(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2018 - Part 1


March 2018 - part 2 <--- April 2018 - part 1 ---> April 2018 - part 2


April 14, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Closed Distilleries:
A Random Assortment
It’s not a session which makes much sense really, but I have a bundle of samples from a variety of closed distilleries and, well, it’s always fun to taste such historical nuggets. We’ll try them in random order, but first, let’s kick off with a grain as a wee aperitif...


Lochside 31 yo 1962/1994 (56.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)

Lochside 31 yo 1962/1994 (56.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
I’m no big grain fan but I do tend to find that the old Lochside grains had a little something ‘extra’ to them. Let’s see if this theory holds malt! (Oh dear). Colour: Deep gold. Nose: I must admit, this is a lovely combination of furniture polish, quince, sultanas, some good VSOP cognac, toasted brioche and some glazed pastries. The wood aspects feel nicely polished rather than sawdusty and varnished or aggressive. There are also some crystalised citrus fruits and hints of some very old demerara rum. With water: some lovely notes of preserved fruit, apple pie, custard and aged muscat. Really develops beautifully with water. Mouth: Flambed banana, a little juniper, some oaky vanilla and orange cocktail bitters. Perhaps more typical aged grain territories here but still good. A little incense and chamomile as well. With water: just as on the nose water improves things. There’s wood spice, but also a little tobacco, olive oil and an earthy turmeric not. A hot mustard seed note rises with time. Finish: Long, oily, full of wood spice, polish and some dried fruits. Comments: I do still feel these old Lochside grains tend to display a slightly more substantial character. Would be interesting to know about the production process at the time and how it differed from the legendarily fruity malts they were making in tandem. Water worked well with this one.
SGP: 531 - 87 points.



St Magdalene 21 yo 1982/2003. (56.5%, Hart Brothers)

St Magdalene 21 yo 1982/2003. (56.5%, Hart Brothers)
Serge tried this one on WF back in 2006 and gave it 89. Colour: White wine. Nose: Prickly at first, then some underripe greengages, white flowers, tart gooseberries, cider apples, hay, chopped parsley and a little nectar and pollen. This sense of ‘heat’ continues with notes of grated horseradish and mustard seed. There’s also a chalk and pebbley mineral side ascending with time. With water: soft earth, white pepper, camphor, lamp oil and a chocolate lime sweetie. Some riper garden fruits as well such as cut green apples and a hint of grape must. Mouth: Bready, lemony and rather punchy. Full of sunflower oil, light waxes, hessian cloth, minerals, clay, chalk and a single pineapple cube. Muesli and assorted other drying cereal notes. Plus a scattering of mixed dried herbs. With water: mineralic and drying still, but the oilier, fattier and waxy qualities are also louder with water.  Who said Lowlanders were always delicate? Finish: Long and oily with toasted seeds, buttery toast and yellow flowers. Comments: I’ve always had a soft spot for St Magdalene and this one does nothing to dispel that. It starts out somewhat difficult but slowly charms you as it goes along. Was hovering around 87/88 but I think, on balance, I agree with Mr S (although not sure about the peat?)
SGP: 451 - 89 points.



Rosebank 12 yo 1980/1992 (60.1%, Kingsbury, sherry butt, cask #2467)

Rosebank 12 yo 1980/1992 (60.1%, Kingsbury, sherry butt, cask #2467)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Pow! A big fug of dense sherry, dark chocolate, prune juice, fig jam, soft earthy notes, camphor and many dark, stewed fruits. Notes of soft brown sugar, old cognac, earl grey tea, lemon oil and a wonderfully thick rancio note. Totally fabulous, old school sherried Rosebank! With water: it really starts to reach perfection now with this rising tropical fruit note. Papaya, dried mango, pineapple syrup and a gravelly earthiness underneath still. There’s also still plenty darker fruit notes such as sultanas and dates. Mouth: Extremely earthy and nutty. Full of hessian, bitter chocolate, cocoa and big meaty notes such as mutton and game. Dried raspberry, coal dust, aged mead, tar liqueur and black tea. A mighty dram! With water: leaner, more mineral, more citrus peel, cocktail bitters, turmeric, a distant lick of peat, some mineral oil and pink grapefruit. Totally brilliant! Finish: Superbly long, pin sharp, mineralic, earthy, chocolatey and all kinds of fruity. Comments: Those good folks at Kingsbury didn’t half select a few sensational casks over the years. This one is a total stonker! I feel like we will now need a short interlude...
SGP: 662 - 93 points.



(listens to Whiskyfun jazz recommendations for indeterminate amount of time...)  


Millburn 11 yo 1983/1995 (58.4%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherry)

Millburn 11 yo 1983/1995 (58.4%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherry)
For me, Millburn is the least tricky of the Inverness three. Although, I’m not sure that’s saying an awful lot... Colour: Gold. Nose: Typical, rather brutal, Invernetian austerity. All this kind of drying minerality, punchy wax, chalk, oatmeal, a hint of preserved lemon, salted porridge and something like ground concrete. You just feel straight away it’s going to be tough. Goes on with a little bit of vase water, a hot greenhouse and some cornflour. With water: gravel, a touch of soot and some grassy notes. Still brutal and rather aggressive though. Mouth: Big, rather uncompromising and some slightly unlikely notes of cardboard and porrdige in there. Some mashed potato, cooked asparagus, white pepper, sunflower oil and a little nutmeg. A little coca powder in there somewhere as well along with a slightly acrid ashiness. With water: these slightly cardboardy notes are only elevated with water, gets stringy, green and almost granitic in its stoniness - more Aberdeen than Inverness. Finish: A long, acrid mouth full of chalk with a few peppercorns and chunks of concreted in the mix. Comments: a perfect dram for the masochist in your life. Like trying to eat a box of water crackers with a gun to your head. Now, it’s not terrible, just totally extreme and utterly uncompromising. The kind of whisky you could use as fuel for a wasp-killing flame thrower in Drumnadrochit...
SGP: 242 - 74 points.



North Port 1980/1996 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #74.3)

North Port 1980/1996 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #74.3)
I have a soft spot for North Port, but I always felt that it remained a rather elusive and ‘unknowable’ malt. Colour: Straw. Nose: Lots of mirabelle eau de vie at first. Ripe pears, a little lychee, some sharp gooseberry, white flowers such as daisies and also some chalk and a cereal / weetabix note. Rather lovely and very fresh, although it’s very much in this old school, austere and extremely unsexy style. Although that’s a style that is very popular both at Whiskyfun HQ and Whiskyfun Edinburgh depot. Develops a clearer mineral edge with a little time. Some putty, rubbed lime skins and perhaps a little citrus infused mascarpone. While it is an ‘unsexy’ style, it still feels very easy. With water: a wee twist of lemon peel, some quinine (at the risk of appearing sacrilegious, it would probably work nicely with tonic) and finally some waxier tones as well. A little hessian and lick of something tropical begins to emerge. Mouth: Rather lean, crisp and bone dry. A young and punchy riesling. Some sappy, slightly green wood, white pepper, flints, more chalk and hints of porridge with the most miserly teaspoon of honey. Some cornflower and plain scones as well. With water: some barley water, a little touch of eucalyptus, lemon biscuits and a distant flicker of  caraway. Finish: Good length and surprisingly bready and yeasty. Some more very subtle lemony aspects, chalk and white stone fruits. Comments: A rather classical and extremely pure style of old school malt whisky. Totally naked and about as far from these wood-doctored contemporary styles as you can get. Exactly the kind of somewhat tricky, austere character that many of these less lauded closed distilleries so often display. However, there are glimmers of greatness in this one and, overall, I rather like it. Works well with a little water.
SGP: 351 - 87 points.



Dallas Dhu 18 yo 1977/1996 (58.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)

Dallas Dhu 18 yo 1977/1996 (58.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
After all these years, I’m still on the fence about Dallas Dhu. Colour: Straw. Nose: Nice! Lemony wax, some flints, a little earth, minerals, olive oil, brown bread...pretty textbook old school ‘highland’ style malt whisky. Goes on with a little pollen, aspirin, old paper, lychee, camphor, coal hearth and fresh herbs such as parsley and marjoram. With water: now it moves more towards wildflowers, pollen, nectar and honey eau de vie. Perhaps an old hay loft as well and some oily rags. Mouth: lovely, rather fat texture. Olive oil, soot, wax, some cereals, fresh malt, a touch of runny honey, green fruit syrups and a little orange liqueur. Very pleasurable! With water: cereals, brake fluid, waxes, citrons, mustard seed and coal dust. Great! Finish: Long, earthy, waxy, honeyed and full of robust cereal and barley sugar notes. A little orangey and spicy in the aftertaste. Comments: I was anticipating Dallas Don’t, but this is quite the opposite. One of the nicest and most pleasurable Dallas Dhu’s I’ve tasted in about as long as I can remember. It’s old school but the richness of texture, waxiness and honeyed edge balance the more austere edges perfectly. Like drinking a perfect old riesling (I know I keep using that analogy for old highland malts, blame Serge and Olivier!).
SGP: 452 - 90 points.



Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 16 yo 1977/1994 (60%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)

Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 16 yo 1977/1994 (60%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Not much to say about Pittyvaich, I’ve not had many over the years. Colour: Light amber. Nose: slightly saline at first. Notes of old Amontillado, wet earth, a rubber band, dark chocolate, hessian, crushed walnuts and some aged pinot noir. There’s also a little game, talcum powder, BBQ char and cherry heering. It veers into maraschino cherry territory as well which increases this overall impression of a decent Manhattan cocktail. Orange peel, salted liquorice and cloves should also all be noted. With water: marzipan, a little salted meat and some peanuts. Still rather big and punchy. Mouth: a rather big and earthy sherry, but it’s also clean and pleasantly fruity as well. Notes of strawberry wine, orange luxardo and walnut oil all come through. A little nougat, chocolate Brazil nuts, dunnage warehouse and cough medicine as well. With water: softer on the palate with water, some green fruit notes emerge now, along with sultans and red currants. A little raspberry jam doughnut as well. Finish: Medium-long and quite drying with lots of earth, some residual tannins, bitter chocolate and spices such as cloves and cinnamon. Comments: Very good. A big, clean, well-sherried Pittyvaich. Perfect for cold weather, comfort dramming.
SGP: 552 - 89 points.  



And one for the road...  


Port Ellen 35 yo 1978/2014 (56.5%, OB Special Releases, 14th Release, 2964 bottles)

Port Ellen 35 yo 1978/2014 (56.5%, OB Special Releases, 14th Release, 2964 bottles)
Once again, Serge has already written notes for this one, but I feel it would be a shame not to include it here. Colour: Gold. Nose: The thing that is quite striking about these older Port Ellens (and Caol Ilas as well) is the way the peat and maritime aspects intersect overtime to form this almost labyrinthian complexity. At random I get whelks, iodine, beach pebbles, creel nets, an oily peatiness, brine and dried kelp. There’s also lemon skins, wild flowers, heather, langoustines and fish sauce. Some peppery aspects, a little leathery note and some unlit cigars, then gorse and toasted poppy seeds. Really rather beautiful. With water: leafier and more earthy now with a bit of bonfire smoke, some chai tea and a few sprigs of dried dill. Mouth: natural tar, gentian, soot, kippers, brine, olive oil, myriad dried herbs, salted cod and a beautiful, undulating minerality. Preserved lemons and salted almonds with a little black olive tapenade as well. There’s also a lean meatiness as well, like a salted bacon fat note. A little smoked tea and some wasabi. With water: again it moves in an earthwards direction. Notes of flint, tea, sandalwood, coal dust and umami paste. Some black olive bread and a little rosemary. Finish: Long, resinous, coastal and citrusy with some lingering smoky notes and an ethereal peatiness. Comments: These bottlings are expensive no doubt, but they’re also quite beautiful whisky. Port Ellen seems to age spectacularly well, in my book.
SGP: 456 - 92 points.



