(Current entries)

Scottish Malts


Other Whiskies
Secret/Blended malts

Grain whisky




America & Bourbon

Other countries

Other Spirits
Other spirits

Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



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

August 30, 2007








Glenury Royal 22 yo 1984/2006 (50.5%, Duncan Tayor Rarest of the Rare, cask #3046, 287 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one smells extremely sugary at first nosing, exactly like bubblegum you juts unwrapped, or like a full box of Turkish delights. Then it makes a sudden u-turn, getting very grassy (beautifully so, with whiffs of high-end green tea) and oaky. And finally we have big bold notes of fresh walnuts, sauvignon blanc and something like ‘clean’ cardboardy notes. And no more bubblegummy notes. That’s what’s nice with these old closed distilleries, they never really smell and/or taste the same… That said, maybe that’s partially why they closed them down. Mouth: excellent punch, with the oak and spices upfront this time and the fruity notes in the background. Hints of sweet mustard. Extreme oak after a moment (what we call pencil juice) but it’s bearable. Pears, kumquats, blood oranges… Gets very then very toffeeish, pleasantly caramelly. Long development leading to a rather perfect balance between the oak, the fruits and the caramel. Yes, it could be rum in a certain way. Finish: long, very candied, thick and oily on the tongue, sort of reminding me of Bailey’s (I’m sorry). Very good in any case. 88 points.
Glenury 32 yo 1972/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 226 bottles) It’s like Allt’A Bhainne or Glen Ord, nobody ever writes their names in exactly the same ways! (Glenury, Glenury-Royal, Glenury Royal…) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts extravagantly fruity this time, almost like an Irish. Lots of bananas, oranges and pineapples, all that getting waxier and nuttier with time (fresh walnuts, marzipan). Also lots of orange squash, kiwis… It’s funny how it gets then cardboardy and even waxier, somewhat like the 1984, but the fruity notes never disappear here. Maybe hints of sulphur in the background. Mouth: very close to the 1984 despite its 10 more years of age. Very waxy, very candied, lots of fruits (oranges and pears), pollen, hints of olive oil, marshmallow, cough sweets, mint liquor… Lots happening in there. It’s maybe not the subtlest malt ever but it’s very entertaining, for sure. Finish: very long, getting more resinous, with a little mustard ala Banff and a lot of unctuousness even after you’ve swallowed it (it really coats your palate). Spitzenklasse. 90 points.
Glenury-Royal 25 yo 1973/1998 (53.3%, Cadenhead’s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much sharper, more spirity, very grainy and nutty. Certainly more middle-of-the-road than the two Glenuries we just had. Gets then grassier (hay), with quite some paraffin, diesel oil… quite rough but actually quite stylish at the same time. We have also whiffs of turpentine and linseed oil. A painter’s studio? Mouth: sweet, waxy again, but gets quite acrid, grassy, peppery, drying… Not much pleasure on the palate this time. Like if you chewed wax – or rather paraffin. Finish: long, herbal, with still a lot of paraffin and green tannins. This one is a little difficult I think but it’s an interesting variant, more austere. 81 points.
(We certainly hope there’s nobody out there named Marie-Françoise de la Molletière)


MUSICJAZZ - Recommended listening: There must be something between latin jazz and all female flutists! Indeed, after the fab Jane Bunnett, here's the very excellent Andrea Brachfeld playing an energic E.S.P.mp3 (clip) con mucho gusto. Please buy her music...

Andrea Brachfeld

August 29, 2007


TASTING – CAOL ILA EXTRAVAGANZA, part 2/2 (sixteen aged 14 or more)

Caol Ila 14yo 1992/2006 (46%, The Way of Spirits) Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, clean, very typical. Quite maritime. Ashes, kelp, wet stones. Hints of vanilla crème. Fresh almonds. Flawless. Mouth: sweet, round attack but gets quickly quite bold, peppery, peaty. The wilder side of Caol Ila. Most drinkable and not boring at all. 85 points.

