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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2007 - Part 2
August 2007 - part 1 <--- August 2007 - part 2 ---> August 2007 - part 3

August 22, 2007

Glenlivet Glenlivet 27 yo 1955/1982 (43%, Duthie for Samaroli) No need to tell you how great it is to be able to try an oldie with such a pedigree – yeah, what a useless comment. Colour: dark amber. Nose: an astounding sherry as expected, all on all kinds of roasted nuts (lots of pecans), high-end fruitcake, truckloads of dried figs and that fabulous smokiness that one can fnd in some old Glenlivets. There is some OBE, a beautiful one (metal, soot, shoe polish). Goes on with balsamico, very old pu-erh, then parsley, chives and dill, then pine resin, wax polish… Endless development. Just fab. Ah, also fantastic notes of old walnut liqueur…
Mouth: amazingly thick, creamy, concentrated, starting on old walnuts just like before, roasted coffee beans and bananas flambéed. It’s more winey than on the nose, maybe just a tad drying (quite some tannins) but it’s still spectacular sherry matured whisky. Notes of pepper (reminds me of the famous sherried Talisker 1955 CS by G&M) and lots, really lots of cinnamon. Hints of mint. Finish: rather long, dry, balanced, absolutely fresh… Pure joy. And so drinkable! Another old masterpiece selected by Mr. Samaroli. And only 43%, really? 94 points (the nose alone was worth 96 in my books).
Glenlivet 38 yo 1968/2007 (50.9%, Duncan Taylor, cask #8227) No, this isn’t obligatorily the death seat. Colour: full amber. Nose: it is, of course, quite different. Less sherried, less ‘antique’, but it certainly does stand comparison. It starts all on different kinds of cherries (as well as cherry plums) and quite some almond milk and marzipan and then swings to a very pleasant oakiness (nutmeg, cinnamon) before it gets very nicely winey (Pomerol anyone?) Maybe not the Duthie’s magnificence but it really plays its game well. Mouth: that’s funny, it starts on these big bold notes of black cherries again – all kinds of northern stone fruits in fact. Very good balance, it’s punchy but not overpowering at all, getting even fruitier with time (blackcurrants). Other than that we have a little coffee, butter toffee, Corinth raisins… And red sweet wine (more Port than sherry as far as I can taste). Finish: very long, getting a little drying and oaky but way below the limits, with a slightly peppery and ‘nutmeggy’ signature. Another very good old Glenlivet with lots of oomph. 90 points.


Glenlivet 16 yo 1978/1994 (43%, Milroy’s) Colour: amber with orangey hues. Nose: starts quite nicely on a little smoke, crystallised oranges and something pleasantly mouldy. Also nicely toasted but there’s also discernible sulphur that gives this ‘livet a rather soapy nose (in a certain way). Not vinous but it is sherry matured. Improves after a few minutes, the soapy – sulphury notes vanishing a bit.

Mouth: not bold and a little rubbery this time, but the rest is classic and pleasant. Light toffee, liquid caramel (the one you pour on custard tart), honey, roasted nuts… And not much else. Finish: quite short, mostly on candy sugar, with an aftertaste of middle-of-the-range rum. Better than it sounds but not worth spending too much time on eBay hunting it down I’d say. 80 points.
Glenlivet 1975/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Cask #10825 / 10827 / 10843 / 10845, 948 bottles) Colour: fill gold. Nose: this one is much more honeyed and apricoty at first nosing. Little sherry as such if any but definitely something delicately winey (sweet whites, Tokaji). Maybe that’s sherry after all… Other than that we have nice notes of quince jelly, acacia honey, vanilla crème, golden rum, incense… Not a bold Glenlivet, rather something to sip in the afternoon while playing chess or backgammon (note to self: what a useless comment!) Mouth: much punchier now (forget chess, backgammon is okay), very honeyed, candied, ‘roasted’ (pecans, peanuts). Something slightly muscaty, Turkish delights, raisins (sultanas)… Quite some ‘good’ oak. Gets more winey with time (blackcurrant leaves tea), slightly acrid but in a rather nice way. Finish: long, bold, ‘wide’, with the spices playing their part now, pepper, cloves, lambs lettuce… It’s funny how gentle the nose was, whilst the palate was quite, well, not ‘brutal’ but certainly punchy. Very good whisky, quite ‘chewable’ (do you say that?). 86 points.


MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: a stunning jazzy version of What's new pussycat.mp3 by the excellent Lisa B. Please, please buy her music, especially her new record about... cats!

Lisa B

August 21, 2007

Foire aux Vins, Colmar, France, August 19th, 2007
Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan
I need to confess that my career in rock and roll (as a simple listener) has been put between parentheses from, say the mid-eighties until the late nineties, a period where I’ve been much more into jazz. That’s why, even if I had heard about the Smashing Pumpkins of course, I couldn’t claim that I knew them. Even the name of ‘Billy Corgan’ didn’t really ring a bell to me – Who? Billy Cobham? Are you sure he’s playing with the Pumpkins, Arthur? -, so I had to trust my son when he told me that I should go see them at the Foire aux Vins. “They play hard but not always” was his teaser. Well, indeed, not always…
So, here we are again in the coquille, surrounded by 7000 guys and girls, most dressed in black, which is a bit scary as black is now really out of fashion, except among the fans of hard rock and its numerous variants. So it ought to be ‘hard’ tonight. There’s a guest band for a start, a funny bunch of locals called Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel (how, err, Spanish is that?), and god they are… err, hard. Guitars almost on the knees, Ray-Bans, black shirts - white ties… And their music, extremely noisy, all songs sounding like rehashes of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, only louder and faster. I wrote 'humorous pneumatic drills'. Now, they had a brainwave, a guy dressed up as a sheriff patrolling the stage and checking that the band played loud and fast enough every two minutes. Yes, that was quite funny. Anyway, after their song ‘Pirrrattts and sunglasseezzz’ (in English in the original), a faster copy of something by Blue Oyster Cult I think - or was it Steppenwolf? Bad Co? Arthur says 'Queens of the Stone Age' - they are stopped by the organisers who still have to prepare the stage for the Pumpkins. Smart decision. I ask Arthur how this kind of music is named; he answers ‘dad, it’s a mix of hardcore, metal and hard rock’. Okay… The local press calls it ‘stoner’. Alright, alright! I’m feeling more and more like Alfred Barnard visiting Islay for the first time, or maybe rather Zululand.
But it’s time for the Smashing Pumpkins. From what I gather, the band used to be very successful in the early nineties, selling something like 16 million CD’s in the US alone, but internal problems (and, of course, drugs) led to several changes of line-ups, especially the girls at the bass. There has been the rather famous Melissa auf der Maur at some point… And then the band was disbanded in 2000, only to be reunited early this year by singer, guitarist and leader Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, all other former members having turned the offer down. The new band performed live for the first time since 2000 on May 22, 2007, in Paris, and all tickets have sold in a flash. Yet, the coquille is only two-third full tonight, but it’s true that we’re very far from Paris… Now, I’ve also read that the band pulled mixed feelings when they decided to sell four different versions of their new album Zeitgeist through three different networks on one side (iTunes, Target and Best Buy), each getting a different bonus track, and all other networks on the other side, all getting only the ‘official’ twelve-track version. Which meant that die-hard Pumpkins fans ‘had’ to buy the album four times (any resemblance with any whisky company is purely coincidental). Well, one shouldn’t be puzzled with the rise of illegal music downloading after that kind of move…

Anyway, on the stage are Billy ‘Yul Brynner’ Corgan (guitar, lead vocals and lider maximo), Jimmy Chamberlin (very excellent drummer I must say), Jeff Schroeder (in charge of the apocalyptic rhythm and solo guitars), Ginger Reyes (aka Ginger Sling, girl – and bass) and Lisa Harriton (keyboards – and girl). And there’s a sixth member, consisting in the hundreds of spotlights that sometimes make the whole set look like a fireworks show accompanied with music rather than the contrary. The good thing is that it’s easier to take notes as the hall is sometimes lit as if it was daylight, but the band is too goddam loud for me to even think of reading the tasting notes in the latest issue of Whisky Magazine I’ve brought in my pocket just in case.