(Big thanks to Hans, KC, Dirk and Nicolas!)  



April 13, 2018


A mixed bag of Indian whiskies

What came in, really, one whisky leading to another whisky, and so on. In short, life.

Rampur ‘Select’ ‘(43%, OB, India, 2017)

Rampur ‘Select’ ‘(43%, OB, India, 2017) Three stars
There’s Amrut, there’s Paul John, and there’s Rampur… Hope this isn’t their own Laphroaig ‘Select’… Colour: gold. Nose: I’m not sure I ever found this much orange blossom water in any whisky. And litchis and rose petals. This whisky’s certainly more ‘Indian’ than its famous compadres, and that works a treat if you like floral and fragrant whiskies. Mouth: it’s becoming a little more difficult, with some oak getting in the way of the soft fruits and flowers, but I find these notes of rosewater and oriental pastries (makrouts, Turkish delights) just very pleasant. Notes of bananas. Finish: medium, rather maltier. Some tea in the aftertaste. Comments: I think this was my first Rampur ever. A solid introduction…
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Amrut ‘Double Cask’ (46%, OB, India, cask #3451+3802, 2016)

Amrut ‘Double Cask’ (46%, OB, India, cask #3451+3802, 2016) Five stars
Those two casks were distilled in 2009 and 2010. The kind of details that the Scots couldn’t give you on their labels. I had tried a Double Cask in 2010, it was just magnificent (WF 91) but that was when we were just discovering Amrut’s glorious whiskies… Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re sitting exactly in the middle between a great whisky and a great rum. Sublime raisins (a proper PX cask, I suppose) and even some moscatel, but also notes of cane juice and heather honey. Cassata, panettone... well, Italia’s best sweet stuff. A glorious nose. Mouth: how good this is! Gorgeous tobaccos, raisins, prunes, quinces, mirabelles, Danishes, horns of gazelles… There’s some PX, but this baby took that PX so much better than 99% of the Scotch whiskies that have been savagely PX-ed… Finish: rather medium, but complex, with herbs, sage, rosemary, thyme… and of course always a lot of raisins. Comments: an impressive drop at a rather fairish price. You just need to like raisins as much as I do.
SGP:741 - 90 points.

Paul John ‘Peated Select Cask’ (55.5%, OB, India, +/-2016)

Paul John ‘Peated Select Cask’ (55.5%, OB, India, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
I had tried this expression a few years ago, it was great. This is a newer vatting… I know, India plus peat sounds pretty unlikely… And Goa plus peat even more so! Colour: gold. Nose: some cake and ham that someone would have smoked using beech and pine woods. Huge notes of chicken bouillon, parsley, chives, wild leek, basil… And then husk and moist crushed barley. Quite an experience, I’ll tell you that. With water: wet earth mixed with dried apricots. Or something like that. Mouth (neat): simpler, but perfect. Smoky woods and fruits, rather than peat. We’re talking mangos, incense, teak, cedar, thuja, cloves… With water: gets drier, perhaps a tad too woody (plank). Not sure it swims too well. Finish: long, peppery, a little drying. Over-infused black tea. Comments: it all started extremely well, but I think it’s rather averse to water on the palate.
SGP:464 - 79 points.

Paul John 'Edited' (46%, OB, India, +/-2016)

Paul John 'Edited' (46%, OB, India, +/-2016) Three stars
I believe this is the first expression of Paul John I’ve ever tried. Colour: gold. Nose: honeysuckle, lime, ripe peaches, papayas, vanilla, apple compote, marzipan, dog roses. All fine, all fine. Sweet tomato jam. Mouth: a bit more ‘jumbled’, with some oak that’s perhaps not perfectly integrated (think young core-range Speysider), also walnut cake, caramel, apple peelings, amber beer, white pepper, leaves, oranges… Finish: medium, rather malty, with some green tea and bags of fruit peelings. Green melon. A touch of cardboard in the aftertaste. Comments: no, it’s good, even very good. It’s just a little, yes, jumbled. I mean IMHO. By the way, wasn’t this baby meant to be peated? I couldn’t find any obvious peatiness.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Another try…

Paul John ‘Classic Select Cask’ (55.2%, OB, India, +/-2016)

Paul John ‘Classic Select Cask’ (55.2%, OB, India, +/-2016) Three stars and a half
I had really liked this expression a lot back in 2013 (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: there, litchis, apples, pot-pourri, papayas, more litchis, triple-sec, vanilla… With water: we’re getting closer to barley and herbal teas. I’m thinking lime-flower tea… Mouth (neat): a creamy fruitiness, some oranges, some vanilla, a coconutty touch, butter pears, chamomile tea, bananas… So far so good. With water: average, in the best sense of that word. Could have been Tomatin, could have been Benriach, could have been... say Tomintoul. A sweet and rounded barley-y fruitiness. Finish: medium, on bananas and ripe apples. Comments: go taste this blind and locate the distillery. Game?
SGP:541 - 84 points.

Back to Amrut if you please…

Amrut 2009/2016 (60%, OB, for Hot Malt, virgin oak, cask #958, 102 bottles)

Amrut 2009/2016 (60%, OB, for Hot Malt, virgin oak, cask #958, 102 bottles) Three stars
102 bottles, was that all what was left after six or seven years? Colour: amber. Nose: peated mangos! We could leave this at that, really, but there’s also some white chocolate, some mirabelle jam, and perhaps some agave syrup. With water: mentholy and resinous. Marijuana. Mouth (neat): boisterous, sweet at first, peaty, lemony, herbal… Then some chlorophyll, vanilla fudge, dare I write hashish, then some over-brewed green tea, the bitterest grapefruits, quite a lot of oak… What a monster! With water: same-ish, quite a few drops of my faithful Vittel won’t do much to this Hulkian whisky. Finish: very long, green, resinous, rather acrid. Comments: could be the virgin oak (why did the old distillers totally despise new oak?) Certainly good, but too heavy for me. Heavy extractions not always work very well.
SGP:471 - 80 points.

Amrut 2011/2016 (56.5%, OB, for Hot Malt, PX sherry, cask #4122, 624 bottles)

Amrut 2011/2016 (56.5%, OB, for Hot Malt, PX sherry, cask #4122, 624 bottles) Two stars and a half
It’s good to know that this is ex PX sherry, as the vast majority of the PX casks that are used in the whisky industry do not come from Jerez. Rather Montilla or Huelva, or from elsewhere, perhaps… Colour: amber. Nose: whiffs of gunpowder, then teas, then burnt cakes, then over-baked raisins. A wee feeling of late-harvest Gewurz. With water: more of all that. Green Sauternes, Rivesaltes, raisins. Incredible amounts of raisins. Mouth (neat): totally huge, almost scary. Marc de raisin, and three tons of sultanas. Make that four. With water: extreme raisin-ness. I would say it tends to become a little cloying… Finish: very long, not totally balanced (to say the least), and simply extremely raisiny. Mad. Comments: insane and monstrous. Not that I’ve got anything to hold against raisins, mind you. Cough cough… Now my compadres the Malt Maniacs just loved it last year at the MMM Awards 2017 and gave it solid gold, so I may be the lame taster here. Remember, just individual tastes, one man's poison will be other men's ambrosia.
SGP:741 - 72 points.

I may need a rest…


April 12, 2018


Balvenie today

As it says…

Balvenie 15 yo ‘Single Barrel Sherry Cask’ (47.8%, OB, cask #2052, +/-2018?)

Balvenie 15 yo ‘Single Barrel Sherry Cask’ (47.8%, OB, cask #2052, +/-2018?) Three stars
They say ‘this bottle is one of no more than 800 drawn from a single cask’. That’s more than a fair amount from a ‘single barrel’, or do they mean ‘single butt’? Colour: full gold. Nose: whiffs of pencil shavings – which suggest a newish seasoned cask – and then chocolate, with some rather spicy pumpernickel and fruitcake. Cloves, Vicks, ginger, flints, walnuts, and more wood shavings. I don’t think this is a good old butt that’s been kept for fifteen years, just between us. Mouth: indeed, notes of spicy new oak, caraway, ginger, turmeric, then oranges, more pumpernickel, rye, and more chocolaty walnuts. Finish: long, with something Asian. The spice combo, I guess. Comments: some very well made modern malt whisky. Feels like some ‘work’ has been done on it, it’s probably not only about time.
SGP:451 - 82 points.

Balvenie 14 yo 2002 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, American oak, 2017)

Balvenie 14 yo 2002 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, American oak, 2017) Four stars
Indeed they make proper peated whisky at Balvenie, one week per year. So this is not supposed to be some traditional Balvenie that’s been kept or finished/flavoured in some ex-peater wood. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very soft peat and frankly, it doesn’t feel like if it was all peated malt in the first place. Notes of tinned pineapples, mirabelles (which is very Balvenie in my book), acacia honey, coconut, and just ‘wee whiffs’ of peat smoke. Mouth: pretty good. Smoked pineapples, smoked plums, smoked gooseberries, and cider apples. Behind that, some green marzipan and quite a few tangerines. Notes of hay wine – ever tried that? Finish: medium, mildly peaty, with more mangos. Ashier aftertaste. Comments: many peaters from Speyside have been a little ‘meh’ in my book, but I have to say that I enjoyed this one, for it tasted less ‘skinny’ than others. And better balanced.
SGP:554 - 85 points.

And so there’s that teaspooned B******e…

Burnside 1991/2018 (50.3%, Caora, refill barrel, cask #7407, 233 bottles) Four stars
So on the papers, this is a blended malt and not a single. Colour: pale gold. Nose: full Balvenie-ness, with many plums, fresh hazelnuts and walnuts, touches of apricots, and quite some fresh cut grass. This one’s totally natural. With water: liquorice allsorts and bubblegum in full swing. Coconut balls. Mouth (neat): lovely. Pure, with some marshmallows, a wee fermentary side (or would that be muesli?) and tons of mirabelles. I’m a sucker for mirabelles. This is extremely and plainly Balvenie-y. With water: perfect. Reminds me of those famed 1970s. Finish: perfect plums, a spoonful of all-flower honey, and the expected apricoty touch. Comments: it’s a very controversial issue, but I’ll say it again, aren’t the indies becoming the real guardians of the distilleries’ styles? While the distillers are rather becoming mad carpenters (and cooks)? PS, let's keep listening to R.L. Burnside!
SGP:541 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Balvenie we've tasted so far


April 11, 2018


We need Laphroaig!

It’s just that we haven’t been tasting any Laph’ since a good few weeks. Please help me to remember that I need to try a recent batch of the regular 10 before I forget… But that won’t happen today, I’m afraid (or not)…

Laphroaig 19 yo 1996/2016 (53.3%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Taiwan, refill hogshead, cask #DL10720)

Laphroaig 19 yo 1996/2016 (53.3%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Taiwan, refill hogshead, cask #DL10720) Four stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: the cask has been very active but Laphroaig’s big spirit, so they do tango here. Earth, lapsang souchong, caraway, pickled capers, acidic coffee, black olives, sauerkraut, dried kelp on a beach (on Islay, of course), a touch of acetone… Wasn’t it a sherry hogshead? With water: it’s a pipe burning and a huge bag of old walnuts. No sherry, really? Mouth (neat): rather huge, but well balanced. Heavy whisky, full of tobacco, tapenade, tar, liquorice, bitter oranges, walnut wine, and above all, really a lot of ashes. Crunching coal! With water: perfect bitter herbs chiming in, more walnuts, soy sauce, more lapsang souchong, and just a wee bit of yuzu to kind of lift it. Hugely ashy. Finish: extremely long (we used to write ‘as a Fidel speech’ when he was still alive), extremely ashy. That feeling of having eaten the ashtray. Comments: extreme stuff, some would call it pachydermic, in truth. Others would say it’s not for the faint-hearted. I say…
SGP:378 - 85 points.

