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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2018 - Part 2


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


April 30, 2018


Ardbeg because we must

Her comes slowhand whisky blogger, with the latest Beach Boys-y Ardbeg that just everyone on this little planet has already tried at least three times. It’s called Boozes… No, Grooves. What have they invented this time? Apparently, ‘Peat, Love and Dosh’, but let’s see… Oh and some strange stuff may have happened with the wood, like charring some red-wine-flavoured casks or something…

Ardbeg ‘Grooves’ (51.6%, OB, Committee Release, 2018)

Ardbeg ‘Grooves’ (51.6%, OB, Committee Release, 2018) Four stars
I should write something about the Grateful Dead now, shouldn’t I? I agree, the answer’s no and sadly The Dead isn't NAS. . Colour: gold. Nose: pinewood smoke, kid’s toothpaste, smoked strawberries, blood oranges, red pesto, ginger liqueur. Feels extremely young, but everything’s coherent, I have to say. Whiffs of cow stable coming though after a while. Szechuan pepper. What you feel is that this is not at all about the distillate, it’s all about the flavouring. Why not? With water: the oak really comes out, this could be 3 yo American craft whisky, really. Mouth (neat): read my lips, I think this is good. It hasn’t got much to do with ‘Ardbeg’ as we knew it anymore, but the woodworks were done well and the final concoction remains balanced and appealing. Oak spices galore, most being sweet and even fruity. More Szechuan pepper, soft curry, perhaps even the sweetest kimchi, clementines… With water: oysters served with redcurrant jelly and sweet Tabasco. No real Ardbegness that I can compute. Finish: long, gingery, Schweppesy, cinnamony. Cranberry Schweppes, does that exist? Comments: totally un-terroiry softer Ardbeg, but there, they made it well, as expected. Plus, you know, terroir and Scotch whisky, that’s really love and hate… Now, an Ardbeg Ten over this, anytime!
SGP:656 - 85 points.

Good, what should we do now? Perhaps try to find an all-natural Ardbeg, and then an heavily oak-influenced one, what do you say?

Ardbeg 25 yo 1991/2016 (48.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #11179, 207 bottles)

Ardbeg 25 yo 1991/2016 (48.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #11179, 207 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: right. This is Ardbeg, much subtler, much more coastal, much more medicinal, with more tar, soot, oysters (without any whacky sauce mind you), new rubber boots, carbon paper, fern, farmyard after a heavy rain, sea breezes, fresh white bread, working kiln (but they never actually work, do they), green olives, bitter almonds, sardine paste… This is Chopin after Mariah Carey, really. Mouth: a totally massive - which I wasn’t expecting – salty and tarry combo, with more sardines, new plastic and rubber, olives and capers, smoked almonds, drinking ink, smoked mussels (the Belgians may have something to do with that), asparagus, artichokes, more olives… This baby just leaves you breathless. And yet, it’s only a 1991, not even a 1972-1976. Sweet Vishnu! Finish: speaking about sweetness, it’s getting a tad rounder and, indeed, sweeter now, but it’ll remain totally Ardbeggian all along. Comments: that it would have killed the Grooves was to be expected, but remember not all early 1990s Ardbegs have been great. This very one was, though. What’s more, there is a troubling feeling of seeing a great performer for the last time. You know, like a farewell tour…
SGP:467 - 91 points.

Ar9 (51.6%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, Feis Isle 2017, 1st fill oloroso)

Ar9 (51.6%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, Feis Isle 2017, 1st fill oloroso) Three stars and a half
First fill oloroso and a heavy peater? Works brilliantly in… 6.8647745267% of the cases in my miserable experience, but that combo also generated a few stunners in the past, so let’s see… Excuse me? Indeed, I’m very late again, but as a proper independent whisky blogger, you can’t only taste Ardbeg, you also have to taste Allt-A-Bhainne and Speyburn. By the way, this ought to be Ardbeg, cannot be Ardnahoe... yet. Anyway… Colour: deep gold. Nose: you take peaty whisky, you further cold-smoke using beech or birch, you add the pencil shavings produced within a whole year by the French administration, and you add three (not two, not four) big black raisins like they have in Smyrna/Izmir. With water: smoked pencils, really. Mouth (neat): Crayola, green oranges and green tomatoes, soot, concentrated lapsang souchong, that spicy sauce that no one’s ever touching in any Cambodian restaurant (because it would wreck your night), and the blackest black/bitter chocolate. This is something! With water: a little more brine, olives, smoked cockles… Finish: long, relatively oaky, and rather very chocolaty. Comments: a kind of maduro-ed Ardbeg. Different territories, this heavy-ish thing may need thirty further years of bottle ageing, if you ask me…
SGP:367 - 84 points.

(Many thanks Alex and Fabien!)

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


April 29, 2018


Badass rums, looking for malternatives

Let’s see what we have on the tasting table today… And try to avoid the light and/or sweetened ones this time. This should make for a good start…

South Pacific 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.5%, Excellence Rhum, Fiji, 215 bottles)

South Pacific 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.5%, Excellence Rhum, Fiji, 215 bottles) Four stars and a half
This new bottler’s first series has been pretty impressive, so this Fijian should be good. And pretty extreme! Colour: gold. Nose: wood varnish and touches of coconut milk and an unexpected agricole side, but I don’t think the bottlers are expecting us to properly assess this baby without adding any water. So, with water: we’re going more towards bicycle inner tubes, some tarry liquorice, hay, then perhaps distant whiffs of carnation, ylang-ylang… Mouth (neat): I had feared this would be like crunching razor blades, but it’s actually rather approachable. I’m finding a lot of lime, a wee touch of raw rhubarb, a varnishy side indeed (but that’s probably the high strength), and green gooseberries. Sharp and yet, indeed, approachable. Also drops of gherkin juice. With water: a wee sweetness at first (butterscotch) but it’s soon to get very lemony and gherkiny again. Some brine and a feeling of proper margarita. Finish: long, with touches of mint and aniseed this time, although it would remain very lemony, for a very long time. A touch of salted apple vinegar in the aftertaste. Comments: brilliant zesty rum. I remember the first South Pacific I ever tried, what a surprise that was! It was a 2003 by Cadenhead, WF 88. Same high quality here, don’t miss these.
SGP:472 - 89 points.

Oh well…

South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon)

South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon) Five stars
Forgot to say, these are pot still rums (from molasses). Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s much tarrier, more rubbery (in a good way), much more mentholy, earthier… In truth I would have say Jamaica, while I may have added ‘Hampden’. With water: amazing. New scuba diving suit, new Pirellis, fresh almonds, new leatherette, lapsang souchong… Mouth (neat): insane and insanely good. Lemons smoked using dried mint leaves, camphor, cough syrup, balsamic/tarry liqueurs, old Pu-erh tea, green oranges… Phew! With water: a very wee perfumy touch (lavender water), all the rest being brilliantly brilliant. What a wonderful spirit! Finish: very long, with an ‘Islay’ side that’s hard to miss. Comments: I should have tried this right when it came out. Anyway, it seems that they’re making ‘gentler’ rums (such as the very lovely Excellence), and heavier ones (such as this very one). Indeed, just like Caroni used to do. Both styles are superb. Mind you, Fiji! Their rugby players are very good too…
SGP:363 - 91 points.

Good, since we’ve mentioned Jamaica…

Worthy Park 10 yo 2006/2016 (61.8%, Kintra)

Worthy Park 10 yo 2006/2016 (61.8%, Kintra) Four stars and a half
More easy, mellow and smooth rum, I suppose… Not. Colour: straw. Nose: this is a fatter style, it hasn’t got much of the citric/citrusy side that was to be found in the Fijians, and it’s rather got more straight cane juice, olive oil, gherkins in brine, engine oil, and carbon paper/ink. With water: funny notes of gentian, wormwood, genepy, herbal liqueurs… There’s a pine-y side that’s not usual. Mouth (neat): pretty amazing again, and rather different for I’m finding quite a lot of caraway, crystallised oranges, and cinnamon cake. It’s as if someone would have re-racked it in rather active small casks. Not that wouldn’t have worked, mind you, this is excellent. With water: super good. Fennel seeds, soft curry powder, lemon juice, olive brine, half-rotten pineapple (nothing bad mind you). Finish: very long, with a softer, almost vanilla-ed side. Comments: a rather civilised and excellent Worthy Park. One that your friends would actually drink ;-).
SGP:563 - 89 points.

Let’s change style if you don’t mind…

Travellers 2005/2017 (67%, L’Esprit, Belize, cask #BB27, 267 bottles)

Travellers 2005/2017 (67%, L’Esprit, Belize, cask #BB27, 267 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: a different style indeed, with more rounded oakiness, custard, cigar boxes, pine needles and cones, then stewed fruits, with strawberries and mangos. In other words, east meets west. With water: gets very earthy and pine-y. Lilies, pine needles, humus, garden peat, a touch of coconut from the oak… Mouth (neat): oh good! A tad aggressive and varnishy of course, but that’s only the ethan… I mean, the alcohol. Pineapple pie, pipe tobacco, honeydew, cinnamon rolls, grapefruits… But it’s really very strong. With water: gets more tropical, with more pineapples, sour apples, a touch of coconut liqueur... Finish: rather long, with some sandalwood, fruit peelings, mango peel… Comments: one of the very good rums in my humble opinion, with a softer style and yet a very good texture. Perfect for anyone who wouldn’t be too much into the high-ester ones.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

And now, please fasten your seatbelt…

Beenleigh 3 yo (78%, L’Esprit, Australia, 2018)

Beenleigh 3 yo (78%, L’Esprit, Australia, 2018) Four stars
That is right, almost Stroh-80 heights, but I’ve already heard good things about this little pot still bomb from Downunda. Now I’ve tried the official 5 yo last year and thought it was okay(ish) – although much better than Bundaberg – but this should be different, let’s see… Wondering of this is legal, though… Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh? It seems to be rather floral, I’m finding some nectar, apricot pies, hints of lovage and soy sauce, perhaps touches of old leather (old books), a fruitiness that’s not easy to pin down (pomegranates?)… But you really need to be careful at this insane strength. With water: gotta love water. Remarkable development on tomato leaves, praline and white chocolate, gianduja, cigars, earthy/gingery oak, turmeric, at a cabinetmaker’s… Mouth (neat – yes we’ll dare): oh gosh, a single drop will kill you! Now I’m finding something Pappy-ish… Not too sure… Quick quick quick… With water: what a good surprise! Young rye, vanilla, wholegrain bread, pastries, Jaffa cakes, speculoos… Finish: very long, perhaps just a tad oaky. Or perhaps not. Lovely notes of coffee-schnapps and pear cake. Comments: we’re somewhere between bourbon and rum here, and I have to say it was thrill to be able to try this fairly ‘obscure’ spirit. Really very good, well-done L’Esprit!
SGP:641 - 85 points.


