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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2017 - Part 2


April 2017 - part 1 <--- April 2017 - part 2 ---> May 2017 - part 1


April 30, 2017


Wildly different rums

I know, this is like tasting Vat 69 and Brora within the same session…

Dictador 12 yo (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2015)

Dictador 12 yo (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2015) The bottle says this baby’s ‘aged 12 years’ but it also says that it’s a solera. A word that sounds as good as mustard and coffee together. Colour: gold. Nose: hello?! Some coffee and an old copper kettle, plus indeed some mustard and bitter almonds, with a style that’s reminiscent of that of some young dry oloroso. Rather not off-putting so far. Mouth: sweetened, liqueury, and quite vulgar, well in the ‘dulce’ style that some whisky types do not like too much. Orange liqueur and toasted oak shavings, plus litres of coffee liqueur. In short, calls for ice. Finish: medium, sugary, Kahkua-ish. Bittersweet aftertaste. Comments: totally not my style, but we’ve tasted worse sugared rums that started with ‘D’. SGP:730 - 62 points.

Nicaragua 16 yo 2000/2016 (53.9%, Liquid Treasures, barrel, Rum Session No.2)

Nicaragua 16 yo 2000/2016 (53.9%, Liquid Treasures, barrel, Rum Session No.2) Three stars Nicaragua’s a provenance that’s a little scary. Liquid Treasure’s a name that’s not. Colour: gold. Nose: nice paraffiny and vegetal start, then rather candle wax and cut grass, with touches of green bananas and a little coconut, probably from the oak. Grape pips oil. A light style as far as aromas are concerned. With water: a little soot and touches of wet chalk, which is nice. Mouth (neat): a clean Central-American, without the usual high sugar. It’s fine light-style rum, well textured, with some coconut again, bananas, and tinned peaches. Nice touches of blood oranges. With water: it’s the sweetness that comes out more. Light molasses. Finish: medium, sweet but grassy as well. A little vanilla fudge. Nice balance. Comments: I’d say you can’t do much better with this very style of rum. So, twenty more points! SGP:440 - 82 points.

Perhaps another indie Nicaraguan?

Nicaraguan Rum 17 yo 1999/2016 (59.5%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, cask  #15461, 231 bottles)

Nicaraguan Rum 17 yo 1999/2016 (59.5%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, cask  #15461, 231 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: similar, obviously. Same light yet oily style, with some sunflower oil, a touch of copper, some cut grass, hay, green bananas… With water: nice and fresh, more on cane juice and oranges. No big noser but there’s some elegance in there. Mouth (neat): starts quite citric, gets then grassier again. A feeling of glycerine – and yet I’m pretty sure there isn’t any – and then more green spices, around cardamom and green pepper. With water: loses it a bit when watered down. Gets a tad too grassy, perhaps. Eating grass. Finish: medium, rather vegetal. Comments: I liked the nose better than the palate – quite a achievement given that these rums are usually not quite ‘nosing’ rums upon my short experience. SGP:450 - 81 points.

Guyana 17 yo 1999/2017 (56.3%, Plantation, cask #3)

Guyana 17 yo 1999/2017 (56.3%, Plantation, cask #3) Two stars This one’s been finished for 1.5 years in ‘ancestral’ Cognac casks. All I hope is that it’s not been sweetened up, whether at birth or just before bottling bottling. Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather soft, not unlike the lightest Enmores, without any estery build-up, and rather on bananas, peaches, and simply cane juice. So a soft one, apparently. With water: would I say the cognac comes out? Maybe… Mouth (neat): there is Plantation’s usual sweetness indeed, but it seems that the distillate managed to digest the sugary liqueur. Part of it, because it’s still sweetened rum. Other than that, quite some coffee and some chocolate liqueur. We’re not far from the sweetest El Dorados. With water: really very sweet, but the core is very good, banana-y, with some pineapple liqueur as well… Finish: medium, really very sweet. A touch of menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: a sexy sweet rum. I do not like sweet rums, but it’s one of the best I’ve tried. It’s quite an achievement to keep some freshness when adding so much liqueur… Unless it was there in the first place! SGP:740 - 76 points.

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, Rhumhouse)

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, Rhumhouse) Five stars This is traditional rum from Guadeloupe, so not agricole if I’m not wrong, made in the old Courcelles still in the Distillerie de St Marthe. Because it seems that the original Courcelles Distillerie was closed in 1964. This is what they used to call ‘rhum de sucrerie’. Colour: gold. Nose: some extraordinary liquorice! Really huge liquorice, it’s like when you open a fresh bag of liquorice mints. In the background, some aniseed, burnt sugar, and, well, even more liquorice. More liquorice than in liquorice. The fact is, I love liquorice. After one minute or two, we get more old roses, late harvest gewürztraminer, gum Arabic, and bags of prunes. Stunning, extremely aromatic. Mouth: amazing! Vieille prune, cinnamon rolls, liquorice allsorts, sloe eau-de-vie, aquavit, caraway, honeydew, chouchen… How good is this? Finish: long, on honeys and spicy cakes, with these prunes and all this liquorice still singing loud… And yet, it’s never stuffy. Wonderful tarry, almost smoky aftertaste. Also some maraschino. Comments: do not miss the last bottles. SGP:643 – 91 points.

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



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April 29, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

Balblair Old and New

Is it refreshing that my titles are as featherweight as yours Serge...? Lets compare an old and a newish Balblair of similar ages today.


Balblair 23 yo 1993/2017 (53.2%, OB for Royal Mile Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, 204 bottles) Balblair 23 yo 1993/2017 (53.2%, OB for Royal Mile Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, 204 bottles) A recent official bottling for Royal Mile Whiskies, I like that Inver House still do bespoke bottlings for different whisky companies, it keeps things interesting I feel. Colour: Bright straw. Nose: We’re in a Patisserie and they’re using an intoxicating amount of custard it seems. Notes of icing sugar and mille-feuille slices with a grinding of green pepper in the background. Develops with some pollen, butterscotch and lemon zest. Overall this is very fresh and classical modern Balblair. Betrays some coastal origins with little notes of sea greens, wool and wet pebbles. In fact it really starts to grow more coastal with time and air.  


With Water: Ah good! We’ve struck fruit! Although it’s quite a luxurious and relaxed fruitiness, not excessive but rather gentle and subtle; all on lemon wax, greengages and orange bitters. A lemon drizzle cake perhaps (business is clearly booming at this Patisserie Serge...). Mouth: A very satisfying and fruity delivery, lots of lemon peel, green fruits, apples, ripe bananas and more vanilla custard. Some hints of stewed raisins and good quality pastry, this really is a dram to pour while you’re watching the Great British Bake Off (if that’s your thing). Sweet in a good and natural kind of way that isn’t entirely or obviously from the wood at the expense of the distillate. Gets quite spicy now as well, more peppery notes and a good coastal saltiness to round it out. With water: slightly more savoury now, develops these lovely, slightly yeasty notes of fresh sourdough, more lemony notes, bay leaf, camphor and green tea. Finish: Long and effervescent, leaves a lemon balm like fizz on the tongue with an increasingly coastal fade. Comments: Top notch Balblair. Complex and well balanced whisky that walks a very pleasing tightrope between fruits, seashore notes and sweetness. Also takes water in its stride. SGP: 634 - 89 points.  


Balblair 21 yo 1964/1985 (57.80%, Intertrade)

Balblair 21 yo 1964/1985 (57.80%, Intertrade) High expectations here. Not to mention the fact it was bottled in ‘my vintage’, so, 1985 wasn’t all bad... Colour: Pale amber. Nose: Sherry ahoy! This big blast of hessian, dunnage and almonds which heralds a rather classical old sherry cask at work. Some bacon grilling on a barbecue then quite plush notes of green fruit, marzipan and a very gentle, fragrant smokiness. More hessian, wax, camphor, fresh pears, old furniture, some really elegant rancio notes - this seems to walk a tightrope between an antique shop and an orchard. There are even some little tropical touches like dried mango and pineapple. You don’t feel the alcohol on the nose very much even at full strength. Goes on with lychee and a petrol / boiler shed style fatness - something alluding to a youthful, punchy Gewurztraminer perhaps.



With time it’s becoming increasingly mineral and coastal. What a nose! With water: Serge, do you happen to have the number for that Maltoporn Brigade of yours by any chance? Just a luminous mix of preserved lemons, tea tree oil, olive oil, black olives, dark chocolate and fresh guava. Mouth: POW! A cavalcade of waxes, oils, all kinds of tropical and citrus fruits, more rancio, a little medicine, lanolin and darjeeling tea. Quite an immense delivery that is pure old school! Goes on with treacle, frying pancetta, molasses, kiwi and a tiny hint of natural tar. With water: this could almost be one of these pre-war G&M malts bottled at a young age and fuller strength. This sort of cocoanut profile with tropical fruit, light tarriness, rancio and spice is really starting to fuse together beautifully. (Serge, I really need that number please!) Finish: A big, slow, undulating parade of waxes, oils and fruits. Comments: Another brilliant old Intertrade bottling, not particularly surprising, but utter pleasure from start to finish. And what is great is that it never stopped feeling like a Balblair, despite these delightful throwbacks to what felt really like a pre-war character of malt whisky. SGP: 755 - 93 points.  Thanks Hans!  



April 28, 2017


Laphroaig, oak, okay

Because there’s this newish oddity that I really wanted to try, ‘Four Oak’. You may know or not that I’m also a watch lover, and this current rat race around the idea that ‘the more oaks, the better’ reminds me of what happened with watches in the 1960s. Indeed, the keyword used to be ‘ruby’ or ‘rubies’, rubies being key components to watches. So, to the unlearned, more rubies used to mean a better (and a more expensive) watch, which led many makers to add totally useless rubies to their works, so that they could write ’48 rubies’ or even ’52 rubies’ on their dials. Very stupid indeed, but there you go… Anyway, why am I telling you that?...

Laphroaig ‘Four Oak’ (40%, OB, +/-2017)

Laphroaig ‘Four Oak’ (40%, OB, +/-2017) Two starsIt’s true that four is a number! Do a ‘Twelve Oak’ and presto, you’ve got a proper statement again. Okay, okay… And of course this is a ‘travel retail exclusive’, which doesn’t sound too good indeed. Imagine you fly United AND you’ve just bought this… (just joking!) Colour: straw. Nose: light, but not unpleasant. It really is all on lapsang souchong tea, actually, a feeling that may come from some oak spices that did not have enough time to properly mingle with the distillate. The fact is that I really enjoy good lapsang souchong (which makes my tea loving friends cringe, them who claim that there cannot be any good lapsang souchong – is that true?) After ten minutes of breathing, some pineapple and coconut. What? Mouth: really not that bad. Dry, flat, weak, ashy, short, thin, watery, but not ‘bad’. Finish: very short. Perhaps the shortest Laphroaig ever. Comments: frankly, I like this Four Oak better than the infamous and ultra-light ‘Select’. But let’s move on, this was just ‘for fun’… SGP:356 - 72 points.