Hope #2 will be better civilised…

Laphroaig 25 yo (54.2%, OB, selected by Allen Chen, cask #5124, 2017)

Laphroaig 25 yo (54.2%, OB, selected by Allen Chen, cask #5124, 2017) Five stars
Lovely, really lovely, now they tell you that this single cask #5124 was stored in warehouse #07, stow #331, level #001… but they wouldn’t tell you about the vintage, how funny is that? Unless I’ve missed something… Now it’s most possibly a 1991 or a 1992 (well I've heard it was a 1992)… Good vintages. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yes, obviously. Sunflower and argan oils, marzipan, bandages, whelks, carbon paper, rubbed grapefruit skin, almond milk, ink, cigarette ash… This is classic Laphroaig, and greatest of news the oak has been kept at bay. We don’t need ketchup. With water: hurray! Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Totally well chiselled, delicate, yet very ‘there’, and somewhat 1960s-y. Mouth (neat): luminous, tropical, with passion fruits, lemons, kippers, ashes, liquorice, peppermint, camphor, creosote… In short a Botticelli after a Jeff Koons. Exaggerating a bit, I agree. With water: there, inked and marzipaned (oh, no!) mangos. Just, should you ever come across this very rare bottle, please don’t add too much water, that may kill it. A bit. Finish: long, concise and precise. Some great smoked Pouilly-Fumé. Yep, there’s some limestone and flints. Comments: simply the light after the dark. There’s something Faustian to this little session… To think that we had thought they had broken the mould…
SGP:467 - 92 points.

Perhaps a last one from the old boxes… (stuff that we didn’t try when they came out, for any bad reasons…)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2005 (51.9%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, sherry, 271 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2005 (51.9%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, sherry, 271 bottles) Five stars
I agree this is totally anecdotal. Colour: deep gold. Nose: kaffee-schnapps, coal smoke, peat, tobacco, earth, coal tar, walnut cake, black tea (old samovar)… I have to say this older bottling was pretty brilliant, without anything too monstrous to show. But let’s move on… With water: seawater, beach barbecue, bandages, in short Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): why have I missed this one? Perfect smoky, tobacco-y, perfectly dry, with perfect walnuts, perfect black tea, perfect dried beef… (nothing perfect in these notes, really, S.) With water: and boy it does swim! Finish: long, salty, brine-y, smoky, a tad more orange-y… Comments: woo-ooh! (that was all too lousy and sloppy, Serge, thou shall have to try another one… - Ed.)
SGP:367 - 91 points.

Okay, so for the glory of all this…

Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (58.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon)

Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (58.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Five stars
Another one from the old boxes. It’s just that these very distinguished German bottlers were having many great Laphroaigs when this was bottled, while there was some kind of whisky overflow at WF Towers. Which is still the case by the way, but better late than sorry … there… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the simplicity that’s very impressive. Lamp oil, sea spray, oysters, lime, skin moistener (which is good, mind you). Almond milk (kind of the same thing). With water: millimetrically Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): one of the best distillates known to normal men and women. Ashes, ointments, creosote, tar, lemons, almonds. There’s not a throwaway in the bunch. With water: mangos? That’s very 1960s… Finish: perfect ashy and lemony almonds witn some iodine and mercurochrome. Comments: the most medicinal Laphroaig we’ve tried today. Sublime distillate that just doesn’t need any wine or vanilla or coconut, just like Bach never needed André Rieux (you take that back S., or some will say you’re an elitist - again). These were mundane and pretty cheap ten years ago, but this level of quality is hard to find these days. Unless you’ve got 300 spare Euros… No, really, it’s all getting pear-shaped…
SGP:447 - 90 points.

(Thank you Allen!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Laphroaig we've tasted so far


April 10, 2018


Another Clynelish trio

Have you ever been to a pub with some indie bottlers, and had one or three beers with them? You may have asked them that seminal question then, ‘what’s your personal favourite distillery?’ It’s not impossible that they would have answered ‘Clynelish’. Indeed, nothing beats real-life experience…

Clynelish 19 yo 1996/2017 (49.1%, Adelphi, cask #11446, 174 bottles)

Clynelish 19 yo 1996/2017 (49.1%, Adelphi, cask #11446, 174 bottles) Five stars
It seems that Adelphi are still owned by a large chain of Scottish opticians (ooh that was funny, S.) Colour: gold. Nose: typical grassy/waxy and mineral Clynelish, with bits of orange zests and indeed some kind of medicinal wax. Or depilatory waxes? Other than that, the expected limestone and apple peelings. Mouth: hugely punchy, you’re almost swallowing axeheads. Big lemons, plaster and chalk, paraffin, grass juice, and just a touch of camphor-flavoured fudge – should that exist. It’s really massive and some aspects remind me of ‘old Clynelish’, really. Its austere side, perhaps. Finish: very long, a tad pungent, very waxy. Crunching a church candle. Comments: just right up my alley, the opposite of those fruitier and easier Clynelishes that one may come across here and there. No secret that I love this bribeless style.
SGP:362 - 90 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55.1%, Acorn, Japan, cask #4048)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55.1%, Acorn, Japan, cask #4048) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: total wax and grass. You can’t make whisky that’s more austere. Flints, shoe polish, new £5 T-shirt form of those large killing brands (no names but you know where you may buy 5£ T-shirts, don’t you). With water: bandages! Mouth (neat): there, peppered limoncello and chalk juice. A very blade-y, high-precision, sharp, millimetric Clynelish. The ones we enjoy most! With water: a wee tad more rounder citrus. Tangerines, perhaps. Finish: rather long, and rather rounder indeed. Beeswax and Corsican citron liqueur (as drops). Comments: same very high quality and a style that’s incomparable. Almost 91 but I’m trying to hold my horses.
SGP:452 - 90 points.

Clynelish 1997/2017 (57%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, sherry puncheon, cask #9441, 581 bottles)

Clynelish 1997/2017 (57%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, sherry puncheon, cask #9441, 581 bottles) Two stars and a half
In theory, there isn’t a thing that could go wrong here. Indeed, but only in theory, because in my experience, Clynelish and sherry may clash… Colour: deep gold. Nose: indeed, it’s much less ‘clean and zesty’, and rather more on dusty old walnuts and a pile of old National Geographics. A little cured ham as well, a touch of gunpowder, and then more and more leather. With water: nicer! Miso soup with croutons and bits of leather thrown in. I know, I know… Mouth (neat): strange-ish, really very leathery. Strong earthy caramel and some kind of peppered café latte and butterscotch. Mustard and honey sauce. With water: more of the same. Gets thickish, while we’re almost eating pipe tobacco. Finish: long, leathery, tobacco-y. Comments: extreme and pretty dissonant. Not the first time that happens, but the problem may not come from Clynelish and sherry, it’s probably Clynelish and sherry and me.
SGP:272 – 78 points.

Quick, salvation (this wasn’t planned…)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (49.4%, Brachadair)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (49.4%, Brachadair) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s more ‘moderate’ than all the others, and rather on croissants, brioche, custard, pollen, Camel cigarettes (as I remember them), then wet earth and crushed chalk mixed in a little tincture of iodine. Forgot to mention plasticine. Classic, just a little softer. Mouth: there’s been some good oak activity, and there is a little sour menthol in the arrival, but it is way fresher than the puncheoned one, herbal, medicinal, and actually kind of peaty. Notes of bitter oranges, and always this chalky/waxy side that we enjoy so much. Finish: rather long, with wee coastal notes, seashells plus bitter oranges plus green pepper. Smart combo. Salted fudge and salt peanuts (hi Dizzy) in the aftertaste. Comments: not an ueber-clean Clynelish, but it’s got enough Clynelishness to please me mucho mucho.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

(Merci Fabien!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far


April 9, 2018


Old Pulteney, reloaded

Well, we had just tried the 12 – 17 - 21 the other day, the latter being now discontinued. Even the 17, I’ve heard from some friends. Very good whiskies! But there’s also a newer 25, and we just couldn’t wait any longer…

Old Pulteney 25 yo (46%, OB, 2017)

Old Pulteney 25 yo (46%, OB, 2017) Four stars
From American and Spanish oak casks (re-racked in oloroso two years before it was bottled in late 2017). Colour: full gold. Nose: no feeling of quick finishing, rather a fresh nose, with ripe peaches, dandelions, lilies, then ripe blood oranges, then cigarettes, eucalyptus, embrocations, cinnamon… I find this freshness impressive, while it could have been a little heavy. Still a ‘coastal’ malt… Mouth: the oak’s a tad loud(ish) now and I have to say used to find the official 40 fresher. Many candied and dried fruits, candied angelica (big), maraschino cherries, a touch of Turkish delight (rose flavoured), and more and more raisins. A bit rich, perhaps. Some cloves, caraway and cinnamon from the oak. Finish: long, rather more on oranges, which is obviously nice. The oak’s more apparent in the aftertaste. White pepper and cinnamon, kirsch, Black Forest cake, more rich maraschino... Comments: very high quality, just a tad ‘too much’ for me. I liked the 17 rather better, for it was much… fresher.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Old Pulteney 1983 (46%, OB, 2017)

Old Pulteney 1983 (46%, OB, 2017) Four stars and a half
Same combination of American and Spanish oak casks, same way of finishing it, but this one’s almost ten years older. Should we worry? Mind you, it’s thirty-three years old… Colour: dark amber. Nose: most bizarrely – and happily – this one is fresher, more floral, more coastal, rather more medicinal… and less oaky/dry-fruited. It’s also got many more citrus, oranges, tangerines, mandarins, even pink grapefruits… All in all, it’s rather more ‘Pulteney’, which is very nice, obviously. Mouth: we’re closer to the 25, but this isn’t as ‘rich’ (I’m not saying cloying) while the oak would rather go towards cedar, incense, something balsamic… Some Seville oranges too – those always work – as well as touches of salted millionaire shortbread (remember the ones they were having opposite Bowmore distillery?) and, once again, angelica. Wee touches of mulled wine but all is fine, nothing excessive. Finish: long, a tad more oaked. I would have loved to try this baby before they did the finishing. Oranges to the rescue in the aftertaste. Comments: very good and rather brighter than the 25.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Pulteney we've tasted so far


April 8, 2018


Five more rums for a Sunday

We keep exploring the rum world, trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. Or the natural ones from the doctored swill…


Please remember that my assessment of any spirits is only a strictly personal opinion and is done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who usually prefers distillate-driven spirits, and dislikes anything doctored, aromatised, hybridised, or tampered with, thank you – and peace!

Ron Esclavo ‘XO’ (42%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2017)

Ron Esclavo ‘XO’ (42%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2017)
Some 23 yo rum from a solera, at approx 60€ a bottle. We’ve seen that elsewhere and so we’re very afraid. Is there anything that’s really authentic in this? Haven’t all ‘brand builders’ been jailed already? Colour: deep amber. Nose: flat and sweet. When even the nose is sweet, that says a lot. Caramel and niente, nichts, nothing, rien, nada. Mouth: more sugar than in sugar. Some horrible liqueur, with a little chocolate and molasses. Finish: short, which is a blessing. Artificial orange liqueur, corn syrup. Comments: terrible and miserable doctored stuff, they should sell it with a free toothbrush. And if this is 23 yo, and even if there’s a drop of 23 yo rum inside, I’ll eat my beret.
SGP:810 - 30 points.

