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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2016 - Part 2



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


April 29, 2016


New Glen Scotia and an old bomb

Not much to say about 'the other Campbeltowner'. We've seen ups and we've seen downs, but it seems that the new owners are willing to 'push' the brand these days. Which started, as they often do in Scotland, with raising the prices.

Glen Scotia 'Double Cask' (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Glen Scotia 'Double Cask' (46%, OB, +/-2015) Two stars and a half NAS, a finishing in sherry and first fill bourbon, a high price... Where else have we already seen that happening? Colour: gold. Nose: typical. Beer sauce, burnt wood, leaven, an earthiness, porridge, some saltpetre... It is a little feinty, but the finishing did work and managed to mask that side fairly well. Mouth: frankly, this is better than expected, and certainly better than the 'Victoriana'. Despite a little burnt cardboard and overcooked vegetables. It's a tad winey, but just a tad. Raisins and drops of grappa. Some porridge remaining in the aftertaste, as well as this 'burnt' side. Finish: medium, a tad sweet and sour, but it works. A kind of peppery smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: really, it's fine. And they managed not to make it reek of vanillin. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Glen Scotia 15 yo (46%, OB, 2015)

Glen Scotia 15 yo (46%, OB, 2015) Three stars and a half Yes they redesigned the range last year. It's true that the flashy bottles they came up with around 2012 were really... something else. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yes! Sure it's got less personality than the Double Cask, but this sleeker style is much sexier and simply 'nicer'. Many cakes, pastries, light honeys, dried apricots, mirabelle jam... And of course vanilla. But it is not deadly vanilla-ed. Some sides remind me of Arran. That's not too far, is it? A regional style? I'm joking... Mouth: good. More character, with a grassy/dirty arrival that's actually pleasant, notes of moss and mushrooms, some green pepper - no, a lot of green pepper and even capsicum - and perhaps a salty touch. Quite a lot of ginger too, black pepper... Finish: quite long, mossy and peppery, with some bitter oranges. Bitter oranges always work in a finish. Comments: I'm really pleased with this baby. I think it's a success. Not Springbank, of course, but in thirty years time, you never know... SGP:462 - 83 points.

Hold on, we've also got this older monster...

Glen Scotia 12 yo (55.8%, James MacArthur, 75cl, +/-1986)

Glen Scotia 12 yo (55.8%, James MacArthur, 75cl, +/-1986) Two starsYoung 1970s' distillation at cask strength, let's put our helmets on... Colour: white wine. Nose: take green apple juice, lamp oil, and chalk. Plus a little paraffin. Blend, mix, nose. With water: fresh concrete and sour dough. Mouth (neat): candlewax galore! And yeast and lemon. Really not easy. With water: not any easier, despite the lemon that got more vivid. This yeastiness is pretty extreme, but as they say, it's a style and in a way, it's historical. Finish: rather long, a tad gentler and easier. They added a little brioche and vanilla cake. Comments: of course not, whisky wasn't always better in the old days, but it's pleasant to try old totally un-commercial whiskies, you just need to intellectualise the experience a bit. SGP:361 - 72 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ronnie Wells. Track: I only have eyes for you. Please buy her music...

April 28, 2016


Three older Glenrothes

A short follow-up session, with only three older Glenrothes. Well, only one's really old.

Glenrothes 24 yo 1990/2015 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 966 bottles)

Glenrothes 24 yo 1990/2015 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 966 bottles) Four stars Let's see if once again, a real small batch (not 30,000 bottles) beats single casks because of some additional complexity. Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee. I'm not joking, this reeks of coffee (with schnapps), with also a good deal of gunpowder and flints. Quite a lot of burnt black raisins too, very dark caramel, then black tobacco (Gauloises) and touches of leather and perhaps fennel. With water: burnt cardboard, black cigars (maduros, or this funny cigar made in Italy called Toscani - kills a rhino)... In short everything's quite black. Mouth (neat): heavy, bitter in a good way, very burnt, with many spicy fruitcakes and loads of muscovado sugar. Cloves and tar. As 'black' as it gets. With water: becomes kirschy and funnily spicy-fruity. Mulled wine, more burnt sugar. Finish: very long. Coffee-slivovitz. Comments: a very extreme one, perhaps for lovers of sherry monsters only. Some sides remind me of the old Macallans Cask Strength. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Good, it was so extreme, that we might need another 1990 just to be on the safe side...

Glenrothes 25 yo 1990/2015 (56.6%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #10784, 285 bottles)

Glenrothes 25 yo 1990/2015 (56.6%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, sherry butt, cask #10784, 285 bottles) Four stars and a half Yes, sherry again, but the colour is lighter. Colour: deep gold. Nose: better balanced, to say the least, but also less demonstrative. There is a little leather and whiffs of used matches, but also oranges, dandelions, and golden raisins. Not the big black ones ;-). Also a nice minty maltiness, which makes it kind of chartreuse-y at times. With water: lovely citrus and ginger, with an earthy and malty background. Mouth (neat): really punchy, with a sweet bitterness that, again, hints at some kind of herbal liqueur, although that wouldn't be chartreuse. Hold on, Unicum? Some cloves for sure, and some spicy marmalade. Indian marmalade? With water: classic fruity development. Raisins, figs... Very good. Finish: medium, on mixed jams and spices. Never heavy. Comments: I find this one totally excellent, and probably more 'drinkable' than the slightly monstrous Cadenhead. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Glenrothes 34 yo 1980/2014 (48,5%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill hogshead, 180 bottles)

Glenrothes 34 yo 1980/2014 (48,5%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars and a halfOoh, 1980, that's the year of one of my favourite Glenrothes ever, the official 1980/2004 cask #17563 (no less than WF 93). Colour: white wine. Probably the opposite of the two sherried ones that we just tried. Nose: we're closer to the late 1960s or early 1970s, with a subtle and delicate honeyness and many ripe orchard fruits, as well as a wonderful floral side. Nectar, ripe plums, peaches... Really very lovely, it's just the palate that may be a little more tired given the style. Let's see... Mouth: not at all, even if the oak's very noticeable. It's a rather mentholated oak, a little sappy, but that goes well with the peaches, apples, and plums that really abound. There's also the expected honey (light) and just hints of cinnamon. The whole's perfectly fresh. Finish: medium, more honeyed, with a fruit salad and juices. This one's totally drinkable. Comments: wonderful. More delicate than DL's XOP, but perhaps a tad less immediate. Same score. SGP:541 - 89 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: James Blood Ulmer. Track: Hijack. Please buy his music...

April 27, 2016


Quite some Glenrothes, Part One

As the headline says. Starting with a little apéritif, as usual...

Glenrothes 8 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail's Collection, +/-2015)

Glenrothes 8 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail's Collection, +/-2015) Four stars Really liked the older versions, such as a +/-1998 at 86 points. Colour: straw. Nose: rather a half grassy, half earthy start, before it tends to become maltier and more 'toasted, in an old fashioned way. Chocolate and burnt raisins, toasted sweet bread, a hint of wood smoke. All, that is pleasant. Mouth: I'm finding this very excellent, perfectly malty, with lovely notes of coffee and even cappuccino. They could sell this at Starbucks, except that Starbucks do not deserve it. Apple cake, cornflakes, milk chocolate... All very good. Finish: surprisingly long, toasty, malty, and cake-y. Comments: this is what air travellers should buy in travel retail, instead of junk NAS 'limited' bottlings that are as interesting as Susan Boyle singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Also love the fact that they decreased the colouring. Not even sure there is any. Oh, and at its price, it's also an OB killer. SGP:451 - 87 points.

Let's find another young one... Oh, such as this bomb...

Glenrothes 7 yo 2007/2014 (66.7%, Adelphi, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #3529, 320 bottles)

Glenrothes 7 yo 2007/2014 (66.7%, Adelphi, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #3529, 320 bottles) Four stars and a half You may need to do two hours of yoga before tackling a malt at almost 67% vol.! It seems that the strength went up while in wood, which may suggest that the hoggie was stored right under the roof. Right, or in Timbuktu. Colour: amber. Nose: not much, but that's normal at this super-strength. Feels a bit BTAC, as they say in America. Now I do get baklavas, but I'm not sure... With water: the best use of water for sure. Raisins, kugelhopf, various cakes and pastries, and a rather wonderful toasted oakiness. Never thought I would write that one day. Mouth (neat): doesn't burn that much. I do get sundried sultanas from southwest Turkey, plus... I'm joking, it just burns. So, with water: totally excellent raisin juice mixed with chocolate, sweet malt, and honey. One of these youngsters that got great because of a great cask, I suppose. Finish: long, very malty and cake-y. Perfect for breakfast, but then again, 66.7% vol. for breakfast may be a little too much. Unless you just got back home and are about to go to bed. Comments: some very impressive Scottish bourbon - yes I know that was malt and that was sherry. It does have something bourbony. Recommended, you'll have fun with it (or sister casks). SGP:551 - 88 points.

