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Hi, you're in the Archives, April 2020 - Part 2


April 2020 - part 1 <--- April 2020 - part 2 ---> May 2020 - part 1


April 30, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 44
Ben Nevis again

I know what you think, oh no, Ben Nevis again! But listen, would you prefer some unlikely – and undisclosed – and depressing - NAS instead? I think at least we can agree on this, no?

Ben Nevis 17 yo (50.8%, Milroy’s of Soho, +/-2016)

Ben Nevis 17 yo (50.8%, Milroy’s of Soho, +/-2016) Four stars and a half
I believe this was a 1999, but I am not sure about that, at all. Beginners, novices and humble people, check Jack And Wallace Milroy’s lives, that’s mandatory knowledge. Colour: white wine. Nose: sunflower oil to the max, and citrons to the very max, with an expected layer of paraffin and chalk over that. Then lemon squash and bandages. I can’t see how and why anybody would resist this extremely unusual, yet amazingly profound profile. There, this session starts well. With water: new electronics and expanded polystyrene foam Mouth (neat): it’s not unusual that a taster would find a little plastic in a Ben Nevis, and that’s the case here. Plastic which then turns into paraffin, which turns into candlewax. Add chalk, clay, lemons, and a little engine grease or something. With water: careful with water, as always with Ben Nevis. So much for a pretty ‘coastal’ distillery. Hey, do electronic pipettes exist? May we try one of those? Other than that, more lemons and more chalk and wax. No complaining. Finish: rather long, totally in line. As architects usually say, just an extension. Comments: yes, I’m aware of the fact that these ‘plastic-like’ notes would bother some whisky lovers.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1999/2015 (55.4%, Archives, hogshead, cask #166, 294 bottles)

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1999/2015 (55.4%, Archives, hogshead, cask #166, 294 bottles) Two stars
I always found it very cool that the owners of Archives would put their own portraits onto their labels. No, nothing fishy at all.  Colour: white wine. Nose: you wouldn’t notice that from the colour but this has got a higher oak impact, more roundness, more butterscotch, more gentleness… But underneath all that we’re rather finding a rawer, pretty spirity spirit (seriously, S.?) That’s bizarre, I cannot not think of white Bacardi of Havana Club. I know, I know… With water: the earthy malt won the battle, but there are casualties. Something strangely sour floating over the battlefield. Mouth (neat): soapy tones this time, then supermarket cranberry juice and touches of lady’s soap. Uh-oh, that’s all bizarre indeed… With water: oranges come out, which is obviously nice, but we’re not quite done with the soap. Finish: medium, saltier, and frankly nicer. Comments: something may have gone wrong here. There will be a score since that’s the law, but please take it with a lorryload of salt.
SGP:272 - 70 points (on hold).

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1997/2019 (52.5%, Cask & Thistle for SCSM, China, refill butt, cask #126, 300 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1997/2019 (52.5%, Cask & Thistle for SCSM, China, refill butt, cask #126, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half
I’m wondering if and how the dynamics as regard to whisky and China will change or not after Covid. Am I being too serious here? Colour: light gold. Nose: Ben Nevis as we expect it, with just a wee touch of vanilla-ed oak over it. Seriously, it’s pretty perfect. Beeswax, tangerine marmalade, clay, orange blossom honey, lime blossom, paraffin, touch of yoghurt and dough, proper chardonnay (proper Meursault)… With water: yeah, sheep’s wool, grist and porridge. Mouth (neat): this is rather wow. Granted, it’s a tad modern, with notes of chicory coffee (I know that’s hardly modern) and butterscotch, but that works extremely well with all the waxy, citrusy, chalky and slightly medicinal notes. A big boy. With water: yes, perfect. Chalky and waxy lemons, can’t beat this. Finish: same for a pretty long time. More cracked pepper in the aftertaste; a tad less sure about the aftertaste. Comments: pretty splendid. If we wanted to split hairs (which we never do, oh no no no) we’d say that the modern oak was just a notch too loud. Loudish. A tiny wee tad loudish-like.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

And now the famed 19896 vintage, perhaps…

Ben Nevis 1995/2019 (51.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #970, 245 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/1999 (51.6%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #1513, 260 bottles) Four stars and a half
Yet another new wee bottler, but I find this very refreshing. These guys carry more passion than any large and rather blasé, and consequently pretty arrogant booze consortium. I say those should work on their values, and chop-chop. Coz BS lifestyle is dead and buried; back to the product! Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical, unquestionable, chalky, waxy, lemony, barley-y, with whiffs of warm hay in the midst of summer and high-class hand cream. And perhaps a little maracuja. With water: once again, careful with water, Ben Nevis no swim well always, as they say in Sicily (?) Mouth (neat): oooh! More tropical fruits here, mangos, maracuja… And grapefruits, bell pepper, horseradish (we don’t find that too often in whisky)… With water: really cool, midway between the austere chalky ones, and the easier, fruitier ones. Yet, do not add too much water. Finish: log, with more spices. Comments: yup (I’ve decided to expurgate my comments for the time being).
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (47.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 150 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (47.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 150 bottles) Five stars
Apparently, the much skilled Maltbarn people too have just decided to put their portrait onto their labels. Good idea, very convenient at whisky festivals. Seriously, I find it great that Maltbarn would use original art, even for very low outturns. That’s good spirits! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a leafier one, more on patchouli, green bananas, pils, cut grass… One word springs to my mind, elegance. I suppose the lower strength is fully natural here, all that usually leading to more complex whiskies (or cognacs, armagnacs, und so weiter). Mouth: right. Crème brulée à la menthe, soft liquorice, artisan pastis, citron liqueur, lemon grass, custard made with a lot of natural vanilla, and… Gasp I drank it all! Finish: most probably. Comments: seriously, this is state of the modern art. My star among the stars, Anselm Kiefer! I’m sure he would love to do a wee label for a wee bottle of whisky…
SGP:562 - 90 points.

A last one for the road (to the next session)… And super-fast if you do not mind…

Ben Nevis 1995/2019 (51.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #970, 245 bottles)

Ben Nevis 1995/2019 (51.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #970, 245 bottles) Five stars
The jury’s still in… Colour: light gold. Nose: candied fruits all over the place. And waxes, chalk and clay, bandages, ointments, fresh concrete ad plaster, damp earth, roots... Need I say more? With water: pickled fruits, chutneys, passion fruits, balsa wood, putty, coriander leaves… So funny to follow! Mouth (neat): just perfect. Perfect distillate, perfect age, perfect sourness, perfect herbalness, no compromise. With water: ditto. Easy and very complicated at the same time. Once again, careful with the amount of H2O. Oh, just drop water! (proud about that one, S.?) Finish: no water please. Otherwise, long, spicier, reflective, intriguing and thought-provoking. Pushing things a bit, perhaps… Bonbons in the aftertaste, that too is not unseen with Ben Nevis. Comments: seriously, another perfect Ben Nevis. Dear Jury, what’s the verdict?
SGP:462 - 90 points.

P.S. some will prefer the 1996, which I would completely understand.

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


April 29, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 43
A purseload of
Glen Garioch

Let’s see if we can find two or three of them, I can see that the Glen Garioch box is almost empty. It’s another name that used to be much talked-about ten or twenty years ago, whilst the great name seems to be slowly sinking into oblivion these days. But I may well be wrong of course, well I sure hope I am. Perhaps a very young one as the apéritif?

Glen Garioch 2011/2017 (45%, Whisky & Rhum, Golden Barley, barrel, cask #882)

Glen Garioch 2011/2017 (45%, Whisky & Rhum, Golden Barley, barrel, cask #882) Three stars and a half
I hope this one will be fully naked. I mean, you see what I mean, checking a pure distillate and all that. Colour: white wine. Nose: a blend of sooty water with various yellow fruits, all very well ripened. Mirabelles, pears, quinces, then a dollop of barley water and just a touch of vanilla. It’s very barley-y, just a tad sootier, perhaps even smokier than your usual very young Speysider. A little moss as well, which I find very pleasant as well as some leavened bread. I enjoy these rather eau-de-vie-y young malts! Mouth: good stuff, you just have to enjoy baby whiskies that are not totally polished yet. Pretty much the same flavours actually, with just a little more grass, green olives and capers (very vivid), and something slightly estery. Right, bacterial if you like. Finish: rather long, more on anything green olives. Sootier aftertaste again. Also liquorice wood, and more rubber. Comments: very intriguing. I like it a lot, but it’s probably more for a taster than for a street sipper. I know. Some interesting echoes of GG’s much smokier past.
SGP: 462- 83 points.

While we’re having them young…

Glen Garioch 8 yo 2011/2019 (52%, Asta Morris, cask #AM075, 272 bottles)

Glen Garioch 8 yo 2011/2019 (52%, Asta Morris, cask #AM075, 272 bottles) Four stars
I’ve heard the letters ‘AM’ in the cask references were not related to Aston Martin, rather to Asta Morris. Makes sense, doesn’t it. I’ve also heard that this baby was finished for three months in a Bielle cask. Nothing to do with cars either, that’s the famous rum distillery in Guadeloupe/Marie Galante. Colour: whit wine. Nose: I’m really glad we had the Golden Barley just before, since that allows us to find out about the impact of Bielle’s pretty massive rum. In this case, that’s all about tar, oranges, liquorice, rubber boots, then floral notes, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, rosewater, various bonbons, prickly pears… It’s a bit of a rumsky so far, but that works. With water: indeed. Rum baba. Mouth (neat): some rumsky indeed, but then again and again, that works very well. Oranges, barley syrup, olives, brine, perhaps even sugarcane with a bit of imagination, and first and foremost, liquorice! With water: very good, swims well. Mind you, it virtually crossed the Atlantic. Finish: perhaps not the best part once water’s been added. Aren’t finishings always more unstable and fragile when you reduce them? Comments: I think Bielle tends to dominate here, even if it makes for, what, 5% of the content? I also think that’s great news, since I just love Bielle. To hell with pure concepts and single terroirs! (for a short while, ha-ha…)
SGP:572 - 87 points.

Glen Garioch 8 yo 2011/2019 (59.9%, Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 132 bottles)

Glen Garioch 8 yo 2011/2019 (59.9%, Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 132 bottles) Three stars and a half
Right, Marylin Monroe and a cocker spaniel together in the sea. Makes plenty of sense, does it not. Colour: white wine. Nose: back to the style of the golden barley, and with growing notes of new wellies and tyres this time. Rubber bands, soot and limoncello. With water: similar notes, plus leaven and just porridge. Mouth (neat): bright and pungent lemon and green grapefruits, with some kind of paraffin and graphite oil over all that. Very tart. With water: the lemons seem to have won the war here, and we shan’t complain. Finish: long, greener once again, and once again with nods to old Glen Garioch, circa 1970-1975. Comments: a tricky drop for sure. The bitterish rubber can be a little challenging at times. Where’s Bielle? Or hey, Neisson?
SGP:462 – 83 points.

Good, in truth we had a little more GG in the GG box…

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1994/2017 (56.3%, Aqua Vitae Whisky Selection, hogshead, cask #21, 150 bottles)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1994/2017 (56.3%, Aqua Vitae Whisky Selection, hogshead, cask #21, 150 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: much less rubber this time, and let’s say it, much less sulphur too. Instead, we’re finding green herbs, lime tree tea, eggplants, tangerine skins, artichokes, tobacco, and a rather beautiful smell of dry pinot gris. NOT pinot grigio mind you. With water: not many changes. Perhaps more lemongrass, and indeed touches of rubber coming out. Nothing too serious this time. Mouth (neat): oh very good. Dry marmalade, more tobacco, mentholy herbs, wormwood (absinth), grapefruit, new leather, chamomile, melissa… With water: just excellent. Some characterful malt whisky that wouldn’t play too many tricks on you. This time. Finish: this is where it would lose one or two points because of some slightly excessive bitterness. Amer bière, bitters… Comments: extremely good, firm and tense, and pretty much a connoisseur’s malt, if I may (you just shouldn’t write that kind of pompous statement, S.)
SGP:462 - 87 points.

The one for the road (to the kitchen, since we can’t quite go out)…

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2017 (52.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, hogshead, cask #2694, 180 bottles)

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2017 (52.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, hogshead, cask #2694, 180 bottles) Five stars
Yes the age statement is ‘wrong’. Just a little coquetry from the good guys at La Maison’s. Colour: gold. Nose: probably the least Glen Garioch of them all, so the most civilised, rounded and seductive, but all the herbal notes that are swirling and whirling to our nostrils are just stunning. Patchouli, lime leaves, chamomile, tobacco, grated liquorice wood, ginseng powder, orange blossom, bergamots… I’m finding all this wonderful, it’s more proof that 27 years, sorry 25 years are never wasted. With water: a wee bit of rubber coming out with water, but absolutely no problems whatsoever. The inner tube of the rear wheel of a Mike Hailwood Replica. Make sense of that if you can. There, remember this lousy old website was first meant to be about whisky, music and motorcycles. Mouth (neat): the oak’s a little biting, and you would almost believe it was pine wood (or that wood they use with the best cachaças, I think that’s jequitibá). Other than that, this citrus and menthol combination works some magic. With water: superb. Resins, herbs, citrus, smokes… But careful, just add one or two drops, it doesn’t swim very well in high waters. Finish: long and wonderfully herbaceous and rooty. Comments: like some stunning old pre-war cordial that used to cure just anything. Perhaps even Covid 19.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

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


April 28, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 42
A few Macs since we're in Craigellachie

Macallans, that is. Mostly legendary older bottlings. Whisky buffs and geeks are currently losing sight of the distillery, it’s all become just a brand. I have to say I for one have lost interest too, as most recent bottlings I could try have been pretty disappointing, even the most Laliquised ones. So I have stopped trying to source these juices, but the older stuff keeps coming my way, thankfully. Because, mind you, we still haven’t tried them all! Oh and a few indies still have some Macallan too, for example, watch this one…

Macallan 27 yo 1989/2017 (45.7%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Statement,  hogshead, cask #5425, 215 bottles)

Macallan 27 yo 1989/2017 (45.7%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Statement,  hogshead, cask #5425, 215 bottles) Four stars and a half
What’s the statement here? We can have old Macallan too? We can bottle better Macallan? We have a cunning plan? This might be better than a kick in your teeth? Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps weren’t those the best years anymore already, but I’m finding this nose pretty perfect, wonderfully nutty at first nosing, with roasted peanuts (a marker) and pecans as well as this tight smoke. Then mead, preserved peaches and apricots, honey (late-season heather honey, really) and then this rather perfect maltiness, with touches of miso and ham. Almost forgot to mention menthol, which is rather old-Macallan too. Superb nose. Mouth: the oak’s a tad loud at first (bitter leaves and leather) but coffee and tobacco are soon to take over, while the expected marmalade and sultanas are sticking their heads out. It all turns out just fine in the end, even if it remains a tad leafier than usual. Finish: long, still very leafy, a notch bitter (Campari-ish). A little burnt caramel and drops of Guinness. Comments: I know quite a few of these casks have been bought in Asia, they’re not all top-notch, some went too bitterish if you ask me. But this one’s different, it remained way, way above average. Very very good, Baldrick!
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Perhaps another, older indie?

Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000)

Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000) Five stars
In these times of confinement and isolation, it’s just a thrill to be able to taste some whisky from some friends Downunda. When shall we be able to fly to Australia again? And vice-versa? We’ve tried sister cask #17113 a few months ago and adored it beyond belief (WF 93) but that doesn't guarantee anything… Colour: crikey, even the colour is dazzling. Light mahogany. Nose: at some point, with these vintages, we’ll start to encounter Stendhal Syndromes. It’s a disease that first occurred when writer Stendhal first visited the Offices in Firenze and saw the Botticellis. He got a shock looking at those paintings, then severe hallucinations and had to get to the hospital. That syndrome may happen too with some old whiskies, perhaps with this style of Macallan? Amazing very old Yquem and other first class Sauternes, nuts and dried mushrooms, Cuban cigars… Oh hell, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade immediately! With water: who stole the recipe, who broke the mould? Chocolate and cigars, for what it’s worth. Mouth (neat): back to the olden days. Jimmy Page, Norton and Ducati, Andy Warhol, and Macallan (S., behave…). With water: what a stunner! Sadly I haven’t got #17113 at hand, so I can’t compare them, but this chocolate plus menthol combo could just knock you dead. I told you, Stendhal’s Syndrome. Finish: it does end eventually. Comments: to be honest, younger fellows who’ve never been in contact with this style of Macallan might be left a little colder than we are just now (we’re super-hot!) But there, love it. Perhaps was it a tad more brutal, and leafier than the sister cask? Not too sure… And by the way, are there other sister casks?
SGP:561 - 93 points.

My oh my, we’re flying very high already. But let’s have a go at a fairly recent OB (like, ten years ago), you never know…

Macallan 20 yo (43%, OB, Master of Photography, Albert Watson, 1000 bottles, 2010)

Macallan 20 yo (43%, OB, Master of Photography, Albert Watson, 1000 bottles, 2010) Five stars
Worth £5,000, apparently. Look, we’ve all done this many times, taking photographs of rays of sunlight illuminating a barrel in a warehouse. Who hasn’t done that yet? You? Haven’t we all got iPhones full of such pictures?… So the artwork is… okay, right, but how’s the whisky? Colour: very red amber. Where does that redness come from? Nose: let’s not push it all too far, this is pretty lovely, earthy, bouillony, with a style of sherry that’s pretty close to that of the Casa. Let’s say there’s more tobacco, coffee and leather, and rather less nuts. And less old Sauternes. The earthiness is very lovely, in fact. Mr Watson’s stock (I had never heard of Mr Watson before) just went up in my book. Mouth: no, seriously, it’s very good sherried whisky. Even the 43% aren’t a problem, there’s body and there’s structure, some perfect black tea (Assam?), black currants, chocolate, coffee, tobacco, chicken soup, a pinhead of Marmite, old cigars, a wee waxy side that I haven’t encountered many times in Macallan, and, well, just a feeling of ‘Old Macallan’. But we’re not talking 1950s-1960s distillates having said that, those were on another planet. Finish: medium, very chocolaty. Oranges ans teas in the aftertaste. Earl Grey. Comments: look, we like to make fun of Macallan because of all the crazy branding and silly Louis-Vuittonesque stunts done here and there, but we can’t deny that this little 20 years old clearly belongs to the upper class.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Let’s go back in time if you agree…

Macallan 18 yo 1985 (43%, OB, +/-2003)

Macallan 18 yo 1985 (43%, OB, +/-2003) Three stars and a half
We used to follow the 15 and then the 18 over the years, and I remember we used to believe that ‘anything distilled after 1970 was not the same anymore’. Which became 1975. Then 1980. Then 1985… Having said that, I had formally tried the 1984 (WF 85) and the 1986 (WF 88), but never the 1985. How strange, let’s remedy that unbearable situation! Colour: amber. Nose: we were silly, this is perfect sherry, raisiny, sweet and rounded, with tarte tatin, crème brulée, and assorted preserved fruits. Especially peaches and apricots, which are never completely absent from these styles. Then the expected menthol, the very, hugely discreet smokiness, and the meaty touches. Say ham stewed in a honey sauce. RU hungry yet? Mouth: really much sweeter than I remembered, full of raisins, with echoes of the extremely thick Gran Reservas. If you ever stained your shirt with any of those, you could just throw it away! Anyway, this little 18 is sweet and cool, but it’s a little, say vulgar because of the rather excessive sweetness. Mind you, it’s almost Diplomatico. Quite. Finish: medium, sweet, loaded with all raisins ever created either by God or the geneticists. Comments: I know these slightly boneless Macs now go for quite a lot of money, but really, that’s very silly. IMHO.
SGP:641 - 84 points.

How many times have we used the word ‘silly’ already? But let’s push things a little further, and then say goodbye.

Macallan 25 yo 1962/1988 (43%, OB, Anniversary Malt, Giovinetti Import, Italy)

Macallan 25 yo 1962/1988 (43%, OB, Anniversary Malt, Giovinetti Import, Italy) Five stars
Right, there are really many fakes of these ones around, so beware. If it looks too good, it is, and be wary of fakes unknowingly laundered by slightly naïve (I hope) auction houses, especially in the far east. But this very one isn’t fake, I can tell you, it is the real deal!… Colour: amber. Nose: right. Tyres, old Jaguar, prunes and raisins, 19th century cognac (how useful is that descriptor, S.?), black truffle soup, old mead, old Montrachet (not very useful either, S.), touch of mint, touch of smoke. In short brilliant old Macallan. Isn’t it amazing that the whole reputation of the brand was only built on the utter quality of, say between 1940 and 1970 vintages? In a way, it’s like the pyramids of Egypt, they were built a long time ago but they’ve managed to keep their reputation (ooh, not sure about that one S.) Anyway, what a nose! Mouth: it’s all a play on honeys and other materials from a beehive, waxes, pollens, pinewood, propolis (these resinous touches)… And even a little paint. The nose was more complex and more spectacular, but this is still a fabulous whisky. It’s just a shame that they’ve always (partly) murdered these batches with those 43% vol. They could have gone to 46/80 proof, even if drinkers were more careful with higher strengths when this came out.  Finish: medium, rounded, with a little chocolate and, more than everything else, bags of puréed chestnuts. Comments: marvellous. I believe the fab 25/1957 was a notch better, while this 1962 is rather on par with the 1958. Just rough ideas. Adios.
SGP:551 - 91 points.

(Merci François!)

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


April 27, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 41
Two young bombs from Craigellachie

No, no, not Macallans!

Craigellachie 11 yo 2007/2019 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 834 bottles)

Craigellachie 11 yo 2007/2019 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 834 bottles) Three stars and a half
This baby from three bourbon hogsheads. They also had a very good 8/2009 in the same series last year (WF 85). Hold on, 834 bottles, that’s bordering the limits of a Limited Edition, no? Course I’m joking. Colour: white wine. Nose: young malt whisky as Nature intended, al natural, naked, malty, with some bread, dough, muesli, porridge, touches of oak, touches of vanilla. Great if you enjoy bread, dough, muesli, porridge, touches of oak and touches of vanilla. With water: puréed peaches and apples, a little sap and putty, perhaps fresh almonds or marzipan… Mouth (neat): very good young malt for your pewter hipflask – with your personal coat of arms, naturally, rather than the Jack Daniel’s or Harley-Davidson logos. Good, raw, barley-y, grassy, a bit sweet (candy floss). With water: sameish, perhaps, a little more grass. Finish: rather long, grassier, with some limoncello in the aftertaste (rather sugar and lemon). Comments:… or the BMW logo, or the Corvette logo; or there, Che Guevara.
SGP:561 - 84 points.

Craigellachie 12 yo 2007/2020 (55%, Claxton’s for GI Jane House, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #2085-309708, 298 bottles)

Craigellachie 12 yo 2007/2020 (55%, Claxton’s for GI Jane House, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #2085-309708, 298 bottles) Four stars
The Taiwanese market is just incredible, is it not. I’m wondering whether theyr’re not quaffing more malt whisky than their famous wulongs or other great teas these days… Colour: white wine. Nose: same ballpark, really, this is just a notch more acidic, citrusy, and, well, green if not blue-green (that doesn’t make any sense, S., that’s only for tea.) In a way it’s a little purer, tenser, and I’m sure there will be more fruit popping out once H2O’s been added… With water: greengages, I’m finding greengages! We were having a lot of greengages when I was a kid, in the mid 1990s (yeah right). Mouth (neat): sharp, almost a razorblade, on all things citrus liqueurs and juices. Lime, raw rhubarb, a touch of green pepper… With water: really very very close to the Cadenhead’s this time. Maybe is this one a little more vertical, shall we say. Finish: great finish, very clean, zesty, grassy, rather full of grapefruits this time. It’s not often that whiskies earn more points at the finish, they often lose some Not in this case. Comments: In truth both whiskies are extremely close. Say 84.49 vs. 85.51.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Both recommended if you like your malts natural and so close to Mother Nature.

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


April 26, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Assorted French brandies
I am absolutely not an expert on brandy by any measure. However, when they’re on form, I really adore them. Indeed, I have to say that lately I’m more and more into good Cognac in particular. Let’s have a random assortment today and see what we find. We’ll go in a roughly theoretical order of ‘goodness’ if you don’t mind. Starting with the ‘cooking’ examples I discovered in my Mum’s larder.


Napoleon Brandy VSOP ‘aged 3 years’ (40%, ‘Blended exclusively for Marks & Spencer’)

Napoleon Brandy VSOP ‘aged 3 years’ (40%, ‘Blended exclusively for Marks & Spencer’)
The rear label lists the ingredients as ‘Water, wine spirit, sugar. Colour: plain caramel’. Sounds reassuringly awful. Colour: amber. Nose: some kind of sweetened varnish, a slight heat of alcohol, some burnt sugar. Otherwise totally empty. Mouth: harsh, bitter, rotten orange peels, slightly sour and dusty and some rather chemical notes of glue. Not good. Finish: disapparates like a stale old wizard. More burnt notes in the aftertaste. Comments: As predicted, this is bad.
SGP: 730 - 28 points.



Remy Martin ‘1738 Accord Royal’ (40%, OB, cognac, -/+ 2019)

Remy Martin ‘1738 Accord Royal’ (40%, OB, cognac, -/+ 2019)
Apparently this sits between the VSOP and the XO, which theoretically means older than four years and younger than 10. Although, of course, in a composition like this there can be varying ages deployed in the vatting. It’s around £40 a bottle in the UK but this tasting note comes from a miniature. Colour: orange/amber. Nose: actually very nice, lots of sultanas, raisins, dried apricots, peaches in syrup and little Seville orange marmalade. Although the ‘smells like Cognac’ thing does spring to mind. Mouth: a tad flat but also nicely bready, stewed dark fruits, more sultanas, oranges, some sweet dessert wines, dried apples. Also slightly leafy. All perfectly easy and pleasant, if simplistic. Finish: short-medium in length, with caramelising brown sugar, fennel seed, bitter citrus pith and some golden syrup. Comments: Given the price and ‘bracket’ I suppose this is pretty much to be expected. Easy, simple and rather direct Cognac that you could quite happily flambée a Christmas pudding with while also sipping a glass of at the same time.
SGP: 740 - 75 points.



Let’s veer off for a quick visit to Normandy…



Chort-Mutel 'Belle Epoque' (41%, OB, Très Vieux Calvados, +/-1980s)

Chort-Mutel 'Belle Epoque' (41%, OB, Très Vieux Calvados, +/-1980s)
I know less about Calvados than I do about Cognac and Armagnac - which is almost equivalent to ‘negative knowledge’. So probably best to take my score with a generous serving of salt. Colour: dark amber / brown. Nose: a beautifully concentrated and pure apple aroma with a kind of leathery quality and these notes that bring to mind actual apple pips. Despite the obvious age there’s still a sharpness and freshness which is impressive - almost like the tart acidity of cut cider apples. Beyond this you also get hints of dark mint chocolate, pipe tobacco and walnut oil. Really beautiful from the viewpoint of these nostrils. Mouth: wonderful arrival and surprisingly powerful. All on brown apples, apple peelings, pear cider and bitter mints. Tobaccos, black coffee with a single teaspoon of sugar and this lovely combination of leathery and earthy depth. There’s also quite a lot of dark fruits such as dates, figs, prunes and sultana, all muddled with chopped walnuts and hazelnut puree. Finish: good length and beautifully warming. Leafy earthiness, more tobacco, more walnuts, more chocolate and now some pretty concentrated stewed apples. Comments: I need to be drinking more Calvados it would appear. Although, not sure they’re all up there at this level of quality. I adored the way this one effortlessly displayed easy charm alongside deceptive levels of complexity and depth while retaining impressive power in the mouth.
SGP: 650 - 88 (ish) points. 



