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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2016 - Part 1



March 2016 - part 2 <--- April 2016 - part 1 ---> April 2016 - part 2


April 14, 2016


Glenmorangie new and old

All major ‘marketed’ distilleries seem to have to launch new NAS bottlings more and more often, as if people would never buy the same bottle twice. The very opposite of what used to happen in the olden days, when people had their favourite brands and expressions they used to stick with. Our friends will soon have to launch a new one every week at this pace, I guess they’ll have to hire quite a few skilled storydiggers! Because remember, without an age, you need a story. This might be an example…

Glenmorangie 'A Midwinter Night's Dram' (43%, OB, 2015)

Glenmorangie 'A Midwinter Night's Dram' (43%, OB, 2015) Two stars and a half Some story, a few details about some partial finishing in oloroso, and basta, this is yet another NAS we won’t know much about. Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts with some vinous notes, especially raisins, rubber, and blackcurrant buds, and goes on with green walnuts, cardboard, cider apples, mulled wine, and Christmas spices. It reminds be a bit of the early sherry finishings (Sherry Wood Finish, NAS) from 15 years ago. Nothing very sexy in this nose, I’m afraid, even if the rubber tends to go away, leaving room for some chocolate. Mouth: some roasted nuts and raisins, a bit in the style of Aberlour 10 yo, then peanuts, orange marmalade, and yet again a touch of rubbery grass. Wee bits of cinnamon mints, and something burnt. Medium bodied. Tends to improve a bit after ten minutes. Finish: rather short, with more chocolate. A little rubber again in the aftertaste, as well as some pepper. Comments: not bad. Not very inspired, not very inspiring... SGP:451 - 79 points.

Speaking of which…

Glenmorangie 10 yo (43%, OB for Isolabella Import, Italy, +/-1970)

Glenmorangie 10 yo (43%, OB for Isolabella Import, Italy, +/-1970) Three stars We’ve already tried one for the same importers, but this one’s even older. Colour: straw. Nose: yeah well… As you may have guessed, it’s a whole different world. Much more complexity, subtleties, minerality, waxiness… I especially enjoy this feeling of ‘a pile of damp hay, dead leaves, and old magazines in the back of the garden’. Some pu-ehr tea as well, cigars, drops of lemon liqueur… Mouth: not a star, perhaps, but it does destroy the Midwhatever. Starts grassy, rather rough, with an oily texture and notes of lemon, and gets then waxy, almost paraffiny, with some barley, cardboard, and green pepper. Tends to lose steam and to become bitterish, but it’s still ‘better’ than the newish NAS. Finish: much longer than the newer one, fatter, more peppery, and waxier. We’re quite far from the idea of ‘a gentle dram’. Comments: an austere old Glenmorangie. SGP:551 - 82 points.

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



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April 13, 2016


Very young and very old Rosebank

Spring was here, and then it went away. As a ay of invoking the God of sun, let’s try some very fresh Rosebank. Well, first a very fresh and light one, and then we’ll see what we can find…

Rosebank 1991/2001 (43%, Dun Eideann)

Rosebank 1991/2001 (43%, Dun Eideann) Two stars and a half These bottles were easily available in France at that time. Most probably Signatory Vintage stock. It’s to be remembered that when this came out, Rosebank was more or less ‘just another Lowlander’ and not yet ‘a rare silent still’. A matter of perspective… Colour: white wine. Nose: raw and spirity, without much citrusy fruitiness. Some sand and gravel as well, concrete, clay, ink, new plastic… Nutshell, not of those majestic tangerine bombs at all! Mouth: a little more like that, with some lemon indeed, lemongrass, grapefruits… But the ink and the clay are still there, not as complements (which can be great in whisky) but rather as main flavours, which is a little, well, difficult in my opinion. Saved by lemons. Finish: medium, inky, sooty. Vodka. Comments: as I said, not one of those marvellous fruity Rosebanks. SGP:351 - 78 points.

In fact, that Rosebank was too young. So a much older vintage may be necessary…

Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2498, 180 bottles)

Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2498, 180 bottles) Five stars Quite bizarrely, it seems that this cask was bottled twice. Once as a batch of 250 bottles, and once as a batch of 180 bottles. I had just loved the former (WF 93), let’s try the latter. A few more or less months in wood may have changed the profile. A bit… Colour: red coffee. Nose: just immense. It’s a perfect, dry and chocolaty sherry, with plenty of pipe tobacco and tarry ropes in the background. Rancio. Long story short, it’s extraordinary indeed. With water: soy sauce, yeah! Cigars, yeah! Umami, yeah! Walnut wine, check! Mouth (neat): totally amazing, somewhat in the style of some old Glenfarclas. Prunes and bitter chocolate, many herbs, Jaegermeister, bone dry liquorice… It’s totally extreme, ultra-dry, and just perfect. Wasn’t it genuine amontillado wood? With water: oh cinchona, old bitter liqueurs, artichokes, old rancio, old walnuts… A style that I cherish. Finish: long, stunningly bitter and dry. The best bitter chocolate from Spain or Italy (they both claim they make the best ones – but that’s the French, obviously. Ha!) Comments: the only thing you could say against this astounding old sherry monster is that the distillery does not feel. Which is true. SGP:352 - 93 points.

I had planned to have only two Rosebanks today, but there’s another very old one that’s making moon eyes at me…

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, early 1970s)

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, early 1970s) Five stars To be honest, we already tried this one in the past, and loved it, but plenty is no plague, is it? And it’s from another bottle… This is most probably pre-war Rosebank! Some people believe it’s a fake because it states ‘Highland Malt Scotch Whisky’. But it’s not. Colour: white wine. Nose: Isn’t it very funny, in such an old glory, to find notes of pineapples and litchis? But things are soon to change, with much more old metal (toolbox), engine oil, tin box, old coins, very old chardonnay, and then quite some butter. Definitely ‘something from the past’. The other bottle that I had tried had the same metallic profile, but no pineapples. Perhaps ‘metallic’ guavas. Mouth: absolutely wonderful, both herbal and fruity, with a layer of soot and shoe polish. Really fruity at times (passion fruits, green apples), then suddenly very dry and grassy, then fruity again, then metallic, then kind of salty (reminds of the potash we used to lick when I was a kid – but that’s another story), then fruity again (rather citrons, which is very Rosebank)… It’s really restless, perfectly zesty, some kind of white zinfandel that would be ten times more complex than white zin. Okay, one hundred times. Body’s perfect. Finish: long. Fernet Branca mixed with lemon juice, tonic wine, and sun cream. We really need more sun over Alsace at time of writing. Comments: this time, the distillery was clearly recognizable. This version represents the older Rosebank I’ve ever tasted. Sure there was a 1910 spring cap, but that one was a well-known fake. SGP:562 - 92 points.

(merci Carsten, Nicolas, and Teun!)

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



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April 12, 2016


Balvenie 25, official vs. indie

There’s this very expensive 25 years old, and in theory, I should have had the independent opponent first. But since the official was bottled at some rather miserly low 40% vol., that simply wouldn’t work, so we’ll have to try the latter first.