Glenrothes 12 yo 2002/2014 (54.8%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glenrothes 12 yo 2002/2014 (54.8%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Three stars This one should be very 'natural' according to its colour. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: interesting totally naked young Speysider. Cut apples, and more cut apples. Cut apples? Did you just say cut apples? With water: touches of beer, whiffs of roses, and a little grass. Mouth (neat): indeed, some young malt whisky in all its naked glory. Apples, peaches, vanilla, barley syrup, and basta cosi. With water: a little more sweetness. Drops of pineapple and pear juice, 50-50. Finish: medium, fruity, simple, uncomplicated, good. Comments: exactly the kind of bottle one should own to show everyone how pure, natural, and unadulterated/unflavoured malt whisky tastes. Oh forget about complexity! SGP:641 - 82 points.

Glenrothes 1996/2015 'Toasted Anise' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 401 bottles)

Glenrothes 1996/2015 'Toasted Anise' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 401 bottles) Three stars and a half Toasted anise? I could have written such an, ach, unlikely thing. But no, I do not work for any distillers or bottlers. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's the 2002 with more wood interaction, so rather more vanilla, syrups, and pears instead of apples. Although I very well know that pears come from a young(ish) distillate. Also whiffs of fresh panettone, which just cannot be bad. That's right, orange blossom. Mouth: bright, crisp, fresh fruity combo. A fruit salad with a little barley water, vanilla sauce, and acacia honey. No, the fact that there are millions (millions, really?) or similar casks lying over there in Scotland does not mean that it's not good! Finish: medium, clean, fruity, barleyish, excellent. Nice grassy/oaky signature for more, say straightness. Comments: simply very good. Didn't get the anise, though, but this is not pastisfun dot com anyway. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Glenrothes 1996/2014 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14028, 241 bottles)

Glenrothes 1996/2014 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14028, 241 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah, more dimension. That's the cask speaking. Malted barley (yeah, that's not the cask), chocolate, cigars, walnuts and hazelnuts, then some apple pie straight from the oven covered with some vanilla ice cream and some honey sauce. A little regressive, but that's a compliment. Childhood memories. With water: a little more green maltiness. Mouth (neat): rich, malty, with quite some sweet oak (the bottler's signature), vanilla, coconut, overripe apples, and some kind of green spice cake. No, not space cake. With water: all good, oranges, apples, honey, malt, and maple syrup. You cannot be against that. Finish: medium, a tad greener and maltier. A little sweet beer (very fruity IPA, such as Anchor's). Comments: nothing to complain about, quite the contrary. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glenrothes 19 yo 1996/2015 (56.2%, First Editions, refill hogshead, 242 bottles)

Glenrothes 19 yo 1996/2015 (56.2%, First Editions, refill hogshead, 242 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: nice! (what a worthwhile comment, S.) Fresh butter and honey on maize bread, then that famous apple pie, with just a little agave syrup that makes it a little more 'interesting' than others. I may have forgotten to mention vanilla. Very pleasant freshness. With water: pure sweet malt and overripe apples, barley syrup... And all that. Mouth (neat): sweet malty and fruity goodness. What's nice in this one is that there's more citrus than in the others, especially oranges. Oriental pastries, some chamomile and lime tree teas, some peaches. Butterscotch. All good. With water: all good indeed. Apple and orange juice with a little honey. Finish: medium, with a little toffee. Ah, toffee, that's new! Comments: in a way, this one's closer to the well-aged OBs. Not the sweet-oaked ones, mind you. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 14 yo 2001/2016 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 492 bottles)

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 14 yo 2001/2016 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 492 bottles) Three stars and a half This one just in while I had already started this little session. Let's sneak it in, knowing that if it's a vatting of two or three casks, it may have become more complex than single casks - however good those were. Colour: pale white wine. Say Chablis from the eastern bank - just joking. Nose: sweet malt and sweet apple juice, with a little custard and some moderately aromatic honey. Perhaps colza? Mouth: again, this is nice. Orange juice, apple juice, a touch of vanilla, a drop of pinesap, and we're done. Harmless and good. Finish: medium and maltier. A few sweet spices. Comments: Irreproachable easy malt whisky, the kind our friends up there in cheerful Campbeltown used to bottle in the Duthie's range before. SGP:541 - 84 points.

Certainly not one of our easiest sessions ever. Let's have one more young or middle-aged Glenrothes and call this a tasting session. We'll have older ones tomorrow, because, you know, we need a little more fun!

Glen Rothes 8 yo 1986/1994 (43%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, cask #91, 425 bottles)

Glen Rothes 8 yo 1986/1994 (43%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, cask #91, 425 bottles) Two stars and a half I thought it would be nice to have a soft landing at 8 yo and 43% vol. Colour: straw. Nose: a drier one, with more clay, more ink, more newspapers, and a little more burnt sugar as well. Hints of pinesap and lime grass. It is a pleasant dry and fresh nose. Mouth: a dry one indeed, with some grass, citrus peel, a little cardboard, bitter chocolate, and raw malt. The citrusy side lifts it and keeps it afloat. Hints of limestone and chalk. In a way, it's the opposite of the luscious officials from that era. Finish: short to medium, with more chalk and lemon, which works kind of well. Comments: fine, but not too sexy. Say average plus. SGP:351 - 78 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Oliver Lake. Track: Venus. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 26, 2016


More Springbank from the library

I know we're tasting Springbank very often. But since they've become the grand cru of all Scottish grands crus again (in my opinion), even every day wouldn't quite be enough. Clearly #1, if you ask me, while so many marketers-distillers are going down down down...

Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (54.1%, OB, batch #12, 2016)

Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (54.1%, OB, batch #12, 2016) Five stars I'm glad we have this popular baby in our glass again. The last batch we've tasted was #9, and we just loved it (WF 90). As they say, probably a no-brainer. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's maybe a little more sherried than before, tenser, with more curry, also oak shavings, and ginger... But it's also very briny, seaside-y, smoky, kelpy (what?)... there's some menthol, horseradish, leather, cinchona... And all that works in sync, mind you! With water: swims like Ian Thorpe. Fast and good. Wet dogs (we really owe you, dogs), raw wool, mud, limestone, wet plaster, bandages... All that. Mouth (neat): same feeling, there's rather more oak extracts than in others, more pepper, more curry again... It's really huge, sharp, almost pungent... Grapefruit peel, Jägermeister, ginger, leather, cigar tobacco (chewing your old puro when you're near its end)... With water: the citrus fruits come to the front. Much grass and even wasabi in the back. Finish: long, sharp, very zesty. Comments: totally huge, puts many an Islay to shame as far as texture and body are concerned. Same score all over again. SGP:362 - 90 points.

Springbank 22 yo 1993/2015 (51.8%, Sansibar, 150 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1993/2015 (51.8%, Sansibar, 150 bottles) Four stars In my experience, these vintages have been more difficult. I remember I've tried several very varnishy and bitter ones, and some better ones as well. So, let's see... Colour: straw. Nose: very unusual indeed. Very young, less smoky, and oddly fruity. Rhubarb, green apples, greengages... well, any green fruits. Also sorrel and basil. Whiffs of wet clothes, fresh concrete, sour dough, leaven... As they say, the jury's still out. With water: hugely chalky. Damp chalk. Mouth (neat): really weird. Sucrose and green chilli, Schweppes Lemon, ginger ale, concentrated lemon juice... These singularities are very interesting, but they're perhaps more for friends who've already tried a good 100 'mainstream' Springbanks, just like you'd better listen to Bach and Mozart before Stockhausen and not the other way 'round (perhaps). With water: perhaps better, thanks to all this lemon that comes out. Eating plasticine and chalk - like we used to do when we were three, I suppose. Finish: long and drier. Branches and grass. Comments: Stockhausen indeed. Or there, Frank Zappa's last recordings. Some people will love this, some others will hate it. SGP:372 - 85 points.