That very humble baby was most probably extremely young. A good occasion to try another Laphroaig that’s quite young (and that’s unapologetically saying so, kudos!)

Laphroaig 10 yo 2005/2015 (55.9%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #80080, 205 bottles)

Laphroaig 10 yo 2005/2015 (55.9%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #80080, 205 bottles) Let’s wear our hard hats. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: bam, young Laphroaig. Smoked slivovitz and plenty of tincture of iodine, Band-aid, coal tar, seaweed, more seaweed, even more seaweed… And even a touch of green vegetable, perhaps French beans. Yes, French beans. With water: totally kilny. Which makes me think, they never put the malt from their own floors apart and distil it separately, do they? Can’t remember… Mouth (neat): smashes you remorselessly. Acrid smoke and ashes, especially green ashes (burnt herbs, and perhaps seaweed indeed), charcoal, then the expected lemons and a large glass of seawater. Some pepper too. A little vanilla and white sugar as well, which slightly smoothens it up. And bread smoke? With water: seminally simple and basic. Ashes, brine, iodine, lemon. Love those basic elements. Finish: long, really ashy and smoky. Seawater in the aftertaste, and again, a little sugar. From some rather active oak? Was this baby ‘octaved’? Comments: a B-A-BA of Laphroaigness. Very very good, a bottle to keep for thirty years. SGP:468 - 86 points.

Another young one and we’ll have had a proper trio…

Laphroaig 12 yo 2004/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13433, 324 bottles)

Laphroaig 12 yo 2004/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13433, 324 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this one’s even sharper, not very expressive, with some hessian, porridge, some earthy tea, and even whiffs of old teapot (into which a lot of lapsang souchong had been brewed). A little charcoal too, soot, old fireplace (on Islay)… With water: smoked porridge and oatcakes moistened with seawater. Notes of tarry ropes, tarmac... Mouth (neat): huge fruity/peaty arrival. Who’s ever tried to smoke plums and pears? Please report. Then some ashy liquorice, as well as the usual saltiness. A drop of high-strength tequila. With water: excellent, smoky and ashy, getting saltier throughout the finish. Finish: briny, ashy, smoky seawater. Long. Comments: a very coastal young Laphroaig, and rather not a medicinal bomb. Really different from then DT, but of the same high quality in my thick book. SGP:367 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Steve Khan. Track: Just Deserts. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 27, 2017


Duthac, Tarlogan and Tayne
by Glenmorangie

In truth there are different ways of doing ‘NAS’ when you’re a whisky brand. Some have one NAS within their range, and that is all. For example, Dalwhinnie or Oban, or Aberlour with their Abunad’h, or Glenfarclas with their 105 (which started its life with an age statement, having said that), or Springbank with their CV, and many others. On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got for example Macallan or Laphroaig that have been issuing new NAS bottlings almost every three months for several years already, and I am hardly exaggerating. Another prolific brand in that respect is Glenmorangie, with their Artisan, Dornoch, Finealta, Artein, Companta, Milsean, Sonnalta, Tusail, Taghta, Astar, Bacalta, and probably quite a few others I’ve forgotten about. Now I thought some were good, including the pretty recent Bacalta indeed (WF 82), but some have been a little too wood-forward for my taste. Well, the best thing to do in that case might be to try a few others, what do you think? So for our common cause, let’s have three NAS Glenmos that I haven’t tasted yet, namely Duthac, Tarlogan, and Tayne. Yeah, let’s do that alphabetically, since we haven’t got any other worthy clues (you know, ages, vintages…)

Glenmorangie ‘The Duthac’ (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Glenmorangie ‘The Duthac’ (43%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars As many other NAS, this baby started its life as a travel retail exclusive, travel retail being the place where brands are testing just anything that goes through their minds. In this case, some whisky that was partly finished in PX and in virgin oak. Where have we already seen that? Colour: gold. Nose: toasted kougelhopf and panettone, all fitted with plenty of raisins, and a little spicy sawdust in the background. Something slightly green and winey, perhaps blackcurrant buds? A little ginger. Mouth: easy and fruity, starting a little tea-ish (I’m thinking orange-forward earl grey), getting then more rounded and raisiny, with notes of peach tarte. Now these green spiciness always remains there. Finish: shortish, a little bittersweet. Comments: not the first time that I’m finding a bittersweet oakiness in these NAS. Ah, PX. Many are using more and more PX, perhaps because it’s a grape and not an appellation, so you may be able to source PX from elsewhere, not just from Jerez. Pure theory. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Glenmorangie ‘The Tarlogan’ (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Glenmorangie ‘The Tarlogan’ (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars Same combination, NAS, originally a travel retail exclusive, a story, yada yada yada. This time this baby was matured in ex-bourbon and partly in virgin oak. Colour: gold. Nose: again this spicy oak, which rather hints at ‘wood flavouring’ than at any kind of longer maturation. It’s so great that oak chips are streng verboten in Scotland! Leaves, buds, ginger, stems… Some earthy green tea as well, unripe orchard fruits… It’s not a very easy Glenmorangie so far, only in the distant background do we find a little honey and overripe apples. Mouth: much better on the palate! Vanilla and oranges, custard, a touch of coconut, more vanilla, much more vanilla, even more vanilla… All that poured over a nice pear+apple+quince tarte. A little grated lemon rind for good measure. Finish: medium, rather very Glenmorangie. Comments: I really enjoyed the easy and rather idiosyncratic palate, while the nose left me cold. SGP:561 - 81 points.

Glenmorangie ‘The Tayne’ (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Glenmorangie ‘The Tayne’ (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars and a half This one was finished in amontillado sherry casks (obligatorily ‘carefully selected’ ones). Colour: a darker gold. Nose: nuts! I mean, dried and roasted walnuts, plus a little wood smoke and a touch of mustard, which does indeed recall a good glass of amontillado. Very nice bitter chocolate and tobacco as well, some cinnamon and cloves, and a pleasant muddy/earthy side. Old wine cellar – or a genuine bodega down there. Mouth: Glenmorangie tangos very well with dry oxidative wines, Madeira, amontillado, oloroso… So more walnuts, bitter oranges, bitter caramel, some leather, some tobacco, and a very spicy/leafy side that’s working very well. Finish: long, with even more dry roasted nuts. Pecans. All-spice mix, black pepper… Comments: I would have liked to try that amontillado! What’s sure is that this rather dry Tayne was my favourite today. SGP:351 - 84 points.

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



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April 26, 2017


Three more young Caol Ila

Simply because there’s more and there will be more. We’ll soon celebrate our 500th Caol Ila, I’ll try to make it a special one. In the meantime…

Caol Ila 10 yo 2006/2016 (50.8%, Club Qing, hogshead, cask #302870, 119 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2006/2016 (50.8%, Club Qing, hogshead, cask #302870, 119 bottles) Four starsA wonderful neo- Czechoslovakian retro label on this one! Seriously, I just love it. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’ a fresh, rather lightly peated Caol Ila, but there’s a lot of ashes, sauvignon blanc, raw rhubarb, and a whole jar of Vicks Vaporub. The one that ‘gives you 8 hours of relief from cough and cold’. With water: rainwater and wet coat. Forgot the umbrella. Mouth (neat): sharp, very lemony, and just as cough-syrupy as on the nose. That’s a lovely feeling, and I do enjoy these peppery/mustardy notes that start to attack you after twenty seconds. With water: lemonised seawater and a few crushed almonds. Finish: long, and rather more citrusy. Grapefruit juice, smoked. Comments: as good as it can get at ten years of age. These batches will be grandiose when they reach 25 or 30. SGP:466 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 10 yo 2006/2017 (53.6%, Whisky-Fässle, for Maltes Vänner, hogshead)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2006/2017 (53.6%, Whisky-Fässle, for Maltes Vänner, hogshead) Four stars This is a scandal, no duck on the label, and some kind of squirrel instead. To think that I started to get used to those funny ducks… I think I’ll register a complaint! Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s sweeter, apparently, rounder, more candied, with some butter cream and even drops of limoncello. It’s a bit in the style of the ‘Highland’ Caol Ilas, so far, although it dos start to become ashier and brinier after fifteen seconds. Let’s see what happens once water’s been added: gets chalkier and, once again, more medicinal. Shall I mention Vicks Vaporub once again? Mouth (neat): it is very citrusy. This is cold-concentrated Muscadet. Grapefruit jam and salty smoked cider apples. It’s a little simple, perhaps, but otherwise totally flawless. With water: really lemony and even tangerine-y, with a touch of white sugar. Finish: long and unusually sweet. More sugar than smoke, so once again, a tad in the style of Diageo’s ‘Unpeated’. Comments: excellent, just a tad unusual. SGP:644 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 12 yo 2002/2014 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #8389)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2002/2014 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #8389) Four stars and a half We hadn’t noticed this one when it came out, so indeed we’re a little late… Colour: straw. Nose: much more austere than both 2006s, much smokier and ashier, with notes of sharp dry beer (Weissen or stuff) and grass juice. Coal smoke, soot, used crankcase oil, perhaps capers… Austere indeed. No roundness to ease your (pleasing) pain. With water: our friends the wet dogs, dogs that also smell of fresh mint (deepest apologies, dogs). Mouth (neat): all grapefruits than one could find in a whole country, plus a glass of tequila and a glass of genuine gentian eau-de-vie. Very rooty/herbal. With water: the ashes come to the front, and so does seawater. Rather sour and fierce, which we like at WF Towers. Finish: long, sharp, very grassy. Eating kelp (I imagine, never tried that). Comments: this baby just to give the lie to the saying that goes like ‘Caol Ila is the gentler Islay’. SGP:377 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Lucky Peterson. Track: Smooth Sailing. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 25, 2017


Benromach whisky and wines

G&M’s small Benromach Distillery has been at the forefront of ‘characterisation’ as far as malt whiskies are concerned and individuality is probably one of a brand’s main assets today. Now as much as their young 5-10-15 have been a lot to my liking, I’ve never been a huge fan of the wine finishings, but that has nothing to do with the distillery. It’s just a style I’m not too keen on. Anyway…

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017)

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017) Four stars and a half We’ll do this quickly, since we’re trying the 10 almost every year just to ‘follow’ it. Yeah, any excuses… Colour: pale gold. Nose: yeah, shoe polish, yeah, plasticine, yeah, seawater and diesel oil, yeah, soy sauce and leather, yeah, bone-dry Madeira… Mouth: smoked tea, bitter oranges, salted fish, tobacco, grapefruit, ale… This is what I’d call having substance. Perfect body and style. Finish: long, salty, leafy, with some fresh walnuts. Comments: Benromach is approaching Springbankness if you ask me. Yeah I’ve already seen a map of Scotland. Brilliant 10, actually a must. SGP:463 - 88 points.