That was a bit of a surprise that Calvados I have to say. Let’s move on to Armagnac.



Bas Armagnac 25 yo 1994/2020 (55.1%, Adelphi, French oak barrique)

Bas Armagnac 25 yo 1994/2020 (55.1%, Adelphi, French oak barrique)
This is another new Adelphi single cask bottling that I’m tasting from the miniature which came with the Royal Mile Whiskies online tasting pack the other day. I am assuming it’s the same liquid which will go into the full size bottles. I’m also assuming there will be full size bottles. Colour: orange / amber. Nose: it’s an Armagnac that’s dressing up as a Cognac. Which is to say: a lighter, more elegant and refined style. You don’t immediately get these more ‘rustic’ vibes that you would from most Armagnacs. This is more on various fruit preserves, plum wine, nectars, yellow flowers, brioche, runny honey and some lighter cooking oils. It’s actually unsurprising that Adelphi would select such a cask as it’s a style that very much appeals to the whisky drinker in me. I would add it’s also very approachable and easy at full strength. With water: drier, leafier, more bready and showing a nice aroma of flower honey. Mouth: more punchy and rustic than on the nose, so more ‘Armaganacy’ for sure. Brown bread, stewed dark fruits, peach stones, nectarines, menthol tobacco, sack cloth, orange cocktail bitters and cloves. With water: gets rather spicy now, lots of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. You certainly start to feel the oak talking more freely. Still some fruity marmalade notes though. Finish: good length, getting more herbal, nicely bitter, slightly peppery and with more of these notes of peach stone and honey. Comments: A very fine drop that should appeal to whisky drinkers. So a pretty smart selection, even if it isn’t a very classical Armagnac to my taste.
SGP: 651 - 85 points.



Château de Gaube 53 yo 1962/2015 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac)

Château de Gaube 53 yo 1962/2015 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac)
Love, love, love Darroze! It’s also super cool that they put these wee collar labels on their bottlings that give you details about terroir, soil type, distiller, wood origin, grape variety etc. One of the areas where whisky can learn so much from Armagnac and Cognac in my view. This one was distilled from 100% Baco grapes. Colour: amber. Nose: yes! A perfect tightrope balance between breads and pastries on one hand, with preserved fruits, earth and tobaccos on the other. Rich, elegant and super classy old Armagnac. In time you start to get some more ripe fruits - apples, banana and even pineapple - along with aged sweet wines and a wee spoonful of custard. Mouth: powerful, deeply earthy, impressively chewy tannins and plenty of dried mushrooms, bitter chocolate, dried mint, walnut liqueur and dark fruits stewed with winter spices. Emphatic, direct and impressively powerful and controlled. Finish: long, nervously spicy, still these grippy, chocolatey tannins, hints of black pepper, star anise and more tobaccos and dark fruits. Comments: Not a surprise at all, just another superbly pleasurable old selection by Darroze. Once again, you cannot help but imagine the price that whisky companies would be charging for such a cask if this were Scotch. This was a bottle I bought for as a birthday present for my Mum, cost was around £260 I think. We don’t score prices here on Whiskyfun, but I think those kinds of comparisons are powerfully illuminating.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.



And back to Cognac…



Fine Champagne 50 yo (70 proof, Hedges & Butler, 1960s)

Fine Champagne 50 yo (70 proof, Hedges & Butler, 1960s)
This was one of two bottles of this particular bottling of Cognac which I bought at auction a few years ago. The first one I opened soon after purchase and Serge recorded notes for at the time (WF:92). Let’s see if this second bottle measures up to such heights, I think this one was probably bottled a little later than the first one. Colour: light amber. Nose: an exquisite mix of fruit jams and preserves. Also a wonderfully exotic edge with these impressions of dried mango, fruit salad juices and guava. Then it’s moving more towards quince, apricot jam, tinned peaches and soft tobacco notes. Impressions of petrichor, hessian and old cigar boxes. The definition of elegance and class! Mouth: soft at first arrival but it really builds in layers with this beautifully structured and textural fruitiness. Fruit jellies, citrus peels, jams, orange marmalade with coriander, bouquet garni of dried herbs, cantaloupe melon and then more specific herbal notes of sage, rosemary and thyme. Finish: long but very soft, leathery, earthy and getting slightly nutty with chestnut puree, walnuts and hazelnuts. Comments: Sheer class! I love the fruitiness in this one, these wee exotic flourishes are just catnip to a whisky lover’s palate. Similar quality as the other bottle to my mind.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)
A very new bottling from the cool folk at Malternative Belgium. Distilled prior to 1925 and put into glass in 1981. Colour: light amber. Nose: a delicate and impeccably balanced ‘muddle’ of preserved fruits, crystallised citrus rinds, dried exotic fruits, exotic fruit teas, syrups, cordials and rather direct notes of chamomile and bergamot. Wonderfully elegant and deeply complex. Peaches and cream, mango chutney and the most ancient of herbal liqueurs - long aged yellow Chartreuse perhaps. Quite beautiful. Mouth: tinned peaches, mango, praline, wood spices, orange liqueurs, jasmine tea, quince jelly and these wonderful notes of aged ointments and herbal extracts. All manner of tiny fruit notes as well which create in impressive level of complexity. There’s also those wonderful earthy/leathery/tobacco combinations that really sing with age in Cognacs. And the strength carries everything with such power and aplomb. Finish: long, herbal, spicy, lots of jellied fruits and various aromatic teas. Comments: Terrific, the depth of flavour and complexity and really show-stopping.
SGP: 651 - 92 points.



Rouyer Guillet 1865 (42%, OB ‘AA Baker import’, bottled circa 1960)

Rouyer Guillet 1865 (42%, OB ‘AA Baker import’, bottled circa 1960)
I won’t bore you with cut and paste historical factoids from 1865 courtesy of wikipedia. Suffice to say, this was distilled almost exactly around the outset of the Phylloxera blight in France (which originated in England, which I’m sure will delight many Brexiters) so should be entirely from pre-phylloxera vines. Colour: ruby/amber. Nose: another world, really. The depth and darkness of the fruits is really astounding. Like bramble syrup, pomegranate molasses and fruity black coffee collided with the most stunning dark chocolate, aged cigar boxes and green walnut liqueur. Hyper-concentrated, dripping with rancio and showing this almost muscular earthiness. Hypnotic and otherworldly. Mouth: just beautiful! A mesmeric display of dark, exotic and dried fruits. All simmered down to their most sticky, fat, concentrated forms and infused with taut wood spices, cinnamon, cloves, dried wild flowers, incense, natural tar, rancio, walnuts, aged tobaccos, lightly salted liquorice and praline. These wee floral touches gain prominence over time and sit beautifully alongside all these superbly deep and punchy earthy and rancio qualities. Finish: wonderfully long, earthy, bitterly herbal, almost sooty and riddled with dark fruit jams and cordials. Not to mention this almost salty rancio quality that infuses everything. Comments: Of course it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer emotional force of liquid history in your glass when tasting such spirits. But this is unequivocally and by every metric an absolutely brilliant old Cognac. A masterclass in poise, elegance, depth, power, balance, control and complexity. It remains almost poetically beautiful as well.
SGP: 661 - 93 points.



Big thanks to Magnus and Dirk (and to Mum!)





April 25, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Isolated pairs
It’s getting rather tiresome isn’t it, this whole lockdown business. But let’s not grumble, there are many, many people, having a much harder time of it than yours truly. So, let’s rather pull up a tasting glass and do a few more random pairs.


Glengoyne ‘The Legacy’ Chapter One (48%, OB, 1st fill oloroso sherry and refill casks, 2019)

Glengoyne ‘The Legacy’ Chapter One (48%, OB, 1st fill oloroso sherry and refill casks, 2019)
Just realising I cannot remember the last time I tried a Glengoyne, the shame! The website mentions “In celebration of the early days…” Hmmmm….Colour: gold. Nose: feels rather fresh and youthful at first - in a good way though. Lots of freshly baked bread, fruit scone mix, honeycomb, candied fruit peel, sultanas. There’s also a sense of acidity and sharpness - not unlike a carbolic washback tang in your nostrils. Mouth: immediately very sweet and impressively syrupy. Some prickly green pepper, more candied peel and scattered sultanas and raisins. Fig rolls, apple pie and custard, a few dried herbs and some caraway. Rather punchy and with a fair bit of crunchy maltiness providing backbone. Finish: good length, peppery, getting quite spicy with notes of cinnamon and ginger. Also some hints of fresh oak. Comments: I wouldn’t say it’s at all old style, but it’s a very well put together wee dram that ‘feels’ very Glengoyne to me.
SGP: 641 - 85 points.



Glengoyne 17 yo 1998/2015 (54.8%, OB for Taiwan, cask #2047, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 606 bottles)

Glengoyne 17 yo 1998/2015 (54.8%, OB for Taiwan, cask #2047, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 606 bottles)
A pretty rare private cask bottling. Colour: deep reddish amber. Nose: ooh! It’s one of these top notch, beautifully aromatic, old school sherry casks. Lots of pine cones, precious hardwoods, saps, petrichor and soy sauce. Brims with quiet class and opulence. Many dried flowers, sandalwood, kirsch, Irish coffee and some rather tannic mint tea. I find it really beautiful and elegant. With water: develops this rather sublime and incredibly subtle smoky edge. Like soot, earth and roast aubergines. Also figs, old Madeira and spiced fruit chutneys. Big and powerful but without ever being unbalanced or with any lopsided component. Mouth: fantastically sappy and full of winter spices, red fruit jams, cordials and savoury meats and broths. All kinds of bouillon, mint bitters, burnt raisins, freshly brewed coffee and dark chocolate. In time it really gets close to some kind of long bottle-aged Jägermeister. With water: lots of black pepper, pu erh teas, Maggi and olive bread. Finish: long, spicy, herbal, nicely bitter and earthy with plenty dark chocolate and coffee. Comments: Superb sherry cask Glengoyne. Punchy, deep, elegant and - most importantly - balanced. Which isn’t always the case with these big sherry beasts. Really sings well with water too.
SGP: 662 - 90 points.



Mortlach 16 yo (43.4%, OB, 2019)

Mortlach 16 yo (43.4%, OB, 2019)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: wonderfully full of flowers, pollens, honeys, milk chocolate, fruit teas and things like ripe pears, yellow plums and a wee touch of waxed canvass. I have to say, I find it extremely impressive and I get why others have raved rather highly about this expression when it came out. Mouth: sweet at first then becoming more peppery, spicy and with these drying herbal and heathery touches. Sap, sandalwood, fur, dried mint, dried apple rings and some hints of melon and bitter lemon. Gets increasingly drier, oilier and slightly dusty - which I find charmingly old school in some ways. There’s also this Mortlach meatiness arising over time which is great. Finish: good length, rather warming and spicy with notes of hot toddy, dried apricot and caramelised oatmeal. Comments: It’s big and joyously ‘Mortlachy’ with these rather fat and syrupy qualities, although it retains a lightness of touch which makes it eminently quaffable. Exactly what you’d want from such a bottling and a pretty clever composition I think. Have to say, I definitely prefer this to the old, more sherry-dominated 16yo.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.



Mortlach 19 yo 1999/2019 ‘Hand Fill’ (55.5%, OB for Spirit Of Speyside, cask #8564, sherry)

Mortlach 19 yo 1999/2019 ‘Hand Fill’ (55.5%, OB for Spirit Of Speyside, cask #8564, sherry)
Colour: gold. Nose: rather restrained at first, nice notes of apricot jam, brioche, sourdough toast, chamomile and green tea. Some golden syrup, gingerbread and plain corn tortillas. There’s a kind of flinty gravelly quality along with baking powder, heather ale and dried flowers. With water: more earthy with notes of hay, menthol tobacco, aniseed, lapsing souchong and dried tarragon. Once again, this unshakeable Mortlach meatiness begins to emerge along with more pollens and honeycomb. Mouth: really opens up on the palate. Massively fat, sweet, nicely waxy, oily and peppery. Superb notes of old shilling ales, mustard powder, rye bread, ointments, putty, natural tar, leather and cannabis oil. Also strong notes of tobacco, wine must and camphor. Terrific! With water: perfect! Superbly oily - motor oil, olive oil, mineral oil - waxy, bags of dried mixed herbs, hardwood saps, pollens, toasted fennel seeds, mutton broth and metal polish. I love this! Finish: long, leathery, sappy, oily and full of soft waxes, tobaccos, crystallised citrus peels, tarragon, anthracite and animalistic tones. Comments: Quite a ride. The neat nose would have you believe it’s cruising into dock at 88 points, but the palate takes it immediately to a whole new level. And the evolution with water is hugely pleasurable and fun. Worth trying if a dram of this baby crosses your path.
SGP: 572 - 91 points.



Old Pulteney 2004/2019 (50.9%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #221, barrel, 246 bottles)

Old Pulteney 2004/2019 (50.9%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #221, barrel, 246 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: soft, sweet, heathery and distantly coastal. Pure Pulteney in my wee book. Notes of gorse, chalk, wet rock, canvass, citronella candles and some rather pulpy, ripe yellow fruits. Perfect balance and showing this rather gentle, lazy elegance. It might just be the weather outside, but this feels to me exceptionally summery whisky. With water: cream crackers, soda bread, crushed greenery, hummus and some tinned pineapple rings in syrup. Mouth: you feel the activity of the cask up front, lots of vanilla cream soda, buttermilk icing and barley sugars. Although, I like that the ‘vanilla’ aspect is more natural and integrated, not the kind of sawdusty grating you get from re-racking. Some boiled watermelon sweets, custard, cider apples and porridge with honey. With water: lighter, fruitier, slightly warmer and more peppery. More notes of cider, pear drops, honey and hints of cough medicine. Finish: good length, all on lemony cough drops, marzipan, barley water, summer fruit cordials and cooking oil. Comments: The definition of easy and pleasurable dramming; I really do get a strong summery vibe from this one. I would also say that, for me, this is a pretty textbook example of excellent modern style malt whisky. Which is to say: sweet, fruity, easy and with enough complexity to keep it entertaining. Great selection.
SGP: 551 - 88 points.