So, they are all playing the five or six first songs extremely loud and heavy - I insist - except for the keyboards that are much less to the front than on the records (yes I’ve listened to some). Billy Corgan has a nice voice I must say, which he sometimes pushes to the limits. I’m thinking of Billy Idol, well.... Corgan is also a very good guitar player and likes to quote several other bands, including Pink Floyd in Umma Gumma if I’m not mistaken. He also does the Star-Spangled Banner thing, not ala Hendrix that is but now, it is to be wondered why so many American artistes seem to enjoy making their international audiences boo and hiss their national anthem. Is that some sort of self-mortification? Or does it simply sell? Corgan also likes to make his guitars sound like whales, which is always a hit. Not simply rock and roll postures, he’s really good at all that.

But sincerely and just between us, why the hell are the Pumpkins playing so loud? Now, good news, since the Chemical Brothers, I’ve got my set of earplugs in my pocket (yeah, next to Whisky Magazine) and believe me, they didn’t stay in my pocket for long, but our foolhardy neighbours had to leave it to simple cigarette filters, which proves that plain cigarettes can be really harmful to your health. On stage, after the apocalypse of St. Billy, that is to say the six first songs, the latter suddenly picks up an acoustic guitar and starts to sing a very nice ballad, with only Lisa Harriton’s keyboard in the background. I think it’s called ‘On my own (not worth asking)’. Really pretty! And then another excellent and slightly folkish ballad, only voice and guitar… And then another one, with the full band this time. A bit dark and sort of haunting, nice. But we’re soon back to much heavier businesses, all guitars handled like Tommy guns again, including the diminutive Ginger Reyes’ bass. Are they getting better or am I getting used to the Pumpkins’ elephantine sound? There are several other very loud songs, and then I ask Arthur how this genre is called. He answers ‘… ea… y … ar… o… ee…’. Bloody earplugs.

It’s already the encore (you say they have been playing for one hour and a half, really?). Just the piano, no guitars, no drums. Lisa Harriton starts to play… Too early for Billy Corgan, who orders her to start it all again. Gosh, I hope he won’t fire his brand new keyboardist right after the show! It’s another ballad, she plays it very well, but leaves her keyboards when the second song from the encore starts, while the rest of the band is back. Wait, there’s kind of a heavy (of course) larsen somewhere… What is it? Billy Corgan jumps onto the podium where the keyboards are located. Dammit, she forgot to shut them down when she left! Please, Billy, don’t fire her, she’s been great tonight!

The band starts the very last song of the gig, it’s called ‘Muzzle’.

“I knew exactly where I was and I knew the meaning of it all and I knew the distance to the sun and I knew the echo that is love and I knew the secrets in your spires and I knew the emptiness of youth and I knew the solitude of heart and I knew the murmurs of the soul.” I’m not far from thinking that this is the best song of the show. Too bad, it’s also really the last. The band leaves, only Corgan stays on stage, saluting the cheering crowd for at least ten minutes. Okay, maybe five. Time to remove my earplugs, now only half-deaf, for exchanging a few words with my enthusiastic progeny. ‘So, Arthur, was that a mix of hardcore, metal and hard rock as well?’
‘… ot e...ac… ly, dad, … was …ust … mashing pumpkins!!!’
Mashing some pumpkins? That idea never occurred to me but maybe I should pass it to some friendly brewers next time I fly to Scotland! - Serge (including the crappy photographs)
Listening: a hit by the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996, Tonight tonight.mp3, wiith impressive drumming by Jimmy Chamberlin (via drummerworld)







Oban 30 yo 1963/1993 (52%, Cadenhead) Colour: straw. Nose: what’s striking at first nosing is the rather obvious peatiness as well as the bold notes of fusel oil and motor oil. Very smoky, ‘phenolic’ in the broadest sense of the world, it develops on quite some camphor, cough syrup, eucalyptus, fresh putty, candle wax and marzipan. Also something slightly metallic. Gets then lemonier and somewhat grassy. Lots of green tea, whiffs of pine forest, shoe polish. The whole is just superb I must say, this is very much to my taste. Mouth: oily, thick mouth feel. Absolutely fabulous attack, with an extraordinarily perfect balance between the fruits and the waxy, woody and ‘phenolic’ notes. Superb pepper, high-end tea (both green and black), notes of herbs (mostly sage and bay leaves), mint drops, liquorice of the highest sort, hints of cumin. As for the fruits, it’s pretty much on plums again, citrons, something like medlars (it’s sort of chestnutty), beeswax with a little honey left inside the cells… Fantastic whisky. Finish: very long, assertive, waxy, more resinous now, with a little salt at the end… Perfect. ‘Wow!’ 94 points.
Oban 32 yo 1969/2002 (55.1%, OB) It’s not the first time I enjoy this one but it’s the first time I publish notes. Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts very close to plum spirit, kirsch… Big notes of fresh almonds as well, fresh walnuts, crystallized citrons, lemon marmalade… Less phenolic and peaty but fruitier than the 1963 and perhaps a tad woodier, but it’s just as superb. Faint whiffs of sea breeze but that may be just my mind. As close to a great wood matured plum brandy as whisky can get – just better. Mouth: we’ve got the same differences with the 1963 as on the nose, albeit in smaller proportions. Plum brandy (or any stones fruits for that matter), sorb apple spirit, good marzipan (without too much sugar), bitter chocolate, teas, lemon marmalade… Not gentle at all I must say, this one is rather a beast and I’d say it’s for true aficionados only (but what’s a true aficionado? you may ask). Finish: as long as the 1963’s, still on plum brandy, with a little tar now and again that faint saltiness. I had this one at 93 points and I can’t see any reasons to lower that score, even after the stunning 1963.
Oban 16 yo (64%, OB, The Manager’s Dram, 1994, bicentenary bottling) These old Manager’s Drams by UD/Diageo are always total beasts, it’s to be wondered if they didn’t hire their managers from a tae kwon do school at some point. Colour: full amber. Nose: yes you can nose it, provided you take quick and short sniffs. In that case, you’ll get a lot of chocolate and coffee, fab notes of oloroso, orange marmalade and something beefy in the background. But let’s not take any further risks and add (quite) a few drops of water… And it got superb! The same classic aromas of a well-matured sherried malt but also lots of tobacco and leather, smoked tea, orange blossom honey, a little incense, faint whiffs of peat smoke, a little soy sauce and balsamico… And these beefy notes again. Just superb. Mouth (neat): bang! Well, it’s drinkable but we need our throat for other malts, so let’s try it with water right away… Okay, maybe it’s not as totally stunning as on the nose but what a great malt whisky. More resinous than on the nose, maybe just faintly winey, with quite some raisins and notes of old dark rum. And a very long finish all on salted liquorice. Top notch again, congrats Mr Williams (Oban’s manager when this was bottled). 92 points. And now the obligatory rant: ‘but why did they close Ob…’ wait, no, rather this one, ‘it’s a dreadful shame that we can’t have more versions of Oban these days!’