Benromach 2009/2017 ‘Sassicaia’ (45%, OB, 8000 bottles)

Benromach 2009/2017 ‘Sassicaia’ (45%, OB, 8000 bottles) Two stars and a half Only a finishing. Scottish malt finished in Italian red wine that’s mimicking Bordeaux, what could go wrong? Colour: rosé. Nose: the 10 over this one, for sure, although the wine remains kind of discreet, as if this wasn’t integrally ‘Bordeauxblended’. Earthy and leafy, with a wee gingery side that hints at French oak. Walnuts and Madeira again, perhaps. Mouth: rosehip tea, green pepper, leather, ginger, and indeed raspberries and cassis. Bitter oranges. A sourness in the background. Finish: rather long, a little saltier, and probably a little better then earlier batches, perhaps because of some lower wine impact. Smokier aftertaste. Comments: it does go down, but the 10 anytime. SGP:453 - 78 points.

Benromach 2007/2006 ‘Hermitage’ (45%, OB)

Benromach 2007/2016 ‘Hermitage’ (45%, OB) Two stars and a half A baby that’s spent thirty months in Hermitage, so basically in syrah casks from the northern Rhône valley. Now nobody tells us whether it was red or white Hermitage, since they make both. Let’s hope it was white (so not syrah, are you following me?)… Colour: gold, not pinkish, so perhaps white indeed? Nose: ooh gunpowder and used matches! Then cracked pepper and new leather. Then rubbed orange skin and – the power of mind, probably – botrytis. It’s all rather dry. Mouth: gingery and peppery, with bags of Seville oranges as well. Very bizarre. Then rather sour cherries, which doesn’t obligatorily hint at red Rhône. Finish: medium, peppery, gingery, and indeed quite cherry-like. Earthy aftertaste. Comments: probably red, in fact. Very different from the Sassicaia, but in the same league for me. SGP:463 - 78 points.

Benromach 1975/2017 (49.9%, OB, refill American hogshead, cask #3434, 162 bottles)

Benromach 1975/2017 (49.9%, OB, refill American hogshead, cask #3434, 162 bottles) Five stars Some ultra-classic old Benromach. This might be like gazing at a Caravaggio after two things by Jeff Koons. Colour: pale gold. Little oak influence, I’m guessing… Nose: fresh white asparagus (we’re already in high season) and homemade custard – which suggests more active wood – then ripe yellow and white fruits, especially vine peaches and mirabelles. In the background, rather a little earth, a wee bit of kumquat, and drops of cough syrup and camphor balm. I find the whole subtle and elegant, this is an old lady. Mouth: some old lemony oak – if you see what I mean – at first, then rather Thai spices and menthol cigarettes (like). All that on a bed of artisan marmalade, with a little caraway, nutmeg, and cloves. A little sour chlorophyll as well, which is extremely nice in this context. We’ve got a French brewery that’s flavouring their beers with mint leaves, and indeed this reminds of those. Except that this old Benromach is ten times better (IMHO). Finish: medium, subtle, superbly floral/herbal. Honeysuckle and quite a lot of orange blossom water. A sappy side in the aftertaste. Old pine liqueur that got dry. Comments: some exceptional old Benromach, to which the old oak was an asset. Integrally. Very subtle and supremely elegant. SGP:472 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Roy Hargrove and The RH Factor. Track: Crazy Race. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 24, 2017


Sadly no Limburg for me this year, but I’m glad our fresh Scottish correspondent could make it. Apparently, he survived…




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus’s Limburg Travelogue
Serge, as is usual with this time of year I expect a fair few excellent drams to come my way over the course of the next few days at Limburg.


But first: a quick pair of unexpected aperitifs! It appears that the DFDS Seaways ferry between Newcastle and Amsterdam has some rather interesting bottlings of its own - well, interesting by the standards of a UK passenger ferry... Both these bottlings were apparently selected by the good folks at Braunstein Distillery.



Strathisla 18 yo 1991 (57.8%, Embassy Collection, cask #2729. 185 bottles)

Strathisla 18 yo 1991 (57.8%, Embassy Collection, cask #2729. 185 bottles) Colour: Very pale straw. Nose: Lovely and very straight at first nosing with minimal alcohol prickle. Lots of orchard fruits, grass, a little citrus and some slightly buttery cereal notes. Goes on with ripe pears, plum jam and little touches of tinned pineapple. Classical, good, modern speyside style. With water: nicely aromatic now with a deft waxy touch and a little lick of ground green peppercorns. Mouth: A little more bite on delivery which quickly settles to a nice buttery sheen of malt sweetness, a little vanilla and some mustardy notes such as fresh watercress. More green fruitiness now with notes of greengages and stewed apples. With water: a little more natural sweetness with an again heightened sense of pepperiness. Finish: Medium in length with a pleasing dual note of olive oil and black pepper. Comments: a smart bottling, the kind of whisky you can quaff quite easily with pals in your cabin on a sea voyage. An easy and quaffable modern day Strathisla. SGP: 542 - 83 points. 



Bowmore 14 yo 1996 (59.7%, Embassy Collection, cask #1332)

Bowmore 14 yo 1996 (59.7%, Embassy Collection, cask #1332) Colour: White wine. Nose: a big, chiselled, sharp and precise kiln blast of smoke at first nosing. Peat smoke and a greasier, more industrial variety as well. Underneath there are some little suggestions of various green and tropical fruits nudging their way out. Sea air, wax, camphor, peat oils and something pleasingly Mezcal-esque all vie for position. With Water: it now becomes quite gravelly with wet pebbles and more overt seashore notes. Some sea greens and old kreel nets knocking about in there somewhere. Mouth: A salty old dog! Wool, hessian, chalky phenols, black pepper, BBQ sauce and smoky bacon. A big, dry, ashy, precise and vaguely mineral palate that dials the salt almost up to eleven. With water: peat, various oils, lemon juice, liquid smoke, some tar - those fruits glimpsed on the nose feel far away, this is a bit of a beast. Finish: good length with plenty lingering smoke and some lemon juice sharpness. Comments: If you’re going to have a ‘seafaring’ bottling then I suppose you could do a lot worse than a big, uncomplicated Bowmore like this one. Good stuff! SGP: 348 - 85 points.



Kumquats With The Dentist...



Serge, have you noticed how no one ever really talks about the importance of your teeth when tasting whisky? It’s why I always like to visit the dentist the night before Limburg, just to make sure they are in tip top condition. It’s just a shame about the questionable reputation of elderly Dutch dentists... 



Glen Grant 13 yo 1980/1993 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Glen Grant 13 yo 1980/1993 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Colour: White wine. Nose: Surprisingly fresh! Lots of green apples, citrons, a little wax, lots of fresh, crisp cereal notes, some malty sweetness and some tangerines. Quite straightforward but very clean and elegant, some high quality distillate in evidence. With water: it’s skipped breaststroke and gone straight to butterfly! This is a good swimmer. Lots of lemon rind, cereals, olive oil and some residual camphor notes. Really lovely nose! Mouth: Grassy, mineral, lots of hay and little touch of medicine like some old cough syrup and more really nice, sharp citrus notes. With water: similarly gifted in swimming pool as the nose was. Some light notes of honey come forth along with more cereals, assorted citrus notes - including some lime zest now - and more hay and mineral qualities. Finish: long, lemony and lovely! Comments: a lovely Glen Grant and a good surprise, ideal whisky for summer evening dramming with good friends. SGP: 474 - 87 points. (Thanks Hans!)



Caperdonich 35 yo 1972/2008 (48.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #7431, 181 bottles)

Caperdonich 35 yo 1972/2008 (48.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #7431, 181 bottles) Colour: Light gold. Nose: The old Caperdonich beehive is alive and well. We should probably keep this short... Freshly brewed green tea, pollen, wild flowers, caraway, camphor and plenty of lovely honey notes. Goes on with a little maltiness and notes of aged mead. Classic and beautiful! Mouth: Beautiful delivery! All on honey, wax, fruit syrups and olive oil. Just pure deliciousness. Even some Kumquats (no, seriously...) Not as potent as some of the other 1972 Caperdonichs but full of elegance and grace. Probably caught at a perfect age. The wood is also wonderfully quiet. Finish: medium-long and full of herbs, dried mint, wormwood and little notes of aged yellow Chartreuse. Comments: Oops, I didn’t add water. Pfft, I really don’t think it needs it. In Scotland we call this ‘Juice!’... SGP: 641 -  91 points. (Thanks Uncle Marcel!)



Balmenach 25 yo 1977/2002 (58%, OB for Golden Jubilee)

Balmenach 25 yo 1977/2002 (58%, OB for Golden Jubilee) Colour: Gold. Nose: A big hot, syrupy bag of fruit to begin with. Quite jammy fruits with notes of plums, lemon rind, wild strawberries and damsons. Some nice notes of coal hearth and wormwood follow with a delicate herbal streak in the background. The wood becomes a bit louder in time but it never overtakes the fruit. With water: more spice now and more orangey notes of bitters, orange liqueur and some elegant waxiness. Mouth: Very nice! Lots of mint, camphor, pine needles, a lovely leafy, earthy quality, some early grey tea and a resinous, raisiny sweetness. Very concentrated, oily and syrupy at full strength. Great, fat and resinous presence in the mouth at full strength, terrific texture. With water: beautiful! More wax, more spice, a nice luscious fruitiness with notes of quince jelly and hessian. Finish: Long, spicy, waxy and with thick fruitiness. Comments: It’s a shame this whisky was bottled in such a stupid decanter, although I suspect the extra air helped it since 2002, I doubt it will help the other bottles for too much longer. A great old Balmenach all the same. SGP: 635 - 91 points.



And so, to Limburg itself...



Springbank 1974/1999 (46.3%, OB for Germany, cask #152, 280 bottles)

Springbank 1974/1999 (46.3%, OB for Germany, cask #152, 280 bottles) Colour: Light gold. Nose: Honey, wax, a crisp beery maltiness and some little coastal phenolic touches. We’re not a million miles away from some of the old 1966 bourbon cask Local Barley bottlings. Becomes a little dryer on darjeeling tea and white pepper but all the while with a nicely luscious green fruit streak throughout. Mouth: quite a soft delivery and the wood is perhaps a touch drying but there’s nice notes of hardwood, furniture wax, some tropical fruits and a little notes of orange liqueur, tea tree oil and touches of medicine. Not hugely complex but the flavour is very enjoyable. Finish: medium length with a nice fruity afterglow. Comments: Not the most stellar Springbank but stoic and classical in style and very drinkable. SGP: 635 - 88 points. (Thanks Hideo)



Oykel 1923/1934 ‘Best Highland Malt Whiskey’ (86 US proof, Balnagown Estates Company Ltd.)