Springbank 1972/1993 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 93/132)

Springbank 1972/1993 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 93/132) Five stars A lighter vatting of this well-known Springbank for Tesco, they had done another one in 1992 that's been darker. Maybe shall we have that one as well today... Colour: gold. Nose: awe. Beeswax and damp earth, then mirabelle pie and cough syrup, then pinesap and all honeys on earth. No need to write a novel, this is quite extraordinary. Mind you, Tesco! Mouth: fantastic, as expected. Spicy and waxy arrival (nutmeg and cinnamon - perhaps a notch drying - on some beeswax and sunflower oil), then blood oranges and pink grapefruits, then bags and bags of juicy ultra-ripe yellow plums and apricots. Some colourful malt whisky! Strength and body are perfect. Finish: long, always a tad drying, mainly on cloves and raisins. Some kind of old Alemannic Christmas cake, perhaps. A slightly gritty oakiness in the aftertaste. Comments: did I mention all the honeys there were in this little glory? Only the slightly drying oak will prevent me from going over... SGP:561 - 90 points.

Springbank 1972/1992 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 92/336)

Springbank 1972/1992 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 92/336) Five stars So this one was bottled a few months earlier. Indeed it's a little darker... Colour: full gold. Nose: different, earthier, waxier, and less on honeys and ripe fruits. So a little more austere, and probably closer to the distillery's contemporary offerings. Old cellar, mushrooms, moss, more mushrooms... It's also a little more coastal (seaweed, driftwood on a beach after high tide...) Mouth: ha! Clearly sharper, bigger, wilder, more lemony, more, ach, 'Clynelish', more mineral... If the other one was for the lounge, this one's for your hipflask! And it's right up my alley, I utterly adore this sharper and slightly smokier style. Finish: long, zesty, citrusy, mineral. In short, Rieslingy (ja ja). Comments: clearly not the same vatting that had been bottled in two goes. Wonderful wilder old Springbank. Yes they had it good at Tesco's in the early 1990s. SGP:462 - 92 points.

That one called for a last one. Why not one that I had already tried twelve years ago for WF, without writing any really 'serious' tasting notes?

Springbank 1969/1997 (46%, Murray McDavid, sherry, cask #MM7787)

Springbank 1969/1997 (46%, Murray McDavid, sherry, cask #MM7787) Four stars and a halfHave you seen that Murray McDavid are very active again? They have many strange blended malts carrying funny Gaelic names, we'll try some soon. But in the meantime... Colour: full gold. Nose: much more old wood, forest, damp fir cones after a heavy tropical rain (did it occur to you that there are no firs in the tropics, Serge?), eucalyptus, some rancio for sure, horse saddle, menthol, cedar wood, humidor... There's a wonderful complexity here. Mouth: the oak may feel a little too much now, and it's some kind of old French oak, akin to what you may find in a very old Bourgogne that got a little dry. Having said that, everything that sits behind it is just perfect, from black raisins to cigars and from cocoa powder to crème de menthe. And let's not forget Seville oranges, and a rather walnutty sherry. Finish: long, a tad drying because of the oak. Cloves and cinnamon plus more bitter oranges. Comments: I still agree with the few lines and the score I had written back in 2004 - which feels a little strange, I have to say. Not quite MMcD's glorious 1967s, but still very, very excellent. SGP:461 - 89 points.

(Thanks a lot Carsten)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the World Saxophone Quartet. Track: Rio. Please buy their music...

April 25, 2016


Glenlossie in the middle of the road

Glenlossie, which is a mid-sized distillery (2Mio LPA?), remains relatively unknown, probably because there’s only been a handful of semi-official bottlings in the past. Imagine, we’ve only tried around 40 Glenlossies since we started this lousy website! Time to try to upgrade all that, let’s see how far we’ll manage to go. We’ll do it vertically…

Glenlossie 1997/2015 (53.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #7112, 295 bottles)

Glenlossie 1997/2015 (53.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #7112, 295 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a fresh and fruity Speysider. There are loads of fresh and fruity Speysiders, millions of casks! It’s fine, on apples and plums, but I wouldn’t say there’s a lot going on so far. With water: plus cornflakes and more vanilla. Fresh croissants, merci mademoiselle. Mouth (neat): barley water, apple juice, vanilla, maple syrup, malt, butterscotch. It’s good, it’s just not very interesting. A lot of custard. With water: vanilla and tinned fruits, especially pears this time. Finish: medium, with even more vanilla, williams pears liqueur, and maple syrup. A little caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely faultless, just not very interesting. Middle-of-the-road (chirpy chirpy cheep cheep). SGP:551 - 80 points.

Glenlossie 21 yo 1993/2015 (56,1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 492 bottles)

Glenlossie 21 yo 1993/2015 (56,1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 492 bottles) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s rather more happening here. Crushed mint leaves, strawberry sweets, pomegranates, old potatoes (and earth), liquorice wood, Bakelite, old electronics (an old radio set)… It’s much funnier, probably not very orthodox, but yeah, it’s got funny sides. With water: porridge, apple juice, lemon. Gets in line. Mouth (neat): strange-ish. Schweppes and honey, blood oranges, mandarins, kiwis, cinchona, Campari… A funny feeling of ‘new plastic pouch’ in the background, but those are now about to disappear anyway – verboten because of environmental issues! With water: easy fruity maltiness. Close to the 1997. Finish: medium, malty. Marmalade on shortbread. Comments: very good, it’s just that once again, you won’t remember this dram for years. Which dram am I talking about? Can’t remember… SGP:551 - 82 points.

Glenlossie 21 yo 1992/2013 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 197 bottles)

Glenlossie 21 yo 1992/2013 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 197 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: apple peelings, grass, moss. I repeat, apple peelings, grass, moss. That’s all, folks. With water: a freshly mown lawn. Perhaps plastic? A brand new Tesla ? ;-) Mouth (neat): bready, leafy, grassy, a little cardboardy. Some lemon, some green apples. It’s probably ‘very refill’, you could think this is five years old. With water: good, but rather characterless. Sweet grass and no phenols whatsoever. Finish: medium. Sweeter grassiness. Comments: it goes down well, and once again, I can’t find any flaws, unless middle-of-the-road-ness is a flaw (cheep cheep). All right, I find it a little boring. SGP:451 - 78 points.

Glenlossie 20 yo 1992/2012 (57%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Another opportunity for 1992…

Glenlossie 20 yo 1992/2012 (57%, The Whisky Mercenary) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: these whiffs of new plastic pouch again, then apples and green plums. Some pears, touches of cloves, hints of caraway and fennel. With water: I had never thought I’d find plastic and soap okay in malt whisky. Mouth (neat): barley water, a touch of varnish, Spanish apple liqueur, a drop of crème de menthe. With water: more of all that, plus a wee varnishy side. Finish: medium, with a little lemon. Comments: not the easiest session I’ve ever done, it seems. Unless we start to intellectualise things a bit – but I guess we’d better not. SGP: 451- 79 points.

Another opportunity for 1992…

Glenlossie 22 yo 1992/2015 (51.1%, Eiling Lim)

Glenlossie 22 yo 1992/2015 (51.1%, Eiling Lim) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: ah? Rum, sweet grasses, Korean plum wine, custard, sour cream, fresh panettone… Something is happening, at last! With water: a Danish pastry shop. Mouth (neat): I cannot not think of some Glenlivet at cask strength (with apologies to Diageo). Werther’s Originals, vanilla fudge, butterscotch, tarte tatin… This works, not because it’s highly interesting, rather because this time, it’s 100% perfect in this custardy style. With water: pear cake, sticky pudding, frappuccino. Finish: medium, caramelised and fudgy. More pear cake in the aftertaste. Comments: it was a good cask. There’s something of Aultmore. SGP:551 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Horace Tapscott. Track: Ballad For Deadwood Dick. Please buy his music...