August 20, 2007


Cropredy, Oxfordshire, August 9,10,11th 2007 - Part One
Traffic Stop! Before you turn away thinking “Not another year’s worth of this Cropredy rubbish” let me explain something. It’s a special year, and we’re all here for a reason. And I don’t mean that we’re celebrating the fact that it’s Fairport Convention’s fortieth anniversary, nice ‘though that might be, or that Fairport bassist Dave Pegg (who also spent sixteen years with Jethro Tull during Fairport’s somewhat fallow years of the late seventies and eighties) is celebrating his sixtieth birthday this year. Neither are we simply celebrating the fact that somehow the weather gods relented and the floodwater that had covered much of the festival site receded just in time to allow the bash to proceed, nor that we somehow survived a three and a half hour journey in blistering heat over the last six miles of heavily congested roads to our campsite. No – it’s far more important that that. You see, on Friday night the original 1969 line-up of Fairport (minus the sadly departed Sandy Denny, who is replaced by Chris While) are on stage playing Liege & Lief, the album that is widely considered to have written the rule book for folk rock music, and which is also rightly considered to be one of the defining albums of the era. And by way of a bonus, Richard Thompson will be on stage afterwards playing with his band. As Friday nights under the stars go, it doesn’t get much better than that.
What about Thursday? Well – as a result of the Festival being sold out (for the first time in 30 years) and the obvious anxiety that many had to be there in good time for Friday evening, the journey in a gridlocked North Oxfordshire is a nightmare – and the site is already almost overflowing (as are many of the lavatories). We could hear Wishbone Ash (not to be confused with original vocalist Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash) as we prepared dinner on our modest van. They’re led by founder guitarist Andy Powell. You may remember they were famed for their double lead guitar sound – pioneered I always felt by the Allman Brothers – and were managed (along with a raft of other highly successful bands of the time) by Miles Copeland. From where we are they sound pretty much like, well to be frank, Wishbone Ash, bashing out tunes like ‘Warrior’ from their hit album Argus in perhaps a slightly more folky way than in the past. They were followed by Seth Lakeman, whose set, again from a distance, got more interesting as it progressed from predictable folk-rock stuff to more contemporary sounding folk stuff. I wish I could have seen the set. But we are down in the mosh in time for Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra who play a thoroughly enjoyable, if rarely challenging, ska-tinged set.
Jools Holland
Jools Holland
The Orchestra are about sixteen strong, and in addition to Holland on piano and a surprisingly impressive guitar, include veteran trombonist Rico Rodriguez (who played that trombone solo on the Specials ‘Message to you Rudy’) - who ably led a willing audience through ‘Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think)’. The Orchestra also featured the hugely impressive Birmingham vocalist Ruby Turner (who sang an excellent version of ’Sitting on top of the world’ accompanied by Holland on keyboards), and the remarkably well preserved Lulu, who naturally yelled her debut 1964 hit ‘Shout’. Very entertaining.
The Liege and Lief album was recorded in the wake of the road accident in May 1969 that cost the lives of Fairport’s then drummer – Martin Lamble, and Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklyn. The album was put together in that summer, with fiddler Dave Swarbrick and drummer Dave Mattacks joining Thompson, bassist Ashley Hutchings, guitarist Simon Nicol and singer Sandy Denny (who died in 1978). The musical background was the realisation that the country rock style that the band had toyed with on their earlier albums wasn’t going to work, particularly in the light of the music coming out of the States from groups like the Band. Liege and Lief
Interviewed recently for the Guardian, Thompson explained “Music from the Big Pink showed us that Americana was more suited to Americans, and we needed to explore Britannicana, or whatever the equivalent of that was”. As a result the new album, recorded in October and released in December, was a combination of traditional tunes dug from the archives of Cecil Sharpe House, and new compositions in a traditional mode, such as Thompson and Swarbrick’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. The result was an engrossing combination, joyful but dark, and musically pathbreaking.
Thompson Swarbrick The 1969 Fairports took the stage following a rousing set from Roots folk duo Show of Hands who preached an infectious sort of anarchy in the safe confines of this rustic time-warp. Of course they’re older but wiser – Denny, Hutchings and Thompson had all left the band within two years of Liege and Lief – a delayed reaction, some said, to the traumatic accident. All forged successful careers, Denny’s being cut short by an untimely death.
Swarbrick, one of the few musicians to have survived having his obituary published in the Daily Telegraph back in 1999, had been confined to a wheelchair for many years due to lung disease, but a recent transplant now sees him in sprightly form. He and Thompson, not always the best of friends despite their outstanding collaborations, spend the evening sparring musically from opposite sides of the stage.
The music sounds as though it could have been written yesterday – and hearing the album live in its entirety reveals just how complex and challenging many of the arrangements are – Thompson had said “I don’t actually need to rehearse it. I could sit down and play it today …” but it’s clear that a lot of preparation has taken place. And probably because the set is being recorded for a live broadcast no-one wants to hit a wrong note – and by and large they don’t, although Swarbrick’s fondness for his wah-wah pedal does occasionally get a little intrusive. While’s singing is superb, and Thompson’s guitar – warming up for his own set – often more intricate than on the album. Tinged with sadness and not a little nostalgia the result is an enchanting hour or so under the Cropredy stars.
Chris While
Chris While
Liege and Lief
Liege & Lief
The start of the Liege and Lief set was delayed by microphone problems that not only put some pressure on Thompson’s set, but also emerged during his opening song, ‘Needle and thread’ from his new ‘Sweet Warrior’ album, when we couldn’t hear a word of the lyrics. That apart, the set was faultless, with Thompson supported by Danny Thompson on the double bass, Pete Zorn on rhythm guitar, mandolin and horns and Michael Jerome on drums.   Richard Thompson
Highlights – well it’s difficult to pick – but I was engaged by ‘Mingulay boat song’, the simply magnificent solo on ‘Take care what you choose’ (which I think left most people speechless it was so good – certainly my son was open mouthed), ‘Dad’s gonna kill me’ – the story of a soldiers experience in Iraq, and favourites such as ‘Read about love’, ‘Wall of death’ and the cheekily misogynistic final encore ‘ Tearstained letter’. But I’ll leave it at that as we’re off to see him at the Roundhouse in October and will report back fully then. In the meantime it’s back to the luxurious mobile home, bed and preparation for another days worth of Fairport fest. - Nick (photographs by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick, but do we notice whiffs of reverence? Ah, you say we should wait ‘till part two! Well, we can’t wait, so in the mean time, let’s Row, boys, row.mp3 (by almost-resident reviewed artiste Richard Thompson).
Chieftains Speyside Malt 32 yo 1969/2001 (43%, Chieftains for Taiwan, 1,360 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: starts on a beautiful sherry, maybe a bit spirity (raspberry eau-de-vie). Gets rounder with time, very pleasantly oaky (quite some vanilla and soft spices). Quite winey as well (strawberry jam). Hints of ham and fresh parsley as well as a little wax polish. Fairly complex, keeps developing on old walnuts and old furniture. Mouth: punchy, very nutty and malty, without the expected sherry blast. Toasted brioche, orange marmalade, orange squash… Goes on with funny hints of sausages and chilli (merguez!) with more oak presence with time. Quite some tannins, mustard, green curry… Unusual for a sherried malt. Finish: medium long, more tannic and more peppery. The spirit itself fades away quite quickly. A very interesting whisky, I’m wondering if they selected this vatting for its ‘spicy-Asian’ flavours. 88 points.
Speyside Malt 32 yo 1973/2005 (43%, Chieftains for Taiwan, 720 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: this one is very different, much fruitier at first nosing (strawberries and raspberries) and more directly winey. Notes of blackcurrant and blackberry jellies. Goes on with sultanas and prunes. Less complex and somewhat more ‘easy’ than the 1969 but still very nice. Notes of armagnac. Mouth: quite fruity at the attack (the same strawberries and various berries) but it falls apart a bit after a moment, leaving quite some drying tannins on your palate (grape seeds, black tea). Quite some toasted bread as well. Bizarrely, it takes off again near the finish, with more prunes and raisins as well a little salt and toffee. Saved by the bell! Finish: quite long, balanced, nicely oaky and jammy (oranges and blackberries). This one isn’t as interesting as the 1969 and probably simpler but it’s still an excellent sherried dram at low strength. 86 points.
Ballindalloch 35 yo 1967/2002 (48.5%, Hart Bros) Colour: gold. Nose: completely different, much less sherried and starting much more on vanilla and bitter oranges with also whiffs of oriental pastries (orange blossom water, baklavas, a little eucalyptus). Gets more vegetal with time, sort of grassy, with also hints of roses and lily of the valley. A little liquorice. Quite nice but not that interesting I’d say. Unusually unsherried. Glenfarclas
Mouth: a rather strange attack, very woody, greenish and mustardy, with a rather weak mouth feel. Unusual indeed… Then we have serious drop, with just the oak as the backbone, and it’s only at the finish that we have more structure again (orange marmalade, pepper and ginger). Not bad actually but a little disappointing for a 35yo Speysider, to the point where we're wondering if this one is well from 'that' distillery. 78 points.
Ballindalloch 40 yo 1966/2007 (51.3%, Whisky-Doris) Colour: dark amber. Nose: much more typical. Beautiful sherry, starting all on Corinth raisins, old rum, prunes and praline, with also a little coffee and chocolate. Goes on with the usual strawberry jam, ripe blackberries, a pleasant smokiness and notes of old rancio as well as a little mint, camphor and eucalyptus. Archetypical old sherried Speysider. Flawless, and so is the oak. Mouth: superb dryness at the attack, making for a spectacular contrast with the nose. Lots of chocolate, including bitter. Gets then quite herbal (is that rosemary?) and liquoricy, with the oak really playing the first part now. Toasted brioche. Pleasant saltiness. There are some fruits (prunes) but they’re fully integrated with the oak. Finish: very long, more caramelly and toffeeish now, with also quite some cloves. I told you, totally flawless and superbly dry. 91 points.
Blairfindy 35 yo (53.7%, Blackadder, cask #BA 2004/203) Bottled in 2004 so from the late 1960’s. Colour: amber. Nose: quite similar but even drier and smokier, really on toasted bread and roasted nuts. Also a little meatier (barbecued beef) and with more fresh herbs (chives). Just as great as the 1966 I’d say, maybe even straighter and a little sharper. Mouth: excellent, punchy, fruitier now, slightly kirschy and less ‘straight’ than the 1966 this time. Hints of rubber. Old rum. Really develops on green tea and something resinous and tarry (strong cough sweets). Finish: very long, maybe a little less clean now and slightly indefinite (fruit tree leaves, cherry) but there’s also a lot of salt. A restful old one. Isn’t it just incredible to see so many great old Glenfarclas these days? 90 points.