Old Pulteney 1977/1988 (63.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #52.1)

Old Pulteney 1977/1988 (63.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #52.1)
Love these old, early SMWS bottlings. It’s a series that still shelters many drams which remain, to this day even among stalwart whisky geeks, hidden gems. It’s also notable that many of the early bottlings were, like this Pulteney, young and at true rocket fuel strengths. Which makes them genuine time capsules of original spirit style and character, largely un-altered by time in bottle. Colour: straw. Nose: pure barley eau de vie! Chalk, aspirin, crushed malt, oatcakes, salty porridge, spearmint, mashed potatoes with horseradish and English mustard. Powerful and punchy but still yielding some very attractive, if somewhat austere, qualities. With water: yeast, baking soda, crushed seashells, ink, oats and a freshly pulled pint of stout. Evolves more notes of pollen, dried flowers and gorse. Mouth: even at this strength the palate opens relatively easily. Wonderfully gloopy and syrupy waxiness, olive oil, hessian, gorse, salty mead and lots of petrol. Emphatic and hugely textural whisky. With water: dried herbs, cocktail bitters, white pepper, mustard powder, more notes of horseradish, dried chillis and plain digestives. Extremely cereal whisky that’s dominated by many sub-iterations of malted barley and yeast. Finish: long, drying and richly malty. Full of biscuity richness, aged blanc du blanc Champagne, freshly baked breads, a scatter of dried herbs and a crisp whip of salinity. Comments: This is 100%, grade A, whisky for hyper-geeks! This fusion of power, purity, austerity and punchiness is the sort of thing that I firmly believe requires quite a bit of education and dedication to enjoy. However, once you ‘get’ this style, you’ll be a sucker for such a dram. It’s also probably the sort of thing that President Trump would suggest for direct injection. I think these early SMWS releases were really the first outing of the same kinds of stocks that would later make up the Rare Malts series, and in that sense they share a lot of that series’ DNA: austerity, power, purity and an adherence to the raw materials.
SGP: 362 - 90 points.



Longmorn 17 yo 1974/1992 (58%, Cadenhead 150th Anniversary)

Longmorn 17 yo 1974/1992 (58%, Cadenhead 150th Anniversary)
Colour: ruby/amber. Nose: as expected, this is stunning! All manner of exotic hardwoods mixed with herbal teas, wood spices and the most gorgeous exotic fruit curds and jams. Spectacularly syrupy, thick and almost gelatinous with these quivering fruit jellies, jams, syrups and cordials. Papaya, mango, passionfruit and then chocolate syrup, freshly brewed espresso, cocoa powder, furniture wax and jasmine. Just stunning! With water: as so often with such immense drams water just drops a grenade into proceedings and blows the complexity all over the place. Roots, earthen cellars, herbs, aged pinot noir, cured game meats, more coffee, bitter chocolate, herbal medicines, pitch-dark fruits in old brandy… you could go on a long time here. Mouth: a tidal surge of dark chocolate, marmite, mole sauce, strawberry wine, raspberry cordial, blackcurrants, Maggi, natural tar and all manner of syrupy medical embrocations. Layered, profoundly complex and intense. More of these simmering incense, pot pourri and wood spice notes. Do the anti-maltoporn brigade count as essential workers? With water: like the best venison pot roast drizzled with molten dark chocolate and salt baked. Also all manner of leafy tobacco, old leather-bound books, sooty embers, miso, soy sauce, damson compote and fig chutney. Once again, you could just go on listing flavours as they pop in your mouth. But I won’t. Finish: thrillingly long and settles to a gorgeous, molten warmth of chocolate, coffee, tar, medicines, herbs, bitters, earth and dark, sticky fruits. Comments: Well, that wasn’t really a surprise. But affirmation is more than a guilty pleasure in such instances I would say.
SGP: 562 - 94 points. 



Longmorn 46 yo 1964/2010 (51.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Japan Import System, cask #1033, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 165 bottles)

Longmorn 46 yo 1964/2010 (51.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Japan Import System, cask #1033, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 165 bottles)
Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: what’s funny is that we aren’t really that far away from the 1974. It’s still this same immense and layered density of exotic fruits, hardwoods, the most beautiful of dark chocolates and a myriad matrix of spices, game meats, earthy complexity, tobaccos and leather. Also endless amounts of salty, meaty and herbal broths and infusions. You might also add one or two litres of the greatest and saltiest VORS oloroso to the melting pot while you’re at it. This is just total gooey exquisiteness. Probably a little easier and more direct than the 1974 but then it’s also more obviously older and more concentrated on these singular fruity, spice and chocolate characteristics. With water: very focused on espresso, bitter chocolate and herbal extracts now. Verbena, wormwood, anthracite and smoked olives. Mouth: some superbly grippy and peppery tannin at first, cured meats, biltong, hessian, fruity black coffee, plum sauce and five spice. There’s also this ever-present undercurrent of dried exotic fruits. Papaya, mango, passionfruit and guava, all dried out and leathery. You feel the wood in all its spicy heft but it always remains at its bright meridian point and never quite crests into gum-tiring stickiness. With water: still walking this rather heart-stopping tightrope between tannin, dried exotic fruits, ancient cognac and bitter chocolate. The sherry component remains salty, fat, leathery, beefy and totally stunning! Finish: long, tarry, peppery, leathery, densely earthy with these obese, fudgey, gummy dark and exotic fruits. Comments: It’s amazing how close we are in many ways to the 1974 in terms of that basic but utterly brilliant DNA of fruity Longmorn distillate + perfect old school sherry cask. However, this one diverges with the added influences of age and the way that extra maturity dim some parts and elevate others. I would also add that it’s pretty woody, but that woodiness is so clean, spicy, punchy and integrated that it remains unequivocally an asset.
SGP: 462 - 92 points.



Now, let’s take a break, then finish with something rather cool and very much in keeping with these lockdown times! These next two drams come from a sample set of miniatures from a virtual tasting which Royal Mile Whiskies are doing this very Friday evening. So, last night, to those of you reading this now.



The Glover 4 yo Batch 5 (54.7%, OB, Chichibu & Ardnamurchan, 4 barrels, 2020)

The Glover 4 yo Batch 5 (54.7%, OB, Chichibu & Ardnamurchan, 4 barrels, 2020)
A marriage of four barrels from Chichibu and Ardnamurchan distilleries bottled at 4 years of age. Pretty interesting! Would you call this a ‘blended world malt’? I suppose in Japan they’d call it a ‘Japanese malt’ ;) Colour: pale straw. Nose: it’s the Chichibu that sings first to my nostrils. All on crushed chalk, aspirin, very delicate antiseptics, fresh linens and a hyper-clean and wonderfully crisp cereal and malty quality. Also things like fabric softener, lemon sherbet and mineral salts. There’s this very attractive and rather brittle coastal edge which is great. With water: gets sootier and slightly vegetal. Lots of clay and a rather greasy smokiness emerges. Putty, olives and metal polish. Mouth: as often seems to happen with these younger, modern malts, the nose can really mask a profound peatiness. In this case there’s a wonderfully dense medical side with pure peat smoke and wee hints of TCP and tar. A briny / smoky combo that comes through with surprising clarity on the palate which was largely absent from the nose. Very fun! More of these medical notes such as crushed aspirin and gauze alongside lime juice and lemon barley water. With water: big, smoky, fat glycerine peatiness. Plasticine, tar, embrocations, seaweed and syrupy ointments. Finish: long, salty, slightly oily and medical. Comments: I am reliably informed the peaty component in this hails from the very same Ardnamurchan that we’re about to try next. Anyway, a fun and very fine composition. Modern, hyper-clean, impeccable malt whisky that wears its youth with canny aplomb!
SGP: 366 - 86 points.



Ardnamurchan 4 yo 2015/2020 (62.8%, OB for virtual tasting, cask #426, 1st fill barrel, 165 miniatures)

Ardnamurchan 4 yo 2015/2020 (62.8%, OB for virtual tasting, cask #426, 1st fill barrel, 165 miniatures)
This is apparently the first officially bottled and commercially released Ardnamurchan. Evidently designed to infuriate miniature collectors. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my view. Kudos to the guys at Adelphi for doing something understated and cool like this which means more folk are actually likely to drink these drams! Colour: pale gold. Nose: crystalline and pure peat smoke encrusted with salinity in the form of seawater and brine cut with lemon juice. Go deeper and there’s a farmyard quality that starts to emerge, a bass-like boiler smoke note with oily sheep wool and tar. Also black olives, kelp, rope and soot. Dense and extremely muscular whisky. With water: meatier, greasier, oilier and full of things like oyster sauce, canvass, rubber fishing boots, crab bisque and hot smoked salmon. Mouth: massively peaty and grisly. Oils, tar, more boiler smoke, anchovy paste, petrol, seawater and camphor. A whole sheep doused in iodine! Extremely fatty in texture, like molten bacon lardons with creosote, green olive tapenade and seaweed broth. With water: extremely powerful! Seriously, this is a wee teuchter monster. The deformed cousin of Octomore they would keep locked in the attic at dinner parties. Farmyard, peat bog and blustery shoreline all fighting for prominence. Finish: long and drenched in antiseptic, seawater, petrol and raw natural tar. Dirty diesel fumes in the aftertaste alongside aniseed, gentian eau de vie and some very rustic mezcal. Comments: Peat covers a multitude of sins. Although, despite the muscular brutality of this young Ardnamurchan, it doesn’t feel ‘sinful’ at all in the technical sense. In fact, despite this blast furnace of peat and farmyard, it still feels like a very well made, rather technical modern Scottish single malt. I say Scottish because there is a very distinct highland accent to this whisky. You cannot help but be impressed, although I suspect another few years of maturation will yield more complexity and greater distinctiveness which are probably the elements that are slightly absent currently. If they release this style more widely then today’s peat freaks will have no choice but to roll up their sleeves and re-enforce their trousers!
SGP: 478 - 88 points.



I’m pretty happy with this wee session, I was not expecting such a roster of high scores.



Big virtual hugs to KC, Hideo, Dirk, Harrison and Sebastian





April 24, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 38
Perhaps a few more Irish and a tribute to Limburg

Perhaps just a few, perhaps a little more, and probably whiskies from two different countries. Or not, but please no politics, whisky/whiskey is kind of similar to rugby after all, is it not?

Teeling ‘Batch 3’ (46%, OB, Irish, 6000 bottles, 2019)

Teeling ‘Batch 3’ (46%, OB, Irish, 6000 bottles, 2019) Two stars
This is ‘single pot still’, not too sure about the difference between this and a ‘pure pot still’. Indeed, I could try to find out. It’s made in the new distillery in Dublin, so most certainly young. Colour: straw. Nose: you do feel that this is triple-distilled, and that there’s some grain, meaning some unmalted barley. It’s a little earthy, with notes of apple pie, then orange zests and a little vanilla. It’s fine, reminding us of those old bottles of Jameson’s or Paddy or Power’s. So an ‘old-school’ side, but I wouldn’t climb the walls for it, as we say in France. Mouth: I like the palate a little better, but it’s got a bonbony side and something still rough. White Calvados and grass, plus candy floss. Finish: rather short, grassy. Comments: fine I suppose it’s still a little too young. As we sometimes say when whiskies are young, ‘it shows potential’, but it’s got strictly nothing to do with earlier – and rather stunning -sourced single casks under the same name .
SGP:341 - 74 points.

Irish Single Malt Whisky 29 yo 1990/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Blues, Irish, barrel, cask #593, 100 bottles)

Irish Single Malt Whisky 29 yo 1990/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Blues, Irish, barrel, cask #593, 100 bottles) Five stars
Most probably single malt from ‘the other country in ye north’. Indeed, B. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a metallic and acidic cask, and the problem is that I love that. Especially when passion fruits and mangos would get unveiled, together with blood oranges and, in this very case, half a drop of raspberry vinegar. I’m dead serious! Mouth: you remember when dear Richard Paterson explains how to taste a whisky? Say hello, then aha, uh-oh, ha, yum, mmm… Indeed, this one’s extremely chewy, as tropical as these Bs could get, and just shock-full of passion fruits, grapefruits, mangos and pink bananas. And always this tiny-wee vinegary touch that works so well – I swear that’s raspberry! Finish: rather long, with just a touch of vanilla and a curious wee smokiness showing up. Perhaps some influence from a former content? Some mint too, by the way. Comments: fantastic. These casks will always remain very hard to beat, even when they’re not utter champions of complexity.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Ireland 15 yo 2002/2018 (51.2%, The Whisky Fair 2019, Irish, barrel)

Ireland 15 yo 2002/2018 (51.2%, The Whisky Fair 2019, Irish, barrel) Four stars
Poor Whisky Fair Limburg that should have started right tomorrow (right, rather tonight)! But see you in 2021! Room is booked and Currywurst reserved, we’re already ready! Colour: as white as a German riesling. Ha-ha. Nose: this classic feeling of barley eau-de-vie with hints of bananas and whiffs of dill and aniseed (and fennel). Of course this is not a 1988-1992, but I find it fine and fresh this far. With water: indeed! Kiwi and rhubarb juices with a touch of vanilla and the smallest amount of grass. Like, one blade. Notes of proper poppy candy too, which I always found lovely even while I was growing (a little) older. Mouth (neat): ah, tropical fruits showing up, with some custard, sweet bread, and rather a pineapple-mango combo that would work very well. Touch of porridge. With water: frankly, water was unnecessary. Perhaps a little more lemon. Finish: medium, very fruity. A family pack of Haribo’s best, but without too much sugar. Comments: not one of those legendary vintages but we’re getting there. Excellent, even more so given the age and vintage.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

A Drop of the Irish 8 yo (58%, Blackadder, single malt, Irish, cask #DI 2015-6, 366 bottles, 2016)

A Drop of the Irish 8 yo (58%, Blackadder, single malt, Irish, cask #DI 2015-6, 366 bottles, 2016) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is raw, eau-de-vie-ish, you could almost believe this is fine (as in brandy). I’m positive they’ve added some marc de gewurztraminer, and that is much less unpleasant than a Facebook quizz! With water: apple juice, pear juice… Mouth (neat): oh very good! Simple, young, a tad hipflasky (meaning not one to sip in your best armchair while watching Citizen Kane) and beautifully fruity. I would say cherries and plums, and perhaps melon. Not too sure about the last part, but there’s also a feeling of saccharose that should go away as soon as… With water: indeed, adios sugar welcome grass and earth, although this would remain a very fruity and easy whisky, and certainly not an austere grassy/earthy malt. Finish: medium, with a little hay, grass and peelings. With some flesh remaining! Comments: an excellent , very cool and pretty natural little drop from Van Morrison’s country – if I’m not mistaken.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Oh well, four’s a good number. I’m sure the Teelings will get better and better, and in the meantime, see you and stay safe!