April 24, 2016


Real malternatives from Barbados
(now we're talking)

If you want something said, it is sometimes best to say it yourself
(picture courtesy bajanrumshop.com)

Foursquare and their manager Richard Seale are known as the mavericks of the rum world, a bit like Bruichladdich used to be, under their former management (and they still are, a bit). They’re trying to protect the ‘natural’ rums, and are fighting the fact that just any junk bearing fake ages and ridden with unlikely additives is still sold as ‘rum’ today, while it’s spiced rum at best. Or say spirit drink. Or liqueur. How could we be against that just cause and turn a blind eye on all these swindles? Even if a large part of the industry, including retailers, keeps quiet, probably because ‘there’s some money to be made’, and also because ‘it’s always been like that’. Everyone likes a profitable status quo… Anyway, let’s have some Foursquare today…

Doorly's 3 yo 'White' (40%, OB, blend, Barbados, +/-2015)

Doorly's 3 yo 'White' (40%, OB, blend, Barbados, +/-2015) Three starsIt's always in the 'white' spirits that distillery character shows best, but on the other hand, you may consider that with aged spirits, distillery character includes a part of any time in oak. Or that, for example, Lagavulin's character shows better in some 10 yo aged in refill wood than in the new make. Are you following me? Colour: white. Nose: perhaps a tad rough, but it does show nice cane-y notes, as well as a grassiness that works well. Green apples, cider apples. Perhaps a little mercurochrome, or TCP, or tincture of iodine too? Mouth: very dry, rather pure, with this cane-y grassiness again, as well as hints of plantain bananas. A little wax as well, always good news. Finish: medium, with some grapefruits and a touch of candy sugar. But as is customary at Foursquare and affiliated brands, no sugar's been added after distillation. Comments: probably as good as white rum that's not hugely phenolic/congeneric can get. Great value. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Foursquare 9 yo 'Port Cask Finish' (40%, OB, Barbados, 2014)

Foursquare 9 yo 'Port Cask Finish' (40%, OB, Barbados, 2014) Four stars A Port cask finish, the disease doesn't only strike Scotland. Yeah I know, exaggerating yet again. More so since it was matured for only 3 years in bourbon, then re-racked to Port for 6 additional years. So perhaps more a bourbon start than a Port finish. Colour: plain gold. No rose-y hues! Nose: oh lovely lovely. We're going towards agricole (yep it's molasses here), with a slightly earthy combination of tropical fruits and grassy, oily aromas. A little paraffin, grape pip oil, peach peel, and a fatness that screams port still. I believe this is actually a blend of column and pot still rums. Some floral notes as well. Dandelions? Mouth: really excellent, dry, starting all on sugarcane and praline, before more grassy and floral notes emerge once again. Chamomile, dried bananas, a touch of liquorice, a very wee drop of brine. Only the body's marginally thin, I guess a few more degrees would have added to the experience. Excellent nonetheless. Finish: a little short, perhaps, and that's the low strength. But otherwise real good and liquoricy. Comments: very, very, and I mean very excellent. I'd pay double for a CS version, I’m serious. SGP:562 - 87 points.

Speaking of cask strength...

Foursquare 2 yo 2013/2015 (64%, Habitation Velier, Barbados)

Foursquare 2 yo 2013/2015 (64%, Habitation Velier, Barbados) Four stars and a half While the regular Foursquares are blends of pot still and column rums, so single blends if you like, this terrifying youngster is some pure pot still Foursquare. I have to say it feels bizarre to see a bottle of 2 yo, but 'they' may have their reasons, let's see... By the way, they used some ex-cognac casks, so it's obligatorily French oak (no other oak may be used for cognac, unless that’s only cognac-treated oak, but I highly doubt it). Colour: gold. Nose: let's be careful, it burns. I get natural vanilla and I get broken branches, as well as remote 'ideas' of Jamaican-ness. Which just cannot be bad news. Perhaps a little green coffee as well? Quick, water: high class fat and phenolic rum, with some engine oil, a touch of turpentine, heavy liquorice, and hints of warm brioche. A few fresh walnuts. Mouth (neat): it's very strong, but the spirit is wonderfully... Jamaican. I'm sorry if that offends the Barbadians, but in my words it's meant as a compliment. Right? But again, it burns... With water: grassy, briny, biting (even at 35% vol.), with even more engine oil and liquid liquorice. It's actually totally malternative. Finish: very long, on raw liquorice, lime, salt, and even more engine oil. I suppose. Comments: what a wonderful spirit. More proof that just like with whisky, the less efficient pot stills rule. I totally love this style. Old Ardbeg from the tropics? Oh and can we also have a white one, to totally get to the core of this distillate? SGP:463 - 89 points.

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



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April 22, 2016



To us malt drinkers, rye’s a bit like mezcal. First meh, then eh, then oh, then wow. But there’s real rye and there’s made-up rye (it’s called rye but it isn’t rye, or it’s only partly rye), and it’s sometimes hard to find accurate information about that. The only thing that seems to be sure, is that when it’s called ‘straight’ rye, it’s at least 51% rye and matured for at least two years. And that no additives have been added.

Materson’s 10 yo (45%, OB, USA, straight rye whiskey, +/-2016)

Materson’s 10 yo (45%, OB, USA, straight rye whiskey, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Well, the company’s in the USA, and this is indeed presented as some American rye, but it seems that it’s actually sourced from Canada’s Alberta Distillers. So, this is Canadian whisky, probably a bit like Whistle Pig. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of these bready ryes, with pumpernickel, juniper, caraway, and touches of ginger, all that coated with vanilla and a little maple syrup. Canadian maple syrup, of course. Perhaps a little lavender as well. Very enjoyable, easy, and seemingly smoooth as silk. Mouth: there’s too much oak for my taste, which gives this baby a bitter arrival. Eating husk plus lavender sweets and sweet bread. Pumpernickel again, I guess. Then quite some burnt sugar, a lot of toasted oak, and a cinnamon/nutmeg combo that suggests even more oak. Finish: medium, on cocoa powder, toffee, and sawdust. Comments: I find the spirit a little light and the oak a little heavy. Bizarrely lightly rye-ed for some straight rye. SGP:450 - 77 points.

Polugar 'Single Malt Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, +/-2015)

Polugar 'Single Malt Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, +/-2015) Three starsWe had tried an earlier batch and liked it quite a lot given its lack of ageing. It’s triple-distilled in pot stills, and classified as ‘vodka’. Colour: white. Nose: superb clean and fresh notes of sour dough, new baguette, juniper berries, leaven, baker’s yeast, and then rather lilies of the valley and ‘regular’ lilies. Quite some porridge too. It’s hard to come closer to raw cereals! Quite love it. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, with plenty of bread, juniper, violets, liquorice, then a little sorrel and even more bread. Hints of citrons and myrtle, which is very Corsican. Good body at 38%, but as usual, 43% would have worked better. Finish: medium, fresh, rather more on lemon and lime. A little agave (tequila) as well but the aftertaste is very bready. Comments: really a lovely spirit. Oak would probably waste it. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Kyro 'Verso' (46.3%, OB, Finland, +/-2015)

Kyro 'Verso' (46.3%, OB, Finland, +/-2015) Three stars and a half We had tried and earlier ‘Verso’ last year, and found it impressively good given its very young age (4 months). This one isn’t any older, I suppose. Colour: gold. Nose: much wilder than the Polugar, that is to say even more on leaven and yeasts, with something clearly sour (artichokes?) and a very earthy/muddy side. Asparagus. Mouth: excellent! Extremely rooty and earthy, with plenty of gentian and other roots (ginseng?), then rather fennel and dill. I’m sure you could use this to season gravlaks – excuse me, graavilohi. Some bitter wood as well (caraway, cloves) but that works very well in this context. A very characterful spirit. Finish: very long, spicy, earthy… Very strong mushrooms – I’m not meaning magic ones, mind you. Comments: love this very herbal spirit. It’s got the power and the, well, the assertiveness of some Cask Strength Laphroaig. SGP:371 - 83 points.

Fog's End Monterey Rye (45%, OB, USA, +/-2016)

Fog's End Monterey Rye (45%, OB, USA, +/-2016) one star and a half This isn’t sourced rye, it’s genuinely distilled in the Salinas Valley in California, at Fog’s End Distillery. Colour: pale gold. Nose: eh? Not rye, rather liquid fudge with a rye-y side. It’s not that that’s bad, mind you, but it’s not what you’d expect from some artisan American rye. Opening a new pack of Werther’s Originals. Mouth: more bread, more rye, but also a rough spirity side. Some asparagus again, cinnamon, Swedish dry bread, cider apples, and a little corn syrup. Not the most precise and focussed rye ever, and it’s even got notes of Cuban aguardiente – as far as I can remember -, but as we say over here, it does go down. Finish: medium, a little harsh and gritty. Alcohol and oak in the aftertaste. Comments: a little too ‘undecided and indecisive’ for me. SGP:451 - 68 points.

