m no fetishist), it’s just weird. A feeling of salted grapefruits mixed with… hey, mullein flower spirit? In truth, we’re very far from any clear mangoness, which goes to show that ‘it’s not always by distilling xyz that you get concentrated xyz’. A true lesson. Finish: long but varnishy and acetic. Some sugar and artificial mint in the aftertaste, boooo… Comments: whoof! My dreams have just been shattered. This weird baby’s hard to score… why not 37? I think I’ve never given a 37… SGP:651 - 35 points.

We’ll have many more weird eaux-de-vie in the foreseeable future, especially these small berries that I sometimes find in malt whisky. Happy Easter!



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April 3, 2015


Two well aged Springbank

Maybe a serious case of no comprendo. T's me, obviously.

Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, 2014, 1200 bottles)

Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, 2014, 1200 bottles) Two stars and a half This one was matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, then ‘married’ (right, finished) in Port wood for a few months. How unlikely – but you never know. The packaging’s rather retro as well, as is customary at all Scottish distilleries these days, but this time, instead of Victorian design, it’s rather… say Brejnevian. Colour: apricoty. A bad sign in my book, but let’s forget about colours… Nose: winey. Blackcurrants, raspberries, geranium flowers, then orange cake and touches of dry artisan cider, grass, then the expected mild smoke (garden bonfire) and soot, and lastly, whiffs of musty old wine cellar. Hay. I’d say the whole feels a little too disjointed and un-Springbanky for my taste. Mouth: I remember a Laphroaig Port Wood that was a little similar, although this Springbank is not quite ridden with Port. Less winey fruits, rather stewed apples plus quite a lot of pepper, bitter oranges, ginger, and a bitterish curry. A lot of leather as well, which, together with the pepper, makes it rather astringent. What’s more, I find the body a tad thin. Finish: a little short, woody and peppery. Quite a lot of cinnamon as well, medicinal mints... Comments: I’m rather disappointed. Even more so because I love Springbank and the vast majority of their latest offerings. I know, who am I?, but I wouldn’t have issued this bizarre concoction. Now indeed, other enthusiasts seem to enjoy it a lot, which is just cool. Plus hey, you have to be cruel to be kind, don’t you? In short, I don't seem to have understood this whisky. SGP:372 - 78 points.

Springbank 29 yo 1974/2003 (51.2%, Chieftains for Ton Overmars, Amsterdam, hogshead, cask #1778, 216 bottles)

Springbank 29 yo 1974/2003 (51.2%, Chieftains for Ton Overmars, Amsterdam, hogshead, cask #1778, 216 bottles) Four stars Ian Mcleod’s Chieftain’s or Chieftain’s Choice ranges had quite a few old Springbanks around ten/fifteen years ago, and many have been good. Colour: gold (proper gold). Nose: another world. More complex and subtle, with finer phenolic touches, a bit of metal polish, brine, mushrooms, humus, moss, kippers, tobacco, soot, linseed oil, grass smoke… So some rather pure unadulterated old Springbank that has what’s needed where it’s needed. With water: gets totally cloudy, it’s almost milk. More smoke (burning seaweed on a remote beach) and ‘farmy strawberries’. Lovely. Mouth (neat): it’s a nervous, peppery, slightly acrid Springbank, with bitter lemons, grass, dust, soot, wax and just a touch of orange blossom honey to keep it gentle and approachable. With water: more oranges. Classic orange/soot/oil/metal profile that wasn’t uncommon in these vintages. Finish: medium length. A tad more leathery. Comments: solid, even if it hasn’t quite got the complex roundness that comes from more sherried old Springbanks. SGP:562 - 86 points.