Oykel 1923/1934 ‘Best Highland Malt Whiskey’ (86 US proof, Balnagown Estates Company Ltd.) This is the kind of old totally obscure bottle I really adore. It seems that the USA still keeps turning up old treasures like this from time to time. I also like the fact they’ve used the American spelling of ‘whiskey’ and that the rear label states ‘harmless colouring’. The Oykel is a river running near Balblair distillery so some people thought this would be Balblair but the distillery was mothballed between 1911 and 1949 so it cannot be Balblair. Colour: Harmless Colouring. Nose: It’s really one of these aromas that can only come from ancient Scottish single malts. A powerful combination of dry, herbal peat, old tool boxes, coal sheds, farmyards, engine oil and more tertiary tarry, phenolic and waxy complexities. A beautiful and deeply elegant nose. A totally extinct character of peat from a style of whisky making that no distillery is practicing these days.



Mouth: A velvety delivery with a real bass like and resounding peatiness. Full of waxes, herbs, oils and mineral notes. A little metallic but otherwise still fresh and kicking. More tarriness and notes of old rope. It’s very much a farmy ‘highland’ peat character throughout. Finish: Long, resinous and delicately drying with some old pipe tobacco, various dried spices and a touch of tannin like some well stewed black tea. Comments: It really held its potency in bottle after so many years, there are touches of OBE but it’s very minimal, you get the feeling this one improved in its bottle. What a total treat, what I wouldn’t give to know the distillery it came from. SGP: 478 - 92 points. (Thanks Hubert!)  


Of course Limburg isn’t only about old bottlings though. Lets try a new Whisky Agency release...



Ireland 27 yo 1990/2017 (48.1%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon barrel) Colour: Light gold. Nose: These batches are starting to become a kind of category all their own these days now that quite a number of casks have been bottled. This one is atypical with plenty of fresh grassiness overlying some very luscious and fresh green/tropical fruit notes. Gooseberry, gorse, tinned pineapple and some sharper citrus notes as well. With water: goes more in the direction of orange peel and tangerines now with a pleasing coal hearth note as well. Mouth: A slight sharpness on the attack but otherwise we are rolling in all kinds of tropical and green fruits again. Lots of guava, mango, lychee and fresh pears. It’s quite simple but also very beautiful as well. With water: the fruit becomes a little more rounded and less separate along with a slightly dryer edge which emerges alongside some nice mineral notes. Finish: Good length, some nice notes of assorted citrus peel and perhaps some more ‘generic tropical stuff’. Comments: Another boringly great old Irish Whiskey. The kind of whisky you can quaff with friends all afternoon. SGP: 761 - 90 points.



And back to the old stuff by way of the Sunday night charity tasting, hosted by certain well loved Swiss Baron who shall remain Patrick.



King George V Coronation Decanter 1911

King George V Coronation Decanter 1911 (Usher) Blue and Green versions head to head. One of two decanters tried head to head. Lets see how the colour of the glaze on a ceramic affects the character during bottle ageing (ok ok, I’ll get my coat...) Colour: both are amber in colour, identically so. Nose: An old forest full of pine, dried mushrooms, camphor and all kinds of waxes and resins. The green one had a lower filling level and correspondingly shows a little more leafy oxidative character whereas the blue is a little more earthy and punchy with some touches of rancio and tobacco.



Mouth: they are both more similar here, you could almost be sipping very old Cognacs. Lots of warmth, stewed raisin and dark fruit notes with some old furniture polish and dried spices. The green starts to veer away from the blue as expected, but both remain remarkably fresh and punchy for such ancient ceramics. Finish: a little short on both but pleasingly resinous and cognacy. Comments: Amazing to try such old ceramics in such great condition. I wonder if the trick with ceramics is in the quality of the glaze on the outside in helping to prevent excessive evaporation. SGP: 633 - 88 points.  


Bowmore 19 yo 1975 ‘Largiemeanoch’ 1975 (52.9%, The Whisky Connoisseur, cask #1886)

Bowmore 19 yo 1975 ‘Largiemeanoch’ 1975 (52.9%, The Whisky Connoisseur, cask #1886) As Patrick says: “Of course we all know the famous 1967 Largiemeanoch...” Know it?! I’m practically sick of the stuff! Makes a good highball though. Lets see what this 1975 variant of that legendary name has in store. Not too many 1975 Bowmores around, we’re usually starting to get into ‘tricky’ territory by this point in Bowmore’s history... Colour: Gold. Nose: quite sharp and coastal at first but there is a nice tropical under belly wobbling away beneath. Quite syrupy on the nose, lots of thick, oily fruitiness and some slightly overripe orchard fruits - like tangerines that have sat a little too long in the fruit bowl (usually when it’s mostly teenagers in a house). Some briny notes and slightly lively mineral notes in there as well.



With water: the fruit is fresher now, lots of pineapple and guava with a delicately mineral peat quality. Mouth: Hey, this is pretty nice! The fruitiness is really quite intense and curiously close to some of these recent late 1980s/early 1990s Irish single malts in style. Quite a lot of gooseberry and nettle notes mixed in with the more traditionally lush tropical aspects. Greengages, various jams and some farmy peat notes popping up here and there. With water: same kind of clean balance arises between fresh green and tropical fruits and some clean, subtle peatiness. Finish: good length, more slightly farmy notes and a gently tropical swallow - like a glass of umbongo with a slight limp. Comments: This was a really good surprise to be honest. I didn’t have great hopes as many Bowmores from 75/76 can be quite strange, but this one was a real winner. Harks back some of the better 1971/72s. SGP: 646 - 91 points.  


Glen Grant 43 yo 1966/2010 (52.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book Of Kells for Japan Import System, cask #2928, 130 bottles)

Glen Grant 43 yo 1966/2010 (52.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book Of Kells for Japan Import System, cask #2928, 130 bottles) Colour: Amber. Nose: It’s funny that our Japanese friends would have selected this one. There is a resemblance to some of the really classic old Yamazakis with this slightly antique hardwood character in the nose. Notes of wormwood, old chartreuse, mixed dried herbs, pine cones and some lovely mentholated notes. Some dark chocolate with chilli flakes, pollen and freshly sanded rosewood. With water: the fruitiness becomes a bit brighter with more citrus rind, orange liqueur and mead. Mouth: This feels immediately more classically Glen Grant with a big beehive of honey and various kinds of wax. The wood doesn’t get in the way too much which is a relief. Notes of dark fruits such as dates and sultanas alongside some nice espresso and camphor qualities. With water: a much bigger dram with water. There’s lots of resinous notes and more volume on the spice and chocolate notes. Finish: the wood is borderline but the finish has good stamina and there’s a nourishing resiny quality about it. Comments: It’s a beautiful old Glen Grant for sure, one where the oak really does walk a little bit of a tightrope and water does some fine tricks. A tad too tannic to go past the 90 mark but delicious nonetheless. SGP: 542 - 89 points.



And now a wee finale... It should be noted there are identical bottlings of PE at these corresponding strengths by G&M for Italy, including the hallowed 64.7% version for Intertrade - both of which are already on Whiskyfun. However, it would seem rude and unprofessional of me not to ‘double check’...



Port Ellen 15 yo 1969 (62.2%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1969 (62.2%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice) A rather mythically rare pair of Port Ellens for Germany. Serge, you know that joke about cask strength 60s Port Ellens and busses...? Colour: Straw. Nose: Serge, I know how you don’t have great sea legs so I’m sorry to report that we’re on a Fisherman’s trawler and the seas are getting pretty choppy! A pure blade of peat sheathed in lemon rind, whelks, oysters, smoked mussels in brine, a little iodine and a whole marina of seashore freshness and enough minerals for a Geology festival. Quite astounding purity! With water: quite similar but more integration and an over sense of ‘completeness’. Mouth: The Fisherman has discovered the stowaways and is now very much kicking us in the mouth with his boot! But the pummelling is short lived and soon gives over to coal, soot, some superbly oily and fat phenolics and a myriad of citrus fruit. With water: grassier, fruitier and something more akin to smoked kippers and tar liqueur. Gets increasingly herbal but we’re really beginning to venture into anti-maltoporn brigade territory. Finish: I’ll let you know when.... Comments: I suspect it is the same whisky at the Italian bottlings but who cares. There aren’t too many more pure or potent drams out there than these great old PEs. SGP: 578 - 93 points.



Port Ellen 15 yo 1969 (64.7%, Gordon & MacPhail. Connoisseur’s Choice) Port Ellen 15 yo 1969 (64.7%, Gordon & MacPhail. Connoisseur’s Choice) Colour: Light gold. Nose: Serge, you’ll be pleased to hear that the trawler has moored outside some particularly aromatic farmland. Just beautifully medicinal, more tinctures of iodine and TCP with citrus and tropical fruits. Graphite, ink, fresh earth, waxes and soot. A total show stopper of a nose - beguiling complexity! With water: I really should remember to get the number for this anti-maltoporn brigade from you some day Serge. Mouth: Even at full strength this is majestically oily with intense and almost syrupy peat notes. Coal, tar, old rope, medicine, fruit - it’s all there. With water: approaching perfection now. The most beautiful integration of farmyard, seashore, peat and fruit characteristics. Emotional and beautiful in equal measure. Finish: Toothbrush defyingly long. Comments: You know how you wait ages for a 1969 G&M CC Port Ellen at cask strength and then two come along at once... SGP: 578 - 95 points.  


As ever it was another great event with the best whiskies and the best people. Crazy, crowded, sweaty, fun, intense, enlightening and hilarious. A pleasure to see and meet so many old and new whisky friends alike from so many different countries in one place. Long may it continue.  



April 23, 2017


High rums again

Yes we’re doing it again, but first, a light apéritif if you don’t mind, to give us more contrast…

Angostura ‘1824’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2016)

Angostura ‘1824’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2016) Two stars Right, some things are a little fishy here. The expression ‘premium’, the large vintage look-alike, the price… No it says it's 12 years old, and the bottle is lovely. Colour: full gold. Nose: roses and incense, that’s not un-nice, just a little unlikely. In a pastry shop in Istanbul. Some raisins too, molasses… Mouth: it’s certainly sweet, but it’s not a sugar bomb. Some tobacco, honey, a touch of roasted malt, and surely some coffee and orange liqueur. I could drink this. Finish: short, and yet a tad cloying. Corn syrup and honey, plus caramel. Comments: actually much too sweet for me, but I wouldn’t quite call it a ‘liqueur’. Needs ice, though… SGP:730 - 70 points.