Rebel Yell ‘Small Batch Rye’ (45%, OB, USA, +/-2015)

Rebel Yell ‘Small Batch Rye’ (45%, OB, USA, +/-2015) Straight rye, so there must be at least 51% rye if I understood everything. I tried the regular Rebel Yell only once, and it reminded me of Billy Idol. Ha! Colour: gold. Nose: easy, light, with some sawdust and some caramel. I have to say I quite enjoy these whiffs of menthol in the background. Nosing crushed fern and moss, perhaps. Mouth: funny, sweet, spicy, cologne-y. Juniper, lavender, violet sweets, cloves, ginger, gin. Sadly, there’s a fudge-y oak that just wrecks everything. Finish: medium, with some sawdust and butterscotch, which, I believe, doesn’t go too well with the rye-y side. Liquorice allsorts and pink peppercorn. Comments: not a fan at all. The oakiness is too dominant. SGP:451 - 65 points.

It’s all becoming difficult. Let’s try to find a last one with a higher reputation…

Pikesville 6 yo (55%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2016)

Pikesville 6 yo (55%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2016) Two stars An award-covered bottling by Heaven Hill. A very good marketing budget, I suppose. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re going more towards bourbon this time, with more café latte, vanilla, varnish, planks, and coconut oils. There’s a little earth as well, I suppose that’s the rye. But straight rye, really? With water: coconut, vanilla, and geranium. Hand cream. Mouth (neat): thick and oaky, well in line with some of the company’s other bottlings. This feeling of sucking oak sticks is not too much to my liking, I have to say. Vanillin, lactones, liquorice… With water: oak, cloves, cardboard. Finish: medium, very simple, oaky. A lot of nutmeg and cinnamon. The oranges in the aftertaste kind of save it, though. Comments: some say this is some older Rittenhouse. Well, I like Rittenhouse Rye much, much better. I think this Pikesville is pretty much an oak bomb. Rather disappointed, I had high hopes after all those awards… but that's only me. SGP:461 - 70 points.

It seems that I largely preferred the spirit-forward ones again ;-). (with thanks to Florin)



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April 21, 2016


A few unusual blends

Yeah, blends. And as an apéritif, let’s have some little Chivas from when I was still a young adult. So, not so long ago, ahem…

Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, France, 75cl, +/-1985)

Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, France, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: certainly more herbal and kind of mineral/metallic than contemporary Chivas, with more smoke as well, perhaps bone marrow, vegetable bouillon, bread, barley… The scope was much wider for sure, there are even touches of leather and tobacco, and, of course, overripe apples and honey. It’s as if some excellent Strathisla was shining through, but let’s remember that the mid-1980s were very ‘low tide’ with regards to whisky, so they may have ‘doped up’ their blends. Mouth: wow! Plain and pure old Strathisla, with oranges, cider apples, dried pears, plenty of honeys, brioches, and then a little cough syrup and smoke. Very fat mouth feel, with a surprising creaminess. This is almost pure honey. Finish: long, wide, complex, very fulfilling, honeyed, fruity, liqueury… Comments: well, I had thought we’d have a little apéritif just to warm us up. Fail, this is just amazingly perfect. Probably one of the best batches of Chivas 12 I’ve ever tasted, not to be compared with contemporary offerings. Feels like 20 years old, at least. SGP:562 - 88 points.

Bell’s ‘Extra Special’ (40%, OB, Spain, 75cl, +/-1985)

Bell’s ‘Extra Special’ (40%, OB, Spain, 75cl, +/-1985) Two stars Let’s see if these special batches from the mid 1980s were also available from Bell’s. Colour: gold. Nose: oh no no no. Wood alcohol, cheap grains, caramel, cardboard, and burnt stuff. Wood, cakes, bread… Mouth: better! Oranges and honey, chocolate bars, cornflakes, maple syrup, apple cake, pastries… It’s certainly quaffable, and this is another pretty good surprise. A shame that the nose was so… flat. Finish: medium, a tad weaker. Some menthol and liquorice, which cannot be bad. Comments: some good sides and some bad sides. Let’s focus on the good ones, especially the arrival on the palate. After all, it’s Bell’s. SGP:451 - 75 points.

Ballantine’s 17 yo 'Miltonduff Signature Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Ballantine’s 17 yo 'Miltonduff Signature Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars This is from a series that is/was meant to showcase the influence of each of Ballantines’ core malts (Glenburgie, Scapa, Glentauchers, Miltonduff). Not too sure if they ‘pushed’ Miltonduff in this composition, I certainly hope so. Colour: full gold. Nose: maltier than the old Bell’s, but not really more expressive. I find this rather grassy, with some whiffs of moss, fern, and mushrooms. A little liquorice wood as well, branches, roots… The whole’s rather elegant, but very shy. Mouth: same style, grassy and austere. Some grapefruit peel, some burnt cake and grass, some cardboard, and a developing bitterness. A little strange that they would have come up with this… Finish: short, and always grassy. Very austere. A little lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: I liked the Glentauchers Edition really better, even if I did not think it was an utter winner (WF 79). SGP:251 - 73 points.

Hankey Bannister 21 yo 'Partner's Reserve' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016)

Hankey Bannister 21 yo 'Partner's Reserve' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016) Three stars and a half I’ve always had a soft spot for Hankey Bannister, a brand that’s modest and unassuming. Do they even have a Facebook page? What’s sure is that the last batch of Hankey Bannister 40 yo I could try was majestic (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: another one that’s a little shy, but there’s good maltiness and some lovely touches of roasted hazelnuts and peanuts. A little earth as well, but we won’t start writing a novel about it. Mouth: goody good, probably with high malt content. First oranges (and cakes and pies made thereof), then croissants and other dryish pastries. Some honey too, raisins, drops of PX, a little tobacco… All is very fine, they might have benchmarked Chivas if you ask me. Finish: medium, a little toasted/burnt, with some maple syrup and some caramel. Comments: yes it’s a very, very good, classic blend, even if we’re not reaching the heights of the 40. Nothing to complain about. SGP:451 - 84 points.

The Antiquary 35 yo (46%, OB, blend, +/-2016)

The Antiquary 35 yo (46%, OB, blend, +/-2016) Five starsImagine, a thirty-five years old blend a 46%, I guess you need power and will to do that. It’s a blend by the lovely folks at Tomatin, and I’ve heard that this is actually 50% Tomatin and 50% Girvan. I’ve also read that there are 800 bottles only. Colour: gold. Nose: a Bugatti on four cylinders, that’s still a Bugatti. Old Tomatin really shines through, with quite a lot of acacia honey and mango chutney, as well as well-matured orange liqueur and drops of pineapple juice. A little old wood in the background, sprigs of tobacco, a touch of guava… It’s all very perfect, fresh, complex, elegant, and fruity. You cannot be against that. As for Girvan, well, it remains silent. Shall we complain? Mouth: it’s old Tomatin, and it’s just perfect. Mangos, guavas, papayas, green bananas, pollen, honeydew, a touch of mint, a touch of green oak, and basta. I cherish these light and lively fruity profiles. Half a cup of cold green earl grey tea. Finish: medium, on freshly squeezed oranges, with added drops of mango and maracuja juices. A spiciness from the old wood, but that’s just an ornament. Comments: the malt dominates, and it does it well. Perfect one-malt-driven old blend. SGP:651 - 90 points.

We found a gem, let’s call this a tasting session. See you next time.

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



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April 20, 2016


Scapa and Scapa

Pernod’s Scapa has almost always lived in the shadow of the star of Orkney, Highland Park, but it’s always had its aficionados. Let’s have there newish NAS, and then see which other Scapa we could find in the library…

Scapa 'Skiren' (40%, OB, Batch #SK01, 2015)

Scapa 'Skiren' (40%, OB, Batch #SK01, 2015) Three stars A hidden age, a strange name, 40% vol., and a rather hefty price (60€), were did we see that before? Colour: gold. Nose: some fresh green oak striking first, then rather sea water and kelp, paraffin, drops of apple vinegar, a thin slice of lemon cake, lilies, hints of broken branches, malted barley, and then we’re back on green oak. It’s rather fresh. Mouth: I find this pretty good, very malty, with some tea-flavoured scones, earl grey, some slightly salted cake, and then perhaps gooseberries. Butterscotch. It’s not big but it’s not weak either. Finish: medium, still salty. Salted cakes and pastries? More butterscotch in the aftertaste, as well as a little coffee. Comments: it’s really fine, and stands the lower strength. I quite like this feeling of salted pastry. SGP:451 - 81 points.