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



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April 2, 2015


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
About yesterday's post

Right, the last paragraphs of yesterday’s post were an April Fool's day trick, I’m afraid we shall not label any NAS as a 3 years old, even if that’s, indeed, its age ‘by omission’, as an excellent Facebooker stated yesterday. Believe me, I was itching to do it, and I’ve got a lot of encouragement to do so (thanks lads and lasses!), but I fear that would make things even more confused than they already are. Would you have some of that Macallan 3 yo, Mr. Whisky Retailer? Nah… Now, my staunch belief remains that the industry should return to more transparency as far as ages are concerned, simply because as consumers and even sometimes as fans, we need to keep trusting them – and because they may actually need our trust. Maybe not today, but sooner or later. Or maybe ask the SWA to allow average ages (I know, no good for NAS that’s actually 5… on average). Because I do also seem to notice a lot of, say discomfort and dissonances within the industry around those issues, beyond any (wrongly?) perceived ‘official and collective disdain and condescension’. I really believe transparency’s the way, and that NAS should belong to rum, bourbon or vodka. Or blends. Because remember, Scotch Malt Whisky’s a superior product. Well, it should be.


Young Japanese peaty monsters,
Mars vs. Chichibu

Mars is not a new distillery, it was built in 1985 but it’s been closed down several times in the past and only reopened in 2011. On the other hand, Chichibu started distilling in 2008, and is in the hands of the very talented Ichiro Akuto.  

Shinshu Mars 'Komagatake The Revival' 2011/2014 (58%, OB, 6000 bottles)

Shinshu Mars 'Komagatake The Revival' 2011/2014 (58%, OB, 6000 bottles) Four starsShinshu’s the name of the place, it’s not extremely far from Nagano. Colour: white wine. Nose: not unpleasant, but pretty newmake-y, with some bubblegum, pear spirit, pineapple, and a faint grassiness in the background, as well as a rather delicate smokiness. That part starts to take more space after a few seconds, together with a few floral notes. Lilac, perhaps? Improves over time. With water: coal smoke on cider and custard. Again, not unpleasant at all. Mouth (neat): good sweet malt, with body and structure, quite some peat this time, but also a slightly bitter black pepper. A little acrid, but water should help. With water: it helps a lot! Plenty of sweet lemons, quince jelly, liquorice rolls and, perhaps heather honey. I find this almost perfect now, at 3 years of age. Finish: quite long, clean, with a bit of salt. Comments: it’s impressive what water did to this restless baby. Great spirit at only 3. SGP:553 - 85 points.

Chichibu 2009/2014 'In the Mood for Love' (61.7%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, 1st fill bourbon, cask #641)

Chichibu 2009/2014 'In the Mood for Love' (61.7%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, 1st fill bourbon, cask #641) Four stars and a halfChichibu’s located not too far from Tokyo or say right between Karuizawa and Tokyo. I find the label totally lovely, very MoMA circa 1985. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s whistle-clean after the Mars that, after due reconsideration, was rather fat on the nose. Goes more towards aromatic herbs, eucalyptus, then roots and broken branches. Something beautifully medicinal arises, around ‘natural’ antiseptic, old embrocations and whatnot. With water: crystal-clean smoky and mineral Pouilly-Fumé, then vanilla pods. Mouth (neat): bang! Huge, smoky and mentholated. Punches you right between your eyes, and only a few sweeter notes of tinned oranges and pineapples manage to heal you a bit. Aww… With water: touches of fruity bourbon, then smoky grapefruits and liquorice, then… I’d swear there’s a little macha tea. A touch of coconut too. Finish: quite long, clean, perfectly balanced. Lemony/smoky aftertaste. Comments: quite loved the Mars, love this rightly arty malt even more. Great work Ichiro-san. These bottles already go for £350 these days, proof that NAS isn’t needed. Is it? SGP:553 - 88 points.


Whiskyfun fav of the month

March 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Columban of Iona 23 yo 1991/2014 (57.5%, The Stillman’s, Irish single malt, bourbon barrel, 231 bottles)  - WF 91

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 35 yo 1973/2009 (56.3%, OB, Velier, Italy, cask #13352) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Rock Oyster (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2015)  - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Appleton Reserve 20 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, stone flagon, +/-1970) - WF 92


April 1, 2015


Breaking News
Whiskyfun.com to label any new NAS malt whiskies as 3 years old

They’re slowly invading our shelves and might soon make for 50% of travel retail. Those are the no-age-statement malt whiskies (NAS), that is to say those whiskies that, contrarily to what’s happening in many other fields where giving better information to the consumer is becoming crucial, are now hiding one of their most important features, their ages.
Of course the industry has holstered up its guns and polished its brand new selling points, but they are often contradicting what they were still stating loud and clear just four years ago, hence losing, maybe, a tiny wee chunk of their credibility.