Guess what, Angus has been tasting malternative rum too!...




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Five Caroni Plus Bonus
Let’s investigate a few Caroni today. We’ll try to keep things concise as usual, so maybe there’ll be space for a wee bonus...


Caroni 1998/2015 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum) Caroni 1998/2015 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum)
Colour: Gold. Nose: I was fearing the 40% would really let it down but this is rather lovely. A combination of honeyed bandages, quince, pear eau de vie and some mushroomy/earthy notes. There’s also an elegant raisiny sweetness underneath it all that comes across almost like a decent XO Cognac. Some bready and autolytic aspects as well. Mouth: Camphor, gingerbread and wood spices at first with some nectar and pineapple syrup as well. That breadiness is still there with the medicine arriving a little later on. Some green fruitiness as well. Finish: good length considering the strength, apple pie, tar, soot, creosote and mirabelle. Comments: A good surprise and a nice start to the session. Could almost be a Cognac alternative as well as a decent malternative (‘altgnac’...???)
SGP: 452 - 85 points.


Caroni 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Alambic Classique, cask #17807) Caroni 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Alambic Classique, cask #17807)
Colour: Amber. Nose: This one is straighter and much more tarry and full of old rope and creosote. Caramelised brown sugar, black tea, some brine and black olive paste. Not devastatingly complex but pure, rather perfect and textbook Caroni. With time some lanolin and even wee touches of dried herbs and sea salt. Mouth: this is far more boisterous. Fishing nets, orange pith, a fisherman’s wellies, ointments, orange cough sweets, cocktail bitters and lashings of tar liqueur. Black pepper and a few greengages and a dollop of lemon marmalade as well. Finish: Long, earthy and riddled with orange peel, citrus liqueurs and sweetened medicines. Also plenty of black pepper and drying wood spices. Excellent! Comments: The extra few degrees of strength really help this one to sing. Top notch Caroni and probably a smart idea to bottle at 45%. You could almost use this in place of some orange flavoured cocktail bitters in an Old Fashioned or something... but, then again, I’m no mixologist.
SGP: 463 - 88 points.


Caroni 18 yo 1998/2016 (55%, Rum Nation, 5836 bottles) Caroni 18 yo 1998/2016 (55%, Rum Nation, 5836 bottles)
Colour: Bronze. Nose: Deeper, bassier, leathery and more animalistic than the other two. Lots of black pepper, biltong, mashed overripe banana, stewed dark fruits, dried seaweed and touches of kerosine and mercurochrome. With water: lots of assorted citrus peels, preserved lemons in brine, bandages, crushed green peppercorns and a rather precise sootiness. Mouth: surprisingly silky, sweet and elegant at first. Notes of medicine, herbal liqueurs, wood char and Moroccan spiced bread. Tar, ointment, dried sage, anchovies and orange oils. With water: orange cake with spiced plums, hoisin duck sauce, bay leaf, limoncello and a gentian-like medical quality that fades in and out gently. Finish: long, herbal and earthy - on caraway spirits and touches of green Chartreuse. Comments: quite a different beast to the Alambic. Curiously it feels like a lighter style of Caroni, although I’d say the quality is pretty much the same.
SGP: 442 - 88 points.


Caroni 19 yo (55%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary, bottled 2017, cask #165) Caroni 19 yo (55%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary, bottled 2017, cask #165)
Colour: Amber. Nose: We’re really getting into that wonderfully fuzzy territory between rum and whisky here. It opens with lots of dates, brown sugar, hessian, orange oils, tar, a few crushed Brazil nuts and almost something like medicinal oatmeal. Rather fascinating and extremely good. Goes on with sugar syrup, some white pepper, gauze, ointment soaked bandages and a little lychee liqueur. With water: lemon jelly, earth, coal hearths and sardines in olive oil. The medicine is a little softer now leave a few more herbal notes up front. Mouth: big, fatty and full of tarry, thick medicinal aspects. Marmite on soda bread, clove oil, hardwood resins, Demerara sugar, banana bread, rum-soaked sultanas and a touch of lemon peel. With water: camphor, tea tree oil, vapour rub, soot and mint tea. A loose selection of citrus flavoured cough sweets all bob to the surface. Finish: Long and surprisingly bready and savoury. Some burnt brown sugar, wet leaves, black pepper, cod liver oil and old brandy. Comments: There are even better Caroni bottlings out there, but in some ways this one embodies a perfect ‘malternative’, that is, the kind of bottling you can pour for a whisky friend who’s not yet thought much about rum. A great balance of power, complexity and generosity of character and flavour.
SGP: 452 - 90 points.


Caroni 20 yo 1997/2018 (61.9%, Thompson Brothers, 237 bottles) Caroni 20 yo 1997/2018 (61.9%, Thompson Brothers, 237 bottles)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: If you poured a lot of bitumen and petrol onto some freshly dug earth, then seasoned with some truffle and black pepper you might be approaching this extremely dense and potent style of Caroni. This is full on tar, ointment, gravel, old rope, rubber boots, gentian and liquorice. Dried rosemary, salted flat bread, hessian and a touch of mint jelly. Then you have cured meats, a gamey aspect, salami, cod liver oil, orange Calpol, herbal toothpaste and horse sweat. A bit of a monster! With water: grilled asparagus, motor oil, floor cleaner and clay. Some lemon flavoured cough drops as well. Mouth: pure hardwood resin mixed with orange liqueur, green peppercorns in brine, coal dust, dry earth, blue cheese and then lighter notes of nutmeg, clove and date syrup. Rather spectacular! Goes on with notes of goats cheese rolled in ash, black pepper, strong chai tea and lamp oil. With water: now there’s brake fluid, mezcal, graphite, anchovies and green apple peelings. All manner of tarry, sooty and occasionally waxy characteristics. Magnificently complex! Finish: Extremely long and full of brown sugar on bread, linseed oil, bandages, walnuts and peppered mackerel. Comments: A sharp, potent and invigorating shot of medicine to the head! Probably on the most extreme end of Caroni scale so maybe not for everyone, but my God if it isn’t characterful!
SGP: 464 - 92 points.


As a wee bonus to finish, let’s see if we can find a different Rum that can stand up to those last two Caronis...



Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (55.4%, Berry Bros for The Whisky Barrel, cask #31)
Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (55.4%, Berry Bros for The Whisky Barrel, cask #31)
Colour: Gold. Nose: It’s a totally different style of rum (obviously Angus!). We’re really in Jamaica here with this pure, hyper-estery and dundery style. Bananas baked with brown sugar, hessian, lemon oils, a little touch of seawater and then chives, parsley and other freshly chopped herbs. Continues with various oils, lighter medical complexities and some lighter fluid. With water: superbly and pristinely medicinal now. Bandages, TCP, gauze and mercurochrome. Underneath: a slice of lemon cake. Mouth: pure sugar syrup with a wonderfully subtle mineral side that manifests as crushed aspirins, struck flint, beach pebbles and graphite oil. Wet earth, green tea, more bananas (ripe ones this time) and tropical fruit syrups. With water: brown bread, lemon curd, soot, Edam cheese, fermented honey and a few pencil shavings. Mesmerising stuff! Finish: endless and meandering through all manner of preserved fish, medicine, overripe tropical fruits and autolytic bready aspects. Peppery and punchy till the end! Comments: I love Caroni, and as we’ve discovered there are many great ones. However, I think I generally prefer Hampden with its kind of excessive dunder and plush estery style; it seems to be a more consistently great make. Good thing my friend Colin Hampden-White probably owns the distillery, I’ll have to ask him...
SGP: 653 - 92 points.


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


April 28, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
A Trio of Triplets

A 3 x 3 tasting today. Can you tell I’m playing around with my ongoing methodology for staying on top of an ever-expanding pile of samples...

First up... Tormore.


Tormore Port Finish ‘Sweet & Smoky’ (56.5%, Cooper’s Choice, bottled 2017, Port Finish, 360 bottles)
Tormore Port Finish ‘Sweet & Smoky’ (56.5%, Cooper’s Choice, bottled 2017, Port Finish, 360 bottles)
This one is NAS and manages to state on the label ‘vintage distillation’ without telling us the actual vintage, unlike the majority of single casks which are distilled across new year’s eve each year. It was first matured in an ex-Islay whisky cask then transferred to a port pipe. Excuse me if I don’t prepare the party poppers. Colour: Salmon gold. Nose: Sweet and indeed smoky - no arguments there. This kind of smoked hay, smoked oatmeal and smoked seaweed combination. Smoky indeed. The Islay cask must have had a few litres of something sloshing about in its depths. Could you argue this is a blended malt? Answers on a postcard to Chateau Whiskyfun in Turckheim... anyway, back to the malt in glass... I’m not getting much from the port side of things but the overall profile is perfectly clean, farmy, smoky, slightly coastal and rather pleasing. Some gravel-laced porridge (an old Drumnadrochit delicacy, try it) and a little gingerbread. With water: some smouldering car tyres, WD40, graphite and a few crushed sea shells. Mouth: again the peaty aspects are loudest to begin with. Some berryish sweetness that I presume comes from the Port. Blind I’d probably have guessed Mongolian Goat Wine before picking Tormore. Speaking of which, there is a rather earthy and animalistic side to this one. Almost dung-esque in fact, approaching a suspiciously dirty cow udder? With water: mezcal, lemon oil, smoky bacon and plain old sweet peat. Is this Tormore or Bowmore? Finish: Reasonably long, pleasingly smoky, this animal/dung/earth/farmyard curiosity is back with a vengeance. Comments: I don’t like port finishes. I don’t like meaningless label bullshit like ‘vintage distillation’. I don’t like the label full stop. But I do like this whisky. Go figure! Now, where did I put those party poppers...?
SGP: 346 - 83 points.