Now, let’s get serious…

Demerara 14 yo 2002/2017 (46%, Le Gus’t, cask #144, 300 bottles)

Demerara 14 yo 2002/2017 (46%, Le Gus’t, cask #144, 300 bottles) Four stars This guy came from a Caroni cask, imagine! There’s also a version at cask strength, we’ll try that one later. Colour: full gold. Nose: seriously, rosemary? (could make for the title of a movie, eh). There really is a lot of rosemary, some thyme as well, a petroly side, thuja wood, cloves, and simply a lot of fennel seeds. It’s really unusual, and it just works. Would make for some nice bitter, in a posh cocktail. Mouth: tar and diesel oil, then tar liqueur, more thuja wood, caraway, and indeed fennel seeds and rosemary. Tends to become saltier, with also more nutmeg, but the thuja wood keeps singing loud. Finish: long, a tad gentler. Superb herbal aftertaste, reminding me of some old tar and herbs liqueur. Comments: some action! Very nice wood oils, unless that was the Caroni part. Great unusual rum that just killed the humble Angostura. Who said that was to be expected? SGP:462 - 87 points.

Good, Demerara…

Diamond 8 yo 2008/2017 (59.3%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 239 bottles)

Diamond 8 yo 2008/2017 (59.3%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half It says ‘pot still’, so it’s not from one of the columns (thank you Einstein). It’s also reassuring to learn that at nearly 60% vol., this is ‘cask strength’ rum. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: get out of here! Brand new Pirellis, two tons of rubber bands, and your sister’s bicycle inner tubes. You see the idea… With water: the tyres of an A.C. Cobra after a run. Mouth (neat): Ardbeg matured in a new scuba diving suit. Plus salt and lemon. The question is, do we enjoy this much rubber? What’s sure is that this Diamond is rather Jamaican, if you see what I mean. With water: civilisation! Olives, brine, tar, earth, gentian, mezcal… Finish: very long, tarry, rubbery, and salty. There’s bad rubber and there’s good rubber. This is good rubber. Comments: who’s doing the rums at Hunter Laing’s? He/she deserves a raise. Just saying, not my money. SGP:365 - 88 points.

Sure the Jamaicans could compete, but there’s also Fiji. Seriously, Fiji…

South Pacific 10 yo 2004/2015 (44%, Compagnie des Indes, Fiji, cask #SF13, 302 bottles)

South Pacific 10 yo 2004/2015 (44%, Compagnie des Indes, Fiji, cask #SF13, 302 bottles) Three stars and a half These babies have made for some of the greatest discoveries in recent years. Fiji doesn’t only mean rugby, apparently… Colour: straw. Nose: sugar Easter eggs and rosewater at first, then benzoin and burning lamp oil, with whiffs of barbecue and wallflowers. Some camphor as well, tiger balm, bandages… You got it, this is quite unusual. And ultra-nice. Mouth: really some two-step rum. Starts sweet and almost sugary (those small ester eggs again), and gets then rather smokier and a notch petroly. A little sandalwood, burning hay… Nice touch of crystallised oranges capping it all off. Finish: medium, rather Cuban in fact. Candy sugar and hay. Comments: this baby kept hesitating between a petroly ‘Jamaican’ style, and a gentler ‘Cuban’ one. You could drink a while bottle and not make up your mind in the end. Dangerous stuff. SGP:552 - 84 points.

Back to Demerara? And how about a legendary one?

Demerara 1974/2001 (45%, Samaroli)

Demerara 1974/2001 (45%, Samaroli) Five stars Dear Silvano! I’d bet this was a Port Mourant, but I have no proof, and it’s so sad that I couldn’t ask the great man himself anymore. Colour: mahogany. Nose: extraordinary parsley, tar, and black olives at first sniffings, then walnut stain and just seawater. Amazing notes of tamarind jam and prunes in armagnac in the background. Perhaps even hints of Pousse-Rapière, some stuff they make down there (not in Guyana mind you) and that would kill, or at least muzzle any opposition. Mouth: oak, liquorice, ashes, and bitter oranges. Definitely old Port Mourant/Morant. Fantastic tar, brine, lamp oil, salt, cloves, cigars, tamarind again (never found this much tamarind elsewhere), prunes… And it would get saltier and saltier. I know there’s no salt in whisky, but is that the same with rum? (I’m asking salt experts). After three minutes, a total avalanche of raw cocoa and chocolate, and totally no sugar. Sugar kills anyway. Finish: very long, with a wonderful mentholy oakiness. And tar, and liquorice. Comments: it’s a bit massive, otherwise I would have gone even higher. But I’m keeping my points for the ‘West Indies’ 1948 by Samaroli, soon on WF, stay tuned. SGP:363 - 92 points.

(Many thanks again, Francesco!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Marc Cary. Track: Below the Equator. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 22, 2017


Welcoming Angus as our Guest Taster

Friends, you’ve most certainly noticed that the numbers of new whiskies launched every month are getting exponential. Of course I’ll never manage to try them all, I would be dead in no time! Plus, contrarily to what some good folks are half-jokingly saying, I’m trying to take good care of my liver and other important organs, and shall never further increase the amounts of whiskies and other aged spirits I’m tasting. Around one thousand a year is a strict maximum to me, and to the World Health Organization alike, as it appears, as I’m obviously not ingesting full measures of each drink I’m tasting (well, in the case of Brora…)

Angus Serge

What’s more, I’m busier and busier business-wise, and no, drinking booze is not part of my work, another myth we need to debunk.
That is why I’m really happy to welcome my friend Angus MacRaild within these humble pages. Angus is a Scot (no kiddin’), he lives in Edinburgh, he’s tasted thousands and thousands of whiskies already, and he’s incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in spite of his young age, as many of you already know. Furthermore, we rather share the same tastes with regards to spirits and other drinks such as, well, riesling, and I know that whenever we’ve been tasting whisky together, we’ve almost always come up with the same conclusions and, most importantly, with very similar scores (more or less). We both favour complexity, we both prefer spirit-driven whiskies, and we both don’t crave for vanilla or wine bombs, although we both enjoy our genuine sherry monsters when they’re properly done. I know that personally, I’d trust and follow Angus’s pieces of advice with my eyes closed, or I wouldn’t have welcomed him. What’s more, I know that as a whisky writer, he’s totally independent, and that there aren’t any companies holding his pen, either directly or indirectly.
Now Angus’s tasting notes or articles will always be posted on a pale yellow background and clearly attributed to him, while mine will remain on that very fashionable buttercup yellow that everyone seems to just adore since 2002. And pssst, on the Web, yellow’s the new white anyway, did you know that?




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Three Vintages
Of 1990s Bowmore
Serge, it seems that Bowmore from the late 1990s goes from strength to strength with almost every bottling these days, so I thought it might be fun to try a 98, 99 and 2000 all from bourbon casks. Lets see if we find some lurking tropical fruits. So, in ascending order of vintage...


Bowmore 17 yo 1998 (58.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.290, ‘In a shaman’s teepee’, refill barrel, 150 bottles) Bowmore 17 yo 1998 (58.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.290, ‘In a shaman’s teepee’, refill barrel, 150 bottles) Colour: Straw with a green tinge. Nose: A fragrant seashore! Chiselled mineral notes underpinned by fresh green apple peelings, a little mashmallow-esque sweetness (what?) and some tinctures of iodine and mercurochrome that add some deft medical touches. It’s such a pure and unmistakably ‘Bowmore’ style, one that is quite close to some of the more ‘straight’ 1972-74 Bowmores. With a little time the fruit starts to emerge. Orange blossom, lemon rind and little touches of passion fruit. With water: more menthol, more herbal with notes of bay leaf and rosemary and also something quite pleasingly farmy. Good complexity! Mouth: It’s a bit hot on delivery but the fruitiness is immediate, syrupy, tropical and quite majestic. This is really not too far from early 1970s Bowmores. Greengages, lemon oil, some herbal notes such as dried tarragon perhaps, pineapple, mandarin and those beloved passion fruits. A beautiful and extremely classical Bowmore! With water: more of the same only a bit more exuberant with the coastal qualities. Finish: Long, salty and textured with a huge, tropical flush of fruit on the swallow. Some warming, lingering wood smoke after a while. Comments: I just adore this style, it seems to tread a tightrope between the opulent fruitiness of the distillery’s glory years and the more pristine, ‘chiselled’ profile it displayed in the early 1990s. If they can keep making this style nowadays then Bowmore is undoubtedly one of the great ‘grand cru’ distilleries of the modern era. Now, I suspect a good refill barrel also played a hugely important part in nurturing this wonderful distillate. SGP: 647 - 91 points.  


Bowmore 18 yo 1999/2017 ‘Hand Filled’ (51%, OB, bourbon hogshead)

Bowmore 18 yo 1999/2017 ‘Hand Filled’ (51%, OB, bourbon hogshead) I find some of the bottlings in this series can be a bit hit or miss - certainly the wine cask releases. Colour: Gold. Nose: Much thicker, oilier and more syrupy than the 1998 at first nosing. A tad more creamy vanilla from the oak along with some fresh honey. Goes on with a lovely herbal streak, notes of old yellow Chartreuse, aged Sauternes, touches of camphor and tea tree oil. There is fruit as well but it’s more along the lines of tinned fruit syrup such as that of pineapples and peaches. Gets a little more mineral with time. With water: now we have more coal hearths, lamp oil and a slightly unexpected but pleasant waxiness. Water seems to discharge more underlying distillate character. Mouth: Again this is oakier, the wood is clearly more active than in the 1998 but there is some really nourishing spiciness, black peppercorns, black olives in brine, TCP, some lovely fresh mint after a while as well. Another really good one! With water: Pow! Now this is another really classical Bowmore, the tropical fruit goes up a few notches and there is something quite fat and phenolic in there that really reminds me of some older White Horse Lagavulin 12 year olds from the 1970s. Just great whisky! Finish: Long and coastal; full of brine, olive oil and notes of anchovies and sardines. A whole fishing boat full of sea creatures! Comments: Slightly different dram, same score. Another hugely impressive modern Bowmore, and the fact it is an official bottling is greatly encouraging and it’s definitely my favourite so far in the Hand Fill series. SGP: 656 - 91 points



Bowmore 15 yo 2000 (54.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.272, ‘Perfect Potted Plants’, first fill barrel, 222 bottles) Bowmore 15 yo 2000 (54.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.272, ‘Perfect Potted Plants’, first fill barrel, 222 bottles) Not sure who is coming up with the names for these SMWS bottlings but I wouldn’t mind some of whatever it is they were smoking at the time. Colour: Light gold. Nose: Different again and a little more simplistic perhaps at first nosing. Very fresh and coastal with quite typical notes of oysters, fresh lemon juice, white pepper, capers in brine and a nice, simmering peat smoke aroma underneath. Develops along this very chiselled, ‘pure’ line with mineral qualities, notes of wet pebble beaches and a light tarriness. There is a fruitiness in there as well but it’s slightly more subdued than in the previous two. With water: Out come some rather lovely notes of gorse, nettle and caraway.  Continues with a little medicine and more citrus notes. Mouth: A powerful and salty attack with notes of sandalwood, dried seaweed and something resinous as well. Earl Grey tea, a nice ashiness and something suggestive of coal hearths (although I don’t spend much time tasting coal hearths I’ll admit). The fruitiness is quite green and seems to just hover in the background occasionally poking its head round behind all the smoke and seashore characteristics. With water: More mentholated and more fruity in the direction of citrus fruits, various oils and herbs and assorted medicinal notes. Finish: Another lengthy one with a big, saline echo around the gums and throat. Comments: I wonder if the SMWS have a secret silly name to quality whisky internal coding system going on...? It seems that 2000 wasn’t quite as extravagant as the late 1990s casks, but the quality is still very high. SGP: 558 - 88 points.  