August 19, 2007


Twinwood Arena, near Bedford, UK, August 5th 2007
Phew, what a scorcher! It has to be the hottest day of the year so far, and for some reason we’re stuck in the middle of a field (again) listening to music. Actually it’s not so bad. You see, the Rhythm Festival, brainchild of Jim Driver, sometime promoter of excellent R&B nights at the 100 Club, is really a bit of a deluxe festival. So for a few extra of Whiskyfun’s quids we’ve got ourselves a nice picnic table in a breezy marquee with a great view of the stage. And we’re on the edge of a wonderful little natural auditorium, sometimes known as the Twinwood Arena – it’s all dragonflies, pirate-fairies and teddy-bears.
We’ve driven up with a pair of rock-chicks, who along with the Photographer spend most of the day in the shade guzzling Eccles Cakes, superb Lancashire Cheese, and copious quantities of red wine, with occasional pauses to take in a band. Me, I’m the designated driver, so I can only watch this spectacle with awe. Round the corner there are two more stages, a digital funfair, a cinema and a circus for kids. The ‘facilities’, are quite excellent. And there’s a control tower too, because the site is a former airfield – in fact, band leader Glenn Miller flew out of here on his last fateful flight, so the restored control tower houses a museum, and is something of a shrine for his fans around the world. The festival runs over three days, but prior engagements have kept us away ‘till today (which means we’ve missed the likes of the Levellers, Hot House Flowers, Dr John, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Harley and many many more). I have to observe that prior engagements seem to have kept a lot of folk away altogether as the audience is frankly quite thin on the ground.
Wild Billy Barrett
Wild Willy Barrett
Somehow we don’t get away from the main stage (no one wants to get too far from the Eccles Cakes) so we miss acts like John Cooper Clarke, Dr Feelgood, and the excellent Tiny Tin Lady (whom you may remember we enjoyed very much at Cropredy a couple of years ago). And once the initial feasting is over, our entertainment really begins with John Otway, teamed up on this occasion with his original partner and co-hit-maker Wild Willy Barrett. It is a predictably chaotic set. Barrett spends most of his time grumbling about Otway, pleading to the audience for help (“for God’s sake sing along so I don’t have to listen to Otway’s violin”) and finally gets his revenge during ‘Head butt’ (which mainly comprises Barrett banging Otway’s head on the microphone). “Was that real blood?” asked one of the rock chicks.
The Blockheads

Otway is followed by the Blockheads, who apart from a rather belligerent Derek the Draw on vocals, were in as good a form as I can remember. Norman Watt-Roy’s driving bass playing was as impeccable as ever, and Dave Lewis on saxophone was outstanding. They’re celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, and have been touring for most of the year, and on to December. It shows – in the best possible way. They’re as tight as ninepence – a phrase which I fear I may have made up – but you know what I mean.

And then, after more Eccles Cakes of course, it’s time for some sweet motherfucking country acid house music from Whiskyfun favourites, the Alabama 3, now sadly without Mr Segs, but with Stevie Nicked (Steve Finnerty) on guitar and Devlin Love on vocals.