Tormore 2004/2016 (61.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK) Tormore 2004/2016 (61.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK)
Back to reality... Colour: Straw. Nose: Cereals, dried grass, peaches and cream, dried apricots, buttery toast and some ripe green apples. Perfectly fine, clean, fruity, modern Speyside malt whisky. With water: damp hay, chalk, lemon rind and a little quinine. Mouth: Prickly white pepper, then mirabelle eau de vie, a few candied nuts, peanut brittle, sunflower seeds and fresh gooseberry. With water: straight vanilla sweetness, some red apples, more gooseberry, nettle leaf and a touch of ointment. Finish: medium length, all on light herbs, lemon, barley water and a little lingering vanilla sweetness. Comments: It’s pretty flawless and drinkable. It’s just that it’s also a bit boring and indistinct. The kind of malt that so many mainland distilleries are just churning out these days.
SGP: 431 - 80 points.


Tormore 13 yo 1984/1997 (63.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection) Tormore 13 yo 1984/1997 (63.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Colour: White wine. Nose: Pretty closed and austere at first. Chalk, some ink or aspirin perhaps. Maybe the slightest scraping of lemon zest and an inkling of wax. But overall pretty quiet and shy. With water: dandelions, trail mix, grass, a tiny twinkle of barley sweetness. Maybe some butter, but I’m perhaps being a tad generous. Mouth: Limoncello, white pepper, wool, ink, a few white flowers, some pollen and a touch of wax. Otherwise this is similarly tight and tough as on the neat nose. With water: lemon butter, sweet barley water, some flinty mineral aspects and maybe a lick of hessian. Finish: Medium length and drying with notes of aspirin and dry earth. Comments: A tough and rather austere dram. The impression I get is that the G&M and the Cadenhead are similar distillates with the former in active wood and the latter in pretty dead wood. For me the problem with both is that the distillate itself is relatively un-characterful. Now, of course the older Tormores could be spectacular; I’d say both these whiskies show why distillate character is so important. Same score, differing reasons.
SGP: 341 - 80 points.


Let’s see if we’ll have better luck with Bunnahabhain. We’ll do these ones by ascending strengths if you don’t mind...  


Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1978/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1889, 362 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1978/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1889, 362 bottles)
Colour: Light gold. Nose: a rather lovely and typical mid-aged Bunna aroma. That is to say lots of dried and green fruits, trail mix, salted nuts, blood orange, lemon peel and a rather dense, malty sweetness. Simple, straightforward and extremely pleasant. Mouth: it has this kind of fatty and oily texture that I often get with these older Bunnas. Oily, minty, notes of soot, wet beach pebbles, cornflour, salted peanuts, sage and caramel wafers. There’s a curious note of slightly overripe green fruits about it but globally it’s very nice and the textural aspects are very satisfying. Finish: Medium length, herbal, lemony, lightly coastal and still with this weighty and textural sweetness and oiliness about it. Comments: A perfect one to quaff down by the pier in front of the distillery on a summer evening with good pals.
SGP: 532 - 88 points.



Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1990/2014 (45.5%, Jack Wiebers ‘Scottish Malts Steamship Line’, hogshead, cask #9107)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1990/2014 (45.5%, Jack Wiebers ‘Scottish Malts Steamship Line’, hogshead, cask #9107)
Colour: White wine. Nose: this one is a notch lighter but at the same time more opulent with its fruitiness. Lots of apples, kiwi, banana, lemons, wet grain and also this beach pebble freshness that’s so common to these refill cask Bunnas. A wee hint of fresh linen and some candy floss. Mouth: perfect texture and sweetness. Reassuringly close to the 1978 and just effortlessly drinkable. Some milk bottle sweets, a little lemon bonbon, toasted cereal and tiny prickle of white pepper. Finish: Good length, full of soft buttery cereals, green fruits, pollen, pepper and a little coastal flourish. Comments: I really love these refill cask, mid-aged Bunnahabhains, they’re just the epitome of freshness, flavour and drinkability in malt whisky. Really pleasurable whisky.
SGP: 531 - 89 points.



Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1979/2001 (54.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #9780, 275 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1979/2001 (54.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #9780, 275 bottles)
Colour: White wine. Nose: Much more austere at first with a chalkier and rather more brusque mineral profile. With a bit of time it moves towards lemon oils, soot, freshly malted barley and a touch of eucalyptus. Not as easy as the others. With water: butter, brioche, parsley and honey. Mouth: splendid arrival! Barley water, olive oil, grilled white fish, black pepper, beach pebbles, lemonade, coal dust and lots of white fruits. This Bunna characteristic of freshness and light fruits married to muscle and textural distillate is here in abundance. Some flinty mineral aspects, a touch of dried mint and resurgent nibble of chalk. With water: saltier, spicier and even a little punchier. But still wonderfully textural and fruity. Pitch perfect Bunna! Finish: Long, slightly salty, resinous, sandalwood, lemon peel, camphor and lamp oil. Comments: At first I was gearing up to be disappointed but that initially shy nose is more than compensated by a wonderfully satisfying palate. It’s also an olympic swimmer. I think I should start buying more Bunnahabhain...
SGP: 442 - 90 points.



Highland P...sorry! ‘Orkney’ Malt now. Let’s go backwards by vintage this time...



Orkney Islands 14 yo 2002/2018 (56.8%, Berry Brothers, first fill sherry butt, cask #1)

Orkney Islands 14 yo 2002/2018 (56.8%, Berry Brothers, first fill sherry butt, cask #1)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: Gingery sherry at first. Rather spicy with notes of Selkirk bannock, rye bread, clove rock, mineral oil and soot. With a little time a more obvious HP character emerges in the form of heather ale, light mead and graphite. Some flints and pencil shavings as well. With water: a bit more elegant now with notes of lemon rind, red fruit teas, dried sage and damp earth. Milk chocolate as well with time. Mouth: a big, bold and earthy sherry profile. Lots of salted caramel, nuts, trail mix, sultanas, banana chips, coal dust, a lick of hessian and some green tea. Rosehips, honey and malted milk. With water: cured meats, salted peanuts, Turkish delight and a touch of maraschino cherry. Finish: Good length, a touch of rubber, some salted dark chocolate, more earthy notes and a bit of plum sauce. Comments: solid HP, although I feel the heavier elements come from the cask and this is overall a lighter example of the make. I miss a little lick of Orkney peat in this one. But it’s an excellent quaffer all the same.
SGP: 452 - 85 points.



Orkney Islands 16 yo 1999/2018 (53.6%, Berry Brothers, refill butt, cask #28)

Orkney Islands 16 yo 1999/2018 (53.6%, Berry Brothers, refill butt, cask #28)
Colour: light gold. Nose: much less sherry influence in this one. It’s more on sea air, sandalwood, minerals, bath salts, pine resin and heather honey. There’s also a pleasing lick of peat in the background as well with a medicinal aspect to it. With water: some very soft spices and a growing herbal peat note. Dried seaweed, lapsang souchong and a touch of metal polish. Mouth: great texture! Waxy, lightly peaty, barley sugar, orange oil, some herbal liqueur and buttered brown toast. Gets increasingly mineralic with time. With water: lemon curd, perfect balanced peatiness, some green fruits, barley water and lime jelly. Terrific. Finish: long, earthy, lemony, slightly oily and with a drying, heathery smokiness and some fragrant dried herbs. Comments: A rock solid HP that gives the terrific distillery character a loud and clear voice.
SGP: 454 - 90 points.



Anon Island Malt 17 yo 1999/2017 (53.8%, Abbey Whisky, refill sherry butt, 294 bottles) 
Anon Island Malt 17 yo 1999/2017 (53.8%, Abbey Whisky, refill sherry butt, 294 bottles)
Colour: White wine. Nose: very similar. Perhaps a bit more honeyed, slightly lighter in terms of peatiness, maybe more sea air, heather and green fruits. But overall the character is very similar. You’ve still got this fragrant bath salt/floral aspect going on. With water: light mead, white pepper and a hint of aged Sauternes. Mouth: sooty, waxy, gristy and lightly peaty. Green apples, minerals, heather ale, ointment and coal dust. Some orange peel and a little earthy turmeric note. With water: a little dried kelp, some sandalwood, sea air, mirabelle eau de vie and white flowers. Finish: Long, drying and slightly salty with notes of grilled fish, fermenting honey and pollen. Comments: There isn’t too much between these two, the quality is still very high here but, on balance, I prefer the slightly peatier Berry Bros bottling.
SGP: 453 - 89 points.



April 27, 2018


Just two Aberfeldies

Sometimes, when you have little time, it’s good to just try two easy whiskies. This will be the antithesis of, say ‘seven Bowmores’… Or yeah, ‘eight Broras’…

Aberfeldy 14 yo 2003/2017 (43%, Chieftain’s, Port finish, cask #93971, 702 bottles)

Aberfeldy 14 yo 2003/2017 (43%, Chieftain’s, Port finish, cask #93971, 702 bottles) Three stars and a half
Ouch, a Port wine finish, we might be pushing things a bit today… Colour: blush wine! Nose: well, it’s very okay, it’s not disgustingly Portish (and I love my Port), rather toasted at first, then with notes of crushed strawberries and blood oranges, and only then do more winey, almost cassissy notes come out. But they would come with some praline and lavender sweets. Nice whiffs of old wine cellar, something delicately musty… Well, you see, I’ve got nothing bad to say about this wee ‘feldy. Mouth: no, really, it’s fair. Still whisky, with no real feeling of ‘premix’ despite these red berry syrups and liqueurs, a good maltiness, and some nice fudge to boot. Surprisingly to my liking. Finish: medium, well balanced, sweet of course but indeed balanced, and not too syrupy. A feeling of Ruby Port. Comments: I usually hate the Port finishes, but not this time. I’d even recommend it.
SGP:641 - 84 points.

Aberfeldy 15 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 75cl, +/-1985)

Aberfeldy 15 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 75cl, +/-1985) Five stars
A very rare old official bottling for Japan. It could have prefigured the 15 yo Flora and Fauna that Diageo/UDV used to produce before they sold the distillery (and Dewar’s portfolio) to Bacardi. Colour: gold. Nose: soft, beautifully honeyed, cake-y, with touches of cured ham and humus. In the background, lovely bouillony notes, marrow, meat pies, stewed turnips, mashed peas… Indeed this is pretty ‘British cuisine’… Mouth: extremely good, rich, always on a combination of dried and almost molassy dried fruits (figs) with meatier, savoury notes. In a way, it’s curiously ‘Japanese’. Feels more like 46% vol. Finish: long, rather honeyed. Notes of very old Cognac. Comments: not that it’s a surprise, not at all, but I just love this complex, rich and meaty old Aberfeldy.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

(Thank you Hideo!)