April 21, 2017


Three Glencadam

I may have written before that I’m feeling that it’s shame that after some pretty great official bottlings that came out around ten or fifteen years ago, Glencadam seems to have sunken into (relative) oblivion again. It’s a great dram!

Glencadam ‘Origin 1825’ (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Glencadam ‘Origin 1825’ (40%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half No age statement, that famous trick with founding years and such, 40% vol. and a sherry finish… Pretty much the lowest form of marketing creativity if you ask me. But indeed this might be good, if a little, say despairing. Colour: straw. Nose: porridge, oatcakes, and gravel at first nosing, then more sweetish barley character, not unpleasant at all. Some pears and touches of varnish suggest this is quite young indeed. Mouth: good, sweet, malty, with some vanilla, pineapple syrup and some raisins, plus some peppery oak. Apple pie, some cinnamon, a touch of caraway. Finish: not that short, creamy, barleyish, peppery. Comments: I’m not going to write a novel about this baby, but I think it’s rather fair and honest. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Glencadam 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Glencadam 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars and a half Probably too expensive at 80 to 100€, but you never know, it may be a winner. What’s sure is that the distillate has got the ‘potential’, if not a name. Colour: white wine. Bizarrely paler than the NAS. Nose: this is much subtler, with many more garden fruits (first) and then even bananas and papayas. Now it’s also very barley-y and malty, with some golden syrup, maple syrup, cornflakes, light honey (sunflower?), honeysuckle, a little fresh mint… It may not be a very characterful spirit, but in this very ‘classical’ style, it’s fatter than Glenfiddich or Glenlivet. Mouth: same comment, pretty much. Pear and apple cakes, African banana cake, a little marmalade, then more all-spice, pepper, cinnamon… Solid body, good mouthfeel. Finish: medium, malty and spicy, with a sweet touch again. More apple cake. Comments: I’m not finding it quite a excellent as the official 21 yo that I tried a few years back (WF 88), or as the 15 from ten years ago (WF 87) but it’s still high-level malt whisky. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Glencadam 18 yo 1998/2016 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 11474, 310 bottles)

Glencadam 18 yo 1998/2016 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 11474, 310 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it’s simply a fresher variant of the official 18, with a little more orange and pink grapefruit. Wee touches of chalk as well, which makes it a little more complex. Weetabix. Mouth: start with orange drops, many orange drops, and goes on with a tropical side that’s rather more citrusy than others. Shall we say it sits between a Tomatin and a Rosebank? The wee chalky side is still there as well. I’m finding this very good and rather more singular than the OBs. Finish: medium very fresh. All-vitamin fruit juice, a little green tea. Comments: super good, and quite a surprise. It’s even a little cheaper than the official 18, so a no-brainer IMHO. SGP:641 - 87 points.

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



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April 20, 2017


Unknown singles by well known bottlers

May I ask you a seminal question? What’s more important, knowing about a single malt’s distillery of origin or knowing about its age/vintage? I know, some cruel dilemma, as the great Frank Zappa would have said… Excuse me? Yeah, both… But that won’t be the case today…

Speyside Region 2001/2015 (44.7%, Archives, sherry butt, 180 bottles)

Speyside Region 2001/2015 (44.7%, Archives, sherry butt, 180 bottles) Four stars The only independent bottlers who’re using fish instead of birds ;-). No, Speyburn aren’t ‘independent’. Colour: gold. Nose: would it be surprising that we would find echoes of Glenfarclas 12 yo? Porridge, butterscotch, bitter oranges, marmalade, dry black raisins… And in the back, some pipe tobacco and a wee earthiness. Does its job, really does its job. Mouth: good, solid, marmalade-y, with a touch of lemon and Schweppes (all right, Schweppes-Lemon), then a wee bit of dried ham and some dry marzipan. Finish: long, maltier and nuttier, but there’s always this meaty side in the background. Chestnut purée. Comments: all very fine. Does the job and does it very well. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Speyside ‘Very Old Selection’ (46.3%, Sansibar and S Spirit Selection, sherry butt, 322 bottles, 2016)

Speyside ‘Very Old Selection’ (46.3%, Sansibar and S Spirit Selection, sherry butt, 322 bottles, 2016) Four stars So we don’t know about the age, and we don’t know about the distillery. Thank God we know about the bottler… Colour: gold. Nose: smoke and seawater? Excuse me? And roasted chestnuts, used matches, stewed asparagus, damp black earth, new leather jacket, pine cones… Ah… Mouth: no, really, there’s some smoke, some ham, some tangerines in the back, some seawater even… It’s as if this Speysider spent its life in some ex-Islay cask. Which, obviously, did work very well here. Shall we ever know? Finish: long, lemony and smoky, with a Bowmore-y side. No, that is true. Comments: a surprising baby. Chance or destiny? It worked very well. SGP: 453 – 87 points.

Sherry Cask ‘01’ 23 yo 1993/2016 (53.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, 355 bottles)

Sherry Cask ‘01’ 23 yo 1993/2016 (53.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, 355 bottles) Four stars and a half Hold on, I’m just seeing that this is a blended mat and not a single, apologies. But there’s no way back, it’s already in the tasting glass… Colour: gold. Nose: butter and vanilla are ruling the thing for a good one minute, then we find some kind of waxy oranges, then plasticine and IPA beer. Did they hire John Glaser? With water: goes towards hay and earth. Dried porcini. Mouth (neat): extremely to my liking. Sour oranges, leather, tobacco, salt, and these small figs that they have in the best parts of Turkey (best as far as figs are concerned, eh). Great waxy structure. With water: takes water very well. Smoked tea, cigars, orange peel. Finish: quite long, wonderfully bitter and orange-y. Comments: they always do it well in Sweden. So, what’s inside? Isn’t that somewhere on some website? SGP:452 - 88 points.

Eagle of Spey 27 yo 1989/2017 (45.4%, Riegger’s Selection)

Eagle of Spey 27 yo 1989/2017 (45.4%, Riegger’s Selection) Three stars and a half Picture of an older bottling. Said to be Glenfarclas. Yeah, as always ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: wonderful. Starts with a touch of manure and old cigars, gets then rather mentholated and apricoty, with also notes of plum jam and even Turkish delights. Late harvest pinot gris. Mouth: sour and sweet arrival, then artichokes and heavy black tea, then raisins and sour fruit juices. Totally unorthodox, but there’s much fun to be had with this rather un-Scottish Scotch malt whisky. Finish: long, gritty, a little rough, but funnily challenging. No that’s not just me being PC. Comments: it’s a finishing, and it’s a tad freaky at times, but I really like it, mainly because it’s totally un-boring. SGP:561 - 84 points.

Speyside Region 40 yo 1975/2016 (52.8%, Club Qing, Hong Kong, fino sherry butt)

Speyside Region 40 yo 1975/2016 (52.8%, Club Qing, Hong Kong, fino sherry butt) Five stars Wonderful label, congrats. Colour: gold. Nose: oils at first (sunflower, linseed), then fresh artisan butter and paraffin. Then bags of fresh hazelnuts and walnuts, as well as cut grass and mango peel. A lovely floral side. All very nice delicate, and complex. With water: pretty exceptional, on patchouli, pot-pourri, walnuts, and barley syrup. Always great to find barley in some very old malt whisky. Mouth (neat): yes. Orange liqueur, honey lemon, spearmint, lemongrass, blue-green tea. Superb zestiness, and a supreme elegance. See, we can do it quick. With water: the menthol and other –ols came out of the cask, all for the better. Green tea, herbs, walnuts, and waldmeister. Do you know waldmeister? Touches of old white Sancerre. Finish: medium, very herbal, with a great dry bitterness. After all, it was a fino cask. Comments: did it really spend all of its life in a fino butt? That may have pushed up the G in the SGP. Make of that what you can. Great bottle! SGP:371 - 90 points.

Sherry Cask ‘06’ 36 yo 1980/2016 (47.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, 102 bottles)

Sherry Cask ‘06’ 36 yo 1980/2016 (47.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, 102 bottles) Four stars and a half Blimey, I’ve been caught again, this is another blended malt. Colour: gold. Nose: old plaster, wine cellar, vase water, ink, old magazines, asparagus peelings, graphite oil… Now for something different! I’m not sure there’s much sherriness in here, perhaps a wee walnut? It’s rather more dry Madeira than sherry if you ask me, but I do like this very unusual dry style. Mouth: wait. Let’s gather our thoughts… In truth this is bone-dry, even mustardy, with some tobacco, more walnuts, some ashes, very bitter oranges (those oranges that you may ‘steal’ from the trees while in Andalucia, and that you just couldn’t eat since they’re so acidic and bitter, you know…) And there are some ashes, some carbon or something, some black salt, many leaves, some leather… In short, you got it, you can’t make drier whisky. Finish: rather long, and very fino-ish indeed. Manzanilla Pastrana. Comments: this was ultra-Jerezian. Now if you would excuse me, I have to call the travel agency… SGP:272 – 89 points.

Perhaps a last one for the road…

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.9%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.9%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry) Five stars There’s no doubt whatsoever that this will be excellent. Colour: pale gold. Nose: walnut oil, ink, paraffin, beeswax, plantain bananas, and a wee slice of white ham. Austere, beautifully so. Also leaves, bay leaves, cut grass, and apple peel. Mouth: hell. Mint, sauerkraut, turnips, green olives, green bananas, manioc, turmeric, and some guava juice to make all that sweeter. We’re clearly in riesling territories, and since the bottler is German, I’d say Knipser’s Steinbuckel. Great German Riesling – this from an Alsatian, so take my word! Finish: medium to long, a tad sweeter and rounder. Orange and passion fruit compote, and a wee touch of lavender honey for good measure. Comments: these are the malts to buy these days. There’s no better new old Speysiders, anywhere. Yeah, unless, you know, at auctions for hefty prices… Seriously, buy this if you can find it! Or its siblings… SGP:561 - 92 points.