Guadeloupe 14 yo (47.1%, Single Cask Collection, Solera System, 566 bottles, 2017)

Guadeloupe 14 yo (47.1%, Single Cask Collection, Solera System, 566 bottles, 2017) Three stars
Some rhum from Guadeloupe in a solera system? That’s new to me but as I always say, I'm extremely far from being a rum expert… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s light and fresh, rather all on sugar cane juice, with touches of aniseed and dill at first, then rather cut grass and hints of melon. Very light for La Guadeloupe… Is it traditional/industrial? Mouth: more body, although I wouldn’t call it ‘heavy’, at all. Some mentholy and even mustardy oak (sandalwood?) plus notes of crushed bananas and ripe melons. Some pears too. Finish: short to medium, more on melons. Melon liqueur. Comments: feels a bit like sweet Remoneinq, not too sure. Unusual, but good, for sure.
SGP:740 - 80 points.

Don Pancho 21 yo (50%, Sansibar, Panama, 279 bottles, 2017)

Don Pancho 21 yo (50%, Sansibar, Panama, 279 bottles, 2017) Two stars and a half
We already tried the 25 yo, it was pretty good (WF 79) given that in theory, this is absolutely not our preferred style of rum. Colour: deep reddish amber. Nose: smoked ham in your rum? That’s not unpleasant, not at all. Pemmican, meaty honey, roasted cashew, honey sauce, molasses, pipe tobacco… It’s style, it’s a style… Mouth: sweet, luscious, rich, with some pineapple liqueur, Cointreau… It’s as sweet as Diplomatico, but much more complex, I would say. Loads of honey and agave and maple syrups. Finish: medium, extremely sweet. Five kilos of liquorice allsorts in the aftertaste. Comments: what can I say? Not my style at all, but within that style, I’m sure it’s one of the better ones.
SGP:720 - 79 points.

Rum 970 2007/2016 (40%, OB, Portugal, Madeira, agricole)

Rum 970 2007/2016 (40%, OB, Portugal, Madeira, agricole) Four stars
It’s not very well known that the ‘agricole’ appellation works for both some French rums AND some rums from Madeira. Really loved these makers’ 2006 at cask strength last year (WF 86). Oh and these are becoming rather cult(ish) these days… (hint, hint)… Colour: deep amber. Nose: fennel seeds! Then caraway, wormwood, menthol, balsam, fresh-pressed cane juice, orange juice, and a wee meatiness. Spanish ham. Excuse me, Portuguese ham. Frankly this nose is quite stunning, with a formidable freshness. Mouth: okay, this rocks. There’s a tad too much oak for me, but the profile is impeccable despite the lower strength. Chocolate and coffee, triple sec, always these fennel/aniseed notes (a marker, perhaps?), plus notes of pine resin and thin mints. Liquid After Eights. Finish: medium, chocolaty and coffee-ish. A feeling of tiramisu, if I may… Comments: these rare Madeirans aren’t very well-known but they’re worth your distinguished attention. The next Easyjet flight leaves at 13:35, gate #...
SGP: - 85 points.

Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2017 (54.9%, The Duchess, Guadeloupe, cask #22, 303 bottles)

Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2017 (54.9%, The Duchess, Guadeloupe, cask #22, 303 bottles) Five stars
We have no fear here… By the way, rhums from Marie-Galante are sometimes labelled as ‘Guadeloupe’ and sometimes as ‘Marie-Galante’, as the wee island is administratively part of Guadeloupe. Got it? Colour: dark amber. Nose: not the first time we’re trying some ’98 Bellevue, and not the first time we’re much pleased. This is a perfect slightly mentholated chocolaty profile, with superb whiffs of fresh cane juice, then prunes and raisins, then camphor and small berries. Impeccable. With water: wonderful! These whiffs of fresh peppermint just work a treat. Mouth (neat): luminous, zesty, cane-y, complex, citrusy, earthy… With water: amazing, a tad earthier, herbal, tense yet rich… This is one of the best rums in the world. Finish: very long, perfectly herbal, grassy, cane-y, slightly phenolic and smoky… Comments: exceptional agricole rum. I mean, rhum, from the Islay of the French Caribbean. I know, pushing it a wee bit…
SGP:462 - 90 points.

(Merci Francesco!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


April 7, 2018




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Yet More Assorted Duos
After a rather epic holiday in Argentina, it’s time to regroup and attack the sample stash once more. I think we’ll go for random pairs again and attempt to keep things relatively brief and concise. So, without further ado...


Blended Malt XO (45.8%, The Whisky Agency for Three Rivers Tokyo, Sherry Wood Matured) 
Blended Malt XO (45.8%, The Whisky Agency for Three Rivers Tokyo, Sherry Wood Matured)
Colour: Gold. Nose: Fragrant and leafy sherry, lots of crushed ferns and damp forest. Some gravel, some coconut, a few stewed raisins and a touch of hessian. All very pleasant, present and correct. Mouth: Slightly leathery, more earth, a little pine resin, fabric, cooked cereals and even a touch of millionaire’s shortbread. A bit simple perhaps, but clean and flavoursome. Gingery after a while with some strong tea. Finish: Medium length, a little sooty, some more leafy notes and touch of black pepper. Comments: A pleasant and easy going, medium-sherried dram. Not hugely exciting is all I’d say.
SGP: 331 - 78 points.


Blended Malt 40 yo 1977/2018 (42,9%, Thompson Brothers, Sherry Butt, 150 bottles)
Blended Malt 40 yo 1977/2018 (42,9%, Thompson Brothers, Sherry Butt, 150 bottles)
A lovely, if somewhat Freudian, label on this one. Colour: Amber. Nose: Straightforward prunes, dates, dark chocolate and sultanas at first. Expressive and pretty vibrant for its age. Some earth, a few soft spices, stewed red apples, toffee, golden syrup and a dusting of brown sugar. Maybe a little caramelised oatmeal as well. Perfect aged sherried malt whisky. Mouth: A wonderfully soft, elegant and balanced mix of chocolate buttons, earth, balsamic, a little rancio and candied fruit peel. Some dried banana chips, mint tea and orange throat sweets. A wee suggestion of dunnage and sack cloth at the back as well. Finish: Good length, velvety in texture and darkly fruity. A wee nip of mulling spice. Comments: A cracking, extremely pleasurable and quaffable old blended malt. Well selected!
SGP: 541 - 90 points.


Glenallachie 23 yo 1992/2016 (47.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 126 bottles) Glenallachie 23 yo 1992/2016 (47.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 126 bottles)
Colour: Straw. Nose: Lots of fresh butter, cereals, grass, lemon peel and hay. A very pleasant and clean, classical light malt whisky. There’s a lean and pervasive fruitiness as well, lots of pears, apples and banana that wraps itself nicely around the malty sweetness. The natural strength works well here, feels like it’s been caught at the right time. Mouth: an intriguing mix of barley water, icing sugar, grass, very subtle wax, lemon oil, white pepper and chlorophyll. There’s a light gravelly quality as well. A Twix bar somewhere in the depths adds a little caramel biscuit as well. Finish: Medium length and with sweeter notes of digestives, runny honey, rice pudding and a little vanilla. Comments: Perfectly good, honest, very easy going malt whisky. Although, I suspect much of the character comes from time spent slowly interacting and oxidising in a refill hogshead for many years.
SGP: 431 - 85 points. 


Glenallachie 23 yo 1992/2016 (48.6%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogshead) Glenallachie 23 yo 1992/2016 (48.6%, Cadenhead Small Batch, Bourbon Hogshead)
Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Richer and sweeter. More buttery, more caramel, golden syrup, toffee apple and custard. It feels largely like the same distillate just from a more active cask. With a little time these slightly lighter and fruitier tones emerge: fruit chews, starburst, lemon sherbet, Edinburgh rock. Mouth: Lots of custard and many confectionary notes such as some chocolate limes, pear drops, cola cubes and cherry tunes. Underneath there’s a wood spice aspect as well and some orange peel. Finish: Good length, more biting, a little more tannic and globally sweeter and more lemony. Comments: Sweeter overall and slightly different to the AC I feel but for me they’re similar ballpark in terms of quality. Good, clean quaffing whisky but not the most exciting really.
SGP: 521 - 84 points.


Aberfeldy 24 yo 1975/1999 (55.4%, The Bottlers, cask #3947) Aberfeldy 24 yo 1975/1999 (55.4%, The Bottlers, cask #3947)
Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Hay, gravel, horse sweat, tool boxes, oily rags and a few a milk chocolate sprinkles to crown everything off. A curious and rather entertaining old Aberfeldy.  With a minute or two it starts to open up more on straight waxiness and more brazen mineral qualities. A few green fruits, some pocket-warmed jelly babies and a shot of bramble liqueur. Some runny honey as well. With water: white flowers, grass, lemon drops and a dollop of fresh mud. Mouth: Punchy, mineralic, flinty and then chalk, earth, farmy qualities and some damp hay. A granitic kind of stoniness. Some lemon oil and aspirin as well. Veers between fullsome old highlands style and a more obfuscating kind of austerity. With water: the flintiness and stoniness is a little more pronounced now. More chalkiness and more hay but also more hessian, some olive oil and perhaps a few dried herbs. Finish: Good length, all on light wax, dusty wood, messy workshops, some graphite and a few lingering stony mineral qualities. Comments: It seems Serge tried this one at some point in the past and gave it 82 but didn’t record any notes. I think it’s by no means an easy/sexy old dram - the austerity and stonier aspects make it a tad more brutal and tricky - but I do feel it’s worth a couple more points as it certainly has its old school charms.
SGP: 252 - 84 points.


Aberfeldy 24 yo 1975/2000 (57.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherry, 234 bottles) Aberfeldy 24 yo 1975/2000 (57.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherry, 234 bottles)
Older Aberfeldys are uncommon enough but in my experience you see very few matured full term in sherry, although this is one of a few sister casks bottled by Cadenhead. Colour: Light amber. Nose: More varnished and polished than the Bottlers, this is all on soot, soft waxes and gingerbread. Underneath there is black pepper, some old ointments, roast chestnuts, a few fingers of crushed KitKat and a slice of moist Dundee cake. Maybe a few prunes soaked in Armagnac as well. Clean, punchy and very good. With water: develops notes of putty, a few pencil shavings, dried sage and Cherry Heering. Mouth: Lots of brown toast slathered in orange and coriander marmalade at first. Crystallised fruit peels, herbal teas, some maraschino cherry and bitter chocolate. Also some young cider apple brandy and wet grains. With water: ginger nut biscuits, lemon rind, corn oil and a hint of pomegranate molasses. Finish: Medium-long and rather spicy and gripping with a few nibbling tannins and notes of five spice, black pepper and blackcurrant sweets. Comments: I think I preferred the neat nose but globally it’s a fine and surprisingly potent and muscular Aberfeldy. Normally I feel it’s often a slightly ‘meek’ highlander - evidently it can throw its weight around when it wants to. Very good stuff.
SGP: 462 - 89 points.


Ben Nevis 11 yo 1998/2009 (46%, OB for TKS, sherry butt, cask #358, 766 bottles) Ben Nevis 11 yo 1998/2009 (46%, OB for TKS, sherry butt, cask #358, 766 bottles)
Colour: Gold. Nose: Rather unmistakably Ben Nevis with these fat, almost glycerol notes of banana skin, olive oil, soot, pineapple syrup, barley water, muesli and coconut. One of the most characterful makes still produced in Scotland if you ask me, and these late 1990s vintages seem to be broadly excellent. Goes on with a little sun lotion, cornflour, green fruits, pear cordial and an ever-present background waxiness. Mouth: big, emphatic delivery. Still hugely oily in texture, almost like paraffin wax in consistency. It feels like bottling at 46% has done it no harm at all. Sunflower oil, trail mix, crushed peanuts, soot, crunchy bars and a little aged mead. There doesn’t seem to be much input from the sherry cask, but with such a characterful distillate I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. A touch of marzipan and almond milk with time. Finish: Long, heathery, earthy, lightly waxy and with notes of lemon oil, milk bottle sweets and pu-erh tea. Comments: Big, uncompromising, hugely textured and flavoursome highland whisky - to the point of being slightly discombobulating which makes it oddly tough to score. There isn’t really anything else like Ben Nevis at the moment and that can only be a good thing I feel. Hopefully this kind of quality is still maintained and continued to appear in future bottlings.
SGP: 552 - 89 points.