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


April 25, 2018


Brand new grains

What I find cool with grain whisky is the fact that you may actually use the expression ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’, while you obviously couldn’t with malted barley. All right, I know I’ve done that many times, my bad…

Hedonism ‘The Muse’ (53.3%, Compass Box, blended grain, 3,060 bottles, 2018)

Hedonism ‘The Muse’ (53.3%, Compass Box, blended grain, 3,060 bottles, 2018) Four stars
This one’s brand new, and contains Invergordon, North British, Strathclyde, Port Dundas, and some ‘unknown blended grain’, which may make this baby a ‘blended blended grain’. Joking… As usual, the label is quite wonderful, right between Mucha and Fornasetti. S&S stroke again, I suppose. Colour: gold. Nose: the expected warm vanilla and grated coconut, but with rather more fresh fruits than usual, such as melons and peaches, plus a few floral touches, between buttercups and dandelions. Very little varnish, but ‘ideas’ of bourbon, which may come from the North British inside (where they used to distil maize/corn). With water: a little more towards sawdust. Cut flowers. Mouth (neat): a grain that’s got more texture and flavours than many others. Starts with the usual fudge and marshmallows, a little sunflower oil, and would rather go one with buttered popcorn and butterscotch. With water: fruitiness up. Touches of hops, cider apples, and orange-flavoured marzipan. Perhaps Mozart Kugeln? Finish: medium, relatively fresh. A little fresh oak in the aftertaste, oranges. Comments: rather wheat, not chaff, even if this is not my preferred style of whisky. Sorry if I’m rambling.
SGP:640 - 85 points.

Invergordon 30 yo 1988/2018 (42%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL12354, 183 bottles)

Invergordon 30 yo 1988/2018 (42%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL12354, 183 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: something slightly buttery and mashy at first (Joël Robuchon’s mashed potatoes, 50% potatoes, 50% butter), then something curiously metallic, as well as notes of cooked of asparagus and sorrel, and even wee touches of Swiss cheese. A funny cask for sure, while the very low natural strength already suggested it would be so, especially since I think they were filling grains at around 70% vol. and not 63.5. Mouth: phew. It’s still unusual – rather than unlikely – but it goes in and down without a problem. Nutmeg, green tea, dried turmeric, wild mushrooms, and a touch of orange squash. Finish: medium, curiously earthy. Someone may have stored this cask near a potato pile. Comments: a little deviant, but fun. Not to be quaffed after a Lagavulin at cask strength, though…
SGP:461 - 78 points.

Garnheath 44 yo 1974/2018 (45.8%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, refill barrel, 141 bottles) Four stars
Sorry, no pictures yet, but you know that packaging. Garnheath used to be made next to Glen Flagler, at Moffat, until early 1986 – but you knew that. Colour: gold. Nose: rather shy, and rather on shortbread, then there’s some tea with milk (but who would do that?) and a good deal of milk chocolate, plus gianduja/hazelnuts. No, not that brand. It’s all rather delicate and subtle. Mouth: it’s really astonishing that it would have remained this fresh. Shortbread covered with N*****a, café latte, sponge cake, and just a touch of coconut milk. A little maple syrup too. Finish: not very long, but clean and, above all, not too oaky. Golden Grahams and popcorn. Comments: surprisingly fresh given the age. Very good old grain.
SGP:630 - 85 points.

North British 55 yo 1962/2018 (45.4%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular) Four stars and a half
Some details still missing but this is brand new indeed – and very old, obviously. There was another 55 last year, at a lower strength (41%). Colour: gold. Nose: all excellent, those very old North British by the Laings. Wonderful earthy tones, mushrooms, millionaire shortbread, Pu-erh tea, mild high-class pipe tobacco, artisan chocolate, a touch of amontillado (not sure it was a sherry cask, though), fresh porcinis… High class, really high class. Was that the maize? Mouth: hard to beat within the category – and I’m no grain man – because of these earthy and herbal touches. It’s not void of any bubblegumminess (!) but all the rest works very well. Jaffa cake, cinnamon rolls, tobacco, dried pineapples… Finish: rather short, but really complex, with these subtle earthy notes that are so ‘un-grain’ in my book. Now, perhaps have they filled an ex-Old-Clynelish cask back in 1962… Comments: the nose was of higher grade than the palate, but the whole’s truly excellent.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Strathclyde 30 yo 1988/2018 (50.5%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular) Three stars
Some details missing again, we’ll try to update when they come out (cask # etc.) Colour: straw. Nose: little Easter eggs in sugar, fruit liqueurs, marshmallows, candyfloss, liquorice allsorts… We shan’t call this ‘whisky for kids’, obviously (we would get jailed instantly) but you get the idea, I suppose. After ten minutes, some notes of sweet chenin blanc (Coteaux du Layon and such). Mouth: a grain that goes a bit towards malts, with notes of malted beer, a little coffee, perhaps walnuts, some tobacco, and a wee roughness that’s not unpleasant at all. Finish: rather longer than many malts, while those little Easter eggs are back. Comments: a good, solid grain, without those flabby sides that can bee seen elsewhere. Not exactly silent whisky!
SGP:541 - 81 points.

Strathclyde? Strathclyde…

Strathclyde 28 yo 1989/2018 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon barrel, 390 bottles) Three stars
It seems that some of their grains are leaving Cadenhead's 'World Whiskies' series. Colour: straw. Nose: more glue and varnish this time, not that it’s totally acetone-y but it does go there… Other than that, a sharper and grassier style, although some marshmallows would be to be fund in a corner in the back. With water: more of the usual vanilla, then mint tea (in the Sahara)… Mouth (neat): tenser than many, and in that sense in the same vein as that of the 30 by DL. In fact it reminds me a times of that cold-distilled beer that Brewdog have been making a while back, just for fun. Almost pungent and rather ale-y/sour. With water: changes completely, getting sweeter and mellower, rather on preserved fruits. Including coconut, naturally. Finish: medium, on good fruit syrups. Tinned peaches. Comments: my heart is torn between the two Strathclyde – but this is only grain, isn’t it.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Invergordon 26 yo 1991/2018 (53.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 156 bottles)

Invergordon 26 yo 1991/2018 (53.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 156 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: same style as that of the 1988 by DL, that is to say mashy and slightly metallic, even slightly peaty, but this one gets then cleaner, humussy, mushroomy, and even slightly coastal. They may have refilled an ex-Islander cask here. Who was there back in 1991? With water: seaweed in grain whisky? Mouth (neat): malty and peaty, as a good blend. We’re pretty far from any obvious graininess, which is not a bad thing. With water: indeed, even if touches of vanilla, coconut and pineapple do rise up. Finish: medium, a tad medicinal. Comments: very intriguing, we’ve know White Horses that were a bit like this. Not the old ones though…
SGP:452 - 83 points.

North British 32 yo 1985/2018 (55.2%, Cadenhead, butt) Three stars
A brand new one that seems to be nowhere yet at time of writing. Well, it’s here. Colour: gold. Nose: smooth pastries this time, popcorn, croissants au beurre, brioche, Danishes, orange blossom, panettone, custard… You see… With water: cut flowers, potpourri, cigarette tobacco, orange blossom water… Mouth (neat): rather geared towards rum. Raisins, Demerara sugar, marmalade, crystallised pineapple… With water: back to sweeter grain, popcorn etc.  Finish: a little short, rounded, and pretty tropical if not topical (oh come on, S.!) Comments: sweet, mellow, and easy, nothing to complain about.
SGP:540 - 82 points.

Eight new grains, isn’t that more than enough?

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


April 24, 2018


Mach 2, or two Benromach

I know, I know, and I’m not even trying to mean Benromach is a ‘fast’ whisky. What’s sure is that there’s a brand new ‘20th Anniversary’ bottling, which we will taste, as well as an older glory that came out last year and that we just must try before summer!

Benromach ‘20th Anniversary Bottling’ (56.2%, OB, 3,000 bottles, 2018)

Benromach 1998/2018 ‘20th Anniversary Bottling’ (56.2%, OB, 3,000 bottles, 2018) Four stars
A brand new NAS (CORRECTION it's a 1998, as see on the brand's website) vatting just done to celebrate the distillery’s reopening that took place in 1998, after G&M had bought it in 1993 while it had been silent since 1983. I have to say I love old-school sentences such as ‘Desired by many, owned by few’, which comes with this bottling and reminds me of my beloved ‘You'll forget the price, quality remains.’ Ah the good old days… Colour: gold. Nose: reeks of sweet first fill oak, lemon curd, lemon tarte with meringue, custard, white chocolate, with touches of ginger in the background. There’s really a lot of custard, while the distillate’s usual smokiness remains extremely discreet. With water: there are wee whiffs of hay but it remains candied and citrusy. Limoncello-y, as we sometimes say. Mouth: rather punchy and really very citric, with some lime and some cider apples, then custard again, a touch of icing sugar, limoncello again, candied angelica… With water: once again the grassy/smoky side comes out a little more – and ginger as well. Finish: medium, well carved, with an oak that remains sweet rather than too spicy. I’m glad they didn’t use (red) wine. A touch of tonic water in the aftertaste. Comments: no ideas how old this is, but frankly, it was very well done. Good use of very active oak, even if I tend to like the much smokier ‘regular’ 10 yo even better (WF 88 last year).
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Benromach 1977/2017 (56%, OB, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1268, 225 bottles)

Benromach 1977/2017 (56%, OB, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1268, 225 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: it sure was a different spirit, rather more on apple peelings and with a wee metallic touch that does well. Goes towards passion fruits without getting exactly there, as well as green bananas and guavas. It’s tropical, without being extravagantly so, and gets then more camphory and mentholy after a few minutes. Eucalyptus, thuja wood… With water: massage balm! Mouth (neat): oh very good! White rum, lime, peppermint, crème de menthe, then orange blossom honey, thyme honey… Very very lovely and as fresh as a 39 yo whisky can remain. Well, even fresher. With water: perfect blood oranges with some honey and the tiniest drop of olive oil. You cannot be against this. Finish: medium, very fresh, and rather on the same glorious combo orange/honey/olive oil. Comments: mea culpa, I should have tasted this perfect beauty distilled by previous owners United Distillers (now Diageo) earlier.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

In a way, I found the new ‘20th’ closer to the distillery’s older style than to its modern ‘higher-impact’ profile.