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



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April 19, 2017


Port Ellen from 11 to 33

The First Editions (Hunter Laing) have a new Port Ellen, so we’ll try it! This is also a good excuse for first having too rather apéritive-y ones at lighter strength. 

Port Ellen 11 yo (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, bottled by Cadenhead, +/-1992)

Port Ellen 11 yo (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, bottled by Cadenhead, +/-1992) Five stars Always a thrill to be able to taste some young Port Ellen! This is probably a 1981, since Cadenhead were having quite a few of those young 1981 PEs in the early 1990s. Colour: straw. Nose: tarry and luminous at the same time. A marinade made out of limejuice and seawater with bits of new tyres inside, which is very Port Ellen indeed. After that, quite a lot of camphor (slight OBE starting to happen?) and a rather sublime sootiness. Old jacket kept near some peat fire. It’s narrow, millimetric, even simple, but it’s just totally perfect. Mouth: lemon curd and bags of ashes, plus some barley syrup, which makes it sweeter than expected. There’s some youth in this, and we even find ‘ideas’ of butter pears. Hints of fish oil, tarry rubber as often, and a growing saltiness. That’s right, it’s also oystery, but not quite kippery. Finish: long, very lemony, then brinier, then very ashy. As for the aftertaste, you’ve got the feeling of having just swallowed a whole ashtray. Comments: rather rounder than other young 10-12yo PEs, but brilliant. SGP:467 – 92 points.

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2008 (46%, John Milroy Selection, refill sherry, casks #2030+35)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2008 (46%, John Milroy Selection, refill sherry, casks #2030+35) Four stars In my experience those weren’t the best batches, but it’s still Port Ellen, mind you. Colour: white wine. Nose: this baby’s much chalkier, and more on wet fabric than the youngster, with notes of paint thinner and simply cow dung, as well as quite some porridge. A box of rusty nails, and a little lemon juice. Moderate peatiness. Mouth: there’s something slightly chemical in the arrival, then some peppery brine and some slightly stale lemon and apple juice. Touches of damp cardboard, and really more and more pepper. Feels a tad dissonant at times, but of course it’s very fine whisky. Finish: rather long, and very peppery, while it’s not that smoky. More chalky lemons… We’re not too far from Talisker here. Comments: extremely good, it’s just less ‘pure’ and ‘PE’. Perhaps a death seat after the marvellous youngster by W&M. SGP:356 – 86 points.

Port Ellen 33 yo 1983/2016 (55.9%, The First Editions

Port Ellen 33 yo 1983/2016 (55.9%, The First Editions, Author’s Series, sherry butt, 142 bottles) Five stars The author on the label is the English poet Lord Tennyson, who’s not very famous in France (to say the least). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s now well known that Port Ellen ages particularly well, and particularly slowly. In this case, it’s got as many ashes and bits of tarry rubber as in the earliest days, I’m sure. For example, it’s straighter than the latest official special releases, and this mentholy/camphory smoke as well as the tarry ropes and all the hessian just do wonders. Love this nose – and the sherry stayed right in its place. So, not very noticeable. With water: fabulous, smoked tweed jacket and Islay mud. Rolls and rolls of hessian. Mouth (neat): emblematic arrival, massive, very punchy, wonderfully citrusy, and superbly salty/smoky. Serious, this could be 15 years of age. Magnificent pink grapefruits with some white pepper, some ashes, and a wonderful ultra-dry sootiness, the whole getting tarrier and more almondy by the second. A big Port Ellen, rather for your hipflask than for the club. I’m finding some echoes of the Rare Malts, if that rings a bell. With water: as often, the drying ashes come out more. Some tangerines too. Finish: very long, superb, on, well, just everything that’s needed in an old PE that’s not that old. Citrus, smoke, salt, tar… A lot of tar. Comments: and so I’ve checked good old Wikipedia, and apparently, Tennyson wrote "My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure". That fits this little PE just right, very well done Hunter Laing! SGP:567 - 94 points.

(Thank you Jon, Reto, and Tom)

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



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April 18, 2017


Another bag of Bowmore

We could do some Bowmoreing today, what do you think? Until dead, since there’s so much new Bowmore, as well as so many interesting old ones that we haven’t tasted yet. But first things first, that famous newish official called… No, wait first, the apéritif…

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars and a half Because I’m often accused of only trying unobtainable whiskies. I don’t think that’s fair, I’m trying to taste all low-range officials on a regular basis, seriously! No, really, check the archives! And believe me, as we say in French, that is costing me. So… Colour: gold. Nose: take a little olive brine, add a little vanilla, add some smoked water, add a little lapsang souchong, add some artisan apple juice, add one oyster, and add a thin slice of banana. You have it. Mouth: really nice, really. Salted fruits, apples, pears, plums, a touch of vanilla, some cigar ashes, a wee sour side that’s very pleasant (brine)… It’s just that the body’s a little thin, and that’s the 40% vol. Finish: medium, ashy, seasprey-y. Nice finish, perhaps is there just a little too much ‘US oak’ in the aftertaste? You know, a plankish side? Comments: not my business, but they should do a regular 12 years old Cask Strength (do not tell me they already do). SGP:455 - 83 points.

Bowmore ‘Vault Edition’ (51.5%, OB, First Release, 2016)

Bowmore ‘Vault Edition’ (51.5%, OB, First Release, 2016) Three stars Without any age statement (boo!) but from a famous warehouse on Islay. This baby’s supposed to celebrate ‘Atlantic sea salt’, which reminds us of that old rumour about barrels being rolled in the sea from the distillery to the puffers, and gathering quite some seawater during the process. Ha. Oh and the price is stoopid. Colour: pale gold. Nose: hold on, vanilla, coconut, and pineapple? I’m not getting much Atlanticness, and neither do I get a lot of peat, this is very gentle, almost shy. Nicely tropical for sure, but it reminds me a bit of Laphroaig’s Select. Very intriguing, let’s see further… With water: damp hessian and old ropes, damp chalk (a lot), and simply fresh plaster. Mouth (neat): well defined, salty for sure, rather mezcal-smoky, and indeed quite tropical, with some kind of guava and grapefruits. With water: careful with water, don’t add too much of it, it’ll kill this baby. Light brine and a little vanilla. Finish: medium, with a little American vanilla (see what I mean) and a rounded kind of saltiness. Comments: I’ll tell you what, it reminds me of the first Bowmore ‘Legends’ from fifteen years ago. Very good, but maybe a little simple. Lighter Bowmore, despite the higher strength – although we wouldn’t call it ‘Bowless’. SGP:445 - 81 points.

Bowmore 2000/2016 (59.5%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #HL12312, 230 bottles)

Bowmore 2000/2016 (59.5%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #HL12312, 230 bottles) Four stars Usually very good stuff, from one of Hunter Laing’s affiliated brands. Colour: straw. Nose: a bit like listening to John Coltrane after Kenny G., if you see what I mean. Immaculately simple Bowmore, with a little earth and even some clay, but without any deadly ‘tropical vanilla’. Oh well I know what I’m trying to say. With water: paint remover and plasticine, plus ashes and ‘new stereo’. Mouth (neat): crisp brine, seawater, grapefruit juice, and repeat. Brine, seawater, grapefruit juice…  Very simple, but not a throwaway. With water: elementary, in a good way. Perhaps a touch of passion fruit. Finish: quite long, very clean, with a little vanilla indeed, but the smoke and the saltiness are defending the temple. Comments: simply very fine, not mindboggling, but very good, in other words some excellent Netflix Bowmore. SGP:456 - 85 points.

Rummage rummage… Perhaps another new one by Hunter Laing?

Bowmore 20 yo 1998/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13301, 275 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1998/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13301, 275 bottles) Four stars Ah, the OMCs, do you remember the first Broras and Port Ellens? Colour: white wine. Nose: very different. This time I’m getting old tin boxes, metal polish, gherkin brine, and only a trace of coconut. It’s very moderately smoky, and I’m even finding more and more vanilla fudge and light herbal teas. Chamomile, perhaps. Extremely gentle, so far. With water: the usual damp jacket and a little muddy porridge. Oh forget. Mouth (neat): this feeling of herbal tea again, with a mentholy side to it, as well as a lot of limejuice and then a massive salty smoke. That’s all good, you could even call it a bit ‘Hampdeny’, should you be a rum freak as well. With water: perfect, smoky grapefruit juice and touches of dried papayas. Finish: medium, rounder and fruitier, but with an ashy aftertaste. You just smoked a small cigar. Comments: actually a rather ashy/smoky one. Quality’s high, as expected. SGP:456 - 86 points.

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks 815801-815810)

Bowmore 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks 815801-815810) Three stars and a half It’s true that we do not try enough whiskies by Ian McLeod/Chieftain’s/Dun Beaghan on Whiskyfun. A shame, really. Colour: white wine. Nose: crisp and yet a little buttery. Hay and mud and damp beach sand, then a nice flowery side (honeysuckle, then hay) and perhaps a touch of fresh litchi. Hints of earth and roots. It’s all quite subtle, as often with small batch vattings of two to, say five casks. Mouth: very very good. Smoky grapefruits and salty lemons, what’s not to like? As usual, there’s also quite some brine. A wee burnt side as well. Over-roasted nuts. Finish: rather long, leafier, with some bitter chocolate and a sweet and sour brine. Much drier aftertaste, on old walnuts. Comments: feels a little ‘official’, don’t ask me why. SGP:366 - 84 points.

Bowmore 13 yo 2006/2016 (56.7%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, refill Burgundy, 276 bottles)

Bowmore 13 yo 2003/2016 (56.7%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, refill Burgundy, 276 bottles) Three stars Burgundy? Pure madness. That is right, Burgundy wood by the oldest independent bottler in Scotland (175 this year). Could we please know whether that was red or white Burgundy? Colour: white wine (serendipity?) Nose: little wine, and little smoke, and not a lot of Bowmoreness, rather a funny citronny smoke, and an obvious floral side, but not that from those whacky 1980s. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit lost. With water: smoked cider or something? Mouth (neat): did I say whacky? Lemons and almonds, with a wee soapy side, and an acrid ashy development. Sour apples. I’m still lost. With water: totally lost. Cider and orange juice, smoked. Or something. Finish: rather long. Razor clams cooked in wine? With wild leek? Or something like that? Comments: am still lost. A fourth dimension of whisky. Score dispensable. Roger. SGP:455 - 80 points.