A rather good surprise, that little Skiren, let’s try to find one older Scapa and call this ‘a short session’.

Scapa 25 yo 1974/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 524 bottles)

Scapa 25 yo 1974/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 524 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: ah, a sherry cask. Plenty of chocolate and earth, with ‘dryish’ raisins and some mushrooms. Touches of menthol and liquorice wood. Classic and classy, even if there isn’t a lot of Scapaness coming through this far. With water: old Sauternes and old-style crème de menthe. Some art deco whisky? That’s lovely. Some old Bourgogne as well, with hints of game, black cherries, more earth… Mouth (neat): very good. Cough medicine and bitter oranges, with these touches of salt and some kind of liquoricy raisins. I remember this bottle had a rather high reputation when it came out – yes, how time flies. With water: very very good! Pinesap, mint, raisins, and chocolate. Love the freshness from the mint. Finish: long, a tad grapy, but not in a bad way at all. Hints of botrytised wine – old Sauternes indeed. Comments: truly excellent and complex. One of the best Scapas, for sure. SGP:462 - 90 points.

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



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April 19, 2016


Six Canadians, from three to thirty-five

Canadian whisky is almost terra incognita at WF Towers, for no specific reasons, but I’m trying to have at least a few once every year. And that would be today. Let's start with Black Velvet...

1978 Black Velvet ad ->


Black Velvet (40%, OB, blend, Canada, +/-2015)

Black Velvet (40%, OB, blend, Canada, +/-2015) Hard to know what there is inside, but don’t we all remember that Christie Brinkley and Cybill Shepherd used to recommend it? Well, they did in their ads. It seems that Black Velvet is the #2 Canadian brand, after Crown Royal. Colour: gold. Nose: it noses sweet and almost as herbal as a Spanish herbal liqueur, so not exactly ‘whisky’. But that’s not rye. Someone would have told me this was oak-aged aquavit, I wouldn’t have said ‘no way’. Some sawdust. Mouth: light, sweet, sappy, and frankly bizarre. Once again, it doesn’t quite taste like whisky. In short, it’s probably flavoured up. Finish: short, with a sugary side. Sugar syrup and herbs. Some sawdust again in the aftertaste. Comments: needs ice! Probably more a spiced spirit drink than straight whisky, but as Nick Nolte would say in a Hollywood war movie, ‘we’ve seen worse’. SGP:630 - 60 points.

Speaking of Crown Royal…

Crown Royal (40%, OB, blend, Canada, rotation 1973)

Crown Royal (40%, OB, blend, Canada, rotation 1973) Two stars No, it’s not that one. This is well Seagram’s old Crown Royal, from Waterloo in Ontario (which not have pleased all Frenchies at that time, ha!) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s also got this obvious oakiness that lets you think you’re at the nearest IKEA store, and I find it strange that after more than 40 years in bottle, it’s still there. Very dry, oaky, totally un-fruity, with just a little cinnamon and nutmeg. It does not feel flavoured. Mouth: same feelings, although there seems to be a little syrup. Nice notes of tangerines, on a bed of vanilla and dry cake. Cupcake. The body’s a little thin, but there are no signs of oxidation. Finish: short, but relatively pleasant. Sweet bread, brioche, a drop of maple syrup… Comments: much straighter than the Black Velvet. No winner, having said that, this is pretty simple whisky. SGP:530 - 70 points.

Shefford Manor 3 yo (40%, OB, Canadian rye, +/-2015)

Shefford Manor 3 yo (40%, OB, Canadian rye, +/-2015) This young Quebecois baby – but don’t we now like the brands that proudly display very young ages, instead of going NAS? – comes with the obligatory story (in North-America, it seems that no real story may discard prohibition) and a packaging that sits between Loch Lomond and Royal Lochnagar. Wait, Quebec, that’s Black Velvet, isn’t it? Let’s see… Colour: pale white wine (hurray). Nose: a rather dry rye, somewhat ashy and sooty, with some gravel, even scoria, then touches of lavender and geranium flowers, then pinesap and fir honey. Feels young but not really immature. Mouth: feels like Black Velvet! Really! That’s strange… It’s just a tad more, say vibrant and zesty, but that may be my mind playing tricks on me. Finish: please refer to Nick Nolte’s quote again (see above). Comments: a slightly brighter and zestier Black Velvet, really. Simply less caramel? SGP:540 - 65 points.

Tangle Ridge 10 yo (40%, OB, Canada, blend, +/-2015)

Tangle Ridge 10 yo (40%, OB, Canada, blend, +/-2015) Said to be 100% Canadian rye, but also ‘blended with small amounts of sherry and vanilla’ according to the wonderful Whisky Exchange. Awff (I know, it’s like with sugar and glycerine in rum, we whisky lovers just don’t understand a thing). Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s dry, straighter again, rather on burnt coffee, burnt wood, dry vanilla, and butterscotch, with a very moderate ryeness. To be honest, I do not seem to find a lot of rye in there. Three burnt raisins, perhaps. Mouth: there more on the palate. A sucrosity as well, vanillin, corn syrup, office coffee, oak… Not sure you need ten years to come up with such a profile. Finish: medium, a little oaky and bitter, almost unpleasant, I think. The aftertaste is a notch better, thanks to some oranges. Comments: I’m sorry, but I find this very average. SGP:550 - 55 points.

WhistlePig 12 yo ‘Old World’ (43%, OB, Canada, straight rye, +/-2016)

WhistlePig 12 yo ‘Old World’ (43%, OB, Canada, straight rye, +/-2016) Four stars and a half A mindboggling bottling. First, it says WhistlePig Farm, which implies the rye came from their own estate. Ahem. Then, it’s been finished in 30% ‘French Sauternes’ (right, Sauternes is French anyway), 63% ‘Madeira’ (not Portuguese Madeira?), and 7% Port (same comment). And the price, 188€ in Europe! But we all know that WhistlePig can be excellent, so let’s not quibble any further, and try this funny American/Canadian/European hybrid… Colour: light amber. Nose: ah, now we’re talking! It’s vibrant, it’s fruity, it’s spicy, and frankly, it’s rather beautiful. Peonies, raspberries, sloe, mulled wine, cloves, ginger, liquorice… It’s almost liquid fruitcake, Austrian style. Frohe Weihnachten! Mouth: success. Perfect spicy fruitiness, with star anise, cloves, liquorice, cinnamon… And blood oranges, cassis liqueur, sweet bread, violet-flavoured liquorice (they make that in Toulouse, love it), gingerbread… Finish: rather long, beautifully spicy. Comments: proof that beauty may come out of the unlikely. This was made with much skill, if you ask me (and if I may). SGP:652 - 88 points.

Update: some very reliable source somewhere in L.A., starting with an S., tells us that the juice may rather have come from MGP in Indiana, which would make this an American rye indeed, rather than a Canadian. Oops, as they say in juggling.

Now that we found a winner, we could stop here, but don’t e have room for the oldest Canadian whisky ever?...

Canadian Rockies 35 yo (79.3%, OB, Canadian, for Taiwan, 2016)

Canadian Rockies 35 yo (79.3%, OB, Canadian, for Taiwan, 2016) Four stars and a half Quite possibly the oldest Canadian whisky ever bottled indeed. It's from Highwood Distillers, distilled in 1980, and was bottled at cask strength (well I hope it was, at this insane strength!) by the Fountana Group, for lucky Taiwan. Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t find much rye in there (but there might be some), this is more bourbony, with some vanilla and some pastries (say croissants), as well as some funny hints of sugar cane, but no varnish and no nail polish remover, which is surprising at this super-high strength. Almost miraculous. But quick, water… With water: square, straight, on vanilla cake with drizzles of light honey and cinnamon sauce. Almost millimetric, meaning 100% accurate and focussed. Mouth (neat): the alcohol bites you, but you do notice some lovely liquorice and vanilla, as well as a floral side. Perhaps even oranges. With (the obligatory) water: mellow, with plenty of honey and vanilla sauce, plus some triple-sec and a wee touch of ginger wine. A very discreet sappiness. You may ad a lot of water, it swims extremely well and remains pleasant at 20% vol., which is very uncommon. Finish: long, ueberclean, more or less on orange-flavoured maple syrup. We’ll have to try that one day, maple syrup with orange juice. Comments: totally immaculate. High-precision Canadian whisky. I’ll have to check but this glorious oldie may be my favourite Canadian whisky ever – not that I’ve tried thousands mind you, I’m not Davin. SGP:640 - 89 points.