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


April 23, 2018


A little Aultmore

Another name that’s rather easier to find again these days, thanks to both the indies and the owners of the distillery. Let’s have two or four of them…

Aultmore 11 yo 2006/2018 (53.2%, North Star Spirits, refill hogshead, 150 bottles)

Aultmore 11 yo 2006/2018 (53.2%, North Star Spirits, refill hogshead, 150 bottles) Four stars
This one’s brand new. Colour: gold. Nose: very nice, with some fudge, cappuccino, shortbread and butterscotch, custard, brioche, Ovaltine… Not much to add, this is modern in the best sense of that word. With water: lovely waxy tones ala Clynelish. More raw barley as well. Mouth (neat): really very good. Lemon liqueur, mocha, panettone, custard, orange blossom, fudge… In short it’s one of those newish Scottish bourbons, with extra-care given to the wood. Again, nothing against that. With water: it is perfect, everything was under control, it’s full and oily, it’s got pastries and just a few spices (caraway)… But the finish will tell. The finish always tells… Finish: indeed the oak’s a little louder, with more tea tannins, but no scandal. Comments: wondering if that refill HHD hadn’t been rejuvenated (scratched and re-burnt), since it’s bright as a penny. In any case, very very good whisky.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Aultmore-Glenlivet 20 yo 1997/2018 (51.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 20 yo 1997/2018 (51.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Four stars
This new baby from two bourbon HHDs. That would be hogsheads. Colour: pale gold. Nose: as often with William Cadenhead, we’re closer to the distillate. Not that I could tell my Aultmore from any other ‘regular’ Speysiders, but his has more earthy strawberries, bubblegum, ripe pears and apples, and just sweets. With water: barley, mud, hessian, old cloth. In short, Nature. Mouth (neat): ah very good, bright, fruity, not void of any depth, with a feeling of IPA beer and good green tea. In the background, orange drops. With water: really very good. Good maltiness, good citrusy fruits, good beer. Finish: same. Gets a little grassier, which is totally normal. Comments: couldn’t write a whole essay about this little baby, but I find it very good.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Let’s try an older one and we’re done this time…

Aultmore-Glenlivet 28 yo 1989 (43.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 156 bottles)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 28 yo 1989/2018 (43.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 156 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: blood oranges, heather honey, sesame oil, fresh walnuts, and on top of all that, old untipped Benson & Hedges. It’s not often that you come across this much proper cigarette tobacco – we’re not talking Marlboro here. If you’re wondering ‘how would you remember that this vividly’, especially since I’ve stopped smoking a long time ago, well, just found and bought an original new 50-box from the 1960s on evilBay. It is exactly this, honestly. Mouth: this you could drink all day long. The strength is perfect, and even if there are traces of that spicy/oaky thing you’ll get when visiting bodegas that specialise in making bespoke sherry casks for the whisky industry, all the rest is just good. Walnuts first, then blood oranges, then softer ginger liqueurs. A drop of gin (who’s not making gin these days?) Finish: medium, a tad meaty, orange-y, and nicely green/spicy. Some coffee and some grape seed oil in the aftertaste, plus more fresh walnuts. Comments: not exactly orthodox, and it’s got a few unlikely details, but I could just quaff this, I couldn’t even explain you why.
SGP:351 - 87 points.

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


April 22, 2018


10 tequilas blanco on a lazy Sunday

The weather is nicer again at time of writing, so I thought we could have a few white tequilas. I have to say I’m starting to wonder if I don’t prefer good pure ‘blancos’ (100% agave) over reposados or anejos, unless we’re talking super-high-end anejos. Let’s see what we have accumulated over the recent months… Well, years, since I’ve just noticed that we’ve last tried white tequilas in May… 2016.



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!

Dulce Vida ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, organic, +/-2017)

Dulce Vida ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, organic, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Dulce Vida, in Texas USA, are the importers here, while this white tequila was made by Grupo Industrial Tequilero de Los Altos de Jalisco. Which won’t prevent them from calling this baby ‘handcrafted’. Of course, at least it’s 100% agave. Colour: white. Nose: soft and a tad rose-y at first, with also whiffs of geranium flowers, perhaps a touch of quality cologne, and then a mellow earthiness that goes well with it. So far so rather nice… Mouth: good presence, with a wee saltiness right from the start, notes of roots (turnips?), agave, and much less softness then on the nose. A pretty fair palate that goes a bit towards good artisanal mezcal. Finish: medium, with some cinchona, lime, ginger beer, and that peppery saltiness. More soapiness in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: pretty happy with this one, this is a good start.
SGP:341 - 78 points.

Casamigos ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2018)

Casamigos ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2018)
That’s right, George Clooney’s brand, 100% blue agave. If you haven’t heard the news of the sale of the brand to Diageo for $1 billion in Modern Boozer Magazine, you must have seen it in the Wall Street Journal! Colour: white. Nose: it’s a tenser, purer style at first, but it’s also rather simpler than the Dulce Vida. A tad smokier, perhaps, and earthier as well, without that floral and slightly cologne-y side that was in the Dulce Vida. Touches of marshmallows coming out though, after five minutes. Mouth: the soapiness is striking now, with an arrival that’s lacking definition. Hints of turmeric, candyfloss, kids toothpaste, and then vanilla. More vanilla, where does that come from? Not form any oak, I presume… Finish: medium to short, a tad earthier and grassier, but a little too ‘jumbled’ for my taste. Quite some sugar in the aftertaste, which is a little bizarre. Comments: I’m rather disappointed, I did hear good things but I guess that was about much earlier batches. A consequence of success, I suppose.
SGP:541 - 64 points.

Jose Cuervo ‘Reserva de la Familia Platino’(40%, OB, tequila, +/-2016)

Jose Cuervo ‘Reserva de la Familia Platino’(40%, OB, tequila, +/-2016)
The higher-end of Cuervo’s range as far as blancos are concerned. Small batches, extra-care, older agaves and all that… Remember, the Jose Cuervo group are the new owners of Bushmills since 2014, which indirectly kind of explains why we’ve seen so many great old casks of Bushmills at the indies. But let’s remain in Mexico if you don’t mind… Colour: white. Nose: well, it’s struggling a bit after both the Dulce Vida and George’s own, with a rawer style, with more scents of raw wood ethanol, and with aromas of various overripe fruits, strawberries perhaps, probably guavas… Not too sure about this one yet… Mouth: ah, this is much better. Very dry and earthy, pretty raw in a good way, with something mineral and something a little burnt. Sadly, that part leads to burnt sugar and it all goes rather pearshaped. Finish: medium, both sugary and bitterish. Overcooked Brussels sprouts? Comments: I find this really disappointing. White spirits should be better chiselled in my opinion, or they simply get unpleasant. Unless, of course, you add a lot of ice.
SGP:441 - 50 points.

Aren’t we going in the wrong direction?...

El Mayor ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2016)

El Mayor ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2016) Three stars
100% blue agave again, harvested in Jalisco and distilled and bottled in Guadalajara, apparently. A funny bottle and a tequila that’s ‘award-winning’, but which brand or company isn’t these days? Colour: white. Nose: ah, some action! This one’s going much more towards citrus, lime, even rubber and tar, raw rhubarb, Thai basil, fresh coriander… This, is very well chiselled, if I may. Very nice fresh nose. Mouth: very good, with more lime, plus fresh ginger and turmeric. Just a touch of smoky earth, then rather nutmeg and coriander seeds. Remains pretty crisp overall, which I enjoy (or we’d be tasting Glenfarclas 50 yo just now, ha-ha)… Finish: medium, a tad more floral. Geranium, orange blossom water. Clean aftertaste on green melons and lemons. Comments: a very good surprise. The bottle was scary, but the spirit does deliver.
SGP:441 - 80 points.

Recovery has occurred, hasn’t it…

Tristan ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2015)

Tristan ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2015)
Another one that’s 100% agave, so not ‘mixto’. Jalisco made. I had thought their anejo was rather good, if a little shy (WF 75). Colour: white. Nose: another one that’s approaching mezcalness, with this light smoky/earthy side, but I’m finding it really very light. Visiting a garden centre, pruning privets… It’s all pretty delicate, hope the palate will display more oomph. Mouth: no, it really is extremely light, as if it had been bottled at 15% vol. Serious. And no that’s no accident. Grass, green tea… It’s a nice profile but it’s all rather frustrating. Finish: very short. Some earthy lime, perhaps, some dry ginger tonic… Although the word tonic doesn’t quite belong here. Comments: some low-battery tequila of seemingly very good quality. Go score such a fragile thing…
SGP:241 - 60 points.

Fortaleza ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2017)

Fortaleza ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
This one’s made by the famous Sauza family. 100% agave, batch distilling in copper pot stills… Sounds good, doesn’t it. Colour: white. Nose: seems to be much rounder and fruitier, and rather lime-dominated. There’s also a freshness to it, with whiffs of oysters and green olives (yes, hurray), as well as the expected touches of geranium-led cologne. Very classic and pretty nice so far. Mouth: rather rougher (instantly kills the shy Tristan), earthy, pretty much on all things earthy and citrusy. Grapefruits, ginseng roots, and a wee bit of olive and gherkin mixed together. Finish: same kinds of flavours, for a fair amount of time. Nice lemony aftertaste. Comments: a very good white tequila that you could actually sip.
SGP:351 - 79 points.

Tres Sombreros ‘Blanco’ (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2017)

Tres Sombreros ‘Blanco’ (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2017)
I know the brand name’s a little scary, but this is 100% agave from Jalisco, baby. Let us avoid any preconceptions if you don’t mind… Although this baby only fetched bronze at the Tequila Challenge 2008 (oh come on…) Colour: white. Nose: shall we say ‘average’ and ‘not repulsing’? In truth there isn’t much happening, this is extremely shy. A little ginger, perhaps, and probably agave. Mouth: some sweet medicinal concoction, ginger-led, then getting raw and cardboardy. Have I mentioned ginseng before? Raw tutti-frutti alcohol. Finish: not much. Comments: uninteresting, I would say. Not that I’ve got anything against sombreros, mind you. It’s hard to believe that this is 100% agave, it really feels very ‘mixto’.
SGP:331 - 30 points.

Cabo Wabo ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2017)

Cabo Wabo ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2017)
Not George Clooney this time, rather Sammy Hagar! It seems that this one’s highly controversial, partly because of the high price – and not because Van Halen’s singer then sold on the brand (I don’t think Diageo bought it). Colour: white. Nose: no. Dirty, fuzzy spirit with no well-defined aromas. Doesn’t feel 100% agave at all, while it should. Mouth: a little better. Lime, a touch of earth, gherkins, perhaps gooseberries… But the background remains dirty-ish and indefinite. Finish: medium, a tad raw. Feels a bit ‘industrial’ and pretty ‘mixto’, but these touches of sweetened gherkins do kind of work. Comments: nah, really, this ain’t too good, IMHO.
SGP:431 - 35 points.