Balvenie 25 yo ‘Triple Casks’ (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Balvenie 25 yo ‘Triple Casks’ (40%, OB, +/-2015) Four starsI know the ‘triple cask’ name can be worrying, but that’s not three successive finishings, it’s more some marrying of three kinds of maturations, namely refill, fresh bourbon, and oloroso. I find the 40% a little low and disappointing, especially given the very hefty price (around €600!) Colour: light amber. Nose: subtle, that’s for sure. The distillery’s trademark mirabelles and quinces strike first, before a rather lovely combination of raisins and heather honey are joining in the dancing. That should be the sherry speaking out. Gets then more herbal and floral, with some honeysuckle tea, blond tobacco, and lime blossom, then a little spearmint. It’s all very subtle indeed, rather in the style of some old cognac. Mouth: this is funny, had I tried this blind, I’d have said it could be one of those old bottles by G&M, such as pre-war distilled Glen Grant or Linkwood. Soft sherry and orange cake, honey sauce, milk chocolate, touches of leather, toasted cake, and then some marmalade. The problem is that while the arrival was most attractive, it’s soon to become a little weak and flat, what I sometimes call tea-ish. I’m sure that’s the low strength, and it is frustrating. Finish: disappointingly short, which, in the end, makes it a little too tannic. Comments: I’m totally sure this is great whisky, but do not understand why they bottled it at 40% vol. Only to get more bottles out of the casks? I feel it could have made it to 90 points at around 45% vol. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Burnside 25 yo 1989/2014 (50.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 167 bottles)

Burnside 25 yo 1989/2014 (50.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 167 bottles) Four stars Good, not really Balvenie, as as we all know, Burnside is the name of the blended malt made out of Balvenie (teaspooned with other malts by W. Grant). Colour: gold. Nose: starts on oak and leaves, so very vegetal, with many less plums and quinces – or any other fruits. A yeasty side as well, sour wood, crushed stems… It’s a little surprising but certainly not unpleasant. What’s quite funny, though, is that those fruits do come out, but you have to wait for ten minutes. Greengages, honey, white chocolate… With water: a little menthol that adds more freshness. Some mead as well, and again this wee feeling of sour wood, sour apples… Mouth (neat): typical Balvenie this time. More plums, a touch of rhubarb and orange, apricots, drops of maple syrup… It’s bright and even a little zesty, but it’s true that Balvenie and bourbon wood usually work very well together. With water: good. Orange juice with a little vanilla. A discreet fizzy side. Finish: medium, in keeping. Oranges and plums, more mead in the aftertaste. Comments: don’t we have a tie? SGP: - 85 points.

PS: I’ve mixed both 50-50 and came up with a 88/89 pointer! Am I not good? But we’ve got another ’89 Burnside…

Burnside 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.1%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Burnside 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.1%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it is the same whisky. I cannot find any differences – and I’m trying very hard. Greengage galore, that would be a good name for a heavy metal band, wouldn’t it. Mouth: indeed. I mean, not the heavy metal bit. Very good whisky that reminds me of some official 15 years old ‘single barrels’ from a few years back. Fudgy oranges. We used to have some fantastic cookies in France called ‘Chamonix’ – yeah, just like the skiing town in the French Alps – and this little Balvenie by another name does remind of those. Perhaps do they still make them, have to check that as soon as possible. Finish: very good. Comments: very good. SGP:651 – 85 points.

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



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April 11, 2016


A short verticale of Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is a malt that’s always got something to say. If I remember well, it was also the only malt distillery that’s ever used some washbacks made out of concrete, which the owner, Mr. Hobbs, had first seen at some winemarkers’ in California. But apparently, they haven’t kept them for very long.

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1999/2015 (54.1%, Exclusive Malts, cask #190, 301 bottles)

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1999/2015 (54.1%, Exclusive Malts, cask #190, 301 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: a good example of a malt that’s quite sulphury, but that’s not sulphur from the casks, it’s sulphury by design – which the blenders need and like to add depth to their blends? I also find some chalk, some paraffin, plenty of cereals, some grass smoke, and then some green apples. It’s malt whisky with some depth. With water: soot, saltpetre, and concrete indeed (but that’s not from the washbacks, those had been dismounted much earlier). Wet wool. Mouth (neat): excellent start on ale and lemon juice, going on with some orange drops and a Fanta-ish side, and becoming quite mineral and, once again, chalky. I really enjoy this unusual lemon-chalk combination. With water: becomes fruitier, in a lovely fashion. Mangos, more oranges, a feeling of Gueuze beer… Finish: long, a little more candied. Comments: excellently characterful and singular. Were they still using brewer’s yeast when they were making these batches? SGP:551 - 86 points.

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1998/2015 (58.6%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry butt, cask #11439, 240 bottles)

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1998/2015 (58.6%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry butt, cask #11439, 240 bottles) Four stars and a half Valinch & Mallet are new independent bottlers from lovely Italy. Colour: amber. Nose: and once again, quite some sulphur – but I couldn’t tell you if that comes from the butt or from the spirit. No eggy sulphur for sure. What’s sure is that it’s quite an asset here, as what we’re finding is some kind of smoked raisins, burnt kugelhopf, roasted chestnuts, and garden peat. Scoria, burnt sugar, fresh concrete yet again… With water: love this parsley, lovage, soy sauce, chicken soup… Mouth (neat): totally and perfectly Ben Nevis, and in that sense much closer to the officials than most indies. Big, fat, very leathery and cigary, and pleasantly ‘dirty’, as most are. It’s philosophical dirt, I’d say. Also bags of Seville oranges and Demerara sugar. With water: a lot of bitter chocolate and more cigars. Finish: long, superbly bitter (Fernet Branca), chocolaty, leather… And cigary! A salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: superb! Probably not for everyone, though, because it’s quite extreme and, as they say in marketing, segmenting. A good way of having a cigar when you do not smoke. SGP:472 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2015 (50,9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 121 bottles)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2015 (50,9%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 121 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the narrowest so far, with some fresh butter, custard, lager, and lamp oil at first nosing, then rather porridge and, once again, chalk. Much less ‘wham-bam’ than the sherried 1998 for sure. With water: the trademark sourness is back. Craft ales and ciders. Mouth (neat): creamier and fresher, certainly cleaner than most Ben Nevisses. Tangerines and apples (goldens), with this feeling of Fanta again. Fizzy orange juice. Not too ripe apricots. With water: becomes rounder, creamier, and more on tinned fruits (peaches). There’s also a little porridge again in the background, with touches of ginger and white pepper. Finish: medium, rather clean for Ben Nevis. Some muscovado sugar. Comments: another one that’s excellent, it’s just a notch less idiosyncratic. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 1996/2015 (52.3%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 119 bottles)

Ben Nevis 1996/2015 (52.3%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 119 bottles) Four starsAnother one with a happy Samurai on the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re obviously extremely close to the Maltbarn. Perhaps a notch grassier? Perhaps… A little more grass smoke, garden bonfire, linseed oil… But other than that, we’re very close indeed. With water: indeed. Mouth (neat): I like this. Spearmint, green apples, grapefruits, chalk, hops, cantaloupes, orange peel… With water: perfect acidic fruits and peels, with a fattish, slightly ‘plastic’ backbone. Excellent. Finish: rather long, zestier, excellent. Comments: not the most fermentary Ben Nevis ever. I find it perfect in its own, very ‘West Coast’ style. SGP:551 - 87 points.

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



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April 10, 2016


Random rums (in search of malternatives)

These are the easiest sessions to do, since rums from various countries can be so wildly different. Let's see which landscapes well fly to today...

Toz 'Gold' (40%, OB, St. Lucia Distillers, +/-2015)

Toz 'Gold' (40%, OB, St. Lucia Distillers, +/-2015) Three stars A rather strange one that was finished in Port (ahem) and then charcoal-filtered. St. Lucia lies just south of La Martinique. Colour: orange gold. Nose: very fruity, rather bright, and pretty fresh. I'm finding bananas and guavas, then a welcome phenolic touch, quite some sugar cane, and a liquoricy touch that works well. I don't seem to find any Port, but that's good news. And yes I love good Port. Mouth: good! No excessive sugar, rather a lovely cane-y combination, with more bananas and liquorice, and a very pleasant freshness. We're far from the lumpy sweetened South-Americans, even if I would still rank it among the 'sweet' rums. Nice tinned pineapples. Finish: medium, fresh, and fairly honeyed this time. Mango jam and acacia honey, with a drop of olive brine. Good balance. Comments: very well made, nice balance, nice fresh fruitiness. This, I could quaff. SGP:631 - 80 points.