Doesn't age matter?

For example, do you remember Chivas Bros’ ‘Look for the Number’ campaign, with its ‘Know the age, know whisky’ baseline? That was in 2010. Gone. And there are new lines appearing here and there, such as ‘NAS gives our blenders the opportunity to be more creative’. Or even stranger, ‘NAS gives us more flexibility’ (I can see why the board of directors or the shareholders would care, but the consumer?) Or ‘we now understand wood technologies much better than before, and so don’t need much ageing anymore’. Or ‘frankly, old whiskies can be tired’. Or 'age statements were only a recent, temporary thing' (not sure that applies to malt whisky). At times, the industry's explanations sound like those of a little boy that was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Oh and as we’ve said many times already, if age was irrelevant, why not drop it from your older whiskies as well?
In fact, the industry seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone. One, make up for their supposedly dwindling stocks of older whisky (we had screwed up with our production plans but you're toasted, not us). Second part of the move, raising prices. If your 10 years old sells for £30 it would be pure madness to try to sell your 5 years old for the same price or even more, wouldn’t it? Unless you hide any mentions of age or vintage, find a funny name and a story to match, hire a posh London agency that’s got a great old book about Victorian or Viennese designs, make abundant use of rejuvenated oak and/or wine treatments to give 'flavour', and sometimes make the public believe that you might have added very old whiskies to your vattings (but since it’s now forbidden to advertise that part, you can’t quite tell. How convenient.)
In fact one of the most emblematic new NAS whiskies, which I won’t quote out of Christian charity, is actually not even five, and yet it’s sold for the same price as their ten years old. Bingo! Time-to-market cut in half, how cool is that? In truth, as Jack Washback may have said before, NAS is simply made by adding £15 to a 5 years old whisky. And yes, NAS/young whisky can be just superb, but that's not my point.
SO, as this little website is all about information, and as we believe age is one of, if not the most important bit of information regarding any single malt whisky (it's simply consubstantial), I’ve decided that we’ll display the ages of strictly all the malt whiskies we’ll taste from now on. But since the only thing we’re sure about, when tasting NAS Scotch whisky, is that it’s a least 3 years old (its legal minimum age), we’ll simply label any NAS malt as ‘3 years old’. Not blends and not grains.

So, matching conduct to words, this is what we’ll be tasting right tomorrow:

Glenlivet 3 yo ‘Founder’s Reserve’ (40%, OB, +/-2015)
Glenmorangie 3 yo 'Signet' (46%, OB, +/-2014)
Dalmore 3 yo ‘King Alexander III’ (40%, OB, +/-2014)
Highland Park 3 yo 'Svein' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/-2015)
Macallan 3 yo ‘M’ (44.5%, OB, +/-2014)
Old Pulteney 3 yo ‘Clipper around the world’ (46%, OB, +/-2015)
Laphroaig 3 yo ‘Select’ (40%, OB, +/-2015)
Ardbeg 3 yo 'Perpetuum' (49.2%, OB, 2015)
Bowmore 3 yo 'Small Batch' (40%, OB, +/-2014)
Talisker 3 yo 'Skye' (45.8%, OB, +/-2015)
Yamazaki 3 yo ‘Sherry Cask 2013’ (48%, OB)

That’s a great bunch of 3 years old whiskies, isn’t it? So, stay tuned!

March 2015 - part 2 <--- April 2015 - part 1 ---> April 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Glenfiddich 21 yo 1961/1984 (45%, Zenith, Italy)

Glenlochy 27 yo 1980/2008 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, hogshead, cask #2823, 231 bottles)

Glenlochy 25 yo 1969/1995 (62.2%, OB, Rare Malts, 20cl)

Kavalan ‘Solist’ (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060904031, 516 bottles, 2014)

Kavalan 'Solist' (57.8%, OB, Taiwan, sherry, cask #S060821049, 512 bottles, 2013)

Littlemill 22 yo 1992/2014 (46.7%, Archives, hogshead, cask #43, 59 bottles)

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2014 (52.9%, The Whisky Mercenary, bourbon cask)

Littlemill 23 yo 1991/2014 (48%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 275 bottles)