Haha. We can’t leave all this at that, can we?... So a last one, but perhaps not just any Bowmore…

Bowmore 1962/1992 (43%, Moon Import)

Bowmore 1962/1992 (43%, Moon Import) Four stars and a half No comments, strictly. Now the 1964 ‘The Birds’ by Moon Import was rather immense… But ssh, let’s listen to this old glory… Colour: full gold. Nose: there are theories about those tropical fruits, some saying that they used to come from the yeast they were using when it was not all yield-oriented. What’s sure is that this is totally on dried figs and papayas, without the slightest hint of smoke, and that we’re rather evolving around oriental pastries, angel hair, baklavas, and all that. Figs and more figs, and then even more figs. In short some glorious old spirit that’s totally fig-driven, possibly because of some sherry casks that may have been involved, not too sure. So, dried figs. Mouth: aah… Ooh… It’s all figs-driven indeed. Figs, and figs, and figs. And I do love figs, although this may be the most expensive fig spirit (arrak?) ever. No, really, figs, figs everywhere. Sometimes very old sweet wines get very figgy as well, I’ll add, although that won’t help things along. So, figs. Small ones, large ones, figs. Dried. Finish: short to medium, and guess what? All on f….. Comments: as a matter of fact, I’m a sucker for dried figs. Especially those small ones that they have in southern Turkey, and that… Oh forget. SGP:542 - 89 points.

(merci encore, Emmanuel)

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



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April 17, 2017


Mrs. and Mr. Cardhu

Cardhu’s not very well known in the world, possibly because the Spaniards and the French seem to be quaffing it all. I remember well the ‘white labels’ in the late 1970s, you could find them in posh bars alongside Glenfiddich.

Cardhu 'Special Cask Reserve' (40%, OB, batch # Cs/cR.12.14, 2012)

Cardhu 'Special Cask Reserve' (40%, OB, batch # Cs/cR.12.14, 2012) Two stars and a half The first batches back in 2007 had been pretty okay in my opinion. Soft and very easy. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a flowery/nutty character at first, then rather cereals and cake, with a little honeyed apple pie. Rather nice touches of stewed rhubarb and freshly squeezed oranges. Mouth: sweetly malty at first, then all on apple pie and tarte and even cider. Same notes of rhubarb as well, and a little vanilla cream. Finish: rather short, but pleasant. I really like these notes of rhubarb pie with a lot of meringue. Some white chocolate and butterscotch too. Comments: totally ‘access category’ malt whisky, good for beginners – but we’ve all known beginners that had started their careers with some peat bombs. SGP:541 - 79 points.

Cardhu 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Cardhu 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars and a half There’s more sherry in this older Cardhu than in the regular 12. I had really enjoyed the first batches, quite a few years ago (WF 83). Colour: deep gold. Nose: I find it quite complex, with walnuts and roasted almonds at first, then rather overripe apples and other slightly acidic fruits, such as kiwis and greengages, as well as orange blossom. Then toasted brioche and some classic maltiness, with a few baked raisins (our beloved Alsatian kougelhopf) and a drop of coffee. Mouth: more sherry this time, with sour raisins and more walnut wine, then ripe kiwis again, and a honeyed/malty unfolding that goes towards dry roasted coffee beans and black chocolate. Black tobacco. This is a style that would be interesting at cask strength. Say 50% vol. Finish: medium, even drier. More coffee beans, black tea, and walnuts. Comments: a very fine Speysider, firmer than people usually think. I even find a Cragganmore-y side to it. Off you go, one more point! The Cask Reserve was rounder and sweeter – and easier. SGP:451 - 84 points.

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



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April 16, 2017


Happy Easter with old Cognacs

It’s true that we’ve had a lot of rum in recent months! Let's try to find some of the very best new old Cognacs that the Easter bunny has brought o us (quite)...

Bourgoin 22 ans (43%, OB, Cognac, 2016)

Bourgoin 22 ans (43%, OB, Cognac, 2016) Four stars This is single estate Cognac, 100% ugni blanc, aged in 350l casks then finished in tiny heavily charred 10l casks, and reduced with rainwater. The grapes come from the tiny little-known ‘premiers bois’ cru. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the fresh fruitiness that’s most impressive at first, with a blend of golden raisins, ripe peaches, and sunflower honey, then perhaps mirabelle pie and apricots, somewhat ala Balvenie. It seems, unless I’m wrong, that the small casks have also imparted notes of caraway and perhaps a little fennel and liquorice. Even verbena (Velay). Mouth: really very malternative, as we’re entering single malt territories indeed. Some mirabelle tarte covered with maple syrup, custard, and drops of citron liqueur, as well as notes of toasted brioche. The whole remains fresh and very seductive. Finish: not too long, but creamy, vanilla-ed, and rather pastry-like. Danish. A funny malty aftertaste. Comments: very good and very smart. We’re very far from the commercial caramelised Cognacs. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2016)

Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2016) Four stars and a half We’ve had an earlier batch four years ago. Lovely stuff. It’s a blend of old Cognacs, the younger ones being 40. Colour: dark amber. Nose: bam! It’s all very amazing, as almost everything at Vallein-Tercinier’s (WF’s favourite Cognac house!) Astoundingly subtle yet emphatic arrival, with two dozen fruits (say ripe apricots and white currants first, then oranges and similar citrus) and a luminescent (what?) herbalness. And sublime camphory touches. And moss and humus. Wow. Mouth: stunning fruity arrival, aerial and very fresh, and yet so complex… Some tropical fruits (mangos found on location, not in a western supermarket), ripe apples and pears, lots of melons of all kinds, raisins of course, some honeys, tiny herbs, forgotten herbal teas… Oh well, this is glorious. Only the body’s a tad thin, but you know what they always say in Cognac, ‘if we bottle at higher strengths, nobody’s buying the bottles’. I hope that is changing… Finish: a little short, but superbly clean and fruity. Stops rather abruptly Comments: the fact that this glory does not reach 90 in my book is only related to the low strength. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Now we’ve got a solution…

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Lot 90’ (51%, OB, Grande Champagne, fût #149, 990 bottles, 2016)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Lot 90’ (51%, OB, Grande Champagne, fût #149, 990 bottles, 2016) Five starsThe fact that this baby came to me in three different occasions may say a lot about the quality. It’s most probably a 1990, so around 25/26 years of age. Colour: full gold. Nose: less easy/sexy than the Hors d’Âge, and rather spicier, with touches of gingerbread and cinnamon cake upfront. The liquorice, and many cakes. Orange cake, for example. After just two minutes, it becomes very citrusy, in a splendid manner. Citron liqueur and myrtle, which indeed, sounds very Corsican. Mouth: brilliant, and once again, totally and plainly malternative. It’s a blend of old Benriach and Rosebank, in fact. Ah, that’s their secret! Plums and oranges tangoing to perfection, plus tangerines and notes of lemongrass, with a little spearmint behind all that. Superb. Finish: long (yeah), very citrusy, with some chestnut honey and a little pipe tobacco. One lavender sweet in the aftertaste. Comments: very hard to beat. One day we’ll organise a 6 Nation Tournament, with spirits instead of rugby teams. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Lot 90’ (51%, OB, Grande Champagne, for Liquid Art/Malternative Belgium, 180 bottles, 2016) Five stars I’m sorry, this is going to be short, I believe it is the same Cognac both on the nose and on the palate. Sure you’ll always find small differences, but I’m sure that would only be your mind playing tricks. Like, more speculoos and Trappist beer in this one. Of course I’m joking. Very well selected, Belgian friends! SGP:651 - 91 points.

What a session!

Petite Champagne 42 yo 1973/2016 (49%, The Whisky Agency, 483 bottles)

Petite Champagne 42 yo 1973/2016 (49%, The Whisky Agency, 483 bottles) Five stars Some good laughs were had with this one, as our excellent German friends used to call this ‘the Johnny Depp label’. While in truth, it’s a well-known self-portrait by Gustave Courbet, circa 1845. Now, it’s not impossible that Courbet was one of Mr. Depp’s ancestors… Ahem… Colour: deep gold. Nose: crikey, another great one. We’re wandering throughout similar territories, with the same bright and very complex fruitiness, some jams, some great honeys, and an exceptional creaminess. We’re approaching Cognacqy perfection, it’s just not one of those older earthy/rancioty ones. Oh and the oranges that are popping out are phenomenal! Mouth: we’re really in the same territories after the Vallein 1990. Bright and entrancing citrusy arrival, then jams and chutneys (mangos, blood oranges, quinces…) and a minty/liquoricy background that’s keeping everything straight. Some cinchona and ginger too, it’s even going towards the best kind of Aperol ever. Finish: long, brilliant, mandariny, with a layer of soft and gingery spices. Some ‘funny bitter apples’ in the aftertaste. Comments: well done Johnny Depp! Ha-ha-ha… SGP:651 - 91 points.

Perhaps a last one, and let’s stay at TWA’s…

Grande Champagne ‘Lot 19 NO.24’ (43.1%, The Whisky Agency, 38 bottles, 2016)

Grande Champagne ‘Lot 19 NO.24’ (43.1%, The Whisky Agency, 38 bottles, 2016) Five stars So, this is eighty years old Cognac distilled in 1924, paradised in 2004 (in demijohns of course), and bottled last year. What could go wrong? Colour: deep amber. Nose: awww… It is so fresh, so vibrant, and so extraordinarily fruity that you just cannot not adore it. Once again, it’s a bright one, not an ‘old style’ rancioty/fudge-y Cognac at all. In a way, it’s the opposite of those extremely pricy ones by the big brands. Although I do find hints of espresso in the back. Mocha, perhaps? Other than that, we’ve got pineapples, mangos, peaches, and melons. The best of all worlds. Mouth: I’ll say it, its got echoes of pre-war Macallan, and I am not joking. Touches of smoke, tangerine jam, orange blossom water, figs, cigars, Assam tea, the tiniest bit of artisan toffee… And yeah, oranges. A touch of hay as well. Finish: medium, incredibly clean, with only the faintest tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: a lovely session, wasn’t it. I’ll also add, since I know our most distinguished German friends can take a wee joke, that they’re lucky that their grandfathers didn’t drink it all while they were on location. Frieden und Liebe, peace and love! SGP:641 - 93 points.

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



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April 2017 - part 1 <--- April 2017 - part 2 ---> May 2017 - part 1



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Benromach 1975/2017 (49.9%, OB, refill American hogshead, cask #3434, 162 bottles)

Port Ellen 33 yo 1983/2016 (55.9%, The First Editions, Author’s Series, sherry butt, 142 bottles)

Port Ellen 11 yo (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, bottled by Cadenhead, +/-1992)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.9%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry)

Speyside Region 40 yo 1975/2016 (52.8%, Club Qing, Hong Kong, fino sherry butt)

Demerara 1974/2001 (45%, Samaroli)

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, Rhumhouse)

Grande Champagne ‘Lot 19 NO.24’ (43.1%, The Whisky Agency, 38 bottles, 2016)

Petite Champagne 42 yo 1973/2016 (49%, The Whisky Agency, 483 bottles)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Lot 90’ (51%, OB, Grande Champagne, for Liquid Art/Malternative Belgium, 180 bottles, 2016)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Lot 90’ (51%, OB, Grande Champagne, fût #149, 990 bottles, 2016)