Amrut 'Old Port' (40%, OB, India, +/-2015)

Amrut 'Old Port' (40%, OB, India, +/-2015) Two starsThat's right, our Amrut. I have to say I enjoy Amrut's whiskies a lot, and that another Indian rum (Old Monk) has been to my liking. So, what could go wrong? Colour: amber. Nose: more molassy and rounded than the Toz, but it's not void of any freshness, quite the contrary. Some vanilla and honey, then a funny herbal side that reminds me of some Indian dishes, hard to pin down. Around aniseed, perhaps. Some papaya as well. Nice nose, not too sultry. Mouth: very fruity and quite unusual. Isn't that mango chutney? There are also roses, litchi syrup, and drops of mint liqueur. Tastes a bit like cough syrup for kids at times, but we're way above the successful uebersweet abominations seen elsewhere. No names needed, uh. Finish: medium, a little less focussed. Raisins, prunes, and oak, with something of Armenian brandy. Or something. Comments: really fair and pleasant, but I think it would take a few ice cubes. SGP:720 - 75 points.

Zacapa 'Reserva Limitada 2015' (45%, OB, Guatemala, 2015)

Zacapa 'Reserva Limitada 2015' (45%, OB, Guatemala, 2015) Two stars Crikey, I had thought we were done with Zacapa! But this is a recent one, quite expensive. And NAS, which is better than forged ages after all. An act of contrition? Colour: coffee. Nose: moderately expressive, and even rather dry. Old wood, chocolate, roasted coffee beans, brownies... Also a lot of molasses, but those would come together with a little liquorice, so we won't complain. It reminds me of the Cuban Santiagos. Whiffs of wood varnish. So, big sugar or no big sugar?... Mouth: well, it does have quite a lot of sugar, with this syrupy side, but the coconutty flavours are working pretty well. Plenty of raisins, prunes, some honey, mango jam... There's also something spicy, reminding me of Indonesian cooking. Goreng? Satay? Now the 45% vol. don't feel at all, this could well be 38 ort 40% vol. as well. That's because of the sugar... Finish: medium, with touches of sour fruits. Pineapple liqueur, cloves, limejuice. The aftertaste is a little woody, even terpenic. Comments: a good surprise given the name. Same 'level' as the Amrut for me, I like it much better than the poor '23'. Right, prices aren't the same. SGP:630 - 75 points.

Angostura 'Cask Collection N°1' (40%, OB, batch 1, Trinidad, +/-2014)

Angostura 'Cask Collection N°1' (40%, OB, batch 1, Trinidad, +/-2014) Two stars A top-of-range limited bottling, said to be around 8 years of age. Not much luck with Angostura rums so far... Colour: deep gold. Nose: various fruit syrups and juices blended together, and then mixed with maple syrup. There's a bourbony side to it, especially hints of pencil shavings and grated coconut. Milk chocolate. Mouth: sweet, but not as cloying as I would have thought. It does feel 'sweetened', with, say banana and mango syrups, but that's okay. Some American oak, with some vanilla... And perhaps pomegranates, tinned peaches... Sadly, it tends to become a little flabby, there isn't a big backbone. Let's call it ueber-smooth, but not a sugar bomb. Finish: short, a little indefinite. Lactone-y. Comments: not the style that makes my heart beat, but we've seen worse at the sugar department. SGP:720 - 73 points.

Good, I'm afraid we've already ingested a good 100g of sugar, time to put an end to this madness, with...

Cadenhead's Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2016)

Cadenhead's Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2016) Three stars Whenever you need better rum, ask the whisky people! Yeah, or the Italians, or a few new specialised rum bottlers... And forget about the distillers themselves when they're located in unregulated countries! Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, it's got something that many don't even have, sugar cane. A wee phenolic side, some grass, a little burnt cake, bananas flambéed, a touch of fudge, some liquorice, some tobacco... Nothing bad to say about this wee baby! It feels like there's some Jamaican inside. Mouth: well composed! It hasn't got a clear style, but it does have sugar cane again, quite some liquorice, a touch of black olive, burnt syrup, pipe tobacco, oranges, guavas, bananas... All that works in sync, and, well, I find it good. Finish: rather long, and more citrusy. Oranges, liquorice, and caramel. Comments: a blend with some oomph, undoubtedly the best rum we've tried today. You're right, my favourite. But sip or mix? Both, sir! SGP:641 - 82 points.

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



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April 8, 2016


French whisky, for whom does the bell toll?

A few days ago, one could read in the British garbage press (sometimes – not always – a pleonasm) that “new research study has revealed that the French are the whisky-drinking world champions (right, you don’t need research, just check the SWA’s numbers) and some are predicting France could overtake Scotland and become global leaders in actually making the spirit too”. Mu-ha-ha. Or even that “France is planning to usurp Scotland’s reputation as the home of the world’s best whisky.” Yeah right, another plot theory, even the Monty Python on peyotl wouldn’t have thought about that one. And once we’re done with whisky, we’ll also tackle haggis, Aunt Bessie’s crab cakes, and of course Irn Bru – you read that here first!

Today's warring forces

Right, after so much stupidity, I think we could need a few pick-me-ups… And let’s make them French indeed.

Hepp (42%, OB, single malt, France, Alsace, +/-2016)

Hepp (42%, OB, single malt, France, Alsace, +/-2016) Whisky from my homeland made by Distillerie Hepp in Uberach – but they haven’t got anything to do with ‘Uberach’ the whisky, which is made by Distillerie Bertrand. Complicated? You’re right. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’ve tried Hepp quite some years ago, and it seems that things have massively improved. Indeed this seems to be some light Lowland-style barleyish and orangey malt, displaying smooth vanilla and quite some peaches and apricots in syrup. Obvious target within the secret plot, overtaking Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie combined, around the year 2080. So far, so good. Mouth: light and fruity, akin to wood-matured hops eau-de-vie. Touches of juniper berries as well, a little sawdust, sucrose, vanilla… I think its lacking maltiness, and certainly body, but as they say in skiing, it goes down. Finish: short but rather clean, a little sugary. Comments: a nice endeavour, better than a kick in the teeth in any case. You may start to quiver with fear, Scotland! SGP:420 - 65 points.

Rouget de Lisle (42%, OB, pur malt, France, Jura, Macvin cask, cask #C008, 600 bottles, +/-2016)

Rouget de Lisle (42%, OB, pur malt, France, Jura, Macvin cask, cask #C008, 600 bottles, +/-2016) Two stars This is not from the Isle of Jura Distillery, obviously, rather from the Jura region in France. This malt whisky was matured in Macvin casks, Macvin being a mixture of grape juice and eau-de-vie that some like to drink as an apéritif. The whole sounds a little unlikely, but after all, everything is ‘local’. By the way, Rouget de Lisle is the guy who composed the Marseillaise, which goes to prove that the French whisky makers have very belligerent intentions indeed. LOL! Colour: gold. Nose: but this is nice! It’s definitely got something Jura-ish, such as hints of walnut cake, before it would go on with some brioche, overripe apples and pears, and indeed a grapy side that’s most pleasant – for once! Also whiffs of blond tobacco and a little curry, very very nice. Mouth: weirder. It’s almost more marc du Jura matured in wood than straight malt whisky, with an earthy and grassy side, and even hints of lees. But I’m rather fond of marc du Jura, with is usually a little rougher and more rustic than marc de Bourgogne. Finish: rather short, on the same flavours. Comments: a very nice nose, a palate that’s more an acquired taste. And at least, it does taste ‘local’. SGP:441 - 70 points.