Alabama 3
They’re embarking on a tour to promote upcoming album MOR (released in September) – which is why they’re all dressed in a sort of beige (well, a creamy, whitish beige), apart from the black-clad, shorn and highly articulate Reverend D Wayne Love. By the way they hit the stage and tear into ‘Woke up this morning” I deduce that they’ve fortified themselves with something more than pastries from Lancashire, and they’re in a hurry too because they’re late on stage (problems miking up the drums). Well – although they all looked a bit surprised by the penetrating sunshine beating down on them they delivered an electric set, as good as if it were night time, featuring two new songs ‘Locked’ (the new single) and ‘Way beyond the blues’, in addition to favourites such as ‘Don’t go to Goa’, ‘Speed of the sound of loneliness’, ‘U don't dans 2 tekno anymore’, ‘Mao Tse Tung said’ and a blistering ‘Up above my head’ to finish.
Who said what

Keyboard player Spirit of Love, who had partaken of much sustenance during the set, collapsed spectacularly onto his keyboards, only narrowly avoided joining the startled audience, and had to be helped off stage. Quite how he made it back to play on encore ‘Peace in the Valley’ I don’t know – but they finished in fine style.

< Who said what?

Ike Turner was supposed to play but pulled out at very short notice leaving “the father of the British blues” John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers as the remaining headliner. This was a sorry affair. I mean it’s remarkable that he can still look so well and perform at the age of 74 but he’s really milking his reputation. Let me just quote you what a fellow festival goer said to me in the ‘facilities’ – “I’ve been here for over 48 hours waiting to see something I first saw forty years ago. And it’s fucking crap …” Well, a tad harsh perhaps, but it’s certainly a soulless, shallow and sterile affair. Guitarist Buddy Whittington is note perfect, but he looks as though his mind is more on his next plate of pies (quick – guard the Eccles Cakes) than his playing. And why do we have to endure his over-long sequence of Led Zeppelin riffs?
Mayall’s singing is pretty poor- it’s hard for a man of his age to make the sort of high notes that were his trademark in his heyday – and his keyboard playing weak. Surprisingly he does a good job on harp, especially on his old war-horse ‘Room to move’. But I think we’re all glad to see him leave the stage, with his final farewell of “Remember to check out the merchandise booth…”, which rather summed it all up. And after that, to finish, we had a breathless Neville Staples Band. You remember Neville – “the original rude boy” - one time singer with the excellent Specials and Fun Boy Three, who raced nicely through old Specials songs at such a pace that it was impossible to get a picture of him. Oh yes – and what an excellent trombonist.
John mayall
John Mayall
Before Staples took the stage Jim Driver came on to thank us for being there, and to tell us that like last year, he’d probably lost a shed load of money on the event. Since then he’s e-mailed his list asking people to buy bonds for next year’s event (“I'm not disheartened because everybody seemed to have such a great time and I'm sure that the formula is basically right…”) to help defray some of the cost of this year’s. It’s a great pity – this is a fantastic, well organised and happy festival on a really interesting and intimate site, with a great line up of performers. So if you’re making plans for August 2008 I urge you to keep an eye on Jim’s website and pay your money down to make sure it happens next year. I’ll see you there. Thanks Jim. - Nick (all photographs by Kate)
Thanks Nick, and thanks Kate for the beautiful pictures. I must say I quite liked John Mayall’s ‘not too wheezy’ 70th Birthday DVD (with the obligatory Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor as main guests), mostly because it sort of proved that nobody’s too old to rock and roll. But maybe he should start to sit at the piano indeed. As for this Rhythm Festival, I propose they transform it into a ‘Whisky and Rock and Roll Festival’ (sort of what’s happening in Colmar with wine and music). It’s often easier to kill one bird with two stones, and I’m not sure an ‘Eccles Cakes and Rock and Roll Festival’ would work… As for music, why not have Joh Otway doing BTO’s famous You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.mp3? Very funny I think… (but 'sort of' a cover again…) - S.
Old Fettercain NAS (40%, OB, White & McKay, oval label, 1980’s) Colour: brown. Nose: starts all on honey and apricot, milk chocolate, nougat… Goes on with a little bergamot (earl grey tea), orange liqueur and chamomile. Hints of orange blossom water and rose water. Lots of character! Mouth: faint dustiness at the attack but then it’s all on oranges, toffee and ripe apricots, with a nice maltiness and whiffs of freshly toasted cake. Sweet but balanced. Finish: maltier, just a tad drying (cardboard) but the orangey notes are still here. Very nice surprise! 84 points.
Fettercairn 8yo (43%, OB, bottled 1979, white label, 75cl) Colour: straw. Nose: much grainier, quite malty, porridgy and fruity (white peaches, oranges). Gets then quite perfumy (lilac, hints of lavender) and slightly milky. No winner but pleasantly fresh. Mouth: quite some body! Quite malty again, with lots of dried fruits (figs, raisins) and toasted bread and brioche. A little praline, milk chocolate… Excellent balance in this one. Finish: rather long, a little more caramelly but still pleasantly malty, with a nice oaky signature. Rather a surprise again – a good one. 83 points.
Old Fettercairn 10yo (40%, OB, early 1990's) Colour: gold. Nose: much grainier and milkier, extremely porridgy this time. Heavy notes of yoghurt, yeast… Slightly toasted as well. Less complex I think. Mouth: better than on the nose but a bit weakish. Other than that we have roughly the same malty, toasted notes as in the 8 yo. Gains oomph with time. Quite some vanilla, notes of apple pie. Finish: medium long, malty and a little toffeeish. Pleasant freshness. 79 points.
Fettercairn 22 yo 1962/1985 (46%, Cadenhead dumpy) Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite austere, smoky and medicinal (bandages), with notes of paper, ink, wet newspaper. Develops on mint, hints of cod oil, motor oil, matchsticks… Little fruitiness in this one. Mouth: sweeter and fruitier, starting on orange juice, nutmeg and vanilla crème. More spices after that, something cardboardy and slightly drying. White pepper. Finish: medium long, spicy and still a little cardboardy. Very, very good, just a tad too dry for my tastes. 87 points.