Ben Nevis 31 yo 1968/2000 (43%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #457) Ben Nevis 31 yo 1968/2000 (43%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #457)
Colour: Gold. Nose: Jings! (as we’re prone to saying in Scotchland) A massive wallop of fruits! Tropical fruit in the form of dried mango, passionfruit, pineapple cubes, guava. Then there’s ripe cantaloupe melon, lychee, gooseberry, kiwi and star fruit. Totally beautiful and superbly fresh! In fact, you start to wonder if there’s even anything else in here under all this fruit juice...ah yes, some sandalwood, a few buttons of white chocolate (Milkybar), and a rather surprising coastal edge that comes with a wee mineral flourish as well. Develops ad lemony aspect with time along with some fresh sourdough starter. Pretty spectacular really. Mouth: It feels more Ben Nevisey now. There’s this delicate but pleasing synchronicity between the 1998 and the palate on this one, it’s got something of very old Irish Whiskeys about it (only better) with these lightly metallic, apple peeling and delicate syrupy notes - almost like a very old pure pot still style. Some wax, wet grains, barley water, chamomile tea and more mineral and sandalwood qualities. Bitter lemon and tonic as well. Finish: Long, flinty, citrusy and oily with notes of turmeric, wet earth, bracken, olive oil, green tea and a few more lush green fruits. Comments: Why is Ben Nevis not more of a ‘thing’? Answers on a postcard (addressed to Serge).
SGP: 641 - 91 points.


Glenfarclas 1990/2017 (46%, OB ‘Thomas Carlyle’, sherry casks, 3000 bottles) Glenfarclas 1990/2017 (46%, OB ‘Thomas Carlyle’, sherry casks, 3000 bottles)
Thomas Carlyle was a celebrated 19th century Scottish philosopher, satirist, historian and mathematician (amongst various other things; he was something of a polymath). Not to be mistaken for Robert Carlyle who played Begbie in Trainspotting and once did a very long advert for Johnnie Walker. Although, I’m sure the good folks at Glenfarclas will get around to releasing a dedicated ‘Begbie Bottling’ one of these decades... Colour: Light amber. Nose: Soft sherry, garden fruits, apple compote, a hint of juniper, some sandalwood and a little blossom. Develops nicely with acacia honey, pollen, toasted sunflower seeds and some freshly baked soda bread. A few more dried dark fruits such as sultanas and raisins. Mouth: A cognac-esque arrival. Rather toasted, polished and with a vibrant fruitiness. Hints of nutmeg, orange oils, brioche, warm croissant and bay leaf. There’s also an undercurrent of warm custard, red apple peelings and muesli. A kind of sweetish, cognac raisiny quality still pervades. Finish: Long, very lightly earthy, more subtle wood spice, fruit pastilles, honey and buttered toast. Comments: A very fine, mid-aged, well balanced Glenfarclas. The sherry is every present but extremely deft and elegant. A perfect sherried dram for people who aren’t nuts about heavy sherry.
SGP: 421 - 87 points.


Glenfarclas 1975/1985 (57.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.7) Glenfarclas 1975/1985 (57.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.7)
Colour: Deep amber. Nose: Another galaxy! Stunning! A spectacular mix of nuts, dark preserved fruits, fruit compotes, demerara sugar, bitter chocolate, rancio, hessian and wet earth. Figs, prunes, sultanas, apple crumble, herbal liqueurs, cherry eau de vie, balsamico. An utterly stellar sherry cask has been involved here and the complexity just keeps on unfolding. With water: bread, smoked tea, cured meat, aged pinot noir... antimaltoporn brigade please! Mouth: Massive delivery, rich with ripe dark fruits, lashings of various kinds of fig and date, soy sauce, plum wine, jasmine tea, rosewater, lychee syrup, camphor, black pepper and umami paste. Some strawberry liqueur as well, perhaps drizzled with Fernet Branca. With water: sublime, sherried elegance and precision. Also an immense and beautiful concentration of flavour. Once again: antimaltoporn brigade, pronto! Finish: Endlessly unfolding with all kinds of chocolate, espresso, roast nuts, raisins soaked in cognac, long aged rum and various dark fruit compotes. Amazing! Comments: Whenever you taste a whisky matured in one of these old school sherry casks these days, it’s hard not to be totally halted dead in your tracks. An extinct character and quality if you ask me, one that just embarrasses what passes for many modern ‘sherry’ casks. And of course, you needed incredible distillate to match the cask which you have with this one as well. What’s also interesting is that it was likely a sibling cask to the 1.1 which was also a relatively dark sherried 1975. Anyway, world class old sherried Glenfarclas.
SGP: 652 - 94 points.


(Thanks Nicolas)  



April 6, 2018



Did you notice that I did not write ‘more Mannochmore’? We’re making progress, aren’t we. As for Mannochmore, don’t worry, we won’t have Loch Dhu again today, rather a few new or newish indies, including a wee bunch by the excellent folks at G&M’s… This time we’ll take the strengths into account, not the vintages or ages… While not forgetting that Mannochmore isn’t Brora, let’s remain cooool…

Mannochmore 1996/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry)

Mannochmore 1996/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry) Two stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: immediately a little burnt, not obligatorily in a bad way. Burnt bread and caramel, over a good deal of herbs and grasses, plus pieces of carbon paper (who remembers carbon paper?) and wee touches of soap, plus something a little mouldy, in a way. Some pipe tobacco, perhaps. Unusual malt whisky… Mouth: rather dry, and more or less on the same kinds of notes, burnt grasses, soot, burnt sugar (Demerara), bitter oranges, orange sweets (or concentrate). One funny baby! Finish: rather long, with this malty bitterness and always a lot of grassiness. The tobacco’s back in the aftertaste, together with a rubbery touch, and then strawberry yoghurt (!) Comments: a funny and interesting baby, and an unusual style that’s becoming a lost art, I would say. Un-commercial malt whisky?
SGP:461 - 79 points.

Mannochmore 20 yo 1997/2017 (52.7%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 276 bottles)

Mannochmore 20 yo 1997/2017 (52.7%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 276 bottles) Four stars
G&M always had some Mannochmore within their ranges, but that’s not totally the case with Cadenhead, so if they selected this one, there must have been something… Colour: straw. Nose: when a tense grassiness works as an asset, provided you’re ready for it. Much sharper and tighter than the 1996, certainly more austere, mineral, and kind of sooty. A very dry and austere nose, I do not detect the slightest hints of sweetness yet. Or perhaps a little bubblegum, but that may be the high strength…  With water: moss and even lichens! Mouth (neat): one malt whisky! Extremely grassy indeed, but with bonbony touches as well. Juicy Fruits, liquorice allsorts, orange candies… With water: aniseed comes out, absinth, more orange candies… That’s good, really good. And indeed, unusual. Finish: long, grassier again, a wee tad harsh. Strong green tea. Comments: for lovers of spirit-driven whiskies exclusively. That’s good timing, I’m one of them.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Mannochmore 2006/2017 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, Taiwan Exclusive, refill sherry)

Mannochmore 2006/2017 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, Taiwan Exclusive, refill sherry, cask #12934) Three stars and a half
This one could be pretty mad… OH and did you notice that the name of the distillery could be that of a doom metal rock band? (or something like that?) Colour: gold. Nose: the 1996 at the power of ten. Massive notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, two boxes of rubber bands, a thimbleful of washing powder (don’t be afraid), and then a meatier development, with some soy sauce mixed with some toffee, and perhaps drops of old heavy Demerara rum. With water: the same kind of faint soapiness as in the 1996 comes out, but it goes away much faster. Fresh concrete. Mouth (neat): very interesting. Cigar tobacco, dried beef, marmalade, clove, soy sauce, and a growing minerality, between chalk and… well, chalk. With water: gets almost civilised, with burnt cakes and certainly more malt. Peanut butter and Ovaltine bars. Finish: long, very malty, with more marmalade and always this very wee rubber. Comments: good beast. And everyone needs a Mannochmore in the cupboard – and that couldn’t be Loch Dhu.
SGP:461 - 83 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Mannochmore we've tasted so far


April 5, 2018


Wolfburn’s latest

No secret that we’re Wolfburn fans at WF Towers. There are some new ones, let’s have them (you didn’t rack your brain S., did you…)

Wolfburn ‘Kilver 3’ (50%, OB, 2018)

Wolfburn ‘Kilver 3’ (50%, OB, 2018) Three stars and a half
Not too sure about what this is, it’s all written in Gaelic Greek Viking or something on the back label… I believe it’s for Switzerland… Colour: straw. Nose: unpeated! So creamy and vanilla-ed, with preserved peaches and quite a lot of barley syrup, maple syrup, and even wee touches of preserved litchis. Forgot to mention preserved pears. Mouth: young not immature, creamy, barley-y, fruity… Typical very young malt whisky handled with much care and attention. No need to rack our brains indeed, and it does deliver. Finish: medium, fruity, nicely chiselled, just pretty simple – in a good way. A little earth in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s more the texture that’s to be noted here. I doubt one could do better at this age. What, four? Five?
SGP:541 - 83 points.

Wolfburn ‘Gessner’ (55%, OB, 2018)

Wolfburn ‘Gessner’ (55%, OB, 2018) Three stars
Who’s on the label? Galileo Galilei? Leonardo? Jimmy Page? Theresa May? Colour: straw. Nose: a pretty similar profile, with this creamy barleyness, the overripe pears, all the syrups, the discreet feintiness (an asset actually, or it won’t further age gracefully)… and whiffs of porridge from a good house. All fine. With water: barley and fudge, plus preserved peaches and pears. What I really enjoy a lot is that the vanilla is kept at bay. Remember, vanilla kills spirits (I think). Mouth (neat): full-flown youth with perfect pastry-like flavours, Danishes, syrups, peach jam… With water: great. Hay, pears, apples, creamy barley. Love the taste of barley in my malt whiskies. Finish: medium, on the very same notes. A touch of earth in the aftertaste, always welcome. Comments: a slightly creamier version of the Kilver, which I enjoyed just a touch better. It’s hard to make much better at this age. Well, it’s probably impossible.
SGP:541 - 82 points.