Bercloux (43.6%, OB, spirit drink, France, Charentes, batch #ACF1, 1144 bottles, 2015)

Bercloux (43.6%, OB, spirit drink, France, Charentes, batch #ACF1, 1144 bottles, 2015) Two stars Not whisky yet, its too young. It’s made at the Distillerie de Bercloux not too far from Cognac (actually Saintes), using French barley that was malted at the château. Another proof that this is a sneaky attack on the Scots, since the Scots are using a lot of French barley as well. Yeah well… Colour: gold. Nose: certainly the maltiest of them all. Bread – always nice – plus ripe bananas and pears, that’s the song here. Moderate and rather elegant oakiness. Mouth: sure it is a little unlikely, combining sweets and oak spices, but there’s something that clicks. Pear drops, ale, sour dough, cinnamon and nutmeg, a touch of orange, a smidgen of cracked pepper…. Even if it tends to become a little too oaky for me, I find this very, say, friendly. Finish: medium, rather on oak spices and various leaves, including tobacco. Green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: more ‘classic’ than the Jurassian, but qualities are similar in my opinion. SGP:341 - 70 points.

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Eilvet 15 BC' (46%, OB, France, Bretagne, bourbon, 2015)

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Eilvet 15 BC' (46%, OB, France, Bretagne, bourbon, 2015) Four stars and a half I’m still wondering, do I prefer Gaelic or Breton on bottles of whisky? As everybody now knows, Kornog is the name of the peated Glann ar Mor. Their Port Charlotte, if you will, except that Glann ar Mor must be twenty times smaller than Bruichladdich. Colour: white wine. Nose: a very well-chiselled lemony and maritime peat smoke. I’d call it ‘crystalline peat’. Hints of hessian and seashells, but no tar and almost no medicinal side, which makes it rather less ‘Islay’ than earlier Kornogs. That’s certainly not for the worse. Also a little almond milk, seaside air… Mouth: very very good, as expected. Starts a little tropical (passion fruits, blood oranges), before it becomes saltier, with a medium peatiness. Lemon curd, shortbread, olive brine, almond peel, ashes… What’s funny is that it tends to become drier and ashier, over time, whilst the fruitiness decreases. Finish: medium to long, still crystalline, smoky, without any dirtiness. A touch of lemon sugar. The aftertaste is very ashy and rather bitter. Comments: excellent, as expected, only the finish of the finish was a little drying. No problems! SGP:547 - 88 points.

Scotland, ready yourself to go into combat! (in the meantime, we just need to build 10,000 other small French distilleries)…

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



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April 7, 2016


More undisclosed malts

We don’t know what they are, there are more and more of them around, we used to call them ‘the bastard malts’, they often come with unlikely stories, but of course they may be very good. Let’s have a few more…

The Corriemohr 'Cigar Reserve' (46%, OB, +/-2015)

The Corriemohr 'Cigar Reserve' (46%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars A NAS single malt that was ‘selected to complement the finest cigar’. Which explains the Cuban flag, I guess. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s fine, easy, malty, with raisins from sherry, and chocolate and shortbread. Cereals, sweet bread… And indeed, tobacco, but that would rather be cigarettes than the finest Cohiba or Partagas. Nice whiffs of ‘old wine barrel’. I have to say I like this nose. Mouth: rounded, raisiny, pretty ‘Glenlivet’, with overripe apples, pies, cakes, pastries, marmalades, and simply malt whisky. I find this faultless, I have to say. Finish: medium, very malty. Touches of williams pears. Comments: a very fine medium-bodied middle-aged Speysider, I’d say. The sherry was good – this was a good malty surprise. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Speyside Malt Whisky (46.1%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, 579 bottles, 2015)

Speyside Malt Whisky (46.1%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, 579 bottles, 2015) Five stars This one’s a ‘very old vatted malt’. Well, the older you get, the more you feel that ‘very old’ ought to be ‘really very old’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it does nose old. Tobacco, embrocations, old liqueurs, chocolate, cedar wood, old roses in an old vase, mushrooms… What’s not to like? Mouth: oh, earth, roots, gentian, turnips, smoke, grapefruits… Speyside, really? It’s really unusual, and really excellent. Wonderful notes of humus, mushrooms, citrons, grapefruit marmalade, pickled ginger (sushi, anyone?), old Champagne, mint liqueur, yellow chartreuse… Finish: only medium, but wonderfully earthy, with softer raisiny tones in the aftertaste. Lime. Comments: I-wanna-know-what-this-is! Speyside? Seriously? SGP:462 - 90 points.

The Trojan 25 yo 1990/2016 (57.1%, Exile Casks, refill hogshead, 50cl, 306 bottles)

The Trojan 25 yo 1990/2016 (57.1%, Exile Casks, refill hogshead, 50cl, 306 bottles) Four stars and a half Some forgotten cask found by ex-blogging-colleagues Joel and Neil. These Scottish distillers are real scatterbrains, aren’t they, losing casks like that, pff.... This is a single malt, so from only one distillery. Colour: light amber. Nose: new oak involved. Whiffs of pencil shavings, then overripe plums, then prunes, then apple pie. Then old white Port, then saltpetre, then cellar mushrooms. This is like being in a vin jaune cellar in Jura! With water: rounder and, dare I say, smoother. Deep-fried Mars bar, Muscatel, liquorice allsorts. Mouth (neat): punchy and compact, with plenty of liquorice, vanilla extracts, praline, and new wood. Then wheelbarrows of various raisins. Balance has been found. With water: creamy and earthy, with a sweetness that reminds us of some oldish Sauternes. Then plenty of fudge. Finish: rather long, with lighter, fresher, and fruitier tones – which is always great in a finish. Comments: it’s not often that some independent bottling tastes like an official. An official what, I couldn’t tell you, but I find this Trojan excellently modern. Well done, Joel and Neil! SGP:551 - 88 points.

Speyside Region 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.8%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry, 586 bottles)

Speyside Region 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.8%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry, 586 bottles) Five stars This batch is also available at Acla Da Fan’s under a different label. Colour: amber. Nose: many undisclosed Speysiders are actually Glenfarclas, and this one probably is. Perfect chocolaty profile, with prunes and Corinth raisins, then cigars and many things ‘umami-esque’. Parsley, sake, soy sauce, earth, mushrooms… Classic, perfect, complex. Mouth: many precious woods and many soft spices, coated with jams and marmalades. I often quote dates and figs, but there couldn’t be more dates and figs than in this. Some thyme tea as well, chocolate (but it’s never stuffy), rose jelly, a very minimal gamy side, perhaps drops of bouillon… This one will be hard to beat. Finish: rather long, probably a little too oaky by today’s standards, but otherwise just perfect. Fruitcake and earthy things. Wait, snails? Comments: I can’t see how and why this wouldn’t be Glen*****s. It’s absolutely terrific, classic, well-aged Speyside whisky. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Speyside 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.2%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, sherry, 252 bottles)

Speyside 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.2%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, sherry, 252 bottles) Five stars From quite possibly the same batch – but not the same cask. Colour: amber. Nose: very close, very very close. Same chocolate, cigars, prunes… There might be a little more honey and earth in this one, but that’s all. The Kessler sisters! Mouth: same comments, but there’s something extra in this one. Perhaps tropical fruits, mango chutney, maracuja… There’s perhaps a little less sherry in this one, and more ‘natural Glenf*****ness’. Hope I got the number of stars right. Finish: same, rather long, earthy, perhaps one notch less oaky than it’s ‘European’ counterpart, but I may be dreaming. The mysteries of the (far) Orient, perhaps… Comments: I like this one a wee notch better – sister casks, quite obviously – but that’s not enough to warrant one extra-point in my book. Dura Lex, sed Lex. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Good, I feel like we could have one more, but let’s not try to find another Speysider, that wouldn’t be fair after the two wonderful old Glen*****sses. Oh, why not this then?...