August 18, 2007

Glen Ord
The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 yo (40%, OB, Asia) Let’s try this interesting recent bottling ‘for a new generation of malt whisky drinkers’ (according to owner Diageo) despite my old age. Colour: deep gold – orange. Nose: rather powerful at 40%, malty and grainy with touches of honey and chocolate, sort of reminding me of the current Cardhu. Gets a little more beerish with time, with also a little parsley and even hints of metal after a good ten minutes. Maybe not Glen Ord’s usual zing but it’s pleasant and keeps developing with time (was that in the brief?) Mouth: soft, candied, honeyed, malty, orangey, biscuity… Exactly where you’d want to go, had you had only blends before. Finish: longer than expected, on the same flavours. I like it better than Cardhu, actually. I guess one could drink litres of this (and then sing like Frank Sinatra at the karaoke… Okay, like Tony Bennett.) By the way, I tried the Glen Ord 28 yo (58.3%, OB, 2003) again and lifted it from 85 points to 88 (maybe partly because it was in the company of the exquisite Mr Renwick). Anyway, 80 points for this good Singleton.
Glen Ord 1998/2006 (43%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills) Interesting what the bottlers wrote on the label: ‘The method of distillation has been improved in many of Scotland’s Distilleries over the last 20 years, in order to produce young malt whiskies with greater flavour’. According to my modest tasting notes, I can’t agree more, especially when comparing ‘the nineties’ with ‘the eighties’. Let’s try this one now… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: as fresh and fruity as it can get, starting on litres of blueberry juice (beware your teeth) and developing on muesli and vanilla crème. Distinct smokiness and faint hints of olive oil. Mouth: starts on truckloads of blueberries (bilberries?) again, soft, fresh and very clean and gets then more yoghurty (but it’s blueberry-flavoured yoghurt). Pleasant cereally notes in the background. Finish: rather long, still very fresh and fruity… This one leaves your mouth as fresh as a baby’s. 81 points.
Glen Ord 7yo 1999/2006 (46%, JWWW Scottish Castles, cask #304157) Colour: straw. Nose: almost exactly the same whisky, just with a little more wood influence (vanilla) and maybe added whiffs of Provence herbs as we call them here (mostly thyme and rosemary). But it lost freshness ‘in the process’. Mouth: even closer to the 1998, just more candied and a little smokier. Faint hints of mustard, then pepper and ginger from the wood. Longer finish, much spicier and less fruity than the Jean Boyer, with a feeling of ‘peatiness’. ‘Bang for its age’. 81 points.
Ord 22yo 1962/1985 (46%, Cadenhead for Auxil, France) Interesting to know that the people who used to import this wonder are now behind Jean Boyer (see above). Colour: full gold. Nose: guess what, there are some similarities with its much younger bros, such as the notes of olive oil and herbs. Other that that it’s all on a superb Old Bottle Effect (‘good metal’, metal polish, herbal teas especially chamomile, mint, eucalyptus, camphor…) Also hints of kumquats. Gets quite beautifully dry, like a very old amontillado. Mouth: still lots of body, with an amazing oiliness. The attack is on quince jelly, kumquats again, orange zests, then loads of dried fruits (bananas, figs, pears, dates) and then it shifts towards more ‘phenolic’ flavours such as peat (yes), resin, mastic, my beloved argan oil… And there’s always this OBE, with notes of chamomile and hawthorn teas. Finish: medium long, candied, waxy and slightly resinous. Top notch Glen Ord, different but in the same league as the excellent recent official 30 years old. 91 points (and thanks, Hubert).
Kouyate MUSICRecommended listening: more African music, this time with Senegal's king of the 21-string kora Mandy Kouyate playing Bangyereye.mp3. Please buy his extraordinary music and support African music!

August 17, 2007


The 02 Arena, London, August 3rd 2007
We went u know where 2 c u know who.
It’s Prince Rogers Nelson (his father played piano in the Prince Rogers Trio, something of which he was patently very proud) sometimes known simply as Prince, and 4 a while known only as , which roughly translates in dingbat language to ‘the artist 4merly known as Prince’. While most of London seems to have gone in search of the sun, Prince has come in search of London, and he’s camped out in the metropolis 4 21 nights. Oh yes – and it’s 31 years since the diminutive one’s first album – so as a result the tickets are £31.21, 4 which u also get a free copy of his new album Earth, which is almost impossible to buy in the UK since it was given away with the Daily Mail, 4cing his UK distributors to withdraw it from sale. And where r we? Well it’s the national disgrace 4merly known as the Dome (or should I say Millennium Dome?). U remember - that political hospital pass of all time that the outgoing Conservatives handed to Tony Blair’s bushy-tailed Labour boys and girls in 1997. The place where the twice-resigned cabinet minister Peter Mandelson famously promised we would play ‘Surfball’, the sport of the twenty-first century. The site of the fiasco on the night of 31st December 1999 (hang on, is that why Prince chose the venue?), when a promised river of fire turned out to be nothing more than a damp squib, preceded by huge transport delays 4 all the high society liggers who had tickets (including, naturally, Tony Blair and Her Majestyness). And of course the scene of a ten month debacle when punters failed to materialise to visit a hugely over-budget exhibition that was talked up by Tony Blair as "a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity". But in a masterstroke of Orwellian manoeuvring worthy of 1984 history has been rewritten, the Dome (I think there will soon be a law preventing Citizens from using that word) disappeared, 2 b replaced by the O2 Arena, “a world class entertainment destination” – and “the first purpose built music venue since the Royal Albert Hall in 1871”.
Prince It’s absolutely huge inside. We’re sitting almost centre-stage (the auditorium is seated in the round, but we’re happily at the ‘front’) high in the vertiginous upper tiers. Amazingly there are rows and rows of seats behind us. It’s rather like being inside the bowels of a Sci-fi B-Movie space station – if u peer into the dark distance, u can see columns of tiny figures endlessly marching to and fro (it’s the beer-swilling hoards heading to bar and bog) – with a roof that disappears into a futuristic metallic superstructure. It is of course packed. And it’s Friday. And it’s only the second night of the residency. So to say there’s an air of excitement in the place would be something of an understatement. It’s more like frenzy, fuelled I have to say by the weeks of hype that have led up to these gigs and, I observe, copious amounts of booze. When the inevitable dancing (I use the word loosely) starts, it’s a wonder that someone doesn’t take a serious tumble (there are a few brave attempts).
The gutted Greenwich fishwife next to the Photographer is a whirlwind of flaying arms and legs and gets more dangerous (and abusive) as the night goes one. We have two young companions to our left whom we’ve brought along as a birthday treat – “I can’t believe it – we’re going to see Prince” they squeal to each other hysterically.
But not b4 a long rendition of ‘’Down by the riverside’ from Prince’s band, the New Power Generation. They’re a slick outfit, with bass player Josh Dunham, drummer Cora Dunham, a horn section led by Maceo Parker and Mike Phillips, Renato Neto on keyboards and Morris Hayes on organ. On backing vocals is Shelby J, and the Twinz who specialise in the booty-shaking department, though such is their expertise that from this distance u need binoculars with a dual stabilizing mode to get a decent view of the action. They dance and stride round the stage with the horn section whipping the audience up into even more excitement. Then – in a puff of smoke the little fella appears from beneath the stage (a trick that he likes so much that he repeats it frequently) and breaks into ‘Satisfied’. At this point a mayhem of Friday night funk-filled madness commenced.
Did I mention that part of the pre-tour hype was that Prince would be “per4ming his greatest hits 4 the last time’? And that he’s promised to play a different set every night? The first night’s set list was awesome (I would have only wanted ‘Alphabet Street’ to have been transported to weeks of Prince heaven) but tonight’s – well let’s say some of us struggled to recall some of the tunes. So over the twenty-one nights it’s a bit of a lottery as to what u get, and how long u get it 4. But that’s not really the point I suppose. This is simply a wonderful show put on by a first class showman, who taunts and teases his audience, and plays with them like putty in his hands – “Now”, he says holding his finger to his chin in a quizzical gesture, “Shall I play….”. It goes on 4 about four minutes b4 the band launch into ‘Kiss’, with the audience doing most of the singing, the wee man doing the absurd lewd posing (don’t we love it?) and yelping. There are some low points – a very well-played instrumental version of ‘What a wonderful world’ was a bit of a mystery – a chance 4 Prince 2 get a cup of t? The fishwife was driven to distraction – “Where’s fucking Prince, I want fucking Prince, this is shit, Prince, Prince, Prince, where’s fucking Prince” (u get the picture?). Why have covers (‘Play that funky music white boy, ‘Crazy’) when we were being starved of originals? And although Prince worked the stage the guys at the back spent most of the night looking at his … back. No doubt those are the seats u get if you’re not an O2 subscriber, with a special code to use when u buy your tickets.
But have no doubt, it was fantastic, ‘though 4 some it finished a tad too early. Of course a lot of folk had tickets 4 the legendary aftershow in the adjacent Indigo venue, but he didn’t show up 4 that which led to a lot of grumbling too. Well, I’m not sure that I could do almost twenty-one nights, shows and aftershows, and as we are almost the same age (hah!) I have to give the vertically-challenged purple one my full respect. This is funk 4 u. Just love it. - Nick (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank U, Nick! I agree all these covers, even by the most prestigious artistes, are getting slightly boring. It's like if popular music was sort of stammering these days. We remember times when the bands were doing only one cover per gig, usually the last encore and it was usually a way of paying tribute to an elder musician... - S.
Pityvaich Pittyvaich 25 yo 1979/2004 (49.4%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #5637, 113 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts slightly spirity and very ‘youngly’ fruity (pears, peaches) and develops on touches of vanilla, treacle, porridge, soaked grains and then plain oak with also hints of mint. It’s also slightly grassy. Not too much happening I’m afraid, but it’s not bad whisky at all. Just a little underwhelming. It’s true that most great Pittyvaichs we had before were markedly sherried. Mouth: quite fat and oily mouth feel, starting extremely malty and toasted, with quite some cane sugar. Very sugary in fact. Marshmallows, honey, jam, caramelised peanuts… Finish: rather long but still extremely sweet and candied. ‘Arranged’ rum? 79 points.
Pittyvaich 28 yo 1979/2007 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #5639) A sister cask. Colour: pale gold. Nose: more marked by the oak, which makes it a little nicer in this case. It’s roughly the same spirity ‘inside’ (obviously) but there’s much more toasted bread, roasted nuts and praline ‘wrapping’ it, giving it also whiffs of wood smoke and rather bold notes of nutmeg. Apple skin as well. Mouth: same as above, just a tad lighter in style. Extremely sweet. 80 points.
Pittyvaich 30 yo 1976/2006 (50.3%, Signatory for Vinotek St. Stephan, cask #10234, 211 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: please read just above and replace nutmeg with olive oil. A tad more interesting because more unusual. Mouth: even fatter and oilier than the 1979’s, certainly in the same style but a tad more complex, with these notes of olive oil again. Also odd notes of violet sweets. Well, I must say this extreme sweetness makes it a bit tiring, even slightly sickly. Let’s leave it at that. 78 points (for the olives). Olives
Glenmo Okay, this kind of news isn't really Whiskyfun stuff but here's Glenmorangie's new livery (found on Whisky Magazine's forum where a distinguished reader pointed us to). What's interesting, besides the new names and general 'feeling' is the way they present the finished versions. For instance, it went from 'Port Wood Finish' to 'Port Cask - Extra Matured'.It is to be wondered if the whole concept of 'finishing' won't get progressively hidden by all bottlers, and sort of confused with full maturing. Not yet, not yet...