Read more (and better) about Canadian whisky at, well, Canadian Whisky dot org.



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April 18, 2016


A Tasmanian trio

This little session could be rather rock and roll – or maybe AC/DC! Please fasten your seatbelts…

Overeem ‘Sherry Cask Matured’ (60%, OB, Old Hobart Distillery, Tasmania, cask #OHD-074, +/-2015)

Overeem ‘Sherry Cask Matured’ (60%, OB, Old Hobart Distillery, Tasmania, cask #OHD-074, +/-2015) Three stars and a half The ‘bourbon’ version had be much to my liking, despite it’s inherent youth and the use of very active wood. It’s even French oak in this very case… Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts with whiffs of brand new humidor, and goes on with notes of the very same humidor after it’s been in use for many years. Indeed, some tobacco. Also bits of pencil shavings, touches of cloves, mulled wine (or rather that particular spice mix, star anise, cinnamon, cloves), pecan pie, orange liqueur. All that works in sync, there are no off notes. With water: awesome. Old oloroso, walnuts, more tobacco, drops of soy sauce, a little pine sap (retsina)… Mouth (neat): very rich and spicy! The oaks plays first fiddle, with some pepper and ginger, as well as cloves, then we have loads of burnt raisins (a kugelhopf or some panettone forgotten in the oven), then orange drops. A very spicy combo. Bitter chocolate. With water: it’s still pretty oaky, but more fruits manage to come through. Oranges ‘of course’, especially bitter ones, also a little tamarind. Cinnamon cake and mints. Finish: long and spicy. Some kind of orange pie totally covered with cinnamon. And a little nutmeg. Comments: it’s cask-driven, but that worked well. SGP:461 - 84 points.

Cradle Mountain 18 yo (52.9%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Tasmania, cabernet sauvignon hogshead, 132 bottles, 2015)

Cradle Mountain 18 yo (52.9%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Tasmania, cabernet sauvignon hogshead, 132 bottles, 2015) Two stars A bottle that made many good people laugh at Whisky Ship Luzern this year. It was distilled at the Small Concern Whisky Distillery, and filled into the weirdest cask I’ve ever heard of, a cab hogshead. Probably Australian cab, but now that Pernod-Ricard’s Jacob’s Creek are issuing  double-cask wine (finished in whisky casks, that was bound to happen!) nothing should surprise us anymore. Colour: red amber. Nose: between pink muscat wine and litchi syrup, with plenty of eucalyptus and a strange feeling of cranberry juice. Rather unfolds on cherries, wheelbarrows of ripe big black cherries! Almost totally un-whisky, but certainly fun. With water: this is pure oak-matured maraschino. Mouth (neat): but what is this? Longans and cherries cooked in some kind of hazelnut sauce, covered with peanut butter, cherry heering, and, yeah, Cherry Coke. Very, very bizarre, and very oaky too. Sucking old staves – gotta have a big mouth. With water: bitter, and still full of cherries, bitter almonds, and some kind of mouthwash for kids. Grenadine? Finish: medium. Amaretti, more cherries, guignolet, and bitter sawdust. Acrid aftertaste. Comments: another UFW (unidentified flying whisky). A platypus of whisky. I won’t be too harsh, because it was fun. The Mr Bean of whisky? SGP:661 - 70 points.

Good, let’s have one more and make a proper session out of this joyous ‘mess’…

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (58%, OB, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #473, 2014)

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (58%, OB, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #473, 2014) Four stars We’ve already tried quite a few ex-Port Larks, and they’ve been to our liking, some being even excellent. Colour: salmony amber. Nose: it’s got his very peculiar dustiness that’s quite enjoyable. Grandma’s old fur coat, old perfumes, roses, pot-pourri, dried oranges, incense… It’s another UFW but this time, things are more coherent, it seems. With water: oh almost perfect. Drops of mint essence, praline, walnut cake, liquorice… Mouth (neat): some parts remind me of the Overeem, with an oak that’s running the show, but this has rather more red berries, blackcurrant, oranges, and, well, anything touriga nacional. I think it works, despite the heavy-ish nutmeg. With water: a lot of caraway coming through now, with some sweet liquorice and some kind of aniseed. That brings a lot of freshness. Finish: long, spicy and sweet at the same time, without any off beats. Comments: really very very good. Some aspects remind me of the works some Swedish distillers are doing these days. Sweden-Tasmania, aren’t they close? SGP:561 - 86 points.



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April 17, 2016


Guyanan malternatives on Sunday

Imagine this. We're on Islay, a few decades ago. The market isn't good, the distilleries go out of business one after the other, and eventually, only one survives. A large one, close to a harbour. Say Caol Ila. Some smart people there decide not to let the island 'distilling heritage' sink into oblivion, and simply buy all the stills from almost each and every other distilleries, expand their own still house, and just re-mount all the stills at Caol Ila, fire them up again, and start to produce their own 'Ardbeg', 'Lagavulin', or 'Bowmore'.


That's more or less what happened in Guyana, except that 'Caol Ila' is named Diamond, and that 'Bruichladdich' or 'Laphroaig' are actually named Enmore, Port Mourant, Uitvlugt, or Albion... And speaking of the heavy Port Mourant… Port Mourant is made with an exceptional and very old double wooden pot still (originally from 1732!) that was first moved to Uitvlugt, then to Diamond in the year 2000. Let’s have a few.

Port Mourant 2005/2015 (40%, Mezan) Port Mourant 2005/2015 (40%, Mezan)

Port Mourant 2005/2015 (40%, Mezan) Three starsObviously distilled at Diamond. The low strengths that Mezan seem to favour can be a little troubling, but all their bottlings I could try have been of high quality. Colour: white wine. Probably aged in the UK in refill wood! Nose: luminous, perfectly phenolic and briny, and totally spirit-driven. I guess one could call it ‘mezcaly’. Some coal ashes, concrete dust, then overripe guavas – an acquired taste – and pinewood smoke. Love all this purity. Mouth: I’d call it ‘funny’. Starts with some cane juice and burnt molasses, goes on with unusual vegetal notes (French beans?) and hints of overripe pineapple juice, and gets then smokier and a little salty, with the usual ‘dirtiness’. Sadly, it tends to lack body, I’m afraid 40% vol. weren’t quite enough this time. Finish: a little short, but perfectly earthy/briny. Comments: perhaps a missed opportunity, 45 or 46% vol. would have worked much better. The spirit itself is just perfect. SGP:362 - 82 points.

El Dorado Port Mourant 1999/2015 (61.4%, OB, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels)

El Dorado Port Mourant 1999/2015 (61.4%, OB, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels) Three stars The owners just took over the bottling of their ‘single’ Demeraras, after Velier and boss Luca Gargano had been so instrumental in pushing these rums. We’re talking about the ones that are/were aged in the tropics, while other bottlers rather use casks that have matured, either partly or totally, in the UK. By the way, these new OBs are extremely expensive, we’re talking around €200-350. Prices vary really a lot. In theory, this very rum was made at Uitvlugt, before the old still was moved to Diamond. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very aromatic and quite woody. Bourbon-woody, I’d say, but there’s also a lot of liquorice, which gives it something agricole, as far as I can tell. Pencil shavings, vanillin, ripe pineapples, cinnamon… It’s very different from the Mezan, with much less ‘PM’ character, but it’s relatively awesome. Just much more ‘approachable’, despite the much higher strength. With water: oh, old pu-erh, this is nice. Earthy and mildly smoky, with less straight oak. Some cough medicine. Mouth (neat): very strong, oaky, gingery, biting, hot… Not too sure… Quick, water! With water: more Port Mourant character for sure, with a saltiness, lapsang souchong, artichokes… Having said that the oak’s still the dominating party here. Finish: medium, liquoricy, cane-y, with some cinnamon and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: mixed feelings. It’s very good, but a little too much oak-forward for me. The Mezan at a higher strength would have destroyed it, while it’s rather a tie. I think Bristol had a better 1999 (WF 87) in 2014. SGP:451 - 82 points. Speaking of Bristol…