Aren’t we scrapping the bottom of this barrel (of tequila)?... Shouldn’t we try to find redemption?...

Cabeza (43%, The 86 Company, tequila, +/-2017)

Cabeza (43%, The 86 Company, tequila, +/-2017) Four stars
Apparently, this is some kind of independent bottling of the tequila ‘El Ranchito’, the distillery being located in Los Altos, Jalisco. They seem to grow their own agaves. In truth with whisky, the purest (read better) expressions of many distilleries are to be found at some indies, let’s see if that’s the same with tequila… Colour: white. Nose: ooh yes. This has more fatness, more waxes, more oils, some limestone, lemons, argan oil, shoe polish, chalk… Some kind of Clynelish of the tequila world? Let’s see… Mouth: indeed. A much better, fatter, better made spirit for sure, with some perfect agave-ness, citrons, waxed things, more chalk, our friends the green olives… Sadly it tends to nosedive a bit, and that may be the moderate strength. I’m sure 46% vol. would have worked better. Still, it’s our clear winner so far. Finish: medium, on some kind of waxed citrons with some mildly tarry olives in the aftertaste. Comments: now we’re talking! Excellent tequila, just the strength was a bit too low for me.
SGP:452 - 85 points.

Last try, for the road. And since we were complaining about low strengths…

Herradura ‘Directo de Alambique 2015’ (55%, OB, Coleccion de la Casa, tequila, +/-2016)

Herradura ‘Directo de Alambique 2015’ (55%, OB, Coleccion de la Casa, tequila, +/-2016) one star and a half
Well done my friend, that means ‘straight from the still’ indeed. Now I haven’t been the hugest fan of Herradura’s anejo (WF 72) but the house has got a high reputation. Colour: very pale white wine, so not totally white, which is very strange. Was it aged for a short time in old refill wood? Nose: not much, very bizarrely. Hello? Some coriander and some cardamom, plus a pile of old magazines, but that’s pretty all so far. Bizarre indeed… With water: whiffs of rubber coming out and never going away. And I’m being patient. Mouth (neat): power indeed, lime indeed, some gherkiny agave indeed, many tequilas’ trademark soapiness indeed, but also something too raw, I would say. Overcooked tails? This is what you often get when you’re using a wide cut, in my 30-year experience as a yearly distiller. With water: huge saponification. Soap and cologne, but that’s not unseen in the tequila world, is it? Nicer earthy notes after two minutes, gherkins and olives, lemon… Finish: rather long but lacking depth. It’s that our expectations were high. Comments: rather disappointed. Ite Missa est, I would add, the Cabeza won it today, fair and square.
SGP:341 - 68 points.

Oh, should you be interested in agave and its current 'crisis', you may read this very good piece Agave Crisis: Boom, Bust or Business As Usual?


April 20, 2018


Some fun with young Fettercairn

The Galeries Lafayette in Paris used to run some publicity that used to say that ‘there’s always something happening at the Galeries Lafayette’. Well, the same could be said about the (slightly unlikely) Fettercairns…

Fettercairn ‘Fior’ (42%, OB, +/-2016)

Fettercairn ‘Fior’ (42%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
The first inceptions of this little NAS was rather funky (WF 77 in 2011). Colour: white wine. Nose: cooking Madeira, leaves, burnt wood, mustard, walnuts, ink, cardboard, cocoa, toasted brown bread, rocket salad… Mouth: sweeter and rounder than expected, but there’s always this weird sourness, more dry Madeira, notes of barley sugar (as if that had been added, but that’s impossible), butterscotch, more cardboard, leather and cigars, lavender sweets… It is weird, but not quite as weird as it used to be, IMHO (as we used to say when the Web was still free). Finish: medium, toasty, with some maple syrup, green pepper, and walnut wine. The aftertaste’s a little buttery. Comments: I find it rather better – or am I softening?
SGP:451 - 79 points.

Madeira? Hold on…

Fettercairn 10 yo 2006/2017 (52.6%, Wich, Sujet, Madeira finish, cask #107660, 420 bottles)

Fettercairn 10 yo 2006/2017 (52.6%, Wich, Sujet, Madeira finish, cask #107660, 420 bottles) Three stars
An 8-month finishing in Madeira was done here. Colour: pale gold. Nose: granted, doing a Madeira finishing to some Fettercairn sounds a bit like adding walnuts to walnuts, and indeed walnuts are ruling the show here, before more ink, carbon, vegetal earth, plasticine, Bakelite and new leatherette start to join in. How very Fettercairn! With water: cardboard, old magazines, mud. Mouth (neat): creamy, almost fat, bitter, plasticky, then with notes of grenadine, walnut wine, soy sauce, tobacco… It really is a loco dram. Almost forgot to mention bone-dry Madeira. With water: a tad sweeter and rounder, better defined, with nice notes of orange-filled chocolate and raisins. Wasn’t it sweet Madeira, after all? Finish: long, with this typical butteriness. Comments: they managed to further increase the Fettercairness here, no small feat. Perhaps try with Ardbeg next time? Forgot to add that I find this baby pretty good, one of the better Fettercairns in my book.
SGP:561 - 82 points.

Fettercairn 8 yo (40%, La Maison du Whisky, Tartan, +/-2015)

Fettercairn 8 yo (40%, La Maison du Whisky, Tartan, +/-2015) Four stars
LMDW’s budget series. Not sure they still make them… Colour: white wine. Say Chardonnay. Nose: nosing your inkwell, into which you would have added some custard and a little orange juice, as well as some walnut oil. Some crushed chalk too. Mouth: I have to say I’m finding this pretty good, its even got some kind of ashy smokiness, plus some Demerara sugar and, as expected, some walnut stuff (cakes, wine, oil…) It’s full of character and yet I don’t find it as dirty as others. Finish: unexpectedly long, salty, with some walnut-flavoured fudge and a wee glass of Manzanilla. Comments: a great surprise, I could quaff this while watching TV – which I don’t do much, having said that. Netflix whisky?
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Fettercairn 8 yo 2006/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10571)

Fettercairn 8 yo 2006/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10571) Four stars
Indeed some weird old stuff is to be found in WF’s sample library… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: ink, carbon paper, lemon juice, apple juice, pears, nutmeg, ashes. A tad unlikely? You bet. Mouth: sweeter, very sweet actually, rather clean (but Fettercairn can’t be crystal-clean), with a lot of barley water the smallest kipper in Rotterdam or Hamburg. Really a lot of barley water, slightly smoked. In truth I find this sweet maltiness really sexy. Finish: rather long, and rather adorably earthy. Love the roots and the sweet mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: will you believe me? I find this humble Fettercairn totally excellent. Tell your friends it’s Brora 1975 and no one will tell you otherwise. Yes, Serge speaking, sound in body and mind. Hell and putrefaction, I should have tried this baby three years ago…
SGP:452 - 87 points.

Fettercairn 12 yo 2001/2014 (48%, Distiller’s Art, 346 bottles)

Fettercairn 12 yo 2001/2014 (48%, Distiller’s Art, 346 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: nice, rounder, not as well-chiselled as the surprising 2006, and to tell you the truth, a little too discreet. Butter, dairy cream, porridge, ink, fermenting grass… Well, young Fettercairn as in young Fettercairn. Mouth: not quite, not quite. A hotchpotch of soot, plastic, Fanta, cardboard, bitter herbs, and limejuice. Finish: same for a pretty long time. Bitter sugar, does that exist? Earthier and smokier aftertaste. Comments: not as bad as it sounded, not at all. It’s just that the 2006 nearly killed it.
SGP:452 - 78 points.

More Fettercairny craziness? Your wish is my command…

Fettercairn 23 yo 1993/2017 (50.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Fettercairn 23 yo 1993/2017 (50.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Three stars
So, petrol? Paint thinner? Brake fluid? Fixative spray?... Colour: straw. Nose: it’s as if someone had smoked barley without even malting it. Some Manzanilla, ashes, yak butter, carbolinium, rancid cream, old books, new car, supermarket Muscadet… And then timberland after a flood. Bakelite again. With water: vinyl records, plenty of them. Sun Ra’s complete collection. Mouth (neat): I don’t even manage to make up my mind. Do I hate this or do I love it? Some plain weird earthy, painty development. Petrol station stuff, lemon juice, icing sugar, ink, pinesap, dark tobacco, engine oil… Ha! With water: Schweppes Lemon is back. What did you expect? Finish: more cardboard and walnuts, for a pretty long time. Comments: this is becoming a tad difficult.
SGP:352 - 82 points.

So a very last one before we call this a proper tasting session…

Fettercairn 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.6%, Antique Lions of Spirits, 292 bottles)

Fettercairn 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.6%, Antique Lions of Spirits, 292 bottles) Five stars
No it’s not true that I’ve been postponing this whole session. All right, I did procrastinate a wee bit… Colour: white wine. Nose: interesting, and that’s proper aging at play. Pumpkin seed oil, apricots, orange cake, citron liqueur, barley water, more pumpkin seed oil, much more pumpkin seed oil… And argan oil. That, I enjoy a lot. With water: ooh careful, water may blow this baby off the road. Please only add one or two drops, or it’ll get extremely cardboardy. Mouth (neat): no! I mean, yes! Limoncello matured in oil barrels. More or less… Totally love this. With water: wax, avocados, Brazil nuts, lamp oil, honeycomb. But then and again, do not add too much water… Finish: medium, with more typical inky notes. Almost paint. Comments: a malt like no other malt indeed, almost another kind of spirit. Barley mezcal or something… (yes I know, no sense at all)… But I loved it.
SGP:452 - 90 points.

I’m sorry but I couldn’t do more than seven Fettercairns today. There may be more… next year, if God lets me live (who?)