Caol Ila 14 yo 1992/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Whisky Galore) Colour: pale straw. Nose: same as the Way of Spirits, maybe a tad fruitier (apple skins) and a little less ‘straight’. Mouth: very close. Maybe more bitter almonds now. We’re in the very same league anyway. 85 points.
Caol Ila 15 yo 1991/2007 (46%, Berry Bros and Rudd) Colour: white wine. Nose: very similar. Maybe a tad less wild, sort of more elegant. Also hints of quince jelly. Mouth: frankly more maritime, saltier. Oysters, crystallised lemons. A little more rounded. Something of Ardbeg Ten in this one. Perfect drinking strength. 86 points.
Caol Ila 14 yo 1991/2005 (53.80%, Dun Bheagan for Movenpick Wien, hogshead, cask #4736, 330 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: hotter of course, sweeter and less clean/pure, but that may be the higher alcohol. Apple compote. With water: hints of cologne for a while, old roses. Then kelp, oysters, peat smoke. Great. Mouth (neat): sweet and punchy, spicier and more on crystallised oranges and kumquats. Pleasant saltiness again. A lot of pepper in the background, even mustard. With water: even more salt and much more liquorice. A bold, punchy Caol Ila, almost ‘thick’ in style. 87 points. Caol Ila
Caol Ila Caol Ila 14 yo 1991/2006 ‘Eidora 6’ (56.1%, Krüger’s WhiskyAuction, 287 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: similar of course, maybe a tad less clean and pure again. More vanilla, coffee and nougat. A more active cask it seems. With water: yes, that brings the wood out. Green tea and freshly sawn oak. Mouth (neat): excellent attack on gentian spirit this time, liquorice, butter pears… And peat and smoke and pepper… This one is different, maybe more complex. With water: softer of course, a little more on bitter oranges. Something medicinal, which is unusual with these Caol Ilas I think (camphor). Marzipan. Top-notch version. 88 points.
Caol Ila 14 yo 1991/2004 (56.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #186, 183 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is much more austere, on paraffin, wet chalk, raw wool… Also fresh oysters (ultra-refined), ashes. Gets farmier with time (‘clean’ manure). With water: even wilder. ‘A walk on the beach on Islay’ (yeah, yeah). Farmyard. Mouth (neat): raw, beastly, on lemon skin, limejuice, something very mineral. More a ‘riesling’ Caol Ila. With water: the salt comes out. Grape seeds. Very different from the ‘Eidora’ but the same high class. 88 points.
Caol Ila 15 yo 1989/2005 (58.1%, Jack Wieber’s Castle series, cask #4544, 180 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: punchy but more lactic now, grassy. Yoghurt, wet cardboard (tons). Sour cream, wet dog, wet wool. Totally unusual. Lettuce, asparagus. A love it or hate it Caol Ila I’d say. Let’s dig deeper… With water: it’s even more on ‘wildlife’. Rabbit hutch? Cow stable? A whole trip to the country. Mouth (neat): fruitier now, powerful but round. Dried fruits, ripe kiwis (or fructose), tangerines. Beautiful smokiness. Again, completely different. With water: it got a little more classic now. Kumquats and quinces. Not too much peat. Smoked tea. In case you’re wondering I think this is brilliant but again, it'll be hit or miss with all aficionados. 90 points. Caol Ila
Caol Ila Caol Ila 15 yo 1991/2006 (58.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #100, 295 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: green, grassy and maritime. Sea breeze, lemons, then quince jelly and vanilla crème. Not too wild. Gets greener and lemonier with time. Very sharp. Not too different from the 14yo by the same bottler. With water: even closer, wet wool, kelp on the beach and soaked grains. Good porridge (because we’ve had really terrible ones!) Mouth (neat): extremely lemony. Amazingly lemony. And grapefruits. With water: orange sweets, something like Turkish delights. Not bad at all but not the best by the bottler I think (we’ll have the latest version in the coming series). 79 points.
Caol Ila 14 yo (64.7%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, circa 1978) So you were thinking we’d rush this oldie? C’mon! It’s from the old Caol Ila distillery, so let’s take our time. Colour: straw. Nose: double-bang! Ultra-sharp, ultra-lemony with a huge complexity in the background but it wont really talk to us. Too much alcohol (although we can get fresh almonds, old pu-erh tea and maybe fresh strawberries). With water: an unbelievable development, extremely ‘distinguished’ at first (pu-erh tea – at least 30 years of age – and all things almondy) but getting then much wilder, with notes of new tyres, tar, maybe even something like new plastic, barbecue, charcoal… Ad then small bitter oranges and the more traditional kelp and oysters. Maybe not the easiest old Caol Ila in fact, but give it time an it’ll deliver. Caol Ila
Mouth (neat): extraordinarily drinkable at 64+% (even if this one may have lost a few degrees in its bottle since thirty years). Starts all on crystallised lemons and green tea, grapefruits, tangerines and something like sorrel or raw spinach, but gets then really to hot. So, with water: Houston!… Indeed, the pleasant tarry/rubbery notes we had on the nose are here as well and I’d say they are much less pleasant on the palate. It’s a little too bitter now, wrongly herbal (rocket salad – or rugola). Hard, and too bad of course. But it’s still worth 85 points globally in my books!
… Long pause (if you please)…
Caol Ila

We’re back with another seven Caol Ilas, all being 16 years of age or a little more this time.

Caol Ila 18 yo (43%, OB, circa 2007) Colour: straws. Nose: a more civilised version of Caol Ila. More fresh and cooked fruits (apple compote), notes of fresh almonds, strawberries, apricots. Quite some fresh butter. Hints of cut grass. Less peat and smoke than in most younger versions. Settles on fresh putty, mastic and marzipan. A gentleman. Mouth: less soft than on the nose, peatier, smokier and saltier. Marzipan, vanilla toffee. Hints of maraschino. Mocha, liquorice. Also earl grey tea. Salty. Classic and consistent and maybe more ‘easily drinkable’ than many indies. 87 points (unchanged vs. older versions).