Finlaggan 1980/1993 (43%, Vintage Malt Whisky Co.)

Finlaggan 1980/1993 (43%, Vintage Malt Whisky Co.) Four stars and a half That’s right, Lag*****n. This should be Lag*****n, this ought to be Lag*****n. Well, not so sure. I’ve tasted it before, and to tell you the truth, it did not totally taste like Lag*****n. Let’s double-check all that… Colour: straw. Nose: not so sure it’s not Lag*****n anymore. Oh those bl***y bastard malts! Because indeed it’s got something clearly Laph*****y, especially the medicinal iodine and the whiffs of beach bonfire, but these touches of horse saddle and candy sugar could hint at Lag*****n instead. On the other hand, there are also smooth tropical fruits, around mango and passion fruit cocktail, and that’s would rather be Laph***g. The almond oil could be both. Mouth: I’m in favour of Laph***g at this point, although it’s rather earthier and sweeter at the same time, which may rather hint at Lag*****n. It’s really bold at just 43% vol. and both brine, iodine, and lemon juice tend to come to the front. Which could both Laph***g and Lag*****n. Now, Ar***g? Perhaps not this vintage? Por* ****n? Not enough tar. Cao* **a? Nah, I don’t think so, too big. Oh these bastard malts are mind-boggling… Even at thirteen years old and at low strength. Finish: rather long, and limy. Rather fatter than Laph***g, but drier than Lag*****n. Excuse me? A vatting? No, it says ‘single Islay malt’. Comments: ooh my head, session over. SGP:547 - 88 points.

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



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April 6, 2016


The Linkwood family

Linkwood’s a name that we used to see more often ten or fifteen years ago, partly thanks to G&M’s repeated efforts (ah, the pre-war ones!) So time to put things straight, and let’s try to make it ‘cavalcade-y’. How many shall we find? Let’s kick this off with a little apéritif, as usual…

Linkwood 1991/2004 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, 1st fill sherry, cask #1086)

Linkwood 1991/2004 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, 1st fill sherry, cask #1086) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: the sherry’s a tad rubbery at first nosing, but more walnuts manage to come through, then rather dried dates. There’s quite some toasted bread as well, burnt cake… All that gives it a smoky side. Wood smoke. Mouth: it’s quite fat and big, and rather more on bitter oranges this time. Also flints, touches of rubber again, marmalade, orange zests, chocolate… Finish: quite long, still a bit rubbery, but it’s also got an ‘old Mac’ side. Interesting. Loads of walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: a good starting point, I’d say, but the rubber/walnut combination makes it a little difficult. SGP:361 - 78 points.

Linkwood 1992/2015 'Afternoon Tea on the Terrace' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 305 bottles)

Linkwood 1992/2015 'Afternoon Tea on the Terrace' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 305 bottles) Three stars and a half Afternoon Tea on the Terrace? Sounds very British… Colour: straw. Nose: rather fragrant, with some lilac and orange blossom for starters, then various honeys and marmalades. I can see what they were meaning… But that would be earl grey tea! I find the flowery side very ‘Linkwood’ indeed. Mouth: plenty of earl grey indeed, quite some malt, more orange marmalade, and a slight green side. Rather green tea this time? Some caramel too, and once again, a touch of rubber, just like in the Jean Boyer. Finish: medium, on cakes and honeys. The aftertaste has got even more orange marmalade. Comments: tea on the terrace? Have this pretty Linkwood instead! SGP:551 - 84 points.

Linkwood 24 yo 1991/2015 (53.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 586497, 268 bottles)

Linkwood 24 yo 1991/2015 (53.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 586497, 268 bottles) Four stars These excellent people already had quite a few good Linkwoods. Colour: dark straw. Nose: same style as that of the Wemyss, with plenty of orange blossom, marmalade, and lilac. Perhaps also touches of varnish, but those should go away once water’s been added. With water: rather more overripe apples this time, tarte tatin, fresh barley… Mouth (neat): same style again. Oranges and honeys with hints of rubber. Natural rubber, of course. Also almonds, perhaps. With water: takes off, with various herbals teas and various citrus fruits. Liquorice, chamomile, citrons, tangerines… Very nice, fresh and youthful. Finish: medium, light, fruity and fresh. Hence more-ish, as they say. Comments: it’s got more fresh herbs than its sibling, hence my higher score. Very good, and everybody should own a bottle of Linkwood. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Linkwood 18 yo 1997/2016 (48%, Distiller's Art, refill hogshead, 148 bottles)

Linkwood 18 yo 1997/2016 (48%, Distiller's Art, refill hogshead, 148 bottles) Three stars and a half Distiller’s Art is a line by Langside Distillers, which belongs to Hunter Laing since 2013. A matter of portfolios and markets, I suppose. Colour: straw. Nose: same ballpark, once again, even if this one’s a little more on apples, and a little less on flowers and oranges. Maybe is that the younger age? More green malt as well (ditto). Mouth: I find this very good, once again. More oranges this time, green tea, barley, chamomile, all that. And apples. We’re still on that terrace. Finish: medium, maltier. Comments: perhaps a notch less complex than the Wemyss and the TSMOS, which may come from the younger age. But very good it is, no doubt, and no disappointments. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Linkwood 1980/2015 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #8250, 179 bottles)

Linkwood 1980/2015 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #8250, 179 bottles) Four stars and a half Older age? I couldn’t wait to try this 35yo… Colour: gold. Nose: yes, time worked. It’s not that it’s better polished, or rounder, or smoother, not at all, it’s simply more complex, with more flowers and herbs, for example, and an unexpected medicinal side, as if this was an ex-old-Laphroaig hogshead. Band-aid, eucalyptus, chalk, humus, even mud… It’s all quite subtle, and lovable. With water: stunning earthy notes, hay, farmyard, meadows after a heavy shower, then rather beeswax and pollen… Mouth (neat): amazing! Peat and gentian in Linkwood, how does that sound? The smokiness is much more obvious than before, and there is a weird feeling of hashish as well. With water: more oranges and a floral side – this is well Linkwood – while the hashish disappeared. Was I dreaming? Finish: quite long, more herbal. Eucalyptus syrup, mint, smoked herbs… No, not those. Comments: totally unrecognizable when tasted blind. And totally excellent. I hope it’s legal! SGP:462 - 89 points.

Linkwood 18 yo 1997/2015 (59.5%, Jack Wiebers, Steamship Line, hogshead, cask #7141)

Linkwood 18 yo 1997/2015 (59.5%, Jack Wiebers, Steamship Line, hogshead, cask #7141) Three stars A younger one again… Colour: straw. Nose: it really is the same whisky as the Distiller’s Art, even if the strengths are very different. Or same batch for sure. Green apples and green malt. With water: rather more on cereals, farmyard, damp earth… Mouth (neat): big, fruity, all on oranges, then green tea, with touches of fresh mint and just an ‘idea’ of varnish. There are also these very remote hints of rubber again. With water: oranges and apples, plus touches of barley and honey. A touch of resin as well. Propolis? Finish: long, and certainly waxier. More green tea as well, while oranges are striking back in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s honestly good. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Linkwood 1997/2015 (53.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #10195, 270 bottles)