August 16, 2007








Strathmill 11 yo 1988/2000 (45%, Signatory, Stills of Scotland, hogshead, cask #3532) Colour: straw. Nose: a very pleasant and very ‘different’ attack on the nose, with a mix of vegetables (asparagus) and unusual fruits (I get lychees, dried longans, bitter oranges). Goes on with whiffs of beeswax, fir honey, sultanas and hay as well as quite some marzipan. Also something meaty and smoky in the background (smoked ham?) and maybe a little new plastic and tyres. This one is very interesting to say the least. Mouth: all on apple juice, curry and pepper with a little candy sugar, with a pleasant attack but a weakish middle and a very short finish (if any). Strange, everything happened at the attack. One of the quickest malts I ever had! But other than that, it’s a very nice Strathmill. 79 points.
Strathmill 31 yo 1975 (48.1%, JWWW Auld Distillers Collection, 150 bottles) The label states that it was fully matured in a Burgundy cask from Châteauneuf du Pape. Frankly, I don’t know what that means, as Châteauneuf is exactly 366 km away from Beaune, capital city of Burgundy. Maybe the winemaker from the Rhône Valley did use a cask that was made by a cooper in Burgundy? Or an ex-Burgundy cask? Sounds a little fishy but after all, we’re used to odd statements about wine made by whisky people, and what counts is what’s inside the bottle. So, let’s cast a veil over all this and try this old Strathmill now. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a strangely dusty and oddly fruity start (the same dried longans as in the 1988 but also very overripe oranges), with also quite some ginger beer and whiffs of old empty barrel. Goes on with quite some honey, old red wine, notes of old books… Gets cleaner after a moment but there’s still hints of wet dog and vase water. It’s nicer that it sounds, that is… Just quite, well, ‘twisted’. Mouth: very good attack this time, very honeyed, spicy and enjoyably winey (although it’s more on sweet Muscat than on Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I mean Burgundy, I mean… whatever). Mulled wine, sultanas, roasted peanuts, strawberry and blackcurrant jam, capsicum… Finish: not too long but still jammy, with more oak now as well as a little rubber. Well, this one is sort of an UFW (Unidentified Flying Whisky) I think. Rule difference! 80 points.
Strathmill 16 yo 1991/2007 (61.3%, C&S Dram Collection, cask #1287, 189 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: hot, grassy, spirity, with a little smoke. Hard to nose this one without water, so let’s reduce it now. With water: little fruits but more grains, oat, ashes, still quite some wood smoke, milk, fresh butter… The cleanest of the three. Mouth (neat): raw alcohol, grapefruits, pears and pineapples. Quite pleasant I must say, very clean this time again. With water: just like a good fruit salad. Funny that there weren’t any fruits on the nose but lots on the palate. Finish: medium long, clean, fresh, fruity… Another one that should stand ice (and certainly water). 81 points.

SHOPPING - The only problem with glass is that it breaks, whilst PET isn't that romantic. The good news is that India's UB group (new owners of Whyte and Mackay) came up with a new, trendy way of packaging whisky: Tetra Pak! According to the group's website, Bagpiper isn't an 'economy' whisky, rather a 'regular' brand. We don't quite know what W&M's Richard Patterson thinks about it, that is.

Another interesting 'bottling' by UB is McDowell's No. 1 Diet Mate, 'World's first diet friendly whisky. For the health & fitness-conscious drinker. The smoothness of a reserve whisky is combined with the goodness of 'Garcenia' - an ancient Indian herb, which has the rare ability to burn excess fat and control cholesterol levels in the human body.' Of course this is Premium, and we certainly hope that we'll soon see Isle of Jura 10yo 'Omega-3 enriched' and Dalmore 12yo 'Multivitamins' on our shelves. Yeah, drop the claret!
MUSICRecommended listening: and now for something different, Steve Howe and P. P. Arnold doing Bod Dylan's Well, well, well.mp3 (on Howe's CD Portraits of Bob Dylan, 1999). For this one I say yes. And please buy Mr. Howe's music... Steve Howe