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


April 19, 2018


It’s Caol Ila’s turn again

Slowly but surely, our landscape is changing. Just a few years ago, you could find wheelbarrows of Caol Ila at the indies’, but they’ve become much scarcer these days, although you may still find quite a few as undisclosed ‘Islay Single Malts’. The good news is that there’s a lot of young Ledaig instead, and I’m not totally sure that’s a bad trade for us whisky lovers… As long as there is some superb Ledaig around! But yeah, today it’s going to be Caol Ila again…

Caol Ila 6 yo 2011/2017 ‘UAN’ (60.9%, Caora, Koval rye barrel, cask #900033, 140 bottles)

Caol Ila 6 yo 2011/2017 ‘UAN’ (60.9%, Caora, Koval rye barrel, cask #900033, 140 bottles) Four stars
A very lovely arty label by our Swiss friends. Not too sure about what UAN means, but I guess you could put this bottle on display at the MoMA. Colour: white wine. Nose: some very fresh, slightly mashy young Caol Ila with a layer of croissant dough and apple compote, plus some lemon juice and a moderate smokiness. With water: a funny tequila-y side, or rather a whole bowl of margarita. Mouth (neat): sharp and punchy, all on limejuice. Really all on limejuice, cool climate riesling, and the sharpest sauvignon blanc ever. With water: same feeling, plus a few fennel seeds, aniseed… Thick mouth feel, almost limoncello-y. Finish: long, extremely lemony, which is good of course. More straight smoke in the aftertaste, it’s late yet big smoke. Comments: I don’t think it’s very easy to find out about what comes from the rye but this fairly abstract little baby pleases me a lot.
SGP:656 - 86 points.

Ideally, you’d have to have a ‘natural’ Caol Ila from the same period of time on the side… But isn’t this Whiskyfun?...

Caol Ila 6 yo 2011/2017 (59.3%, Murray McDavid, Benchmark for Glenfahrn, bourbon hogshead, cask #900129, 262 bottles)

Caol Ila 6 yo 2011/2017 (59.3%, Murray McDavid, Benchmark for Glenfahrn, bourbon hogshead, cask #900129, 262 bottles) Four stars
This one was bottled for Switzerland too, and yes the colour is real. I mean, the label's colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: something metallic (iron, copper) and notes of sour ale, then broken branches and a lot of freshly cut grass. Mashed potatoes and perhaps even turnips. This one’s quite wild, and not extremely smoky so far. With water: damp old clothes, mud, mash, and more iron. Mouth (neat): pure distilled sauvignon blanc, smoked over a coal fire, and then blended with limejuice. Even sharper than the Caora. With water: smoked vegetable soup and litres of lemon and lime juices. You can check that you’ve still got all your vertebras when this baby goes down, 1, 2, 3, 4… Finish: long and rather sweeter/rounder, but the peat smoke is well chiselled and there’s some marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: young fun. It’s very good spirit (or the other way ‘round).
SGP:566 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2008/2017 (59.5%, Le Gus’t, first fill bourbon, cask #311939, 235 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2008/2017 (59.5%, Le Gus’t, first fill bourbon, cask #311939, 235 bottles) Four stars
In theory, there’s not a thing that could go wrong here. Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re extremely close to MMcD’s 2011 here, this one having just a little more gooseberries, kiwis and rhubarb. As well as, perhaps, more fresh kelp, which makes it more coastal. Obviously. Other than that, it’s one of those very fresh, crystal-clean young CIs. With water: once again, that old tweed jacket that’s seen many rains and many moons… Mouth (neat): class. Millimetric, with just an unexpected touch of rosewater on top of all this zesty, lemony, briny and smoky cavalcade. With water: ever saw all those lemon trees on Islay? They’re hidden within the central forest, that’s where the CI people harvest them while everyone’s busy on the shores… Finish: long, a tad sweeter and rounder again, but not quite syrupy. I think it would be fair to mention limoncello again. Comments: as good as a young CI can get. Quaffs extremely well.
SGP:566 - 87 points.

This is where in true WF fashion, an older one is getting in on the act…

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (58.4%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch for The Auld Alliance Singapore)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (58.4%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch for The Auld Alliance Singapore) Five stars
It’s not obligatorily a thrill to taste one whisky that you guess will be brilliant, because you know no good surprise could ever happen. It’s like test-driving the latest 911, in a way, or listening to some of Charlie Parker’s lost tapes. Not that we’re going to complain and be a brat again, mind you… Colour: gold. Nose: hate it that I’m finding old chartreuse, an old penny book, a sack of kiwis, a bag of peaches, and just the right amount of French polish. And the freshest fresh shitake mushrooms. With water: ooh plasticine, church candles, barley water, clams and winkles, floated wood… Mouth (neat): huge. This is of Montrachet quality, big, bold, very assertive, yet complex, yet full… It’s just mesmerising to find these ripe fruits that, I suppose, weren’t there right from the start (peaches again, papayas, pomegranates, prickly pears) topped with old mint cordials and some natural pine tar liqueur, argan oil, fresh almonds (which used to be very CI in the late 1970s and early 1980s). Just mesmerising… With water: floors you. And it is so fresh! Finish: long, lemony, almost young, and rather more compact than before. This could have been the finish of a 15 years old. Some lemongrass. Comments: this one’s not about wood, not about vanilla, and not about wine, it’s just about time having worked its magic, patiently. Is whisky without patience still whisky? Not too sure…
SGP:465 - 93 points.

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


April 18, 2018


Lagavulin si or no?

Many young undisclosed Islays are ‘said’ to be Lagavulin, but it’s hard to be sure since by essence, many are not exactly in the style of any of the OBs. Unless the distinguished independent bottlers give us wee clues, for example with names that do not leave much room for doubt, Laggan’s Mullin, Dunyvaig’s Tipple, or names like that. Here’s another good example, with high odds…

Lochan Sholum 14 yo 2003/2018 (50.3%, Maltbarn, sherry, 147 bottles)

Lochan Sholum 14 yo 2003/2018 (50.3%, Maltbarn, sherry, 147 bottles) Four stars and a half
Lochan Sholum? Don’t look for anagrams, I believe this is the name of Lagavulin’s loch, so its water source. Shouldn’t that give it away, knowing that this very honourable bottler just wouldn’t try to trick us? Colour: pale gold. Nose: wonderful. Very clean, and yet a tad fat as Lagavulin can be, with scents of green oranges, really a lot of seaweed, a slightly gingery/nutty side (from the sherry?), whiffs of swimming pool (soft chlorine), and a growing brine-y character, with touches of caraway hidden in the background. With water: gets kilny. Smoked malt (indeed they malt and then they smoke), a little shoe polish, Islay rain water in a wee pond… Mouth (neat): really very good, lemony and peppery at first, then typically smoky. Smoked grapefruits and once again, something nutty. Smoked almonds. Then touches of ginger again, ginger mints… With water: With water: lemons, fresh almonds, seawater, and touches of small berry spirit. Like, checkerberry. Finish: long, with Lagavulin’s typical sweetness, on a solid smoky base. Comments: perhaps not exactly the most complex Lagavulin ever, but it sure is worth every Deutschmark (no, not late, just trying to be funny). Less ashy than, say the official 12s SR.
SGP:457 - 89 points.

Let’s try to find another unusual one of similar age, as the mandatory sparring partner…

Lagavulin 15 yo 2001 2016 (54.2%, OB, 200th Anniversary Casks of Distinction, Private Collector’s Edition, cask #9554, 264 bottles)

Lagavulin 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.2%, OB, 200th Anniversary Casks of Distinction, Private Collector’s Edition, cask #9554, 264 bottles) Five stars
Another one of those single casks that they had always said they would never do. Way too complicated and costly at the time - that was when age was still mattering… Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s totally pure, with no flavourings or oak in sight, so obviously very perfect (I’m afraid). Crystal-clean brine-y smoke, lemon peel, embrocations, shoe polish, proper sauvignon blanc. And basta cosi. With water: ooh crushed fresh almonds, barley, Barbour grease, wee whiffs of horse dung, saddle, hay… A perfect development with water, although we couldn’t call it ‘crystal-clean’ anymore. May we say ‘farm-dirty?’ Mouth (neat): extremely Lagavulin, starting sweet and almost syrupy, and getting gradually sharper, more lemony, peppery, salty, ashy, and of course very smoky. Touches of plantains. With water: once again, some sweetness at first, almost barley syrup, then ashy/sooty lemons and polishes. Finish: long, quite fat, and yet kind of refreshing. And very more-ish. Comments: superb. I can’t argue, I really can’t. Very lovely Wealthy Collector’s Editi… I mean, Private Collector’s Edition.
SGP:557 - 91 points.

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


April 17, 2018


Clynelish 12 young and old

A quick session with co-tasters Angus and Emmanuel who just happen to be in Alsace today – for wine reasons of course. I did not have to twist their arms too much to choose Clynelish, as you can never have too much Clynelish (WF's law).

Clynelish 12 yo 2005/2018 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, refill sherry butt, batch #18/012)

Clynelish 12 yo 2005/2018 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, refill sherry butt, batch #18/012) Three stars and a half
This is G&M’s brand new ‘streamlined’  livery for this range, perhaps are they aligning with the rest of the industry a bit? Colour: gold. Nose: very buttery and nutty, with orange oils, cocktail bitters, butterscotch, cornflakes, and a slightly sour side (Gueuze beer). With water: improves (although it would go very hazy very quickly, showing that it’s a very oily distillate, although that often happens with anything G&M), with yellow flowers, mirabelles, even mirabelle eau-de-vie (which cannot be bad) orange blossom, pollen… Much nicer with water. Mouth (neat): sweet and bonbony, with Jaffa cakes, a little bit of Nutella, a Fanta-y side, some caraway, aquavit, tobacco… We don’t find it very Clynelishy we have to say. Milk stout says Angus. With water: once again it improves quite a lot, getting much better, with this orange-y waxiness, orange juice, Angus says you could make an Old Fashioned out of this very easily. Emmanuel shrugs with a French accent, then says that the Clynelish style appears with water. Finish: medium, rather more lemony than orange-y, with touches of turmeric, the aftertaste being very grapefruity. Pith. Comments: very good, but needs water. The distillate was elusive at first but with water we struck Clynelish.
SGP:451 – 84 points.

Clynelish 1971/1984 (no ABV, Gordon & MacPhail, sample bottle for Italy, cask #3842, warehouse #2)

Clynelish 1971/1984 (no ABV, Gordon & MacPhail, sample bottle for Italy, cask #3842, warehouse #2) Five stars
We’ve never seen this one bottled, so maybe did they blend it away. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oooh (Angus says yeah). Pure wax, beach pebbles, chalk, paraffin, daisies, struck flints (smoke), almost like a chenin. It does have an Old Clynelish character, although the whole is rather mellower. What we don’t find, and which was in, for instance, the 1972s, are the tropical fruits. This one’s straighter, with a blade-like quality. With water: more citrus, lemon peel, preserved lemons, and seawater. Limestone and of course, wax. Mouth (neat): extremely intense, it’s very Clynelish, textural, fatty, with loads of camphor, hessian, earth and floor, and a white fruit side, perhaps litchis. Touches of Szechuan pepper over a gravely character. Powerful minerality. Amazing whiskies… With water: if you could mix olive oil, wax, and lemon juice. Pure distillate character (Angus says it’s almost Scottish grappa). Emmanuel says it’s not whisky for just anyone, at least not a whisky for beginners. Let’s say it’s not totally consensual. Finish: long, fat, waxy, with a little pepper and orange peel. Some hay as well. Comments: brilliant, just still a bit not totally integrated at 12/13 yo. Not that this matters, but so, G&M, where’s the cask? Still in Elgin?
SGP:462 – 92 points.