Linkwood 1997/2015 (53.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #10195, 270 bottles) Four stars These good people haven’t only bottled Octomores! Colour: pale gold. Nose: same yet again, but the cask has been a little more active. There’s more pollen, ‘sweet’ vanilla, chamomile, lime blossom, moss… All that is nice, very nice. With water: honey and fruit salad. Niiiiice. Mouth (neat): perfect, as far as middle-aged Speysiders go. The cask has definitely been more active, as you can feel a little pinesap, perhaps juniper, perhaps ginger… But all that works in sync, and really complements the orange liqueur and apples. Really very good! With water: the oak really comes out, and makes it feel a bit like some Linkwood from Kentucky, but that works a treat. Really. Hints of pineapples. Finish: medium, honeyed, vanilla-ed, rounded, and kind of tropical. No, we won’t mention pina colada again. Comments: excellent, both modern and traditional. There might have been some re-racking done, but that was for the better. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Linkwood 30 yo 1984/2015 (54.4%, Riegger's Selection, Amarone finish, cask #5270, 372 bottles)

Linkwood 30 yo 1984/2015 (54.4%, Riegger's Selection, Amarone finish, cask #5270, 372 bottles) Four stars An Amarone finish? That’s pure madness! As you probably know, Amarone is made out of dried grapes, a method that’s akin to that of Jura’s vins de paille. They’re very thick, and pretty heavy red wines. Colour: apricot/salmon. Like rosé wine. Nose: phew, little Amarone! I haven’t got anything against Amarone, but many are a little stuffy and cloying, which is not something you’d detect here. Okay, perhaps are the oranges redder, in a way, but that’s all. Barley, malt, ripe apples, oranges, and perhaps whiffs of cherry-flavoured pipe tobacco. I remember there was a brand when I was smoking pipes (30 years ago) called Borkum Riff. With water: nice earthy tones. The wine did not reject water. Mouth: oh this is good! Even very good! I couldn’t tell you what comes from the Valpolicella/Amarone, but what’s sure is that the Linkwood remained bright and vibrant, as they say. Good fruitiness. With water: yes it’s good. Blood oranges, blackcurrant buds, cracked pepper… It’s red wine, after all. Finish: medium, a little leafy. Comments: an Italian finishing that worked. All we need now is a good pizza ;-). SGP:461 - 85 points.

Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 yo 1987/2015 (58.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry butts, 1062 bottles)

Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 yo 1987/2015 (58.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry butts, 1062 bottles) Four stars and a half Gasp, Cadenhead again. Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, this is austere, tight, narrow, and really earthy/leafy, even leathery. Eh? Fino? Manzanilla? With water: perfect pu-her from the best trees on the best mountains. Stunning mossy smokiness. Mouth (neat): a blade, and in that sense, an anti-Speyside. Lime and lemon, green apples, green walnuts, and yeah, manzanilla. Careful now… With water: gentler, mature, fruitier, but certainly not dull. Green apples, cider, walnuts, greengages… Finish: long, sharp, narrow, green, getting zestier by the second. Comments: okay, I’ll give it away. Do you know how Cadenhead’s are managing to have the best single malts these days? Because yeah, they have a secret, which they revealed to me after a few glasses of retsina too many, in a remote pub in Tarbert, on a cold winter night. In fact, they’re adding one bucket of Springbank to each and every cask they bottle, from Auchentoshan to Tullibardine. Serious, that’s how they do it, but shhh… that’s our little secret… SGP:461 - 89 points. PS: £110 a bottle, that’s smart.

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



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April 5, 2016


Blends again, a truly ballistic session

When you travel to ‘emerging countries’, you sometimes come across some whisky brands you’ve simply never heard of. Or barely. That’s the case with the Scottish brand ‘John Barr’, which I had never tasted before, although I think I had heard of it, once or twice. So let’s have some, and see what gives…

John Barr ‘Red’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

John Barr ‘Red’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) A real Johnnie Walker Red look-alike that’s everywhere to be seen in Cuba. Oh, and it’s cheap, but it’s well Scotch. According to the label, it’s meant to be ‘soft, mellow & smooth’. Some adjectives can kill ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: hello? Not much happening. Some caramel, some sawdust, and some burnt papers. That’s pretty all, folks. Mouth: okayish at times, reminding me of Whyte & Mackay’s entry-level blends, but those are better I think. Sawdust, fudge, a little vanilla, and perhaps a little strawberry jam. Tends to become ‘fudgier’ over time, which is better in this context. Finish: short, burnt, cardboardy. Comments: I doubt this humble whisky is meant to be sipped without (plenty of) ice, but it’s got its (very few) moments. SGP:231 - 55 points.

John Barr ‘Black’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

John Barr ‘Black’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Johnnie Walker have their black, so John Barr have it too. This one’s meant to be ‘rich, warm & rewarding’. Rewarding? Colour: dark gold. Nose: very honeyed, with plenty of honey indeed, maple syrup, and light molasses. Some funny hints of tequila, a very discreet smokiness, and indeed ‘ideas’ of Johnnie Black. Not too unpleasant, I’d say. Mouth: indeed, not bad, and very malty (Ovaltine), with also some ‘dark’ honey in the arrival. Sadly, it tends to become cardboardy and drying. Drip coffee, chicory… Quite thin globally. Finish: short and a little burnt. Honey and coffee are back in the aftertaste, which is better. Comments: kind of honest, and even a little good at times, especially after the rather poor Red. A kind of under-Johnnie Black. SGP:441 - 65 points.

Okay, this little session didn’t start too well. Rather than go on with obscure and rather depressing blends, let’s call in the cavalry. Things got to be done…

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970)

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970) Five starsThese old bottles are always worth trying, some being simply magnificent. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh, chicken soup, honeydew, metal polish, and sultanas! What a soup indeed! And as often, there’s some mint appearing, some eucalyptus, something greatly metallic and petroly (grandpa’s old toolbox), and then a strange mixture made out of tequila, coffee liqueur, and aniseed. Some call it a ‘Mayan Sacrifice’, an interesting shooter they pour you in South America. Mouth: totally excellent, as expected. Metallic tangerines and peppered overripe apples, softened with chartreuse and myrtle liqueur. Or something like that (don’t try that at home). Lovely tarry notes as well, chocolate mints, tobacco, perhaps a little soft curry, a touch of sweet mustard… Even the body’s perfect, despite the strength. Finish: not too long, but wonderfully mentholy and meaty. A touch of lemon and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: very refined and elegant. Only the relative lack of oomph will prevent me from going over… SGP:452 - 90 points.

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, +/-1950)

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, +/-1950) Five stars An older version! Probably pre-war distillates… Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s drier and waxier, the composition was probably quite different. Less metal and tar, and more plasticine, orange zests, sunflower oil (very vivid), and almost as much honeydew as in the newer sibling. There’s also more and more beeswax, which is absolutely stunning. Fabulous nose, very compact. Mouth: we’re closer, but this has more oomph, and certainly many more oranges and tangerines, over some perfect beeswax. Some old Sauternes that got beautifully dry, some overripe apples, and the best mead in the world (although I’m not a huge fan of mead). Perfect, and totally not tired. Finish: rather long, on one of my favourite deserts. That would be peeled oranges seasoned with a blend of honey and olive oil. Try that and let me know how it turns out! Comments: totally exceptional. Tastes like some greatly vatted malt, but these old labels wouldn’t tell. SGP:542 - 93 points.

Berry’s Best Liqueur Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, +/-1950)

Berry’s Best Liqueur Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, +/-1950) Five stars No ABV and no capacity given on this lovely old label. Not 100% sure when this was bottled, some claim that it’s much older, but I don’t think so. Colour: gold. Nose: styles are pretty similar, but this one’s both a little shier and more metallic again, with also rather more leather and meaty notes (chicken soup). Less fruits for sure, it’s not impossible that, indeed, this would be a blend while the ‘Choicest’ would be a vatted malt, or perhaps even a single. Mouth: ah, the oranges are back! And so are the honeys and tangerines, with plenty of beeswax again in the background. The same best mead in the world again, plus golden raisins, a wee touch of artisan pastis – make that genuine absinth from Val-de-Travers, and a little caraway and cinnamon. Perfect again. Finish: medium, honeyed and waxy. The same favourite desert again. Comments: the nose of the first Choicest Liqueur and the palate of the second one. A drop that’s simply totally perfect. Probably around 40% vol. at time of bottling. SGP:452 - 92 points.