Wolfburn ‘No.270’ (46%, OB, 2018)

Wolfburn ‘No.270’ (46%, OB, 2018) Three stars and a half
No. 128 was excellent (WF86) and this has more than double the figures (270 vs. 128!), so we’re expecting much… (someone will have to explain all this in details to you, S.) Colour: straw. Nose: some light smoke this time, gravel, soot, muddy waters, vase water, whelks, beach sand… You see… Some fruity varnish as well. Mouth: we’ve known Coal Ilas… Smoked pineapples and pears, just a wee-wee acetone-y touch, a blend of fruit syrup with brine, and the thinnest slice of gherkin. Finish: long, almost perfect, just a wee tad ‘superficial’. As if the 128 was a tad more profound, but then I haven’t got that one on the table. Comments: still very impressive. Now they could do it like Kilchoman, give us the ages, even if the numbers are low. We don’t care about numbers or ages, we care about transparency. Whatever, love Wolfburn anyway.
SGP:634 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Wolfburn we've tasted so far


April 4, 2018


American madness, five at a time,
part three and last

For now! And I think we’ll have some very special ones today, watch the end…

Booker’s 6 yo (62.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, batch #2017-01E, 2017)

Booker’s 6 yo (62.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, batch #2017-01E, 2017) Four stars
High corn content here, as we have a mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley. It comes from Jim Beam’s and I have to say I enjoyed some previous batches (but those were 7 years old). Colour: deep gold. Nose: there is some varnish and even acetone, as well as some cellulosic glue, which is rather normal under these circumstances, but it never gets too vanilla-ed, although it’s pretty oaky. Some earth, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and only then touches of coconut. Not too ‘commercial’, whatever that means. With water: softer but also spicier and breadier at the same time, you would believe there’s much more rye. Mouth (neat – careful): rather extreme, highly extractive, full of vanillin, varnish, chillies, white pepper, eucalyptus syrup, pine resin… It’s really huge and almost aggressive, pungent, with a high tannicity, and yet it’s not plain oak juice. With water: classic, softer bourbon, more brioche-y, with a thin slice of rye bread and one small violet drop. Finish: Comments: I’m not finding this very complex but it’s got excellent presence and all these bready tones always work at WF Towers.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Reservoir Bourbon (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2017)

Reservoir Bourbon (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2017) Four stars
100% corn this time, according to their website. Really enjoyed their rye yesterday (WF 87) but I hope this won’t be too sweet… Colour: dark amber. Nose: sure there are marshmallows and bubblegum, plus a good bag of popcorn, but there’s also a very nice earthiness that may come from the oak, near chalk and plaster. Very nice sour touches as well, chutneys, and dare I even write ‘ketchup’? With water: rather more varnish and oak shavings, but some bread as well. Nice balance. Mouth (neat): surprisingly citrusy and spicy, as if there was some… rye. Spearmint, cinnamon, pencil shavings, orange zests, a touch of lime, some bitter chocolate, coffee beans… The whole’s much drier than expected, which is good news after all. With water: orange blossom, sweet corn, chocolate, black bread, a touch of prune and black currants… Finish: long and rather jammy. Blackberry jam, prunes, chocolate. A funny touch of sweet wine in the aftertaste. Port? Comments: obviously very young, but they made it very well and the small barrels they’re using have been, say smart? Same score as the Booker’s in my book.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Very Old Fitzgerald 8 yo 1958/1966 (43%, OB, for Germany, Kentucky Straight Bourbon)

Very Old Fitzgerald 8 yo 1958/1966 (43%, OB, for Germany, Kentucky Straight Bourbon) Five stars
These bottlings by Stitzel-Weller have become legendary, and they were saying it on the label, they were ‘bottled expressly for Connoisseurs of Fine Bourbon’. So not too sure I deserve it, what do you think?… I should add that I had tried a Old Fitzgerald 1958/1965 a few years ago and liked it quite a lot, but OF isn’t quite VOF, is it? Colour: very dark amber. Nose: in truth this is close to some brilliant very old Cognac, with these subtle notes of peach jam, then all these prunes, dried figs and dates, proper artisan chocolate, ham, then old Demerara rum, these discreet whiffs of musk and broom, these juicy black raisins (Corinth)… There’s also a little tar, most welcome. Frankly, I wouldn’t have said this was old bourbon for sure, could have been very high-quality old Cognac, Armagnac, or rum.

Mouth: a maelstrom of stewed, jammed, and dried fruits, but without any kind of apparent sweetness. It’s a long list, raisins, dates, apricots, damson plums, bananas, pineapples, peaches, figs, dried pears… And then we have quite a lot of chocolate, some tobacco, Assam tea, and even a drop of stout. As much as one could have thought it was old Cognac on the nose, this is clearly and loudly bourbon. Brilliant bourbon. Finish: long and very chocolaty, and that’s the silky tannins speaking out. Some chocolate-y mocha. Love the meaty, almost game-y feeling in the aftertaste. A little stout again as well. Comments: in short, this was kind of the old Macallan of bourbon. Say the 25 1965 Anniversary (or yeah, many others). It’s extremely impressive, despite the lower strength.
SGP:651 - 94 points.

Good, shall we jump over prohibition, so to speak?

Belmont (no ABV statement, Kentucky bourbon, sour mash, +/-1910)

Belmont (no ABV statement, Kentucky bourbon, sour mash, +/-1910) Five stars
An extremely rare old bourbon from a legendary Louisville distillery that was closed for good when prohibition occurred, although I’ve seen that Schenley kept using the brand name. Love this mention on the label, ‘This whiskey is guaranteed to be mashed in little tubs and distilled on the old fashioned hand made sour mash plan.’ This very bottled had been sold in Illinois according to the old tax sticker. Colour: deep gold. Nose: fantastico, subtle, full of apricots and peaches, with a perfect honeyness and, cross my heart, notes of old Yquem. Not just any Sauternes, Yquem. Underneath that, touches of ham, mint, sultanas, a wee bit of cigarette tobacco. We’re miles away from contemporary bourbon, but that may be the result of perfect bottle aging, you never know… Mouth: amazing. A notch simpler than what the nose suggested, but this supreme sweet breadiness is just magnificent. Apricot and raisin bread, damson pie, a drop of pine cordial, a spoonful of proper homemade custard, and just a little rye-y bread. Really, this is magnificent. Finish: rather long, really smooth and complex, with a feeling of spicy Stolle and other Germanic fruitcakes. Comments: not a suprise, but… yeah, no, a complete surprise. Amazing tireless old bourbon.
SGP:651 - 93 points.

More worthy info about the old Belmont distillery over there.

Old Overholt 1909 (no ABV statement, Mellon private bottling, American rye, +/-1927)

Old Overholt 1909 (no ABV statement, Mellon private bottling, American rye, +/-1927) Five stars
That is right, Old Overholt rye from Broad Ford, Pennsylvania. These batches appear to have been privately bottled for the Andrew Mellon family around the late 1920s, so during prohibition. The Mellons used to own shares of the distillery, and these very bottles do come from the family estate. Today’s Old Overholt is rather made at Jim Beam’s in Kentucky, as the original distillery was closed for good around 1960. Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh my! This is so rich, so ‘tropical’, so full of mango juice and papaya jam… This freshness is a little troubling I have to say, but the provenance of these bottles was impeccable. Amazing notes of apricot jam as well, wee touches of copper, cigars, millionaire shortbread (the Mellons were millionaires, after all), then thuja wood, menthol, camphor… I’d call this ‘luminous’. And medically sound, of course. Remember, prohibition…

Mouth: feels like a good 45% vol., and starts stunningly honeyed. Heather honey, for example, manuka, sage… That’s just stunning. Goes on with ripe and dried figs, mirabelle jam, mead, a little white chocolate, macchiato, preserved peaches, soft pipe tobacco… It’s the ‘vibrancy’ that’s totally impressive here, the freshness… Finish: rather long, perhaps a tad simpler now, and rather all on sultanas. Unexpected touches of liquid caramel and even maple syrup, plus some eucalyptus. Hints of Japanese sweet red bean paste in the aftertaste. Comments: as amazing as the Belmont. The latter was just a wee tad more complex in my book, but this Overholt had a little more oomph. Perhaps. Oh splitting hairs once again, we’re flying very high anyway. Just the right smack.
SGP:741 - 93 points.

Old Overholt
More worthy info about the
old Overholt distillery over there.

(Mucho, mucho gracias, Joe H.!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all American whiskies we've tasted so far


April 3, 2018


American madness, five at a time,
part deux

Simply going on with what we have in the library, five at a time…

Reservoir Rye (50%, OB, American whiskey, +/-2017)

Reservoir Rye (50%, OB, American whiskey, +/-2017) Four stars
From a genuine distillery in Richmond, Virginia, and hundred percent rye, hurray! So not madly branded and story-told sourced whisky, apparently… Colour: dark amber. Nose: there, kudos! Some bread and some chestnut honey, some rye (seriously) and a good five slices of the moistenedmost pumpernickel. Could be just a few months old but we just shan’t care in this context. Mouth: very very, and I mean very good. Very earthy rye, blood oranges, liquorice, sweet and spicy chutneys, and more chestnut honey. Very rich, but perfectly clean. We’re keeping this short and sweet, but I’m pretty impressed. Finish: long, perfect, liquoricy and chestnutty. Dark maple syrup and not-too-sweet moscatel in the aftertaste, plus some earthy and spicy rye. Some raw buckwheat too, which is funny. Comments: I don’t know if they’re using the ‘craft’ word, but they sure know their craft. Did I tell you I was impressed?
SGP:561 - 87 points.

While we’re at rye…

FEW ‘Rye Cask Strength’ (60.5%, OB, USA, +/-2018)

FEW ‘Rye Cask Strength’ (60.5%, OB, USA, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
We’ve already tried – twice – their rye at 46.5% and loved it (WF 86) but this seems to be different story. As FZ would have said, it’s made by those Illinois bandits… Psst, FZ = Frank Zappa. Colour: apricoty gold. Nose: a tad shier, more self-restrained than the Reservoir, but also perhaps more elegant, with lovely breads and old orangey/herbal liqueurs. Fresh warm baguette (I’m French, can’t change that) and various small flowers, woodruff, elderberry, honeysuckle… With water: earth and old books plus spicy mead. That always wins. Mouth (neat): ho-ho-ho, this rocks! Spiced-up oranges, caraway-y bread, zucchini flower beignet, fennel, raw celeriac, turmeric, ginseng… This is pretty insane, in truth. With water: and there, many breads, we’re almost having breakfast in a Viennese palace. Excuse me? Yes, with Champagne. Finish: long, a tad sweeter and rounder, with many honeys. That’s great, most whiskies get drier at this stage. Comments: loud applause. Sadly, it’s not in Chicago that I’m staying these days, I would have gone knocking on their door…
SGP:661 - 88 points.

All going goodly, but something even more extreme? Let’s try some juice from those mad people at Lost Spirits’…

Lost Spirits ‘Abomination Chapter 1 Crying of the Puma’ (54%, OB, American spirit drink, +/-2017)

Lost Spirits ‘Abomination Chapter 1 Crying of the Puma’ (54%, OB, American spirit drink, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Long story short, this is something very controversial they’re making quick using a nifty device. And no, not Elon Musk. But we don’t taste methods or stories, we taste drinks. So… (although I’ve noticed from the label that they’ve been using ‘late harvest riesling seasoned American oak staves’ – rolling on the floor here…) Colour: orange amber. Nose: lapsang souchong tea blended with agricole rum and crumbles of garden peat. Not as stoopid as it sounds. Also raw wool, mud, and… what, Ardbeg? With water: an old Chinese medicine shop, with many roots, plants, and God knows what else.  Yes, Ardbeg, for example. Mouth (neat): yes and no. No because it’s very monolithic, and yes because the flavours are sexy. We won’t call this porn whisky, but indeed there’s something, say unusual, with mustard seeds, curry, and burnt latex. With water: sweeter, more on Asian fruits, vegetables, and spices. Turmeric’s coming out once again. Finish: that’s the weaker spot, it’s getting dry and pretty oaky. Cocoa powder and eating grass. Too bad, we were having lots of fun. Comments: how do you score such a crazy thing? Any ideas?
SGP:571 - 78 points (Angus gave it 72 a while back).