Caol Ila 20 yo 1981(43%, Natural Color, France, circa 2001) Colour: straw. Nose: more marzipan and also something oddly flowery. Lavender? Marshmallows and light tea. Little peat. Unusually soft. Mouth: slightly weakish, especially after the OB. Cardboardy. Orange blossom water. Soft curry. Very strange, offbeat. Cheapish, albeit sort of interesting, that’s why I won’t go under 70 points.
Caol Ila 1982/2007 (46%, Berry Bros and Rudd, cask #727/8) Colour: white wine. Nose: huge and very pleasant grassiness. Candle wax, cider apples, putty. The smokiness sort of vanished it seems but the general profile is still perfect. Very elegant. Mouth: round, waxy. Almond skins, apple skins, marzipan. A little more smoke now. Green tea. Very good, sippable just like that. Pleasant signs of age and an excellent mouth feel. 87 points. Caol Ila
Caol Ila Caol Ila 1979/2006 (46%, Jean Boyer's Best Casks of Scotland) We already had a C/S version of this one and we liked it a lot. Colour: straw. Nose: as waxy and resinous as Caol Ila can get with age. Same apple, almond and walnut skins. Elegantly farmy (‘clean wet dog’). A superb Caol Ila ‘de salon’. Soft pepper and high-end green tea. Mouth: something oriental (curry? Saffron?) Overripe apples and pears, paprika, then the skins (almonds, walnuts and apples). White pepper, thyme, quinces, ginger... Very good, even more drinkable than the C/S version. Absolute top notch, with that ‘evolution of peat’ that you can find in the best old Islayers. 90 points.
Caol Ila 1982/1998 (50%, Moon, Horae Solaris, 480 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: we get the same kind of aromas as in the 1982 by Berry Bros. Huge grassiness, wax, bitter apples, cold smoke (but little ‘regular’ smoke)… Very ‘green’, certainly not ‘sexy’ but quite elegant. Hints of aspirin. Mouth: slightly rounder than on the nose but sharper than the BBR. Notes of strawberries, kiwis and gooseberries. Bubblegum. Grass, unsugared green tea. A little bitterish. Maybe not the most balanced Caol Ila ever but still an excellent dram. 85 points. Caol Ila
Caol Ila 16 yo 1990/2006 (54.7%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, refill sherry, cask #13144, 296 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: cleaner and sharper recent distillation, maybe a little ‘between two worlds’. A little bit of everything, sharpness, lemon, oysters, coal smoke, paraffin, almonds, pepper, wet hay… Mouth: big, bold, slightly kirschy, fruitier and sort of softer than the Caol Ilas from 1992/3 and younger. Hints of chlorophyll, lemon skin. Gets a little drying and ‘green’ again. Very good whisky anyway. 86 points.
Caol Ila Caol Ila 16 yo 1991/2007 (57.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #851, 298 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: all on lemon, white pepper and peat smoke, with hints of tealeaves and moderate farminess (wet hay, farmyard after the rain – pfff). And apple skin. Rather sharp but beautifully clean. Whiffs of wet stones. With water: gets chalkier, more maritime and more vegetal as well. Mouth (neat): big notes of lapsang souchong tea, hints of wasabi, quite some salt, lemon marmalade. Bold mouth feel, almost sort of fat – pleasantly so. With water: even more peat, hints of kippers and salted liquorice. Very smoky finish (dry smokiness). Excellent Islayer, exactly what you expect from this kind of ‘label’. 88 points.
MUSICHeavily recommended listening: oh yeah, Carolyn Wonderland and her Bloodless revolution.mp3! Heavy metal blues? Maybe... But please buy Carolyn Wonderland's music. Carolyn Wonderland

August 28, 2007

HISTORY: AMAZING! – We could put our hands on this very rare colour photograph of Bruichladdich's secret underwater warehouses, circa 1939. It is said that it was bombed by an U-boat right at the beginning of WWII, and that only the fish didn’t complain at the time. It’s the very first time that a picture of these legendary facilities resurfaces so to speak and we are very proud to have been able to buy it at Sotheby’s recent “Wartime Scotland, Part II” sale that took place in London on August 18th (£8,550, not too cheap, though.)
More seriously, it’s very funny artwork by Swiss surrealist-dadaist gang Plonk and Replonk that we just saw at an exhibition in Grignan, Provence, and the caption actually reads ‘National Labour Museum Cellars – Stocks of Sweat of Brow, kept since fifteen generations’. Check their website, it’s hilarious!


brought to you by Robert (Sweden)
How about buying some seemingly authentic liquid history? This family heirloom Bowmore from 1850 just got on sale at McTears (valued to no less than £15.000-20.000!). Probably a perfect after-dinner dram.