We’re having much luck with these old BBRs – but that was expected. Shall we push our luck?... You bet…

Berry’s Best Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, 1930s?)

Berry’s Best Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, 1930s?) Five stars An older bottling according to the closure. Please note that the previous one was a ‘liqueur blended Scotch whisky’, while this one is only a ‘blended Scotch whisky’. In theory, the ‘liqueurs’ used to be superior, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: well, isn’t it amazing that while the two of them weren’t bottled in the same decades (in theory), and while they both spent more than sixty years in glass, they would be so similar? Now, after a few minutes, this one would become a little more medicinal, with a little more camphor and eucalyptus, but other than that, there is the same metallic leather, plus some bouillon and perhaps a little clay and chalk. Tends to become a little more expressive minute by minute. Quite superb! Mouth: what a powerful little oldie! Indeed this one’s more medicinal, there’s probably quite some Islay inside. Perhaps Laphroaig, or maybe Malt Mill? We’ll never know… Some kind of mentholated honey, a touch of salt (Islay?), a spoonful of brine, one small oyster, drops of lime juice, and half a roasted peanut. Or would that be sesame oil? What’s sure is that this a wonderful, very ‘wide’ palate. To think that the components were probably distilled one hundred years ago… As for the grain – but is there any grain? – it’s totally unnoticeable. Who said that’s always been their fate anyway? Finish: medium to long, a tad jammier, with more raisins. Lovely smoky/briny aftertaste, a bit ala old Laphroaig indeed. Comments: great work by Berry Bros’ old cellar masters and blenders. Again. SGP:552 - 92 points.

Good, I think we’ve recovered from the lousy John Barrs. Thank you BB&R! (and Angus and Emmanuel)

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



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April 4, 2016


Whiskies of the World at random

As I wrote. Some were tasted separately, but in our usual, very strict, and almost monastic tasting conditions. Quite.

Chicken Hill (42%, OB, Single Malt, Switzerland, +/-2015)

Chicken Hill (42%, OB, Single Malt, Switzerland, +/-2015) Two stars and a half It seems that this Swiss baby’s made with a mobile still in Hünenberg, and that it was formerly known as ‘Swissky’. Hoppla! Colour: gold. Nose: relatively light, first a little grainy, with a discreet oak, then rather more beerish. I don’t find it unpleasant. Mouth: it’s got this eau-de-vie-ish side that often comes with these mobile stills, and this fruitiness as well, between hops eau-de-vie, pear, and mirabelle. Some bonbons too. Not Ricola, though. A little vanilla. Finish: medium, with a little more oak. The eau-de-vie-ness is still there. Comments: I think it’s pretty fine! By the way, Chicken Hill is a straight translation of Hünenberg. SGP:431 - 77 points.

Chicken Hill ‘Rauch’ (42%, OB, Single Malt, Switzerland, +/-2015)

Chicken Hill ‘Rauch’ (42%, OB, Single Malt, Switzerland, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Rauch means smoke, in case you don’t know. Smoked UFWs (Unidentified Flying Whiskies) can be very funny and interesting. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not much smokier than the ‘un-Rauch’, although I do find whiffs of smoked ham. Oder Kassler? Did they put some gammon steaks into the still? Mouth: there might be some kind of smoke, but don’t expect Lagavulin. Other than that, we’re extremely close to the previous one, which means this is fine. Finish: same. Perhaps a little more grassy smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: should go well with Röstis. SGP:432 - 78 points.

Finch ‘Black Label’ (42%, OB, Hofgut Aglishardt, Germany, 2015)

Finch ‘Black Label’ (42%, OB, Hofgut Aglishardt, Germany, 2015) Three stars Direkt aus Schwaben. I mean, this is a Schwäbischer Highland whisky! It’s been maturing in a sherry pipe. Colour: gold amber. Nose: I always like bready notes, and in truth this smells like some pumpernickel covered with tamarind jam and, perhaps, raspberry ganache. It is winey, but in a good way, the cereals never quite give up. Mouth: does the trick! It’s not totally ‘whisky’, but I do enjoy all these Corinth raisins, the honeyed notes, the jams, the sweet spiciness (rich bread again), and all the Bauernkeit, if I may. Finish: long, perhaps a little drying. A lot of cinnamon and flour, but the raisins keep singing. Dry cocoa in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m not a huge fan of the finish, but I’m quite a fan of the nose and arrival. Well done Swabia! SGP:641 - 80 points.

Teerenpeli 10 yo (43%, OB, Finland, +/-2015)

Teerenpeli 10 yo (43%, OB, Finland, +/-2015) Two stars and a half The first 10 yo Finnish single malt whisky! No I won’t do that joke. I rather enjoyed their 8 yo back in 2012 (WF 79) – and their packaging. Colour: straw. Nose: some butter and sour milk, some plasticine, a little paraffin, touches of oranges, and then a combination of sweet grains and vanilla, with just two sultanas. Make that three. Mouth: fresh, easy, and rather light, before more oak, white pepper, and some rather curious custard (readymade custard from Marks & Spencer) start to come through. After just thirty seconds, its pure custard, with just a touch of nutmeg. Funny, that. Finish: medium, spicy, with some caraway and more nutmeg. Always a lot of custard, and touches of raisins and oranges again, just like in the nose. Comments: the American oak is a little loud perhaps, and maybe not strongly charred, as this is rather un-sweet at times. A solid effort again. SGP:451 - 78 points.

Mackmyra ‘Svensk Rök’ (46.1%, OB, Sweden, +/-2015)

Mackmyra ‘Svensk Rök’ (46.1%, OB, Sweden, +/-2015) Three stars and a half In Swedish, ‘rök’ means rock, as in rock and roll. So ‘Svensk Rök’ is what the band Abba used to make. Not quite, rök means smoke, a smoke to which they’ve added some juniper while kilning the barley. Should be something… Colour: gold. Nose: I’m not sure I’m getting the juniper, but I find this neat and tidy, with a smoke that’s well in place and then more ink, concrete, and ashes. Seems very dry, but these are styles we like. Some fish in the background, like anchovies or sardines. Mouth: I think Mackmyra improved their whiskies quite a lot recently, and this very dry, pungent, and very austere dram is more proof. Chewing cigar ashes, crunching capers, and sucking liquorice. Charcoal. Finish: quite long, with touches of seawater and lemon juice, a bit ala Caol Ila. Cloves in the drying aftertaste, perhaps. Isn’t that the juniper? Comments: I do really enjoy this characterful whisky. SGP:256 - 84 points.