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


April 23, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 37
Pachydermic (kind of) Benriach to make amend

We did a wee Benriach session the other week that’s been a little, say inconclusive. Today we’ll go for it again, and do this quickly and fastly.

Benriach 9 yo 2010/2019 (62.4%, James Eadie, Paolo Cortado finish)

Benriach 9 yo 2010/2019 (62.4%, James Eadie, Paolo Cortado finish) Three stars
You do remember what Palo Cortado is, don’t you! Indeed, it’s situated kind of between a fino and an oloroso. Excuse me? Indeed, not unlike an amontillado, but a palo cortado went further towards an oloroso. So it's more oxidative than an amontllado, if you will. They don’t make much palo cortado anyway, I’m even surprised they make some for seasoning ‘sherry casks’. Colour: gold. Nose: crikey, don’t they really know how to make these at James Eadie’s? Wonderful metallic, chalky, mustardy, walnutty style. There’s even what we always just adore, olives! Someone should try to distil olives one day. With water: gentle vanilla and brioche dough joining the dance. Mouth (neat): ueber-modern, hyper-extractive style, bursting with oak spices, bitterish herbs (thyme, rosemary, tarragon) and roasted nuts. With water: café latte, Thai soup, oude geneever (aged). Not sure the distillate has got anything to say in this context, and indeed this could be just any young Speysider including The Mac, but I like this rather brutal style that just would not bother with nuances. Finish: long. Spiced coffee, anyone? Comments: a crazy concoction for sure. I’m sure you could use it as an alternative to garam masala.
SGP:372 - 82 points.

Benriach-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 270 bottles)

Benriach-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 270 bottles) Four stars and a half
I believe young Benriach needs some very active wood indeed. Colour: mahogany. Nose: there, tamarind jam, caramel, putty, a drop of paint thinner, certainly some marzipan, model glue, new sneakers, dried mushrooms, burnt sugar, new leatherette, coffee liqueur, tar, new Macintosh, new Renault, new Ford, new BMW (I think we got a good grasp of your general idea, S.) … What a joyous carnival of petroly aromas! With water: gets gentle as sheep, bizarrely. Twix and Golden Grahams. Mouth (neat): LOL, and I mean, really, LOL. Heavy varnish, heavy glue, plastics, tar, prune concentrate, plywood, molasses… Watch your tongue! With water: very good, gentler indeed, very cake-y, with touches of soy sauce in the back of the background. Finish: long and all on real chocolate. Comments: rather love this little monster of a sherry monster (de la muerte). Cellar it for… like 30 years, for post-Covid generations! It reminds me a bit of the early Glenfarclas 105s. Well done on all accounts Cadenhead, now we’re talking. But don’t forget to add water.
SGP:571 - 88 points.


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


April 22, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 36
Three Private Dalmore

Three private casks for either China or Taiwan, I still have to double-check that part, knowing that the very honourable friendly and distinguished proprietor is Chinese.

Dalmore 19 yo 1999 ‘Moscatel Cask Finish’ (54.9%, OB, Private Cask, cask #10)

Dalmore 19 yo 1999 ‘Moscatel Cask Finish’ (54.9%, OB, Private Cask, cask #10) Four stars and a half
In theory, this should be a little sweet. Colour: gold. Nose: we’ve always known that Dalmore knew how to make these, and that they wouldn’t leave anything to chance. Which means that there are no off notes, no excessive rubber, green pepper, old ginger or even sulphur whatsoever. I’m rather thinking a large warm mirabelle tarte, sprinkled with honey and maple sauce, the squeezed oranges blended with honey as well, and then sultanas treated just similarly. More globally, this is some liquid oriental pastry (baklava, kenafeh…) With water: lovely freshness. Honeysuckle and perhaps elderflowers! No we haven’t got anything against elderflowers. Mouth (neat): very good, sweet and rounded, much in line with the nose, a tad harsher of course, rather all on tarte tatin and baklava. In other words, caramel, orange blossom water, and honey. With water: smooth, soft, honeyed. Reminds me of those large greengage pies that my grandma used to bake. We want our greengages back! Finish: medium, soft, on ripe plums and more honeys. Apricot am too (yummy!) Comments: extremely seductive, very good, and pretty easy once you’ve added a drop of water.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Dalmore 21 yo ‘Matusalem Oloroso Sherry’ (55.9%, OB, Private Cask, China)

Dalmore 21 yo ‘Matusalem Oloroso Sherry’ (55.9%, OB, Private Cask, China) Four stars and a half
It seems that this is not a finish, rather full maturation. Matusalem means Gonzalez Byass (of Tio Pepe fame), long time partners of The Dalmore and Whyte & Mackay in general. But careful, Matusalem is a ‘dulce’ oloroso, so rather some cream sherry blending palomino and PX. It is not exactly an oloroso, which ought to be dry if I’m not mistaken. Colour: gold. Nose: it is sweeter than your ‘average’ oloroso monster, and by the way, it’s not a monster. But indeed, it’s close to those lovely old VORS they have in Jerez, between old Corinth raisins and precious walnut cakes. You could almost describe it as ‘bodega-y’, with these whiffs of old wine cellar. I mean, a proper Jerezian winemaker’s (or breeder, a.k.a. almacenista), bodega. With water: pretty fantastic, despite the few struck matches that are prowling around this wee Dalmore. Mouth (neat): very good, pretty thick, rich, yet elegant, full of prunes, walnuts, blood oranges, dried figs, just a touch of gunpowder, liquorice… With water: perhaps a notch more gunpowder, and some grassier notes. Cooked asparagus, Brussels sprout… Finish: long, nutty, a tad tarry and smoky. That gunpowder. Comments: I was about to jump higher but the gunpowder ate a few points, so to speak. Remains top-notch, and what a nose!
SGP:461 - 88 points.

Dalmore 24 yo 1995 ‘Madeira Wine Cask Finish’ (56.4%, OB, Private Cask, cask #29)

Dalmore 24 yo 1995 ‘Madeira Wine Cask Finish’ (56.4%, OB, Private Cask, cask #29) Four stars and a half
I seem to remember well, when Glenmorangie released their very first set of core-range finishings (not the first specials), I had thought the Madeira was the best. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s probably malmsey/malvasia, and yet I find this appropriately dry, mustardy, and full of walnuts in all their possible forms. And I really enjoy this leather, the tobacco, and these notes of real milk and mashed potatoes. Remember, 50% potatoes, 50% butter. With water: gets a tad bonbony, candied… Cranberry drops? No prob. Mouth (neat): mustard, radish, bananas flambéed, walnuts, tobacco, crème brulée, tarte tatin and raisin roll. In short, feels like home. With water: a little spicier. Cracked pepper, cloves… Finish: rather long, first on dried fruits, then on baking spices. Allspice. Or that mix that the Moroccans call ‘the lazy spouses’ spice mix’. Works with just anything… I suppose you could even enhance Jack! Comments: indeed my favourite, but that was a tight grouping. Probably more double-maturing than simple finishings!
SGP:451 - 89 points.

Dalmore are masters at these ‘cross-breed’ styles. In my book, it’s virtually impossible for them to reach the 90-mark, but they often get extremely close.

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


April 21, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 35
Glenrothes ad libitum

There are many Glenrothes at the indies! Lovely distillery by the way, one of the first we visited with the Malt Maniacs around twenty years ago. We had been greeted princely but those were the years when we used to be seen as ‘those strange people from the Internet’. No, really, curious creatures...

Glenrothes 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Glenrothes 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
I believe this is the humblest newish OB from the ‘Soleo Collection’. What we call a drunken name, but there, that doesn’t matter, shouldn’t be bad at all, the 12 is very good I think (WF 85). Now they may have some sh***y NAS too, not too sure. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not that gentle, not that smooth and rounded, and even slightly earthy, with notes of toasted cake and English breakfast tea. A pleasant maltiness, some chocolate, Golden Grahams, pancake syrup… All that is very pleasant I have to say. Mouth: modern and good. Butterscotch, custard, Jaffa cake, cappuccino, latte (I’ll say it again, they make latte by adding $5 to regular coffee – ha) and a touch of oak (sawdust). Finish: a tad short but we’re cool. Malt, orange syrup, cake, chicory coffee. Only the aftertaste is a tad too much on sawdust and cardboard, but few people would last until the aftertaste without having poured another dram anyway. Comments: it really is a fine dram, no complains whatsoever, on the contrary. Just cut the finish.
SGP:441 - 81 points.

Good, apéro’s sorted, on to the indies…Why not a much older one that’s been bottled at a low natural strength?

Glenrothes 30 yo 1989/ (41.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #18177, 92 bottles)

Glenrothes 30 yo 1989/ (41.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #18177, 92 bottles) Three stars and a half
I’m always quite curious about the bottlings by these ladies and gentlemen, as I’m often finding some kind of statement behind each of them. Must be me, probably some kind of cognitive bias… Colour: gold. Nose: yeah forget. Jurançon moelleux, mango juice, orange blossom, all-flower honey from the Alpes, and fresh quince jelly. Quince jelly tears everything up anyway. In my book, in any case. Mouth: are we sure this is not from the 1970-1976 vintages? The lower strength and the herbal oak that was about to seize control are not obligatorily great news, but all the rest is perfect, honey, mead, halva, Sauternes, quinces indeed, apricots, mirabelles… So a Turner with a hole in a corner, that’s still a Turner, no? Finish: it didn’t even get too drying, but some varnishy touches come unexpected. Comments: on the edge. Great whisky with some flaws appearing, I would say. Shall we call this wee baby an imperilled masterpiece?
SGP:651 - 84 points.

Glenrothes 11 yo 2007/2019 (51.4%, North Star spirits, for Ralfy, sherry butt, 618 bottles)

Glenrothes 11 yo 2007/2019 (51.4%, North Star spirits, for Ralfy, sherry butt, 618 bottles) Four stars
This one celebrates Ralfy’s 10th anniversary. I mean, the 10th anniversary of his excellent vlog, which we keep encouraging and supporting unreservedly since its inception. Fresh, independent and pleasantly deviant voices are exactly what the whisky industry needs in my opinion, before it gets too dusty and lethally consanguineous. Now I agree, those tartan jackets… ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: cool soft honey and custard, butterscotch, Ovaltine, praline, plum cake, overripe apples, poached pears, tarte tatin, raisins, all that. With water: apple juice and cracked white pepper. Mouth (neat): extremely good, malty, jammy, on more butterscotch and shortbread, fudge, toffee, café latte, millionaire shortbread… With water: once again apples and all the kinds of cakes make thereof come to the front. Finish: medium, uncomplicated, very good, very malty. Comments: a winner at 11 years of age. You cannot make any more complex at 11 years of age. Kudos North Star and kudos Ralfy!  
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Since we were celebrating a 10th anniversary…

Glenrothes 22 yo 1997/2019 (59%, Liquid Treasures, 10th anniversary, rum barrel, 109 bottles)

Glenrothes 22 yo 1997/2019 (59%, Liquid Treasures, 10th anniversary, rum barrel, 109 bottles) Three stars and a half
Hold on, isn’t that poor Melania T. on the label? To think that she could have become a cell biology researcher and won a Nobel Prize! Colour: light gold. Nose: really all on custard, tarte tatin, brioche, Jaffa cake, madeleines and shortbread, and anything similar. With water: some fine fresh oak coming out. Fresh almonds too. Mouth (neat): liquid cake, really. I guess the rum feels a bit, rather with overripe bananas in this cake, I mean case, otherwise this is a rather gigantic liquid tarte tatin indeed. With water: calvados rather than rum, that’s funny. Finish: medium, okay, malty, on cakes and tartes. Especially tarte… right, tarte tatin. Comments: once again, no complains and no quibbles. Just not a dram that will bring back Janis and Billie Holliday. See what I mean?
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Glenrothes 2007/2018 (53.4%, The Limburg Whisky Fair 2019, sherry wood)

Glenrothes 2007/2018 (53.4%, The Limburg Whisky Fair 2019, sherry wood) Three stars
Question of the day, could Glenrothes be a slightly boring dram sometimes? Discuss… But anyway, dear dear Whisky Fair, stay strong, the ‘whisky community’, should that really exist, needs you more than any other whisky fair in the world! Colour: pale gold. Nose: this will be short and sweet. Shortbread, butterscotch, oatcakes, vanilla fudge, pancake syrup, and pear cake. With water: more pears. Mouth (neat): a liquid Mars bar. A deep-fried one, naturally. Also Williams pears and just malty beer. With water: so some deep-fried Williams pear in a thin layer of Belgian chocolate. Apologies. Finish: medium. Comments: good, but what’s on TV?
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 17 yo 2002/2019 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead)

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 17 yo 2002/2019 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead) Three stars
This one from two hoggies. Not sure it’ll change the world, but let’s see… (with an open heart)… Colour: white wine. Nose: malt, grass, apple pie, porridge, banana bread. With water: not too sure. Green malt? Beer? Mouth (neat): sure, yes, notes of ale, slivovitz, pears again, malt, some pleasant earthy touches… With water: it’s good, it’s okay, it’s got notes of café latte, it’s got cakes and muffins… But I think I’m about to fall asleep… Finish: good. Comments: good. Now I’ve heard there’s another lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on Netflix, so if you would excuse me…
SGP:441 - 81 points.