Noah’s Mill (57.2%, OB, bourbon, +/-2017)

Noah’s Mill (57.2%, OB, bourbon, +/-2017) Three stars
Don’t we all remember that wonderful Noah’s Mill 15 yo from around ten or fifteen years ago? (WF 87) This very version seems to have lost its age statement, as many have, but let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: maximum vanilla, coconut, sawdust, and maple syrup. Nice but simple, like a Coldplay song (I know, I apologise, elitism kills…) With water: cakes in a bakery around 7am. Mouth (neat): frankly this is very good, straightforward, sweet and spicy, with cloves and tons of gingerbread. It’s just simple and it tastes ‘young’. With water: same. Good and simple, vanilla, rye, a clove-y bitterness, lavender… Finish: rather long, nicely spicy, rye-y, clove-y, gingery… Some honeydew on the aftertaste – and some green tannins. Comments: very good, just not totally magical anymore. Too young, perhaps…
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Willet’s 3 yo ‘Family Estate’ (53.7%, OB, Straight rye whiskey, +/-2017)

Willet’s 3 yo ‘Family Estate’ (53.7%, OB, Straight rye whiskey, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
This is well new Willet juice. How many great old Willets have we tried in the past? Legends… Oh and it was a smart idea to keep the old livery totally intact. Colour: deep gold. Nose: feels a tad harsh and indeed, young and grassy, but I do enjoy these notes of green peanuts, coffee beans, perhaps asparagus (the white ones, obviously, the green ones are for our English friends ;-)), and medicinal balms. It’s certainly not one of those easy/sexy young bourbons, even if there are also nice notes of green orange essence. With water: ge-ra-niums! Mouth (neat): like this distillate a lot. For once this is not all wood-driven, and I cannot not think of those small berry eaux-de-vie we’re making here in Alsace. Sorb, rowan, elder, holly… With water: really good spirit, straight and yet showing great signs of complexity, with a spicy flowery side that’s most pleasant. Finish: long, with hints of cologne and indeed geranium water. Comments: the last ‘new’ Willet we tried three years ago had been a little difficult (WF 73) but this one’s already showcasing depth, beside its own flowery/spicy style. IMHO as we used to say on the free Internet.
SGP:451 - 79 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all American whiskies we've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

March 2018

Favourite recent bottling:
Teeling 27 yo (41.6%, OB, for Switzerland, Irish, single malt, rum cask, cask #658, 2017)
- WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Ardbeg 18 yo 'Special Liqueur' (91.3° US proof, OB, USA, Kraus Import New York, 4/5 quart, 1930s)
WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Ardbeg 10 yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, +/- 2018) 
WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Hampden <H> 7 yo 2010/2017 (62%, Velier, 70th anniversary,Jamaica, #107, 1679 bottles)
WF 91

April 2, 2018


American madness, five at a time

Given that’s I’m currently on American soil (tah-da-da-da-da-daaa), I thought we could as well have a few bourbons and other whiskies from the good old US of A. At random and in all wildness, naturally… Oh by the way, indeed yesterday was April Fools Day, but the tasting notes were genuine.

Early Times ‘Old Reserve’ (40%, OB, bourbon, +/-2018)

Early Times ‘Old Reserve’ (40%, OB, bourbon, +/-2018) one star and a half
As always with whisky, old means young and reserve means 'we've got plenty of that'. . This is rather cheap, and a brand by Brown-Forman. Colour: gold. Nose: very light, caramelly, easy, with notes of buttered popcorn and vanilla, as well as a little sawdust. No deep spirit but it does the job, I suppose. Mouth: sweet, light, not bad at all, oaky and maize-y, but it tends to become a little gritty and oaky, as if the distillate was too shy to stand the wood treatment. Some bubblegum and Fanta, plus oak and a little coconut. Finish: short, a tad sugary. Sugar syrup and sawdust. Comments: not too bad but barely interesting. Lacks texture, I would say. Let’s move on…
SGP:430 - 69 points.

Jack Daniels ‘Sinatra Select’ (45%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2015)

Jack Daniels ‘Sinatra Select’ (45%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2015) Two stars
Some expensive celebratory bottling of a ‘bold smooth classic’. Ha! I suppose Frank didn’t select the barrels himself, but it seems that the insides of the barrels have been prepared so that oak/spirit contact would be increased. Some kind of self-finishing, as I understand it. To each his own way… Colour: amber. Nose: cinnamon galore, then cardboard, sesame paste, and sawdust. It’s not unpleasant at all, but it’s all about oak. Quality oak, probably… Mouth: very sweet, then spicier. The distillate’s a little thin while the oak’s a little loud, which tends to make this really sawdusty, but the spices save it. Caraway, cinnamon, caramel… Finish: medium and oaky. More oak spices over a distillate that remains a little thin. Geranium and touches of lavender. Comments: not a big fan (love Sinatra though). JD’s single barrels or Master Distillers series are more to my liking, and much cheaper.
SGP:520 - 72 points.

1792 (46.9%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2017)

1792 (46.9%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
A brand by Sazerac, said to shelter a higher rye content. No it wasn't distilled in 1792 (that was funny, S.) Colour: amber. Nose: smooth and nutty, pastry-like, pleasant, with some maple honey, sesame, Jaffa cake, and indeed whiffs of spicy bread, that may be the rye. Some toffee too. Mouth: it literally kills the Jack Daniels. Much spicier, firmer and tenser, with some white pepper, nutmeg, gingerbread, cedar wood… It’s actually pretty tannic, but that rather works in this context. Nice bready notes, pumpernickel, rye bread… Finish: medium, oaky and spicy. Cranberries. Nice honey and melon jam plus a lot of cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps a little excessive as far as oak is concerned, but isn’t the whisky industry all about oak anyway these days?
SGP:451 - 78 points.

Elijah Craig ‘Small Batch’ (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2018)

Elijah Craig ‘Small Batch’ (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2018) Three stars
Formerly a 12 yo, now an NAS, so younger. Of course we have no proof but do not dream. We were having the excellent 12 yo at WF 85 just two years ago. Colour: amber. Nose: well, it’s as nice as it gets, all on cakes, maple syrup, roasted peanuts and pecans, without much varnish this time, but with a lot of custard, then rye bread, pumpernickel, eucalyptus, and thuja wood. Forgot to mention butterscotch. Mouth: very spicy, oak-driven, much less fruity then the earlier batches, with some tea, toasted brown bread, rye, cinnamon… So it could be that power was handed over to the wood here. A feeling of sawdust and just some grenadine or pomegranate syrup at the fruit department. Finish: medium, oaky, tannic, tea-ish. Comments: still pretty good, but you really start to feel the planks this time.
SGP:451 - 80 points.

Wild Turkey ’81’ (40.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2018)

Wild Turkey ’81’ (40.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2018) Three stars
81° US proof, ain’t that smart? Kind of liked this wee one back in 2013 (WF 79). Colour: gold. Nose: mild and coconutty at first, then slightly rye-y and earthy. A style that I rather enjoy, but it’s all very light here. Extremely light… Diluted maple syrup? Mouth: light but rather clean despite the cinnamony oak. Nice flowery profile, violets, geranium, chamomile, vanilla, cinnamon rolls… Light-bodied but not weak. Finish: short tp medium, rather spicier. More cinnamon, a little ginger, violet sweets, aniseed (anis de Flavigny, a good thing we have here in France)… Comments: I do like this, balance has been found, the oak’s not too embarrassing, this is still all about a nice distillate. Sadly I haven’t got the 101 this time. One more point nonetheless.
SGP:550 - 80 points.

So, no real winners today, but this isn’t over, please stay tuned…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all American whiskies we've tasted so far


April 1, 2018


A Whiskyfun Exclusive

Introducing the world's first Solera Tasting Session ever!

This will be a bag of anything that’s around, like we sometimes do. Strange stuff, singletons, one-offs, isolated juices, marketing-led combos, new firsts, actual pearls, whatever… But we’ll first taste each spirit like we always do, one after the other and then back and forth, and then ‘vat’ everything and keep the end result until the next session, when we’ll re-pour that vatting into each newer spirit we’ll taste. So this very session will be kind of kept alive, and ‘topped up’ every once in a while with new ‘criaderas’. Indeed, like a solera. How smart is that? After all, if the Scots or the rum guys can do it, we can do it too. So today it will be the…

Whiskyfun’s Solera Tasting, criadera #1
(thirteen spirits of the world)

Costwolds 2014/2017 ‘Batch 03’ (46%, OB, UK, 6,800 bottles, 2017)

Costwolds 2014/2017 ‘Batch 03’ (46%, OB, UK, 6,800 bottles, 2017) Four stars
Batch numero uno had been impressive (WF 85). And yes this is English while I am French. And? BTW they’ve used Odyssey barley, but I know nothing about barley, although names such as chalice or chariot are ringing a bell. Wait, why haven’t some Englishmen used chariot? Colour: gold. Nose: perfect, as nice as you can make at three years of age. Praline, macchiato, barley, scones, custard, branches, shortbread, quince jelly… Mouth: sure you feel the oak’s spices, but you’ve also got notes of Timut pepper that are extremely rare in whisky. That’s a thing, I think. Finish: medium, creamy, with more pink peppercorns (Szechuan style) and all sorts of soft crafty spices from some newish active wood of good quality. Comments: very smart and very good. Very well thought-of, if I may. Actually, I’m f**** impressed.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Lindores Abbey ‘Aqua Vitae Batch No. 001’ (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, 2018)

Lindores Abbey ‘Aqua Vitae Batch No. 001’ (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, 2018) Two stars
Okay I’ll say, it, I’m not ready to write long lines about each and every zillionth Scottish distillery that’ll pop out in the coming months or years, but this one's special. So, it's called Lindores Abbey. You know, Lindores, friar Something, bowls, kings, exchequer rolls, whatever… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a herbal liqueur. Not a bad one, mind you, not at all, but it’s not a spirit, let alone baby whisky. Actually, it’s a nice cross between gin and Bénédictine. Mouth: not bad at all, just the strength is a little too low, seriously. That makes it all a little too short, and you need a super-memory. I know what I’m trying to say. Rhubarb, fennel, lovage, sugar. Finish: short but fresh. Aniseed and celery. Comments: I think this is good, but let’s wait.
SGP:561 - 70 points.

Langatun ‘Nero D’Avola Cask Finish’ (58%, OB, Switzerland, 2018)

Langatun ‘Nero D’Avola Cask Finish’ (58%, OB, Switzerland, 2018) Three stars
Pizzeria whisky? Look, as soon as I spot some kind of Prosecco-ed whisky, I’ll quit whisky blogging! Now the problem is that I know that Langatun can make some very good spirits, so let’s not jump our guns… Colour: dark red amber. Nose: do you believe in miracles? This has no overstated red berries, no stuffy jams, and no crazy syrups, rather a lovely chocolaty feel, which we could call ganache-y. Familiar with ganache? Now, indeed, the oak’s a little loud, but let’s see, knowing that wineskies often swim badly … With water: it’s okay, but it’s the oak that’s taken the talking stick. Teak oil, pinewood… Mouth (neat): a heavy spicy concoction that reminds me of what Lost Spirits are doing in Amerikka. Cocoa, concentrated raspberry juice, gingerbread, cloves, caraway… It is a bit heavy, I have to say. With water: no, that rather worked. Soft oak spices, cassis, soft curry… Finish: long and quite curiously, not too extreme. Potpourri, cassis, cloves, etc. Comments: more than fine but Petite Arvine next time, please… ;-).
SGP:561 - 80 points (no, really, it’s pretty good!)