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


April 16, 2018


Another two top Springbank

Because we could never have too many of them. So Douglas Laing are having a new Springbank, and this will give me a good excuse to first have an older official that I’ve always wanted to try. Let’s have that one as the apéritif if you don’t mind. And then perhaps a bonus ?

Springbank 10 yo (43%, OB, for Japan, dumpy bottle oval label, 75cl, +/-1980)

Springbank 10 yo (43%, OB, for Japan, dumpy bottle oval label, 75cl, +/-1980) Five stars
Not the pear-shaped bottles. Just to make sure, this was charmingly (and quite pleonasmically) labelled as ‘100% pure malt’. Better make your point. Colour: straw. Nose: well, many older Springbanks were sherried, and this one may well have a wee bit of sherry inside as well, but otherwise it’s totally pure indeed, extraordinarily camphory, waxy, full of fresh marzipan, argan and pumpkin oils, petroly oils, old musty magazines, coal tar, soot, chalk, and then grapefruits as a joyful signature. Fantastic distillery character, full and complex at the same time. Mouth: of course we’d have preferred 46% vol., but this distillate was so rich and characterful that it needed no extra-punch. Wonderful bitterness, almonds, tar, smoked meats, lemon curd, paraffin, a feeling of blue ink (why blue, S.?), salted chocolate, and then a wee mezcaly agave-iness. Finish: rather long, with rather more mint and aniseed, a touch of good rubber (very Springbank), and that typical salty aftertaste. I’ve heard they were adding seawater to the barrels just like they were doing at Bowmore – just joking. Comments: loved the aniseed in the finish. Mind you, a ten years old at 43% vol.!
SGP:462 - 92 points.

Springbank 21 yo 1996/2018 (54.3%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12379, 332 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 1996/2018 (54.3%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12379, 332 bottles) Five stars
A brand new one! 1996’s 21 yo XOP had been extremely good, albeit a bit too sherried for me (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: ooh, these mentholy and pine-y smells that I cherish so much, this soot, these subtle fermentary touches (pot ale), this grassy smoke (beach bonfire), these green cigars, Indonesian-style, this bag of last year’s cider apples that someone forgot to let ferment, and all this cut hay… With water: raw wool, wet dogs (we shall remain friends forever, dogs), candle wax, soot… Mouth (neat): it’s an IB that’s pretty close to the OBs, and in truth rather more to Longrow than to Springbank, or say midway between both styles. Big notes of lemon icing, grass, green tea, cough medicine, then rather fresh coriander, concentrated lime juice (for quick mojitos)… My my. With water: exactly what we were hoping for. Wax and citrus in perfect sync. More Springbank than Longrow this time. Finish: long, rather dry and pretty bitter, calling for more. Lemony waxes and oils, with a salty tang in the aftertaste. Comments: what’s most striking is that this is very close, as far as styles are concerned, to the old 10 that had probably been distilled in the 1960s. Product substance over brand content, as they’re now saying at marketing seminars.
SGP:462 - 92 points.


Springbank 26 yo 1992/2018 (51%, Maltbarn, for Limburg, bourbon, 100 bottles)

Springbank 26 yo 1992/2018 (51%, Maltbarn, for Limburg, bourbon, 100 bottles) Four stars and a half
It looks like once again, I won’t make it to Limburg this year. But I’ve already got some ‘Limburg’ Springbank on the tasting desk, which ain’t half bad, even if these vintages could sometimes be a tad unlikely… Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed, it’s one of the ‘funnier’ one, with notes of turnips, hand cream, oysters, stewed rhubarb, guava juice, Weissbier, rose petals, even litchis… We’re far from the sooty and mineral ones that they started to distil a few years later, even if it’s easily noticeable that it tends to get better focussed after a few minutes. This baby needs air. With water: brilliant, all it needed was time and a little water. Crushed chalk in seawater and lemon juice. Mouth (neat): ah wait wait wait, this is different indeed. Chalky lemons, citron liqueur blended with seaweed juice, thyme and rosemary, these wee ‘plasticky’ notes that weren’t uncommon in Springbank back then, graphite oil… With water: we got it! Chalky textile and lemony brine, tinned sardines… Finish: medium, and rather beautifully paraffiny and almondy. Comments: what a come back! A very interesting Springbank that one should add to any proper verticale.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

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


April 15, 2018


It’s Sunday, it’s rum day

Sometimes Armagnac, sometimes Cognac, sometimes wackier spirits… but today it’s rum again, let’s see what we have on the table…


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!

Ogasawara Rum (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)

Ogasawara Rum (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)
This molasses-based rum comes from the Ogasawara Islands that are located in the Pacific, south of Japan. It is not totally white, so it’s been aged for some time… Colour: yellowish white. Nose: fermenting fruits galore. Peaches, longans, strawberries… On top of that, notes of raw medicinal alcohol, plum eau-de-vie, and yeah, fermenting tutti-frutti, with a wee soshu feeling.  Mouth: frankly, it feels like some raw sake, and I’m not telling you this because I know it’s Japanese. It really is a very raw spirit, very fermentary. Raw rice beer. Finish: medium, with more sake. That milky one, perhaps… A touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: worth trying, for it’s so different. It also reminds me of some Chinese sorghum eau-de-vie.
SGP:341 - 65 points.

Sancti Spiritus 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, Cuba, cask #CSS11, 354 bottles)

Sancti Spiritus 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, Cuba, cask #CSS11, 354 bottles) Three stars
In my opinion the best indie Cubans all come from Paraiso/Sancti Spiritus. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a light, half grassy half fruity spirit that’s rather more characterful than other Cubans. Honeysuckle, lime, celery, white peaches, mown lawn, and wild strawberries. Hints of rosemary as well. Wee whiffs of toasted white bread, probably from the cask. Mouth: real good and rather more on some kind of tropical cocktail that would have involved aniseed and banana/guava juices. Oh and rum. Liquorice and aniseed tend to come to the front and to dominate all discussions after a few seconds. Finish: medium, fresh, very aniseedy. Banana. Comments: good, easy, light, and rather very fresh.
SGP:451 - 80 points.

Foursquare 2007/2017 (65.3%, L’Esprit, Barbados, cask #BB10, 250 bottles)

Foursquare 2007/2017 (65.3%, L’Esprit, Barbados, cask #BB10, 250 bottles) Three stars
Let’s get prepared… Colour: gold. Nose: toasted, almost burnt bread at first, then a rather extreme grassiness. Grass and grass and grass, but that may be the very high strength. So, with water: ah it got much more complex. Green coffee beans, tobacco, furniture polish, cut hay in the heat of August, beedies, sandal wood… Having said that it’s also rather columny, and not very deep. Mouth (neat): a maelstrom of olive-y cane-iness and small berries, from red currants to goji via blackberries. Relatively hot (an understatement, it’s totally hot!) With water: very horizontal, as we say in wine. Candy sugar, sweet tobacco, pineapples, cherry liqueur… Finish: medium, fruity. Tinned pineapples and touches of coconut. Comments: very columny for Foursquare, as if there was no pot still involved here. Shall we call it ‘Cuban’ indeed?
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Some fatter ones? Let’s try this, if that floats your boat (ha-ha-)…

Worthy Park 2013/2017 (57%, La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, Transcontinental Rum Line)

Worthy Park 2013/2017 (57%, La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, Transcontinental Rum Line) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: green. I mean, lime and olives in perfect synch. And as always, hints of acetone and perhaps even cat piss, which, in this context and only in this context, is an asset. With water: grass smoke. I mean, regular grass… now, I have to say… In a way… Mouth (neat): hate it that I like it so much. Juniper, olives, green oranges, caraway, fennel… I find this spirit amazing. With water: immaculate, simple in a great way, saltier, even a tad lavenderish… Greatly phenolic. Can some spirit be both dirty and immaculate? Finish: as long as you’ve got some in your bottle, that cannot happen. Comments: I would say that they’re making, over there on Bob Marley’s land, some of the greatest spirits that were ever made by Man. Thank you Worthy Park (and thank you Hampden).
SGP:464 - 90 points.

Now go find one that would ‘climb over’ that superb WP… Only one possible way up, Hampden…

Hampden 8 yo 2009/2017 (56.5%, Kintra, cask #25, 367 bottles)

Hampden 8 yo 2009/2017 (56.5%, Kintra, cask #25, 367 bottles) Four stars
Since these very distinguished bottlers are Dutch, and since the largest rum brokers are Dutch as well (Scheer), this could work… Colour: white wine. Nose: get out of here and never come back! Rotting snails and used brake pads, hectolitres of acetone and nail polish remover, and a cartload of last year’s green olives. Plus one rotting banana. With water: sour sorrel and spinach, smoked broccoli (?), antirust paint (??) and long dead oysters (???). Mouth (neat): the extremest etremities of spiritdom. Tarmac, sundried fish, scotch tape, cardboard. I love extreme spirits, but this one’s going a bit too far for me, really. And I’m no sissy, I can tell you. With water: glue and ink. Finish: long and extreme. Smoked and salted grass. Comments: how many bacteria have been slaughtered in the process? It’s not that I’m with those radical animal rights activists, but… Octomore tastes like Glenkinchie in comparison.
SGP:273 - 85 points.

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

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



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Aberfeldy 15 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 75cl, +/-1985)

Ardbeg 25 yo 1991/2016 (48.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #11179, 207 bottles)

Benromach 1977/2017 (56%, OB, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1268, 225 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (58.4%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch for The Auld Alliance Singapore)

Fettercairn 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.6%, Antique Lions of Spirits, 292 bottles)

Lagavulin 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.2%, OB, 200th Anniversary Casks of Distinction, Private Collector’s Edition, cask #9554, 264 bottles)

Springbank 10 yo (43%, OB, for Japan, dumpy bottle oval label, 75cl, +/-1980)

Springbank 21 yo 1996/2018 (54.3%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12379, 332 bottles)

South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon)

Worthy Park 2013/2017 (57%, La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, Transcontinental Rum Line)