We’ve learnt something today, you cannot do a large Glenrothes session and keep your spirits high. It’s a good dram, but that’s the problem, it’s just a good dram. Unless, of course, you make sure you only put top-notch expressions on your tasting table. Next time, good night.

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


April 20, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 34
Today Glengoyne

Let’s try a few of this lovely southernmost Highlander! I keep remembering that old ad for Glengoyne that used to insist on the fact that no peat was harmed during the process of making the malt (so to speak) and on the fact that it’s ‘air dried’. All that with a photograph of a young blonde driving a 911 cabriolet ;-). Roof off.

Glengoyne 'Cask Strength Batch 006' (59.8%, OB, 2018)

Glengoyne 'Cask Strength Batch 006' (59.8%, OB, 2018) Four stars
We had No 5 and No 7, but indeed No 6 was missing. Time to remedy that unbearable situation. Colour: gold. Nose: I have the feeling that this one was a little fresher than the others, and rather more on apples (goldens) and oranges. Then indeed, a few juicy sultanas and something like a pecan pie. Very very pleasant so far. With water: some white chocolate, madeleines, and drops of almond milk. No quibbling. Mouth (neat): really good, powerful of course, but fresh, with no leathery sherryness in the way (I find many hastily seasoned sherry casks too leathery). Apples and oranges again, walnut cake, Golden Grahams and then even more orange. That’s very good. With water: notes of bonbons coming out, and the faintest touch of natural rubber. No problemo. Finish: medium, clean, on pastries and cakes, with just a touch of leather/rubber again in the aftertaste. Comments: some very fine whisky, well composed, very classic, I liked it a little better than both 5 and 7.
SGP:541 - 85 points.

Glengoyne 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Glengoyne 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
I haven’t tried this expression since 2013. Should be good. Colour: deep gold. Nose: really a classic, extremely well balanced, perhaps a tad conservative but that’s rather an asset in this context. I absolutely adore these notes of stewed peaches and quinces, for example, as well as the Sauternes and the honey. Wonderful and rather the opposite of ‘modern’ whisky. Mouth: extremely good, but too easy to quaff down, really. Lovely caramel and fudge, honey, buttered popcorn, marmalade, maple syrup and just one or two roasted raisins. Finish: medium, perfectly clean, seductive, malty, and cake-y. Who does not like this doesn’t like malt whisky at all. Comments: rather impressed with this little baby. I don’t think all batches are this good, but there, it’s typically moreish!
SGP:641 - 89 points.

Perhaps an ultra-clean young indie?

Glengoyne 12 yo 2005/2019 (57.9%, Archives, cask #1938, 248 bottles)

Glengoyne 12 yo 2005/2019 (57.9%, Archives, cask #1938, 248 bottles) Four stars
More fish! I’m thinking of our friends who do collect Archives’ whiskies, their shelves should look like… aquariums ;-). Nah, love Archives and it’s true that most European bottlers have been heavily influenced by Mr Mongiardino, of Moon Import fame. Colour: white wine. Nose: a box of Walker’s shortbread and a slice of apple tarte with a glass of orange juice on the side. That’s more or less it, but it was lovely. With water: a little grassier and more on fresh almonds and walnuts. Oh, and barley, and grist. Mouth (neat): just some perfect fresh malt whisky, rather on orange liqueur this time, with touches of earl grey. The usual butterscotch in the background. With water: it wouldn’t get any more complex, but it’s still clean and malty, with a little tobacco this time. Finish: long and very barley-y. Comments: perhaps is it a tad elementary, but it does deliver on all accounts. Very natural clan barley eau-de-vie.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Back to the officials, let’s see what remains in the box… especially if we have some old ones… Oh, sure, this! Now to me the details about these two next bottles are a little sketchy and uncertain, but there...

Glengoyne 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.1%, OB, for Taiwan, European oak sherry cask, cask #835, 574 bottles)

Glengoyne 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.1%, OB, for Taiwan, European oak sherry cask, cask #835, 574 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: cognac. Nose: this one’s much jammier. Think apricot jam, maple syrup, pancake syrup, raisins, drops of muscat, perhaps some PX… Was it PX indeed? With water: more cakes, perhaps. Biscuits and a wee glass of sweeter ale, or perhaps stout. Heavily caramelised Brit beer. Mouth (neat): rather rich, a tad on the oaky side perhaps, that is to say spicier than usual, but that may be that European oak. Raisins plus caraway and cracked pepper. With water: coffee dregs and bitter dark chocolate. No sweetness left, it became totally dry! What’s this sorcery? Finish: medium, a tad cognacqy and with touches of mangos when neat, drier and more drying when diluted. Espresso. Comments: very good, naturally, but it’s been hesitating and searching itself all along the tasting.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

A last one…

Glengoyne 30 yo 1986/2017 (54.4%, OB, for Taiwan, cask #1652, 505 bottles) Five stars
No picture for this one, I’m afraid. And the colour’s suspiciously pale given its age, but let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: ooh, rhubarb, kiwi, gooseberries, grapefruits, chalk and just the wee-est whiff of cat piss. Did someone distil some sauvignon blanc and matured it in an amphora? With water: wonderfully clean and zesty. Just a touch of oak. Mouth (neat): same feeling of sauvignon blanc, grapefruits, stems, geranium, flints, and a little custard… This is perfect. With water: amazing freshness and a perfect maturity. The wonders of 30 years of aging in a self-restrained container. Incredible elegance. Finish: so good, so good! Comments: a perfect example of a pretty old malt whisky that’s aged with grace and refinement. Very, very impressive, now to find a bottle…
SGP:651 - 91 points.

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


April 19, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 33
A little fun with three brandies

We usually prefer to do only Cognacs, or Armagnacs, but this time we’ll do it differently, and keep this short. Not much brandy coming our way anyway these days… (not that we’re complaining, there aren’t many tasting slots available at WF and we still have a few older boxes hidden somewhere…) By the way, brandy is distilled wine (Brantwein, burnt wine) as opposed to marc or grappa, where spent/pressed grapes are rather used. Cognac and Armagnac are brandies. We’ll have an old one, a very old one, and a very very old one…

Loustau ‘Solera Gran Reserva Finest Selection’ (40%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2019)

Loustau ‘Solera Gran Reserva Finest Selection’ (40%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
This one’s a 15 yo and it was aged in very old ex-oloroso and ex-PX solera casks. At Loustau they also have a younger ‘Gran Reserva’ that’s rather 10 yo. Colour: coffee with reddish hues. Lovely colour, I suppose it’s natural here. Nose: and indeed it noses of coffee as well, prunes and raisins, coffee liqueur, walnut wine, a touch of oak but not that much, some dry oloroso indeed… That’s the main difference between these Jerezian brandies and cognac or Armagnac, they’re using sherry casks while French brandy would rather use new or ‘self’ casks. Hoep the palate is not sweet despite the PX… Mouth: well, it is a tad sweet and indeed PX-y, but it doesn’t quite have this sugary side that other brandies of Jerez do showcase. Really a lot of raisins, chocolate and coffee, with a touch of earth in the background. Pretty simple, yet good spirit. Finish: medium, oakier. Spent coffee beans, raisins, burnt caramel and molasses. Comments: still not a huge fan of these sweet brandies, but I would say this is rather among the top of the heap.
SGP:730 - 79 points.

Laubade 1965/2008 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Laubade 1965/2008 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars
Laubade is a very well-known house in the Gers, to be found in many good restaurants all over France. Colour: office coffee. Nose: starts unusual, all on cherry and almonds, maraschino, amaretti, orgeat, proper kirsch, all that before praline, fudge, prunes, raisins and fig jam start to show up. But the cherries and the almonds would never disappear. And it is a fact that I cherish cherries (pff) and almonds. Mouth: classic old Armagnac, pretty dry, especially after the brandy de Jerez that was ten times sweeter, rather more on raisins and marmalade this time, rancio, then coffee and chocolate. Lovely touches of rosemary and perhaps sorrel in the background, which lifts it a bit, but it remains very coffee-ish. Not too thin at 40% vol. Finish: this is where the oak would start to get a tad ‘too much’. Spoonfuls and spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder, tea and ‘sucking an untipped Gauloises’. But of course, why not in St-Germain while you’re at it? Comments: a bit on the dry and drying side, and consequently lacking fruits a little bit. But it remains an excellent Armagnac, rather old-school. My dear grandpa used to quaff these styles.
SGP:261 - 85 points.

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020) Five stars
How could I be against anything called ‘Malternative’? No need to be fluent in French to understand that this was distilled ‘before 1925’, which does not mean that this baby’s 95 years of age as it had been kept in demi-johns for around forty years prior to bottling. Which, frankly, is rather good news. Colour: deep gold. Nose: exceptional nose, incredibly fresh and deep at the same time, with first this perfect quince-apricot-peach combination, then those tiny herbs, berries and leaves that suggest perfect maturation (mint, touch of myrtle, wormwood…), then dried fruits as expected (figs, dates, raisins), then flowers. Orange blossom first, then ylang-ylang like in some old rums. A little fresh tobacco too (old-style Bensons, I would say) and a hint of marrow quenelles. Very complex, but not much rancio. No problems at all! Mouth: it’s the freshness that’s really impressive, and the fruits. This is a very fruity drink! More quinces, big juicy blood oranges, the usual peaches and apricot, ripe greengages, a tiny touch of guava, and once again those herbs that would add so much complexity to any spirit (and that you’ll never find in a young malt or bandy). Around eucalyptus and verbena, but with moderation. Finish: medium, fresh, and just very similar, which is great news. Perhaps a little more honey, and just tiny oaky/tannic/peppery tones. Comments: you imagine well some moustachioed (why?) grandpa down there around Charentes stating, back in the late 1970s, ‘let’s disgorge this cask and put the Cognac into demijohns for the future generations!’ Grandpas are always the smartest…
SGP:641 - 91 points.

Happy Sunday and stay safe!

(Merci Patrick)


April 18, 2020


  Dear reader,
You've got some urgent decision to take on this Saturday, either peruse Angus's new mad tasting session, or read The Brothers Karamazov for the umpteenth time. Or the Whisky Bible. Your choice - Serge. ;-)

OK, good choice!...




Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Ardbeg Vs Lagavulin 
I was going to hold off publishing this session for a while longer as I’m trying not to do these kinds of big ‘bonanza’ posts too often, and especially considering the recent Springbank ‘Megasesh’ we did. However, this is lockdown, and lockdown does occasionally call for a little whisky flavoured largesse does it not? 


There isn’t much by way of a purpose to this wee session, beyond the fact that I had managed to accrue samples from both distilleries. In particular from the period when they were both producing some of their most legendary distillates. Beyond that I would simply add that when the three ‘Kildalton’ malts are compared to one another, it seems to hinge around Laphroaig. That is to say: Lagavulin compared to Laphroaig by reasons of historical association; or Ardbeg compared to Laphroaig by more recent (early 1990s) reasons of shared operation and ownership. It’s rare that we think of Ardbeg and Lagavulin in direct comparison - probably because, apart from the guttural engines of Islay peat at their hearts, they remain very different and distinct creatures. 



Ardbeg 10 yo (70 proof, OB, bottled circa 1976)

Ardbeg 10 yo (70 proof, OB, bottled circa 1976)
A super rare old bottling that should be just after the mid 1970s and before they transitioned to the gold and black label. Colour: gold. Nose: typically beautiful mix of seawater, diesel, drying kelp, old rope and tar. An extremely pure expression of peat - the kind that is unique to 60s and 70s Ardbeg. The 40% abv leaves you with a curiously dissonant impression of fragility and power. Yet, the overall impression remains one of evocative beauty and peaty harmonics. Mouth: as big and majestic as whisky can be at 40%. Soots, embrocations, seawater, ink, tar, TPC and an almost gelatinous peatiness. Finish: long, fat and superbly earthy, sooty and smoky. Comments: Imagine this at 80 proof. Or - dare to dream - 100 proof! Despite the strength, the elegance, control, power and sheer force of peaty personality are massive. 
SGP: 467 - 94 points. 



Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (49.5%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 222 bottles)

Ardbeg 28 yo 1972/2001 (49.5%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 222 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: seawater, kelp, smoked rubber, creel nets, tar, iodine, oysters, sheep wool… all the usual 70s Ardbeg tricks. Although, perhaps overall it errs on the lighter side of most 72s. There’s still this wonderful mix of medicines, hessian, old rope and dried seaweed with a whiff of diesel fumes in the background. Dry and chiselled. Mouth: big arrival! Hugley tarry and peppery, lots of smoked fennel, canvas, black olives, seawater mixed with olive oil, shoe polish and coal smoke. One of these Ardbegs that veers towards mechanical and slightly industrial characteristics. The palate is more boisterous and punchy than the nose suggested - which is a lovely surprise. Get’s very sooty, mineral, oily and with an almost greasy old Ardbeg peat. Finish: wonderfully long, emphatic, peaty, earthy, drying notes of seaweed, caraway, brine and slightly dirty smoke. Comments: The character and reputation of these vintages of Ardbeg is such that when you write notes, you can easily find yourself getting a tad blasé about a 94 point whisky. Let’s not forget just how incredible these casks were at the time and how influential they were on broader single malt culture. It’s great to revisit such bottlings and be blown away all over again. Stunning whisky that combines purity and power with brilliant wee dirty and mechanical touches. 
SGP: 466 - 94 points.