TASTING – CAOL ILA EXTRAVAGANZA, part 1/2 (fifteen youngsters)
I love Caol Ila, I really do, but I’ve got a lot of them in my sample library and I’ve really fallen behind with my tastings so I decided to kill quite a few in a row. I’ll not write extensive tasting notes (who said good news?) nor add pictures of all this time, rather just point out what’s maybe different or unusual… Let’s start with a few that are 10 yo or less… All colours between almost white and white wine. And oh, of course less litterature doesn't mean that all these malts aren't worthy of all our attention!
Caol Ila 7 yo 1994 (43%, Lord of Islay) A bottler that we mostly find (found?) in French supermarkets. Nose: typical fresh apple juice, big bold smoke. Pleasantly sharp and close to ‘the distillery’. Flawless. Mouth: extremely peaty, rather Ardbeg than Caol Ila. Simple but great punch. Excellent surprise. 86 points. (thank you Antoine)
Caol Ila Signatory Caol Ila 8 yo 1994/2003 (43%, Signatory, cask #10843) Nose: more porridgy, less ‘clean and sharp’ and less smoky. Average. Slightly flowery (geranium). Mouth: closer to the ‘Lord of Islay’, peatier and smokier than on the nose, but with more sweetness. Again, a little less ‘clean’ but good. 83 points.
Caol Ila 10 yo 1994/2005 (43%, Signatory, cask #6901) Nose: even less smoky and unexpectedly bubblegummy. A funny one. Mouth: cleaner, sharper, peatier. Tastes stronger than 43%. A little salt and no more funny sweetness. Excellent distillation, the bubblegum on the nose will please all these youngsters who use to marinate bubblegum in vodka these days (ever tried that pink swill?). 84 points.
Caol Ila 10yo 1993/2003 (43%, Aberdeen Distillers, bourbon cask #6978) A Blackadder sub-brand. Nose: a little more restrained, quite mashy and yeasty but the smokiness gets bigger with time. Slight dustiness but the whole is very pleasant. Mouth: lacks its siblings’ sharpness and purity. Maltier, kirschy, sweetish. Not bad at all but there are better ones I think. 79 points.
Caol Ila 10 yo 1991/2002 (43%, Chieftain’s, Manzanilla finish, Casks #90121 – 90122, 1974 bottles) Nose: quite different from all the previous ones. Less smoke and peat, the spirit’s cleanliness really lets the wine stand out. Cabbage, liquorice, smoked tea. Different but nice. Mouth: closer to ‘the distillery’, peat, smoke, liquorice and cold apple compote. Little winey notes if any on the palate. 82 points.
Caol Ila 1996/2006 (57.3%, Helen Arthur, Refill Hogshead # 734, Anniversary Versailles Dranken, 338 bottles) Nose: almost closed, except a few grassy notes (okay, and whiffs of peat smoke). Water needed I guess. When watered down, it gains even more purity as well as very pleasant notes of smoked tea and pu-erh as well. Whiffs of cow stable. It seems that Caol Ila got peatier in recent years, or am I mistaken? Mouth (neat): wow, great! Big sweetness (liquorice allsorts) and a tamed smokiness, it’s almost gentle at 57%. Or is it me? Perfect profile but let’s add water again… notes of tobacco, liquorice, quite some salt. Excellent selection by Mrs Arthur. 88 points.
Eidora Caol Ila 7 yo 1998/2006 ‘Eidora 7’ (60.2%, Krüger's WhiskyAuction, 287 bottles) Nose: powerful, clean, fruity, slightly spirity and very maritime (kelp, sea breeze). Ashes. Hints of marshmallows. Extremely clean spirit, even if faintly lactic. With water: huge soapiness, let’s wait… Okay, it got more classically peaty and a little farmy, as well as lightly yeasty. Mouth (neat): really hot, uberfruity (kiwis and limes). Quinces and cough sweets. Water obligatory or… With water: not that much peat but more quinces. Kumquats, orange marmalade. Quite some salt at the finish. Another good very young one, maybe lacking just a little more, well, complexity. 82 points.
Caol Ila 1998/2007 (63.5%, Taste Still, Whisky Live Verviers 2007, 309 bottles) Nose (let’s try it neat!): clean, smoky and very coffeeish as often with superstrong whiskies. Quite superb I must say but let’s not tempt fate. With water: that brought fantastic notes of fresh mushrooms out (all kinds except magic ones – too bad.) Calms down after a moment, that is. Mouth (neat and after having said my prayers): well, one can drink it, it’s actually very close to the Helen Arthur but it does burn your throat a bit. With water: again these mushroomy notes, quite some salt, something like aubergines? Also horseradish. Truly excellent, classy young Caol Ila, very different from its twin we just tried. 89 points. CI Taste Still
Let’s make a long pause now, before we try a few slightly older CI’s… Okay, all these are 11 or 12 years old…
CI OB Caol Ila 12 yo (40%, OB, circa 2007) Nose: fresh, a little milky, pleasantly sour (yoghurt) and very clean. Smoky but not too much, with also quite some apple juice, lemon and kiwi. Mouth: smokier, peatier, with a slight woodiness and a little liquorice. And a little salt. Bolder than ‘just 40%’. 84 points.
Caol Ila 12 yo 1989 (43%, Mac Kullick’s Choice) A former MacKillop’s sub-brand for French supermarkets. Nose: poorer, kind of dirty and cardboardy. Buttery. Apple skin. Mouth: a little green. Candle wax. Apple skin, bitter olives, a little salt. Quite bitter. 77 points.
Caol Ila 1995/2006 'Marsala Finish' (45%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection, 1200 bottles) Nose: wine and spirit are nicely integrated but it’s till a bit too winey for me. Butter, caramel, ‘new wine’. A bit too round for Caol Ila. Mouth: quite punchy, much better than on the nose. Buttered salted toffee, mocha. More peat than on the nose. Very good on the palate, an interesting variation. 83 points. CI GM
Caol Ila 12 yo 1991 (46%, Coopers Choice) Nose: discreet at first, gets sharper and quite austere after that. Rather pure clean smoke and hints of tar and shoe polish. Mouth: good punch, good peat, good liquorice, pleasant sweetness. Good balance, slight bitterness (further improves balance). 84 points.
CI Gray Caol Ila 12 yo 1991/2005 (56.9%, Artist Edition by Ian Gray, 145 bottles) Nose: very austere, grassy… Faint coastal notes (sea breeze). With water: more olives but more cardboard, wet paper. Mouth (neat): again, better than on the nose. Sweet quince jelly, kumquats, pepper, peat and orange marmalade. Hints of marshmallows. With water (while it gets completely opaque): even better, a young Caol Ila in its full glory. What a bit difference between nose and palate! 80 points.
Caol Ila 4200 days old (57.7%, Signatory, Bottling No. 17, circa 2000) Nose: more complex. Wet stones, peat smoke, kelp, motor oil, farmyard. Great profile. With water: more farm yard but also more coastal notes. Wrack, sea shells… Mouth (neat): excellent, reminds me of the official C/S. Peat, pepper and lemon, orange squash. Perfect profile. With water: gets a little salty and liquoricy. Very salty actually. Excellent surprise! 90 points.
Caol Ila 1995/2006 (58.2%, Jean Boyer Best, Casks of Scotland, 300 bottles) Nose: close to the ‘4200’ but with more coffee and praline. Extra-dimension. Puehr tea and lemon peel. With water: it’s the fruit that develops here, pears and apples, tangerines… Wet hay as well. Mouth (neat): again, close to the ‘4200’ but a little rounder. Toffee, vanilla fudge. Orange drops. Other than that it’s all peat, pepper and lemon. With water: quite some salt and liquorice again. Also farmier. Very good bottling, sliver medal at the MM Awards 2006. 89 points.
We’ll try a few older ones tomorrow, stay tuned...
MUSICRecommended listening: slide, slide, slide with ex-Muddy Waters band Bob Margolin and his Blues lover.mp3. And please buy his music. Bob Margolin