Smögen 4 yo 2011/2015 (57.3%, OB, Sweden, cask #7/2011, 429 bottles)

Smögen 4 yo 2011/2015 (57.3%, OB, Sweden, cask #7/2011, 429 bottles) Four stars and a half While we’re in Sweden… Smögen is one of Europe’s newer blue chips! I remember I had enjoyed their Primör a lot three years ago. Now, this one was fully matured in a Sauternes barrique, so there might be some clash happening, let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: if there’s a clash that would be Joe Strummer’s. Indeed this rocks, it’s big, it’s deep, its very roasted and toasted, it’s very smoky, it’s got plenty of spiced fruits (peppered apricots?), and above everything, it hasn’t got the faintest trace of rubber or sulphur. Instead of that, it’s got wee whiffs of old Ardbeg. Seriously. With water: Swiss cheese, fondue, basil, soy sauce, parsley, olives… All that is extremely impressive. Do they use a dunder pit at Smögen’s? Mouth (neat): it’s a huge thing, and indeed it’s extremely rock and roll. Bake some apricot cake. Add pepper, tar, liquorice, ashes, a few roasted raisins, and plenty of roasted nuts. Like almost-burnt pecans. And then please stop, because this is getting very hot. Wasn’t that rather 67.3% vol.? With water: it’s artisan chocolate that comes out, together with artichoke liqueur and black olives. Once again, I’m impressed. It’s a case of ‘peat creating new flavours’. Yeah, just like in old Ardbeg. Finish: very long. I’ll leave this at that because this is becoming to long. Comments: ditto. But I’m mucho impressed. BTW, it would be interesting to know if the cellar master of the château in Sauternes did taste this. Would love to hear about his impressions. SGP:466 - 89 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. Track: Hot Foot Blues. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 3, 2016


More malternative rhums from
La Martinique

Let’s have more of these highly regulated rhums that, I think, we should support since they have to ‘fight’ against many other rums that are bearing fake age statements and appellations. Between a fake 23 years old and a genuine 10 yo that’s actually much older than the former, both at the same price, which will the average Joe purchase?

HSE 2004/2012 ‘Small Cask’ (46%, OB, Martinique, agricole)

HSE 2004/2012 ‘Small Cask’ (46%, OB, Martinique, agricole) Three stars and a half HSE aka Habitation Saint-Etienne have been pushing hard for quite some years, and have probably the concept that’s closest to Scotch whisky. In this case, they’ve used French oak ‘octaves’ (55l casks). Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts with obvious varnishy notes that do remind me of Buffalo Trace a lot, before it would rather unfold on vanilla, coconut, and oranges. Even if it’s French oak, this baby really noses like high-end bourbon. Consequently, it’s not very ‘rhum’, but I enjoy this nose. Mouth: very good, full of ‘good sweet oak’, banana, vanilla, more coconut, gingerbread, tangerines… A very oily texture, but this fatness works well since we also have citrus. Finish: long and spicier, Cinnamon cake, orange cake, more gingerbread, a touch of strawberry liqueur… And there, sugar cane juice in the aftertaste. Perhaps a little too much oak. Comments: it may be a little ‘engineered’, or ‘designed’, but it’s totally well made. SGP:561 - 83 points.

J. Bally 2002 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2013)

J. Bally 2002 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2013) Four stars Some ups and some downs in my book for Bally’s latest vintages. For example, loved the 1998, but found the 2000 a little weak. Colour: dark gold. Nose: rather dry and herbal, much less aromatic and expressive than the HSE, but perhaps more elegant, and certainly fresher. Some plums and touches of cane sugar, a little tar that’s sometimes to be found in the agricoles, and a very pleasant gingery side. A little walnut wine as well. Very fine nose. Mouth: excellent! Some tequila in the arrival, and even ‘ideas’ of rye, then rather white pepper and tinned litchis. That’s an unusual combo, but it’s fresh all along, and even kind of refreshing. After five minutes, perhaps bay leaves and perhaps cloves, and even speculoos. Finish: medium, and spicier. Cointreau, ginger, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper… Comments: a very complex and subtle proposition. SGP:552 - 85 points.

Rhum J.M 2003 (46.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014)

Rhum J.M 2003 (46.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014) Four stars A 10 years old of high reputation, excellent year after year – not that I tried many of them, sadly, but once we start to focus on proper malternatives only, be sure we will! Colour: amber. Nose: we’re somewhere between the HSE and the Bally, with lots of aromatics but also some self-restraint that’s most welcome. Superb fresh pineapples, praline, cane juice, then rather cardamom and coriander, plus many dried fruits (Corinth raisins, dates) and a little toffee. A touch of coffee. Mouth: starts spicy, with even more coriander and cardamom, and rather goes on with Seville oranges and liquorice, pinesap, cough syrup, and then more pineapple jam with hints of chilli. One should try to cook chicken in this. Finish: rather long, on sweet liquorice and more oranges. A little caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: love all this liquorice that feels all natural. Some perfect rhum agricole, just a wee touch oaky, perhaps. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Depaz ‘Cuvée Prestige’ (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Depaz ‘Cuvée Prestige’ (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Four stars A middle-aged rhum distilled from blue cane juice. Which is more or less the absolute opposite of molasses. Now I haven’t tried many Depaz, but I don’t think it’s my favourite Martiniquan. Things may change… Colour: amber. Nose: I may have been wrong. Indeed, this nose works very well, with rather more phenolic and even olive-y notes than in the others. A bit of tar as well, even some brine, then liquorice, cedar wood, tobacco… In short, a Martiniquan that’s got its eye on Jamaica at times. Mouth: less so on the palate, this is classic agricole, with jams and soft spices and a good deal of sugar cane. Raisins, roasted peanuts, cinnamon, tobacco… Finish: medium, with more liquorice on pineapple jam and cigars. Cinnamon cake and orange zests in the aftertaste. Baklavas. Comments: I find this one excellent, it’s my favourite Depaz. This far! SGP:651 - 85 points.

La Mauny ‘Extra Saphir’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014)

La Mauny ‘Extra Saphir’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014) Three stars A rather expensive deluxe cuvee gathering rhums from 8 to 15 years of age. Sadly bottled at only 40% vol. La Mauny’s not my favourite Martiniquan, I usually find it a little too easy (some would say too commercial) but I really enjoyed their white ‘Ter Rouj’ earlier this year. Colour: amber. Nose: the least aromatic of them all, but it’s got nice touches of overripe bananas and marzipan. A little fudge, yellow flowers, and honey. Really rather light, some kind of Glenlivet of the agricoles. But things may change on our palate… Mouth: easy and smooth, fruity, with tropical fruit liqueurs and jams. First pineapples, then papayas and bananas. Some honey too, but there’s no fatness. Perhaps a wee tad too smooth and sweet for an agricole, but that’s just a personal opinion. Finish: not very long, sweet and fruity (liquorice allsort), with more oak, especially cinnamon, in the aftertaste. Comments: a little lack of oomph, and indeed it’s a tad too ‘easy-easy’ for me, as expected, but quality’ certainly high. SGP:641 - 80 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ BLUES. Performer: Eddy Louiss. Track: Bananas Garden. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 2, 2016



Some essential reading on a lazy Saturday, this luminous and (most probably) seminal article by the Whisky Sponge, which I completely agree with. Absorbing indeed.


And since the world seems to need lists, let's not forget to post these... (yes, February was long overdue)

Whiskyfun fav of the month

March 2016

Favourite recent bottling:
Benriach 35 yo (42.5%, OB, +/-2015) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 27 yo 1968 (43%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, +/-1995) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 200th Anniversary, 2016)  - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Kill Devil (40%, Hunter Laing, Caribbean blended rum, +/-2016) - WF 84


Whiskyfun fav of the month

February 2016

Favourite recent bottling:
Mortlach 25 yo 1989/2015 (52.4%, Silver Seal, cask #3911, 480 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 15 yo (105° proof, Private bottling by the Orkney Hotel, bottled July 1967) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Benromach 10 yo '100° proof' (57%, OB, +/-2015) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Clairin Casimir ‘Batch 2’ (54%, OB, Haiti, +/-2014) - WF 90

April 1, 2016



March 2016 - part 2 <--- April 2016 - part 1 ---> April 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970)

Choicest Liqueur Scotch Whisky of Great Age (70° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, blend, +/-1950)

Berry’s Best Liqueur Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, +/-1950)

Berry’s Best Blended Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros & Rudd, 1930s?)

Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2498, 180 bottles)

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, early 1970s)

Speyside Malt Whisky (46.1%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, 579 bottles, 2015)

Speyside Region 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.8%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry, 586 bottles)

Speyside 38 yo 1977/2015 (46.2%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, sherry, 252 bottles)