Now we got our thing going on…

Doinich Daal 3 yo 2011 ‘Malachit Edition’ (40%, OB, Dürr, Germany, +/-2014, 200 bottles)

Doinich Daal 3 yo 2011 ‘Malachit Edition’ (40%, OB, Dürr, Germany, +/-2014, 200 bottles)
This is malted barley spirit (a.k.a malt whisky when over 3) form the Black Forrest, finished in apple casks. Of course there are more stories, but google is your friend (not sure about that, pal). Colour: gold. Nose: not un-nice, all on spicy cakes, kougelhopf, rye, crepes, pine sawdust, and a bag of wholegrain flour. We’re feeling safe so far… Mouth: no, it’s not bad, seriously. It’s very bready, its probably not as well-constructed as the pyramids, it’s got a pretty good honeyed texture, but sadly, everything goes awry after five seconds, flattish, cardboardy, sickly sour… At which stage did they add the malachite, by the way? Finish: very short, sweet and sour. Comments: good intentions, and even good arrivals, but the spirit’s probably too thin to withstand any serious oaking-up. I’m sure the next batches will be better.
SGP:331 - 50 points.

DYC (40%, OB, Spain, blend, +/-2017)

DYC (40%, OB, Spain, blend, +/-2017)
This by the formers owners of the long gone Lochside Distillery, but let’s not dream… Colour: pale gold. Nose: nada. Some oak, perhaps. Passport is nicer. Mouth: kind of okayish… On plenty of ice. Vanilla, sugar syrups, cardboard, vanilla, cardboard, vanilla, cardboard, vanilla... Very forgettable. Finish: not much, but at least it’s clean. Comments: good, imagine you’re in Madrid, with a temperature of over 35°C, and you haven’t drunk a drop of anything for hours. In that case… Some extra points for the harmlessness, at least they haven’t tried too hard. And it’s almost as good as Haig Clubman.
SGP:230 - 65 points.

And now something hy our friends the English…

English Whisky Co. 7 yo (60%, The Single Cask, UK, cask #B443, 249 bottles)

English Whisky Co. 7 yo (60%, The Single Cask, UK, cask #B443, 249 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: some good peat over pineapples and pears, with a layer of white pepper and crushed butterscotch. You feel the oak’s a little loud, while the spirit was good enough to stand on its own feet after those seven years, but there… With water: ginger, cinnamon, and caraway from the wood. Keith Moon was on drums here. Mouth (neat): rich spicy oaky arrival, with some ginger and some cinnamon, plus vanilla-ed sweets. Gets then leafier, but you feel we’re not too far from good balance. A little less upholstery would have worked better in my opinion, but then again, who am I? With water: ah, it swims well, as quite bizarrely, water makes the huge oak a little more… human? It’s the opposite that happens, usually. Finish: rather long, on smoked pears and stuff. Charcoal in the aftertaste. Comments: to be fair, there’s tremendous potential, they just have to get the distillate/oak balance right. But again and again, who am I to quibble?
SGP:454 - 78 points.

Another try please…

English Whisky Co. (66.3%, Blackadder, bourbon, cask #279, 259 bottles, 2016)

English Whisky Co. (66.3%, Blackadder, bourbon, cask #279, 259 bottles, 2016) Four stars
I couldn’t tell you if Rowan Atkinson was really involved here, but some English whisky by Blackadder sounds… appropriate. Colour: white wine. Nose: charcoal again, smoked porridge, crushed bananas, and, I have to say, some kind of Ardbegness. Seriously. The oak’s rather quiet this time, but at this strength, it could well just be sleeping, let’s see…  With water: did someone try to replicate Ardbeg Ten here? Well, in that case, I’m happy to report that that worked. Mouth (neat): oh good! A zesty clean and yet rather fat peat, with loads of grapefruit. I think this is extremely okay, but remember, 66.3%... So, with water: sweeter and fruitier than Ardbeg Ten this time, and that’s probably the younger age (I suppose). Pear sweets and marshmallows, but those notes wouldn’t clash with the high peat. Finish: long, very clean, with some mandarin and grapefruit juice. Comments: I wouldn’t say I’m surprised but… oh well, I am surprised. This is extremely good, and there was no obvious oakiness in sight this time. Kudos to whom this may concern.
SGP:557 - 87 points.

Fair ‘Muscovado Rum’ 2016 (55%, Fair, Mauritius, 2017)

Fair ‘Muscovado Rum’ 2016 (55%, Fair, Mauritius, 2017)
Hold on, this doesn’t belong here! Now in whiskyfun there’s also fun… And this is my ‘blog’, so I do what I want, okay? What's more, this is Sunday! Anyone not pleased? Sorry, no refunds… Colour: white. Nose: well it’s rather herbal rum, I’m finding fennel, wormwood, touches of cumin, juniper… With water: not quite, it gets sugary – as in a pack of raw saccharine. Mouth (neat): beetroots, carrots, sugar. Not quite my thing, I’m afraid. With water: more of all that, plus turnips stewed in molasses. Finish: medium, narrow, vegetal and sweet. Embarrassing aftertaste. Comments: usually love what the great people at Fair’s are doing, fair trade and all that, but you can’t always win and this very spirit feels pretty… say empty? Chop-chop, this is for the coming summer’s neighbours mojitos (no, the neighbours don't read Whiskyfun) … I think I’ll have some of Fair’s Belize rums soon, those are extremely good.
SGP:550 - 40 points.

Back to whisky…

Kornog Roc’h Hir (46%, OB, France, Brittany, bourbon, +/-2016)

Kornog 'Roc’h Hir' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, bourbon, +/-2016) Four stars
No need to tell you all the good I’m thinking of Glann ar Mor and their peated version Kornog. Colour: white wine. Nose: soft ashes, lemon juice, apple juice, wood smoke, coal, ink, baguette dough, muesli. There is nothing to dislike here. Mouth: first an exotic touch, between blood oranges and papayas, then a rather herbal smokiness that’s building up on eucalyptus and menthol cigarettes, as well as small notes of orange skin oils. A touch of acacia flower. Finish: rather long, with a wee sweeter touch (barley syrup?) and then a very ashy/smoky ending. The aftertaste is a tad branche-y. Comments: an impeccably pure and natural peater from Celtic soils.
SGP:456 - 87 points.

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2016' (59.1%, OB, France, Brittany)

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2016' (59.1%, OB, France, Brittany) Four stars and a half
The 2015 was excellent, and I haven’t tried the 2017 yet. All right, people, let's do this by the numbers. Colour: pale straw. Nose: it’s got this mix of fatness and clarity that’s sometimes to be found in Caol Ila. A drop of tinned pineapple syrup, a moderate vanillaness, just a wee touch of clean rubber, and then various herbs from a monk’s garden (cannabis… I’m joking), almond milk, barley water, marzipan, and a drop of chartreuse (menthol, aniseed, wormwood, green liquorice). With water: fresh almonds! Always a very good sign. Mouth (neat): totally very good. Big, on candyfloss and more tinned pineapples, then smoked grass (I mean, lawn), then mentholy herbs. I find this perfect. With water: gets sweeter and easier (that’s the whole point of adding water, S.), but balance remains perfect. Finish: rather long, and rather more ashy than smoky, which is good. Comments: very impressive, a shame that they aren’t making more Kornog. True craft.
SGP:467 - 89 points.

Let’s change country…

Slyrs ‘Fifty One’ (51%, OB, Germany, Bavaria, +/-2016)

Slyrs ‘Fifty One’ (51%, OB, Germany, Bavaria, +/-2016) Three stars
It seems that this was matured (or finished?) in new American oak. I you ever get to Bayern, go visit the distillery, it’s lovely and they are also having very good eaux-de-vies. Colour: gold. Nose: typical virgin oak, with sweeter ginger cream and coconutty custard over wholegrain bread. We aren’t that far from some American craft distillates. With water: nice. Sawn wood, broken trees, cinnamon, vanilla, touches of gin. Mouth (neat): cinnamon big time, cinnamon rolls, praline, gingerbread, coconut cake, bread… With water: sure the oak’s doing all the talking, but this is not pure plank juice, thanks to these aforementioned cinnamon rolls. And to the pleasant coconut and oranges. Finish: medium, sweet, bready. Pineapple. Comments: do you like cinnamon? Just wondering… No, it’s very well made, they go it right IMHO.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

RU up for a last one?

Millstone 19 yo 1996/2016 (50.1%, OB, Zuidam, Netherlands, oloroso, cask #4090, 322 bottles)

Millstone 19 yo 1996/2016 (50.1%, OB, Zuidam, Netherlands, oloroso, cask #4090, 322 bottles) Four stars and a half
You’ll be glad to learn that this was made out of grain milled by Dutch windmills. Remember that song? Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Millstone, as we’ve already noticed a few times in the past. Colour: red coffee. Nose: old Armagnac, old Grand-Marnier, and old Demerara rum blended together. Plus a few drops of super-old brandy de Jerez. Seriously, this is possibly the most oloroso-y whisky I’ve ever tried, and indeed I’m taking Signatory’s old Ardbegs into consideration. With water: walnuts, we’ll leave it at that. Mouth (neat): totally love this, even if it’s more brandy than whisky. In truth it beats all the brandies I’ve tried in Andalucia fair and square, for it’s beautifully drier than most. Love the notes of extra-old vinegar (whether from Modena or Jerez) and the various pipe tobaccos. With water: these big black raisins they have in the region of Izmir. Finish: extremely long. Mint and prunes and walnuts. Comments: metanoical spirit, not quite brandy, not quite whisky. A tad mad, but I totally love it.
SGP:472 - 88 points.

I know we said that was the last one, but a good dram leads to another one…

Millstone 17 yo 1998/2016 (55.5%, OB, Zuidam, Netherlands, oloroso, cask #2530, 203 bottles)

Millstone 17 yo 1998/2016 (55.5%, OB, Zuidam, Netherlands, oloroso, cask #2530, 203 bottles) Four stars
Why change a recipe that works? Colour: deep bronze-y gold. Nose: it’s different. Even drier, even nuttier, and rather sweeter and rounder at the same time, as if a few drops of PX or moscatel had been thrown in. Mindboggling. Nothing to worry about though, just a few drops of PX or moscatel, not even saying someone did that… Perhaps also a little more mushrooms (dried porcinis), nuts and cigars. It’s actually pretty perfect. Oh and here’s some acidic coffee. With water: okay, the nuts won it. Walnuts and chestnuts, both roasted. Mouth (neat): insane and insanely good. Peppery raisins, extreme pipe tobaccos, miso soup, walnuts wine, mustard… We know anything is legal in Holland, but this goes beyond any human limits. Now to be honest, it tends to become a little too dry and starts to bite you after two or three minutes. It’s not a tasting session, it’s a fight. With water: chocolate. Van Houten’s, naturally. Gets a tad too leafy now – for me. Finish: long, on thick old vinegars again. Comments: very good and very tiring. Perhaps for mild masochists? Seriously, it’s great spirit…
SGP:572 - 87 points.

Good, so everything will now get vatted, kept in a glass jar, and then added to each and every spirit we'll try for criadera #2. When will that happen? Not too sure yet, but stay tuned and get ready...

(Danke schoen Christophe)

March 2018 - part 2 <--- April 2018 - part 1 ---> April 2018 - part 2



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55.1%, Acorn, Japan, cask #4048)

Clynelish 19 yo 1996/2017 (49.1%, Adelphi, cask #11446, 174 bottles)

Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (58.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2005 (51.9%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, sherry, 271 bottles)

Laphroaig 25 yo (54.2%, OB, selected by Allen Chen, cask #5124, 2017)

Amrut ‘Double Cask’ (46%, OB, India, cask #3451+3802, 2016)

Belmont (no ABV statement, Kentucky bourbon, sour mash, +/-1910)

Old Overholt 1909 (no ABV statement, Mellon private bottling, American rye, +/-1927)

Very Old Fitzgerald 8 yo 1958/1966 (43%, OB, for Germany, Kentucky Straight Bourbon)

Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2017 (54.9%, The Duchess, Guadeloupe, cask #22, 303 bottles)