August 27, 2007

St. Magdalene 15 yo 1964/1979 (45.7%, Cadenhead) Another one from these marvellous old dumpies. Colour: straw. Nose: starts all on hay and dried flowers, getting even grassier with time but also wonderfully oily (olive), developing then more on motor oil, ashes, metal polish and very old books that you just open after having found them in the attic. Also whiffs of charcoal and then it’s back to newly cut grass and green tea. Obvious OBE. A fantastic profile that you won’t find in any other malt that I know. Mouth: brilliant attack on lemon marmalade and earl grey tea (bergamot), with a fab dryness behind the scenes. And then we have the olive oil again, high-end liquorice, carrot cake (yeah, really), something like very old sweet Parmesan cheese, a little salt (wait, let’s be smart and find an unusual kind of salt… Why not pink Himalayan salt?) Anyway, as you can see, this kind of wonder puts you in a jolly good mood. Finish: not exactly long but marvellously candied and still very salty, with something resinous now. A fab old bottle and a fab old distillery. We’ll really have to have another go at an old favourite of ours one day: the 19yo 1979 Rare Malts aka ‘deluxe kerosene for malt freaks’. Anyway, 94 points for this wonder (and thanks, Olivier).
Linlithgow 30 yo 1973/2004 (59.6%, OB, 1500 bottles) I case you’re a novice (but do novices read WF?) Linlithgow and St. Magdalene are the same distillery. This old official version came from refill American oak casks. Colour: pale amber. Nose: a bold, jammy attack on the nose, mostly on citrons and lemons, the malt getting then even fruitier, maybe more in classic Lowland style than other St. Magdalenes. Still there are fine notes of linseed oil, maybe olive oil, ashes… There’s also an excellent spiciness (hints of cloves and nutmeg). Much more drinkable ‘just like that’ than expected. Mouth: more or less in the same vein as on the nose, with lemon marmalade and a beautiful oakiness (perfect ‘oaky balance’ here at 30yo). Long, rather dry finish, quite sensual I must say. More than other versions in any case. Love it, 92 points.
St. Magdalene 11 yo 1982/1994 (61.5%, Cadenhead) It’s not that often that we have the opportunity to try a young St. Magdalene so let’s rejoice. Colour: pale straw. Nose: ho-ho, but this is superb! Exactly in the style of the 1964 by the same bottler minus the old bottle effect. Cold smoke, ashes, motor oil, charcoal, cut grass, hay… Fantastically austere I’d say. I don’t feel the need to add any water but let’s still do it: oh yes, that worked perfectly, now we have notes of farmyard, clean wet dog, those old books, coffee, milk chocolate… And barbecue. Unbelievably beautiful at 11 years of age. Mouth (neat): superbly almondy and grassy but probably too simple and rough when undiluted. With water: granted, it’s maybe not the most complex St. Magdalene ever but what a nice profile! It got a little waxier and fruitier (plums) but there’s still quite some salt. Finish: long, a little more ‘mundane’ but still very nicely almondy, with always these salty notes. Top notch young Lowlander, certainly more ‘Highlander’ than any of its colleagues from ‘below the line’. 90 points. (thanks for this one, Nikos)
Linlithgow 1982/1999 (62.7%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #1337) Colour: straw. Nose: wowie, it’s in the same vein again, with maybe just added notes of coffee but that may well come from the very high alcohol. And also hyper-huge notes of hops, beer, wet wool… But water is needed again of course: well, it got grassier and rougher, maybe sort of ‘duller’, but also really on soaked barley and even more on all sorts of wet mammals (c’mon!) Definitely from the country.Mouth (neat): right, this is really too strong, even if we get nice notes of stone fruit eau-de-vie (kirsch, various plums and, above all, rowan tree). With water: very, very close to the 11yo from Cadenhead’s. The same whisky actually, no need to repeat my silly comments – but my rating: 90 points. (thanks again, Nikos).
MUSICRecommended listening: the people at Mulatta Records really know how to pick their artists! This time it's Eleven piece Pan-African band Mandeng Eletrik who are playing Yalayala.mp3. Entrancing. Please buy their music (reminds me of the XLNT Jephté Guillaume) Mandeng