Port Morant 25 yo 1990/2915 (46%, Bristol Spirits, oloroso sherry cask finish)

Port Morant 25 yo 1990/2915 (46%, Bristol Spirits, oloroso sherry cask finish) Three stars Why would anyone do a sherry finish on a 25 yo Port Morant/Mourant? Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a good thing that they did not use ‘heavy’ oloroso, because beyond a few notes of old walnuts, tobacco, and leather, it’s the rum that speaks out. It’s rounder and softer than the very briny/smoky Mezan, but also earthier and more phenolic than the OB. But all in all, it’s not very big. Touches of dried meat, perhaps (bresaola), macadamia nuts, pecans… Mouth: firm, starting with quite some ginger and a fizziness (Schweppes), some bitter oranges, touches of small pink bananas… Goes on with more molasses, an a little pipe tobacco. Perhaps tealeaves… Finish: medium, with a burnt side. More molasses, and more bitter oranges. Some drying oak in the aftertaste. Comments: same ballpark, more or less. I enjoyed Bristol’s 1999 much more, I have to say. SGP:461 - 82 points.

Not a lot of luck with Port Mourant today! Let’s switch distilleries if you don’t mind…

Uitvlugt 15 yo 1999/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 265 bottles)

Uitvlugt 15 yo 1999/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 265 bottles) Four stars and a half Since Port Mourant’s still was at Uitvlugt for a while, let’s have some Uitvlugt. Their still was a four-column one called a French ‘Savalle’ still. This very one should have been distilled at the original Uitvlugt Distillery, which was to close only one year later, and not in 1998 (a year that many websites mention). Unless this is no 1999, of course. Colour: white wine. UK-aged, probably. Nose: lovely, rather delicate, almondy and paraffiny, with some linseed oil, charcoal, and then plenty of citron. A lot of sugar cane as well, candle wax, grapefruit peel… Like this a lot. Mouth: fatter, and even waxier. If this was made in a column, the setup was on ‘lower plates only’. Perfect herbal and grassy and citrusy style, beyond all this wax. Touches of turpentine, and then more straight lemon juice. Excellent. Finish: quite long and perfectly zesty and waxy at the same time. Comments: I dig this one, it’s got a perfect freshness. Some kind of Clynelish of the rum world (hint, hint!) SGP:552 - 88 points.

Is there any room for a last Demerara?

Skeldon 32 yo 1973/2005 (60.5%, Velier, 4 barrels, 544 bottles)

Skeldon 32 yo 1973/2005 (60.5%, Velier, 4 barrels, 544 bottles) Five stars One of the rarest, if not the rarest of the ‘single rums’ from Demerara. The distillery got closed around fifty years ago, its Coffey still being transferred to Uitvlugt, where it produced this very 1973. It’s been dismounted since back then, so there’s no original ‘Skeldon’ being produced anymore. As usual with Velier, this 1973 was entirely aged on location, and it’s a miracle that around 400 litres survived the hot climate. Basically, it’s some ‘bottom of barrel’ rum, as no topping-up was done at any of these distilleries. Colour: coffee/mahogany. Nose: tamarind jam first, then rose jelly, some kind of old-style pear compote, and then various woods, from sandal (very vivid) to cedar through rosewood. ‘The dashboard of an old Jag’, if you see what I mean. A lot of coffee too. Wonderful. With water: have you ever bought a fresh pack of pipe tobacco? You know, when you first open it… Mouth (neat): as thick as honey, as sticky as the thickest stout, and as fruity as a fruitcake. Loads and loads of Corinth raisins, burnt cake, artisan black chocolate, dates, and the strongest and blackest chestnut honey. Many roasted nuts as well. You may call the anti-rumoporn brigade now! With water: all resinous and sappy oils from the wood are coming out, but the come along some fruity ones as well. Strawberries and cherries kept in kirsch, Finish: Comments: I already tasted this wonder five or six years ago, and granted it with a 88. Now that I’ve gathered a little more experience w.r.t. rum, I’d go as far as… SGP:561 - 90 points.

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



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April 15, 2016


A brief Braeval session

Ah, Braeval (AKA Braes of Glenlivet), I always tell this funny story. Around twelve years ago, I had heard that the owners (starts with Per and ends with nod) had just mothballed the distillery together with, if I remember well, Allt-A-Bhainne. Having spoken about those events with the Malt Maniacs, my compadres asked me if I could contact the French owners and get confirmation. So that’s what I did, I sent an email to the company’s headquarters, and got this answer around ten days later: “Thanks for your inquiry, but are you sure these distilleries belong to us?” Having said that, they had bought previous owners Seagram just two years earlier, so they had valid excuses. Kind of ;-)… And anyway, Breaval was restarted around 2007 or 2008, so all is well…

Braeval 1994/2015 (45%, Samaroli, cask #165657, 240 bottles)

Braeval 1994/2015 (45%, Samaroli, cask #165657, 240 bottles) Four stars Another lovely label by Samaroli. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s fresh and green at first nosing, rather around gooseberries, rhubarb, and even kiwis. There’s also a little sour cream, green oak, and just bags and bags of fresh barley. It’s a style that I enjoy, provided it doesn’t remove your teeth, let’s see… Mouth: totally and utterly malty, this is almost like chewing a handful of raw barley while sipping lemon juice. The driest sauvignon blanc is smoother than this. Even the most extreme muscadets! This wee Breaval should go well with big fat oysters… Finish: long, zesty, grassy, with a little more vanilla and liquorice wood. Melons. Green ones. Comments: an interesting style, extremely angular, as they say in wine. I do like. SGP:571 - 85 points.

Braeval 17 yo 1997/2015 (54.7%, The Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #126677, 269 bottles)

Braeval 17 yo 1997/2015 (54.7%, The Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #126677, 269 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: styles are extremely similar. This one’s maybe a notch more mashmallowy, with touches of light white rum, but other than that, it’s got the same kiwi-like profile. With water: a whole bag of assorted things by Haribo, plus a cup of barley syrup. Mouth (neat): indeed, same malty goodness. You can understand why they’d use this as a filler in blends, it’s totally flawless ‘pure’ malt whisky. Lemon. With water: same, same, same. Finish: long, lemony, with plenty of sweet barley. Bananas in the retro-olfaction. Comments: pure, unadulterated, simple yet flawless malt whisky. There’s no maltier malt. SGP:661 - 85 points.

Braeval 25 yo 1990/2015 (57.3%, Douglas Laing, XOP, refill hogshead, DL ref 11008, 9 bottles)

Braeval 25 yo 1990/2015 (57.3%, Douglas Laing, XOP, refill hogshead, DL ref 11008, 9 bottles) Four stars and a half That is right, only 9 (nine) bottles. It’s not a small batch, it’s a nano-batch. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh, wax polish, old leather, toasted bread and brioche, panettone, sweet damp earth… Then dandelions and acacia honey, mocha, praline, a hint of beef bouillon, a touch of menthol… This is very complex, and rather superb. Nine bottles, really? With water: notes of pear cider (we call that poiré), and bottled apricot juice. Mouth (neat): very punchy, starting with Williams pears (loads) and quince jelly, with a slightly prickly side (lemonade) and a few green spices, such as some kind of green curry and chilli paste. Keeps hesitating between a rounded fruity/candied side and some sharper spices. Fun, but nine bottles? With water: that poiré is back, and the spices got louder. The oak too. Perhaps a little tart. Finish: long, with a tannicity that’s far from being unpleasant. Comments: some sides reminded me of some Karuizawas, but this Braeval is zestier and sharper. I like it quite a lot, but nine bottles? And not even magnums? SGP:561 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Papa John Creach. Track: Bumble Bee Blues. Please buy his music...

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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

The Antiquary 35 yo (46%, OB, blend, +/-2016)

Scapa 25 yo 1974/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 524 bottles)

Springbank 1972/1992 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 92/336)

Springbank 1972/1993 (46%, OB, for Tesco, rotation 93/132)

Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (54.1%, OB, batch #12, 2016)

Skeldon 32 yo 1973/2005 (60.5%, Velier, 4 barrels, 544 bottles)