Ardbeg 1974/1991 (56%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #33.11)

Ardbeg 1974/1991 (56%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #33.11)
Needless to say, these very early SMWS Ardbegs, like the Springbanks, are both super scarce and bear an immense reputation. Colour: gold. Nose: beautifully sooty and smoky. A dank chimney with tarry embers, coal scuttles and old rope. Lots of hessian, paraffin, tar, iodine drops, dried kelp, seaweed crackers and anchovy paste. Despite the power you sense underneath everything unfolds with deft precision and control. Some beautifully elegant salinity keeps everything hyper fresh. With water: extremely pure and coastal now. Seawater, salt, brine, lemon juice, boiler smoke and kippers. Still all the while displaying this typical Ardbeg density of peat. Mouth: Waaaoooow! Pin-sharp peat, pink sea salt, black olives in brine, pure iodine, natural tar extracts, black pepper, smoked mackerel, salted liquorice and yet more tar. Totally thrilling whisky! Poise, power, balance and beautiful structure. With water: bandages, medical embrocations, antiseptic, herbal mouthwash, peat ashes, malt vinegar and camphor. Totally stunning! Herbal, smouldering, medical sooty and hugely salty. Finish: endlessly smoky, resinous, fatty, glycerol, herbal and umami. All manner of earthy, sooty, smoky and peaty complexities fizzing and popping. Comments: Effortlessly brilliant whisky! The kind of that totally dominates you from the get go and all you can do is follow it and try to keep up. The depth, power, complexity and balance are all just breathtaking! I really think these SMWS cask are amongst some of the very best 70s Ardbegs ever bottled. 
SGP: 478 - 95 points. 



Ardbeg 1975/1987 (55.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #33.5)

Ardbeg 1975/1987 (55.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #33.5)
Colour: gold. Nose: what strikes first are the more sooty and cereal tones. Like fresh kiln air tinged with blue peat smoke. Then you start to get these wee whiffs of menthol tobacco, black olive, kelp, brine and bonfire ash. Extremely pure and with a big but brittle austerity. Malt vinegar, camphor, vapour rubs, bandages and seawater. Whereas the 74 was a little easier and more restrained, this is rather more beastly. Immense! With water: the power remains but what is so striking is the freshness. Really pure sea air in a glass! Sandalwood, gorse, sand, crushed shells, white fish and simmering stock full of many different herbs. Mouth: Powerful but restrained arrival that then unfolds into the most immense salinity! Pure seawater, wet seaweed, oysters, sea urchin, mercurochrome, aspirin, petrol, natural tar and antiseptic. The kind of gunk you could stand a spoon in and disinfect whole hospitals with a single measure. Also profoundly peppery, sooty, oily and still wonderfully tarry. With water: the power is still dazzling but everything is even more fat, precise and generous now. More black pepper, more olives, more brine, more smoked sea salt, more olive oil, more medicine, more herbs and more peat. Just MORE! Finish: endlessly fat, greasy, salty and medical. A big, fat, slithering peatiness. Comments: Quite flabbergasting whisky. These SMWS bottlings are so precious because they show this immense distillate in its comparative youth and without any sherry to dress it up. Just uncompromising, naked and un-diluted raw 70s Ardbeg, bouncing around the glass and quivering with peaty power. This one is a tad more raw and guttural than the 1974 but the overall quality is almost identical. These two SMWS casks make Octomore feel like Speyburn.
SGP: 468 - 95 points.



Ardbeg 10 yo 1978/1988 (57.8%, The Syndicate, 240 bottles)

Ardbeg 10 yo 1978/1988 (57.8%, The Syndicate, 240 bottles)
A rather rare example from Sir John MacTaggart’s private stash of casks. This label series is more commonly associated with Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Laphroaig, but Bowmore and Bruichladdich have both also featured - and of course this wee Ardbeg. Colour: pale gold. Nose: deeply ashy, petrolic and saline. An assertive and almost brutal minerality along with these notes of boiler smoke, dried kelp, black pepper and smoked olive oil. There’s also some rather earthy notes of black tea and vegetal things like baked cauliflower, caraway, antiseptic and asparagus. Given time you also get something almost cheesy - unlikely, but in a good way. With water: gets very smoky, earthy and drying. Lots of smoked canvass, fabrics and coal dust. Really a beast of an Ardbeg!  Mouth: big, fatty, oily, salty and drying. Lots of dried smoked herbs, peat, frying bacon, seawater, tarry rope, anthracite embers and mercurochrome. Whoever said 1978 Ardbegs were lighter? With water: green olives, anchovy paste, sardines, salty butter with chives. On the whole it’s hugely gutsy, greasy and full of fatty and rather industrial-accented peat smoke. Also brilliantly salty, this is the answer to the question: ‘how many ways can the flavour of salt manifest in Scotch Whisky?’ Finish: endless long, salty, oily and full of greasy boiler smoke, black pepper, gentian eau de vie, tar and TCP. Comments: We’re not in the same league as the SMWS pair (not much is really) but this is still an immensely impressive Ardbeg. It manages to be both monolithic and playful at the same time; brutality and tomfoolery in the same glass. Goes to show that Ardbeg was still making some rather incredible whisky in the late 1970s. 
SGP: 477 - 93 points. 



Over to you Lagavulin… 



Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB ‘White Horse’, Jardine Matheson & Co Japan import, 1970s)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB ‘White Horse’, Jardine Matheson & Co Japan import, 1970s)
This is a super rare version of this old White Horse series for Japan. As with most of these old white label Lagas, this should be pretty serious stuff! Colour: orangey amber. Nose: Old Lagavulin + sherry = beauty! You have this mix of oily, almost syrupy and luxurious peat fused with dry, leafy and salty sherry. Amongst it all there’s bitter marmalade, smoked dark chocolate with sea salt, hessian, wet leaves, wine cellar must, black truffle oil, smoked mint, iodine drops and natural tar. Given the time the peat becomes more elevated and pronounced. You are unmistakably on Islay! Get’s more peppery, more oily, drier and more towards seaweed and gloopy old medicines. Stunning and rather emotional due to the sheer force of old style charisma about it. A little more time and it starts to reveal lots of raisins, dates and dried tropical fruits. Just beautiful. Mouth: Stunning! Leather, many different old tobaccos, long-aged Cuban cigars, smoked dates, raisins, tar, camphor, putty, smoked olive oil, hessian, bitter orange marmalade again, tannic black teas, paprika, dark chocolate with chilli and old school, herbal-infused dry peat smoke. All wrapped up in this very leathery and salty old school sherry. Finish: long, salty, gamey, leathery and full of deep, bass-like peat and dried seaweed. Comments: Just magnificent! To think that these bottles used to be given away if you bought a case of gin or some such other nonsense. This is everything you seek in great whisky: balance, depth, complexity and stunningly intertwined flavours. Not to mention these bottlings are the absolute epitome of old school peat and sherry in perfect harmony. 
SGP: 565 - 94 points. 



Lagavulin 40 yo 1979/2019 (49.1%, The Syndicate, cask #112, 188 bottles)

Lagavulin 40 yo 1979/2019 (49.1%, The Syndicate, cask #112, 188 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: a fragrant and beautifully honeyed kind of peat. Gives this great impression of oiliness and viscosity. You also get these beautifully complex notes of toasted black pepper, smoked green tea, natural tar extracts, lamp oil, hessian and candied citrus peels. Hints of smoked paprika, petrol, embrocations and old ink. Like some other older official Lagavulins (thinkings the 30 and 37yo Special Releases) this has the same quality of deep and wayward complexity that leads you down many tangential and tertiary paths. There’s olives, gentian root, many herbal and medical notes and a beautiful array of coastal incursions. All the while this very mature, honeyed profile - which wouldn’t be out of place in a very old Glen Grant for example - is ever-present. Mouth: dry, tautly structured, herbaceous and stunningly complex. Many herbal and smoked teas, cured meats, salted liquorice, precious hardwood resins, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, camphor, vapour rubs, iodine, more of these natural tar notes and smoked mineral oil. Still immensely fresh, vibrant and ‘together’. There’s no sense of diminishment from the age or wood. In fact the wood stays a respectable distance throughout, just delivering this perfect nibble of spice round the edges. Finish: very long, full of hessian and this rather textural, ropey, leathery kind of peat. Lots of black olive, dried seaweed, smoked mint and eucalyptus oil. Comments: Impeccable and rather special old Lagavulin. It’s commonly thought that most Islay whiskies (apart from Bowmore and possibly Bunnahabhain) run out of steam after about 35 years. But this Lagavulin is still fresh, vivid, coastal and bursting with complexity and life. Hugely pleasurable old Lagavulin that still reeks of distillery character. What a cask! 
SGP 465 - 93 points.



Lagavulin 27 yo 1991/2018 (51.8%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask #0016, sherry puncheon, 432 bottles)

Lagavulin 27 yo 1991/2018 (51.8%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask #0016, sherry puncheon, 432 bottles)
Another from this often excellent but still rather silly series by Diageo. Colour: deep copper. Nose: smouldering wet leaves, chocolate, hessian, damp dunnage warehouse, tar, caraway and metal polish. What’s interesting is that you get the impression of a similar fusion of sherry and peat as you do in these old official 12yo White Horse bottlings, however, here you feel the modernity of the distillate making things a little sharper and more jagged. It’s still excellent stuff though, no doubt. More aggressive smokiness, more jams, dark fruits, plum sauce, seaweed and black olives in brine. With water: beautiful, classy and very elegant development along the lines of tobaccos, unlit cigars, sandalwood, dried seaweed, cured meats and touches of old balsamic and rancio. Mouth: big, brusque, tarry, hugely peppery and very salty. Lots of cured game meats, beef stock, dried seaweed in hot ramen broth, Maggi and other umami and savoury liquid seasonings. Gets increasingly salty and very punchy. Technically brilliant and impressive, but after some of these older style examples you kind of feel it lacks a little soul and class in some ways. Gets increasingly sooty, dry and with a rather burnt aspect emerging. With water: again water works wonders. Brings everything together around this core of sooty peat smoke, dried seaweed, dried dark fruits, mint, eucalyptus and earthy, meaty notes. Finish: long, leathery, sooty, peaty and with lots of spices, salinity and medical aspects. Comments: Water really helped this one by bringing out a more cohesive and classical profile dominated by distillery character and a greater harmony between cask and distillate. Bring a pipette and spend some quiet time with this one. 
SGP: 556 - 92 points. 



Lagavulin 1991/2016 (52.7%, OB ‘200th Anniversary’, sherry butt, 522 bottles)

Lagavulin 1991/2016 (52.7%, OB ‘200th Anniversary’, sherry butt, 522 bottles)
I tried this at a tasting shortly before it’s release and remember being impressed, but I never managed to take proper notes before. Colour: deep copper/amber. Nose: wonderfully fat, meaty and earthy. Lots of savoury broths, broiled seaweed, miso, tar, salty black liquorice, olive tapenades, tarry rope and TCP. If you had an old bottling of the 16yo from around the early 1990s and imagined a version at full strength then you might conjure something akin to this style. It screams ‘Lagavulin’ right out of the glass. Continues this tight rope ballet between gamey cured meats, embrocations, tar, earth and a heavy bassy peat note. I find it pretty brilliant I have to say. With water: gets more elegant and more ‘together’ and concise. Seaweed, old school peat with these rather herbal, rooty and earthy accents, seawater, preserve lemons in brine, tar and iodine drops. Utterly majestic. Mouth: gah! Pure peat bog water and petrol mixed with chilli-spiced ramen broth, salt cured fish, dried kelp, old tarry rope, creel nets and natural tar liqueur. You might also add my beloved Maggi liquid seasoning, hot smoked paprika, aged pu erh teas, eucalyptus and this extremely medical-accented sherry. I know we haven’t mentioned sherry thus far, but it pervades everything rather perfectly. Hugely leathery, gamey, meaty and riddled with various tobaccos, dried herbs, old school cough medicines and umami seasonings. The complexity is also hugely impressive, this is one of those drams you could go on picking wee flavours and aromas out of for a good couple of hours. With water: once again, water just creates cohesion and everything now coagulates around this rather resinous, fat and almost greasily peaty core. Embrocations, tobacco, wet earth, charcoal, salted liquorice, natural tar - well, you get the picture by now… Finish: thrillingly long, salty, meaty, bitterly chocolatey, full of tobacco, more tar, smoked prunes, jasmine, ointments, dried seaweed and hessian. Did I mention peat? Comments: We didn’t call the anti-maltoporn brigade but, rather evidently, we should have had them on speed dial. Anyway, what a way to celebrate a bicentenary. Terrific work Diageo and especially everyone at Lagavulin. Better late than never! I just adore the fusion of sherry and peat here, two beautiful forces that create something greater than the sum of both parts. Although, let’s not forget time is really the third key ingredient in this glorious collision. 
SGP: 577 - 94 points.