August 24, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW - This excellent piece by an undercover reviewer signing himself (or herself?) “The Keefster” was found in our inbox last night…
THE REVERB SYNDICATE at Dancing in the Streets, fundraiser for Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, August 19, 2007
The syndicate
Ottawa loves music outdoors. There’s the Bluesfest (Van Morrison, George Thorogood, White Stripes, Steve Miller etc.) - OK maybe our definition of the blues is as liberal as our marriage laws; then the Jazz Fest (John McLaughlin, Conga Kings, and more), then the Folk Festival (Buffy Sainte Marie, Arrogant Worms, Kristofferson, and on, and on) and for those rainy days, the Chamber Music Festival. Then a whole pile of free one-offs.
Tonight, it’s Ashley MacIsaac – enfant horrible (pire que terrible) du cap Breton – and the stage is right at the end of my street, so why not walk down and listen as the savage fiddler tortures the neighbours? There’ll be complaints in Monday’s paper from the same people who bitched when Bob Dylan – yup the real Robert Zimmerman one – kept them up until 10:30 on a work night singing songs practically under their windows as they tried to drift off to sleep.
Arriving a few hours early – hey why not grab an Americano on the street – the sounds of Jaguar twang bars and Fender Super Reverbs draw me down to a campy (can you still be camp?) quartet of neo-Ventures playing spy tunes as two Sovietesque go-go girls do the frug. No matter that these kids have no clue who Denny Faulkner or John Russow were to the Ottawa music scene of my day, nor that they’d never believe that once-upon-a-time the city’s only venue for original music probably held 125 standing, refused to sell drinks when the band was on stage, and was called Le Hibou, probably because it didn’t really wake up until after midnight. No, Ottawa’s become a new music incubator: these twango spys may be playing to a beer-swilling street crowd but they are just a-rockin’ and I’m glad I came early.
Reverb Syndicate they call themselves, and I learn Operation: Jet Set, their obligatory CD, recorded at Paul Granger’s The Meat Locker, (bands these days do CDs the way we used to do posters), has already yielded a radio hit and music video – I Am The New Number Two. So much for their mission of ridding the world of mind-numbing Top 40 tunes, or is their hit just a nefarious decoy to lull us into dropping our guard, then they nail us, unsuspecting, with a real underground sleeper? But no, they’re anything but mind-numbing and each tune is just as infectious as Number Two. If these guys are underground it’s not the music. Reverb Syndicate
Their set, mostly guitar instrumentals, draws heavily on the Ventures, with their signature Pipeline/Wipeout riff thrown in more than once. Tunes are of the 60’s/70’s secret agent genre, reminiscent of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme (which they cover), but they have gone beyond covers, adding originals that stand up to their forebears, at least when you’re in the middle of Bank Street, in the blazing sun, beer in hand and all around you people are bopping.
Reverb Syndicate
But more than musicians, Reverb Syndicate are single malt fans. Now I know the band is from Ottawa, land of the notoriously abysmal LCBO (poor selection of malts, but a great selection of failed politicians sitting on their well-paid board), but I also know they maintain their Cold War spy characters on and off stage, so maybe they have a source of malts I can tap into if I just present myself the right way. I know; I’ll tell them I know Serge and pretend I’m writing a review of their show, then once I get them talking, I’ll subtly slip in a few leading questions, using proven techniques from Espionage for Dummies, and bingo! They’ll spill their guts and I’ll have a couple of hundred new entries for The Monitor.
Nastya and Ivana

Growing up in small-town Ontario, as bassist Jeff Welch, aka Agent Ampeg, aka Reginald Goodthrust did, can be pretty dull with not a whole lot to do. Perhaps that’s why small town kids so often turn to music to entertain themselves. Like many folks from the boonies, Reg isn't unfamiliar with the odd day of drinking in the park , but nowadays it’s Glenfiddich and not JD in the paper bag. Ahh… still so much to learn.