August 15, 2007

Foire aux Vins, Colmar, France, August 12th, 2007
Chemical Bros
When Mrs Serge asked me to choose a few gigs from the program of this year’s Foire aux Vins, I picked the Chemical Brothers as one of my choices, much to my offspring’s surprise. ‘Do you know them? Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to go to Norah Jones?’ asked an astonished Arthur to whom I immediately answered, ‘but of course!’ while the girls were looking even more doubtful, rightly so. Actually, I knew them only by name, but hey, it sounded cool, and I was definitely convinced when, one or two weeks later, Nick told me that our good friend Mr Segs had left the excellent Alabama 3 for working with the Chemical Brothers, which led me to believe that logically, the Bros had to be even better than A3, and probably make the same kind of excellent music. Blessed are the poor in spirit…
So here we are in the ‘coquille’, surrounded by 4000 thirty-year-old kids of various styles. A young girl next to us rolls her first joint and shares it with her boyfriend at the speed of light, while others make soap bubbles filled with weed smoke and send them all over the place (charming custom, innit?) On stage, the band’s official DJ plays some Daft Punk and the hall instantly resembles a giant discotheque, everybody jigging about like if there was no tomorrow. Am I the only one to keep unruffled? So it seems…
While our neighbour starts to roll her second spliff, I decide to detail what’s on the large stage. That’s strange, there are no drums, no bass, no guitars, no horns, not even the obligatory cello or double bass, nor the tiniest bongo, but rather three piles of synthesizers and various other keyboards or pieces of electronics. Stage
Exactly like when we’re wondering ‘but when are you going to drink all this?’ when being at a whisky friend’s, I’m asking myself ‘will they have enough time to play all this machinery?’ Especially since Arthur just told me that the chemicals consisted in just two players. Barely a band, if you ask me…
Roland The DJ plays some more tekknoh now. It all sounds like tekknoh to me anyway. I notice a piece where they used lots of Lee Morgan samples, almost the whole Sidewinder album drowned into 200bpm bass and drums. I ask Arthur, ‘are the Chemical Brothers playing the same kind of music?’ He won’t answer to me, little bugger! The girl rolls her third joint. The Bros are late. More tekknoh. I decide to detail the machines on stage a little further… Don’t they look just like the cockpit of an Airbus?
In the hall, it’s Ibiza. The girl rolls her fourth joint. Even more tekknoh (samples borrowed from Cannonball Adderley this time I think.) On stage they are adjusting the smoke machines. More smoke, that’s clever. The girl rolls her fifth joint…
All of a sudden, the lights in the hall are turned off and there’s a ballet of spotlights while a pulsating bass line arises… Here they are on the stage! Two little guys, perfect sons in law - ha-ha-ha, they look pretty harmless! They go behind their machines, push a few buttons and BANG! A huge maelstrom of sounds starts to blow in gusts. The crowd is ecstatic. The girl next to us, as white as a sheet – aren’t we wondering why - yells at her boyfriend that she’s not feeling too well and that she wants to leave immediately. They move. Lights
On stage, it’s Marilyn Manson meets Kraftwerk, just louder than the addition of both. Or should I say ‘avant-garde techno’? Shouldn’t be my cup of tea but I must confess I quite like it. I notice that they barely play any ‘instruments’. Sometimes, they leave their keyboards and the wall of sound just goes on, unchanged. There’s a huge LED screen behind them, displaying clever artwork in synch with the apocalyptic beats. Animals, clowns, policemen, churches, dancing figures, psychedelic arabesques… Do I notice a few political messages? Pink Floyd’s The Wall comes to mind… And of course everything dada… And also the early Père Ubu, both in the aesthetics and in the use of ‘industrial’ noises. Devo? Pierre Henry? They also use quite some oriental samples… Isn’t there some oud somewhere? And there, a few typical violin riffs from the middle-East!
As I can’t really stand the beat, way too permanently binary for me, I focus more and more on the samples and on the ‘general’ sound, and frankly it’s all very cleverly done, even if very little of what we hear is made on the spot. Maybe nothing at all, actually, but who cares? Most of the crowd is here for the beat anyway… Not me. It’s quite hypnotic I must say. The loudspeakers’ breath makes our trousers stick to the front of our legs, like when you walk on the beach on a windy Scottish day. Really! Sometimes my mind starts to wander. I’m thinking, ‘what they are doing is to music what photography is to painting, not better, not worse, just different…’ Another time, I’m wondering if the Bros aren’t the Gilbert and George of music…
Chemical Gilbert and George
Riddle: who are the Chemical Brothers and who are Gilbert and George?
All of a sudden, the beat stops and there’s a huge ‘Love us all’ written on the screen. Arthur scrutinizes me… ‘Did you like it, Dad?’ ‘But of course, son!’
And now I have tinnitus in my left ear. Serves me right! - Serge
Listening: excellent sound collages on the Bros' MySpace page.
Glen Grant


Glen Grant 40yo 1965/2006 (52.5%, Norse Cask, hogshead #QW 1611, 83 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Not a heavily sherried old Glen Grant for a change.

Nose: what’s quite amazing is this one’s freshness at 40 years of age. It smells like young whisky! Quite powerful, just short of being spirity, starting on orange squash, tinned pineapples (really unusual in such old whisky), green tea, various sorts of herbal teas (rosehip, chamomile) and a little wax. Gets then more and more complex, with quite some waxy/honeyed notes first, and then notes of ashes, stones and metal. Gets finally quite lemony and even a little grassy. I’d have never said this one is 40yo, never! Mouth: what strikes first is the wood now, with loads of spices (white pepper, black pepper, green curry) and quite some tannins (some green). Quite hot, unexpectedly raw and sharp, grassy… And very lemony again (including the skins). I feel I should add water despite the ‘PC’ strength… (while the nose is more on shoe polish and metal polish now). With water: it’s the waxiness that stands out now, walnut skin, apple skin, crystallised citron… Finish: it’s long, smoky, waxy and lemony like a true highlander from the north. In short, nowhere near most 40yo Glen Grants I know but certainly excellent. Just very different! I’d really like to know how many other whiskies this cask had held before. 90 points.
Glen Grant 42yo 1964/2006 (51.2%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, 180 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: yes, this is a much more classic old Glen Grant, starting on roasted nuts, varnish, Corinth raisins and a little smoke. A rather delicate sherry I must say, much more on the wood than on the wine. We’ve also oranges, smoked ham, hot butter, very ripe strawberries, something like ripe kiwis and apples, various honeys, milk chocolate… Beautiful freshness I must say, no lumpiness at all. Great cask, probably second fill sherry. Mouth: excellent even quite woody again, with something very varnishy at the attack. Boatloads of oak actually, heavily infused tea, tannins, ‘pencil shavings juice’… This is a little too much I must say. Too bad, the whisky was still very vigorous but it’s the cask that had the last word here. Extremely drying, a serious flaw here. One to nose but not to drink (hence approved by the A.A.A., I guess). 70 points (for the nose).
August 2007 - part 1 <--- August 2007 - part 2 ---> August 2007 - part 3

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Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ballindalloch 40 yo 1966/2007 (51.3%, Whisky-Doris)

Blairfindy 35 yo (53.7%, Blackadder, cask #BA 2004/203)

Glen Grant 40yo 1965/2006 (52.5%, Norse Cask, hogshead #QW 1611, 83 bottles)

Glenlivet 27 yo 1955/1982 (43%, Duthie for Samaroli)

Glenlivet 38 yo 1968/2007 (50.9%, Duncan Taylor, cask #8227)

Oban 16 yo (64%, OB, The Manager’s Dram, 1994, bicentenary bottling)

Oban 30 yo 1963/1993 (52%, Cadenhead)

Oban 32 yo 1969/2002 (55.1%, OB)

Ord 22yo 1962/1985 (46%, Cadenhead for Auxil, France)