Lagavulin 1980/1995 (63.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #111.2)

Lagavulin 1980/1995 (63.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #111.2)
A pretty scarce early SMWS Lagavulin bottled at a paint-thinning natural strength. Should be fun. I recall the 111.1 being same vintage and similar strength but from a pretty active sherry cask, whereas this one looks almost certain to be refill. Colour: pale gold. Nose: grassy, fresh and sooty at first nosing. It feels quite close to some 1988 and 1990s bottlings at similar ages so we’re in familiar territory. A fairly thick and slithery peat with lots of iodine, punchy medicines, seawater and a whole bucket of petrol. What’s impressive is not the power but the restraint; you don’t really feel that vertiginous alcohol. With water: opens superbly with water. Lapsang souchong, dried herbs, seaweed in miso broth, anchovies and a kind of coiling, layered smokiness. Taut and punchy yet also controlled and beautifully structured Lagavulin. Mouth: superb delivery, like a very early Special Releases 12yo with a little more age and coconut-flecked sweetness. Smoked malt extract, TCP, smoked meats - indeed, just rather smoky all round. Lemon cough syrup, antiseptic and charred white fish over coals. With water: a collision of syrupy medicines, herbal extracts, seawater and rather savoury, umami notes. The overall salinity is increased and there’s this familiar malt vinegar and chip fat morass which once again harks back to an early OB Special Releases 12yo. Only here there’s also green peppercorns in brine and English mustard powder. Finish: long, ashy and full of BBQ embers, fragrant wood smoke, pebbles, ink and some drying tarriness. Comments: Some aspects could fairly be considered as challenging, but it’s a whisky that commands attention and rewards a little skirmishing. Beneath all this masculine bluster, there’s much beauty to be found. Cleaves very close to some later official releases while still carrying a few echoes of the past. 
SGP: 367 - 92 points.



Huge thanks to Gary, John, Harrison, Emmanuel, Jonny and Dirk.





April 17, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Day 31
New old and old middle-aged Dalwhinnie

There are not only Lagavulins, Taliskers, Broras or Port Ellens within this pretty posh range (note that I love the fact that they did no go for silly dust-gatherers a.k.a. decanters a.k.a. the despair of cleaning ladies), there’s also… Dalwhinnie! Kudos to everyone involved, this cannot be only for speculation. We’ll first have a wee aperitif,  which I’ve already tried in the past, but this is another bottle and I’m really curious.

Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1963 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label, +/-1983)

Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1963 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label, +/-1983) Four stars and a half
Just as a quick aperitif, we said. But beware the smoke in these vintages, Dalwhinnie was not the relatively gentle dram it’s become. They were still using their own floor maltings at that time, they only stopped using those in the late 1960s. So this is clearly a ‘different’ Dalwhinnie… Colour: gold. Nose: you’re really having the feeling of nosing an old toolbox (in an old garage, in an old house etc.), then some slightly stale old tea leaves, old cigars, then some loud and clear medicinal notes, from ointments to tiger balm. Also that famous short walk in the woods after the rain, with mushrooms, moss, goblins… Maybe not goblins. Absolutely not the current style of Dalwhinnie, but I seem to remember the early Classic Malts were still displaying this mossy earthiness. Mouth: rather incredible that these old CCs have kept so well. Which, granted, is not the case with all bottles. Salt, Maggi, malt extract, korma, paraffin, smoked ham, something ashy, sucking your panatela (that’s a slim cigar, in case you didn’t know). No there isn’t much fruitiness, and it tends to become a little drying, but it’ still an impressive dram, rather reminiscent of some Obans if that rings a bell. Finish: medium, not tired, dry, a tad leathery, always with this feeling of old tealeaves. Loses one or two points. Comments: honestly, it was a little fragile here and there, but it’s a great old whisky and they don’t make them like this anymore.
SGP:363 - 88 points.

Dalwhinnie 31 yo 1987/2019 (56.4%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for TDW Whisky Club, oak butt, cask #1528, 492 bottles)

Dalwhinnie 31 yo 1987/2019 (56.4%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for TDW Whisky Club, oak butt, cask #1528, 492 bottles) Five stars
In theory, this baby will be rounder, maltier, with more chocolate and cakes, as well as… wait wait wait, not so fast. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, tense, bright, fruity and even young. Cranberry juice, gooseberries, greengages, a good loaf of leaven bread, cassis, and believe it or not (better believe it), whiffs of champagne and a handful of crushed fresh almonds. With water: it gets very chalky, very very chalky. Côte des Blancs shall we say, pure chardonnay of course. A few touches of toasted hazelnuts. Very lovely nose, all subtlety. Forgot to mention acacia honey. Mouth (neat): it’s really not wood-driven, which is very cool. It’s even a tad rough shall we say, very fresh, with only the smallest possible amount of vanilla at 31 yo. Other than that, you’ll find white and yellow jams and preserved fruits, melons, peaches, gooseberries again, and rather more citrus than on the nose. Also finger biscuits (to go with the champ’), sponge cake, and lastly, some smallish mentholy notes, eucalyptus, tiny touches of ginger and turmeric… It’s all very good! With water: this time it’s the maltiness that comes out indeed, more cakes, or there, macha scones. Macha scones with champagne, how does that sound? Finish: medium, perhaps on stewed rhubarb, more green tea, some wax, and some dry spices, around cinnamon. Touch of turmeric again in the aftertaste. Comments: again, I’m rather surprised this rather austere style (no sherry, no heavy fresh oak, no big fruit) has been bottled within this series. But distinctive it is, that’s for sure, and I’d bet a proper connoisseur selected this cask.
SGP:361 - 90 points.

(Thank you mucho, Clint!)

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


April 16, 2020



The Confined Sessions
A pair of Teaninich 10 2009

We’re seeing more indie Teaninichs these days. Once again, we shan’t complain. Did you ever notice that Teaninich and Clynelish distilleries looked more or less the same? Indeed, more or less?...

Teaninich 10 yo 2009/2019 (50%, Asta Morris, cask #AM030, 245 bottles)

Teaninich 10 yo 2009/2019 (50%, Asta Morris, cask #AM030, 245 bottles) Four stars
Looks like this is ex-sherry. Colour: dark gold. Nose: they look the same but they do not nose and taste the same. Having said that, it seems that the sherry imparted a rather lovely mineral/grassy side to this baby, which combines very well with the spirit that’s a bit grassy too, and which would generate a nice feeling of mint-flavoured liquorice and, above everything, fresh parsley. I always thought parsley was not uncommon in sherried whiskies, and I feel I should add that I totally love all kinds of parsley. Also drops of Nescafé. With water: oxtail soup, Bovril, and… watch this one, carbonnade flamande! Mouth (neat): oh very rich. Total look in other words, on more Nescafé, Guinness… Wait, didn’t Teaninich belong to Guinness at some point? Ooh my head, I can’t remember…  Anyway, it’s really thick, chocolaty, very malty (Ovaltine) and real good, if a tad heavy at this point. With water: mole sauce, more oxtail soup, brown sauce, stout… and stuff. Finish: long, salty meaty and chocolaty. In a way, it’s a whole meal. Comments: it’s to be wondered whether the honourable bottler selected this cask because it reminded him of carbonnade flamande, or simply because it’s very good – at only 10!
SGP:361 - 87 points.

Teaninich 10 yo 2009/2019  (55.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Teaninich 10 yo 2009/2019  (55.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Four stars
This baby from three bourbon hogsheads, so probably much closer to the raw distillate. Do not trust the picture’s colours, it’s much paler (thank God). Colour: light gold. Nose: yeah well, that mineral/grassy combination did stem from the distillate, not from the sherry cask. So indeed, this is all on cut grass, wet chalk, and some kind of sooty porridge. The hoggies have been extremely lazy, but that’ not obligatorily a problem. Let’s check that… With water: strange and funny. Kid’s cough syrup, grenadine, pomegranate juice… It’s not the same whisky at all (and yes I’m using our trusted Vittel water). Oes towards tangerines. Mouth (neat): beastly, but typically Cadenhead. Reminds me, in very different styles, of those old 10 or 12 yo St Magdalenes or Port Ellens that were so naked and so powerful… This one is too, but it’s rather better civilised actually, very malty and grassy, with notes of kiwis and lemon juice, a little caramel, flambéed stuff, and just peanut butter. And café latte (remember how you make latte like at Starbucks? You take regular coffee and you add 5€. Ha). With water: fewer changes. Jaffa cakes, touches of thin mints and just a little cardboard. Finish: long, solidly malty this time. A little raw oak in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s very good, albeit less unusual and a little rawer than the Asta Morris. I believe the price is very right too.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

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


April 15, 2020



The Confined Sessions
Cheap, rare, and
super-rare Lowland

Pretty happy with the little Longrow vs. Ledaig vs. Brora session we did the other day (not sure we'll publish that one first having said that), so maybe could we try something a bit similar today? Why not three little Lowlanders that have got strictly nothing to do together, except for the fact that they’re, well, Lowlanders? So I propose something very common and pretty modern, then something rarer but not extremely old, and lastly, a genuine antique malt from the south of Scotchland? That should be doable…

Auchentoshan ‘American Oak’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Auchentoshan ‘American Oak’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars
No age statement here, and a minimal strength, let’s say this is the aperitif. They say this is ex-first fill American oak, but there’s also a ‘Virgin Oak’ version so I suppose this is actually first fill bourbon wood. Not too sure, 99% of all wood that’s used for Scotch is American oak anyway, including the vast majority of the sherry casks. Colour: straw. Nose: fine, fresh, a notch citric, and otherwise pretty much on vanilla. Granny Smith, custard, Fanta Lemon, Thai basil and a little cardamom. No complains at this point. Mouth: a tad oaky, almost plankish at first, going towards lemon skin and limoncello after twenty seconds, with a wee sugary feel and something of some very young cognac V.S. Bush peaches, perhaps? Finish: short, a tad tea-ish. Sawdust and sugar, something of Bacardi. Touch of cardboard. Comments: not a disaster, this is honest malt whisky (I like it better than the Virgin Oak), but don’t expect any profoundness.
SGP:551 - 75 points.

Inverleven 30 yo 1989/2019 (47.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #20.25, refill bourbon barrel, ‘My God, it's full of stars!’ 128 bottles)

Inverleven 30 yo 1989/2019 (47.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #20.25, refill bourbon barrel, ‘My God, it's full of stars!’ 128 bottles) Four stars and a half
Oh the name! Feels like they’ve had a peyotl experience at the honourable SMWS. You say that was psilo? Anyway, I suppose you know Inverleven’s story, built within Dumbarton, it was mothballed in 1992, stills shipped to Bruichladdich then to Waterford in Ireland, and becoming pretty rare these days… Yeah that was the shortest possible version. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with loads of varnishes of all kinds! Ouch! Gears towards UHU glue, then all those painty smells would fade away, and enter coconut water, custard, papaya juice and rhubarb. In my little book rhubarb can be pretty close to varnish. Many jelly babies arriving later on, together with orange blossom and peach leaf tea. Don’t rush it, it would never stop improving. Mouth: pure citrus juice, rather towards grapefruits, then passion fruits, raw rhubarb again, sherbet (or colonel, that’s vodka and lemon sherbet), all that before it would kind of move to Jamaica, with totally unexpected notes of high-ester rum (Hampden anyone?) Finish: long, really very unusual, with the varnish and the esters kind of mingling together. Very unusual indeed. Comments: to be honest I first though it was flawed, and then thought the coconut was a bad signal, but the second part really delivered. It sure is a little odd, but between us, with a name like that…
SGP:662 - 88 points.

And so we said we’d have an old one. A really old one…

Rosebank 1938 (70°proof, Robert Stewart & Son, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs, 1960s)

Rosebank 1938 (70°proof, Robert Stewart & Son, 26 2/3 Fl. Ozs, 1960s) Four stars
A wonderful and rather rare bottle that made a much noticed appearance at the Whisky Show Old & Rare in London, I believe the last international whisky event that took place before we were all locked down. Perhaps proof that whisky does make for a good protection, since I haven’t heard about anyone having been hit by the virus. One can always hope. Unless I haven’t been paying attention… Colour: pale gold. Nose: as always with these old bottles, you cannot not wonder if they couldn’t be fakes (forged bottles, refills…) but the noses will give it away: this is just a beautiful old malt, with what whiskies were having at that time, that is to say more fatness, more smoke, and a broader spectrum of aromas, especially meaty and earthy ones. Old limoncello (very Rosebank), cured ham, dunnage, cough syrup, Vicks, a drop of chicken bouillon, another one of miso, whiffs of long-forgotten toolbox, engine grease… And of course menthol. There’s almost always a little menthol in these old malts. Having said that, it remains a Lowlander, with a kind of wonderful fresh lightness powered by citrus. Mouth: perhaps has it got a little more fragile over the years, but it hasn’t lost all its teeth, not at all. Thai soup (coriander, basil, lemon, coconut) and citrons, an earthy touch, a pinch of chalk, and just a little tea. It’s pretty important to quaff it quick, as it tends to lose its oomph in the open. Finish: short, but still okay. Notes of old mead. Comments: a moving old malt to nose deeply, and to down fastly, as they say in D.C.
SGP:441 - 85 points.

(Many thanks Bihan)

April 2020 - part 1 <--- April 2020 - part 2 ---> May 2020 - part 1



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ben Nevis 1995/2019 (51.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #970, 245 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (47.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 150 bottles)

Dalwhinnie 31 yo 1987/2019 (56.4%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for TDW Whisky Club, oak butt, cask #1528, 492 bottles)

Glen Garioch 25 yo 1990/2017 (52.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, hogshead, cask #2694, 180 bottles)

Glengoyne 30 yo 1986/2017 (54.4%, OB, for Taiwan, cask #1652, 505 bottles)

Macallan 20 yo (43%, OB, Master of Photography, Albert Watson, 1000 bottles, 2010)

Macallan 25 yo 1962/1988 (43%, OB, Anniversary Malt, Giovinetti Import, Italy)

Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000)

Irish Single Malt Whisky 29 yo 1990/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Blues, Irish, barrel, cask #593, 100 bottles)

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)