Lead guitarist, Victor Tremolo is a little further along in his malt journey, being a sophisticated aficionado of Laphroaig 10yo, not just for its smoky sweetness, but partly because the name has three vowels in a row. “You don't see that every day.” Being the older and wiser musician and drinker, sometimes I discern that these guys aren’t totally serious all the time.

Serge likes to ask musicians to compare tasting whisky and listening to music; enhancing the enjoyment by deconstructing the palate as one deconstructs a song, but when I run this one by the guys they only comment that “Well the Syndicate does believe there is a connection between drinking whisky and making music. Unfortunately that connection is that we don't play that well after we've drank a couple of bottles of it.”

Well they must not have been dramming this afternoon because they’re spot on. “As for our musical career,” Welch adds, “we will go wherever it takes us. Hopefully it will take us to some amazing go-go lounges with free-thinking individuals who enjoy dancing. If that’s the case, we'll pretty much be happy.”

The Reverb Syndicate is James Rossiter aka Casanova Red on guitar and keyboards, Mike Bradford aka Victor Tremolo on lead guitar, Jeff Welch aka Reginald Goodthrust on bass and Mike Rifkin aka The Fixer on drums.
Live from Ottawa for Whiskyfun this is The Keefster signing off . . . (photographs taken at the gig by Kate Rossiter - not our 'official' Kate)
Well, thank you Keefster! We hope these guys will fly over here one day as we’re certainly into reverb (and whisky) as well. In the meantime, let’s listen to their I am the new number two.mp3 (ha, ambition!) and watch then on YouTube.








Cragganmore 1984 ‘Distillers Edition’ (40%, OB, Port finish, bottled circa 1998) Colour: pale gold with orange hues. Nose: rather fresh at first nosing (cold tea) but soon to get quite toasted and malty before switching to more orangey and honeyed notes. Very faint rubber in the background and hints of toffee and fudge. Also a little smoke, probably from the ‘second casks’. Delicate but rich, getting heavily and impressively honeyed after a while (chestnut). Mouth: a rather demonstrative attack on coffee, malt and that chestnut honey that must come from the Port wood again but a rather sudden drop and then a rather thin middle, except for the malty notes and maybe these hints of rubber. As it sometimes happens, it gains steam again towards the finish, but with more rubber and notes of toasted bread as well as bitter chocolate, getting unexpectedly dry. A much better nose I think. 79 points.
Cragganmore 1993 ‘Distillers Edition’ (40%, OB, Port finish, bottled 2006) Colour: pale gold with orange hues. Nose: very different even if we’re in the same ‘cluster’ to quote David Wishart. Less malty and toasted but rather quite floral and honeyed (dandelions, acacia honey), with also a little more vanilla fudge and oak. A little less rich, cleaner and certainly less marked by the Port. Mouth: closer to the 1984 but, I think much nicer on the palate. Again a little less marked by the Port and more by the oak, with an added spiciness that prevents it from the ‘fall’ at the middle that often happens with malts bottled at 40%. Quite some nutmeg, ginger, even sweet mustard and soft curry. Finish: quite long, pleasantly spicy and oaky, without any excessive ‘vinosity’ (but it’s there). Really improved since the first edition I think. 83 points.
Cragganmore 21yo 1985/2006 (56.5%, Murray McDavid Mission Gold, enhanced in Guigal Côte Rôtie, 665 bottles) Côte Rôtie is a tiny but famous part of the northern Rhône wine region of France and Guigal is famous for it’s trinity there, La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque. Colour: gold with orangey and reddish hues. Nose: more power of course but not that much, as well as more winey notes that are clearly identifiable as such this time (blackcurrants and strawberries). More wood smoke and more organics of various kinds (smoked tea). ‘Maybe something metallic from the syrah’. Heavy perfumy notes arise after a moment, old roses, something like musk, wet wood. It really smells more and more like the inside of an empty good quality red wine barrel and we’re probably ‘between two worlds’ here I’d say. Mouth: really punchy, extremely vinous and quite tannic, the whisky not having anything to say anymore it seems. All on strawberry sweets, blackcurrant jelly, marshmallows and raspberry jam, with that faint rubber notes again. Quite spectacular I must say but you really have to like this kind. The syrah really shines through in a very obvious way after a while, I’d even dare to write ‘Côte Rotie’ (it’s not that often that one can get exactly the flavours of the wine in finished whiskies, these casks may well have contained some wines from that ‘Trinity’ I mentioned as they are very powerful, especially when they are young which is obviously the case in a cask). Finish: very long, all on syrah (and one from a rather hot vintage!) Totally extravagant winesky. 81 points.

August 23, 2007


Cropredy, Oxfordshire, August 9,10,11th 2007 - Part Two
Morning There’s something special about waking at dawn in the heart of the English countryside, the strong rays of the early morning sun cutting through the swirls of mist that rise from the nearby canal. Walking through the dew sodden grass, the only noise is occasional birdsong, the bleat of sheep from the gentle hillside that slopes up to the honey-coloured Georgian mansion to the south, or the lowing of calves and the gentle response of their mothers in the nearby fields.

And then, like a reluctant participant in a game of Russian roulette, choosing a toilet block for your morning ablutions, never knowing if you’ll be the unlucky guy who picks the one that’s just witnessed an impromptu sphincter Olympics.

Ah yes – the joys of the countryside indeed. And then breakfast – everywhere the smell of overheated oil, frying bacon, and bubbling beans fights to overcome the rank stench of body odour accumulated from two days without showers, whilst for some petit dejeuner comprises only the first beer (in the case of Roger in the van next door his own malodorous home-brew) and cigarette of the day. And if you don’t want to cook there are no shortages of opportunities to start your Cropredy day in true yeoman style before heading to the festival field, fishing chair in hand, tankard strapped to your belt, for an afternoon of ale, ale, err…. ale, and more ale...

Tankard Man

They’ve been out here at the crack of dawn, to reserve their seats …the bastards. It’s worse than trying to get a decent spot by the swimming pool when you’re on holiday in Spain. But with our coolbags and rucksacks we manage to get ourselves – just where we were last year, and, err…the year before that. And who should be over to our left but Tankard Man, who’s got his paint box out and is making a nice picture of the stage, bothered only by the fact that it’s too hot for his acrylics. And just in front of him the Pork Pie Club (you remember Serge, they like pork pies).

Yes, with a precision worthy of the dining room of a faded British seaside private hotel, everyone is exactly where they should be; or, as Robert Browning wrote, “God’s in his heaven – all’s right with the world”. Well not quite – it’s the hottest day of the year (again) and the sun is beating down on us – for the whole afternoon. The kamikaze are tucking into the Wadworths with a vengeance and falling like flies before too long – the Photographer produces something a little more Mediterranean. Nonetheless the heat is so bad that I spend much of the afternoon under a tablecloth, thereby missing opening act Richard Digance.

I did emerge to listen to Giveway, four charming albeit rather gauche sisters from Edinburgh who played a set of lively jigs and reels – they have a couple of albums under their belt and are just off to do a month long tour of the USA, including the Celtic Classic Festival in Bethlehem PA, which includes a ‘traditional haggis eating contest’. Cor! They’re followed by The Bucket Boys who have come all the way from Cornwall to play a rather superior pub-rock set with some nice country tunes.

Nick's tablecloth (is this some kind of British Burkha? - Ed) - Right: Giveway
Ian Mathews
Ian Matthews
Next on is Ian Matthews. Remember him? An original member of Fairport Convention he left in early 1969 and had a smash hit in the following year with a cover of ‘Woodstock’. He made a few albums with his band Plainsong and then moved to the States where he continued to write and record, but seven years ago relocated to Amsterdam. It’s an odd set – he’s still got a sweet voice but a certain sense of discontent seems to run through his songs, the majority of which are rather unremarkable. He ends up getting his set cut short – “Well isn’t that just like me, I’ve run out of time”.
What followed was bizarre in the extreme. It’s the Strawbs, 1960s folk outfit (originally including Sandy Denny) who turned to ‘progressive’ rock under the influence of Rick Wakeman, and had chart success with the singles ‘Lay Down’ and the appalling ‘Part of the Union’, and albums like Witchwood and Bursting at the Seams. I never much liked the Strawbs, and in particular didn’t care for Dave Cousin’s affected singing voice; I never bought any of their albums, and as far as I can recall never saw them. They lurched through a bewildering number of incarnations before throwing in the towel in 1980, only to return in the 90s – now they tour and record in separate acoustic and electric line-ups. And boy have they got some devoted fans – most of whom seem to be sitting around us. So while I’m having a Spinal Tap moment, barely believing that Cousins could dare come out with such dated balderdash as ‘Witchwood’, ‘Benedictus’, ‘Autumn’, and ‘Ghosts’ in 2007, the fans are approaching a state of unbridled ecstasy. The Photographer warns me to stop my Cousins impersonation, as it’s drawing disapproving glances from our neighbours. And when at the end of their set they’re abruptly rushed off the stage by the crew there’s almost an ugly moment – and believe me Cropredy doesn’t do ugly. So in the face of a volley of angry boos and chants Cousins and the band are led out to take a final bow before the adoring masses. Now tell me – who was right – me or them? Either way we’re on the homeward strait – assisted by Tyneside veterans Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell who occupy the difficult pre-Fairport slot with ease. Very funny, occasionally very poignant. If the opportunity arises I’ll certainly go and see these guys again.
It’s Fairport. They’re on stage early (which turns out to be a mistake, as they end up finishing the set early, and have to put in a few hastily remembered fillers before the finale). They have a new album out, Sense of Occasion, and they’ve got back stage projection. Ah yes – and the gig is being filmed so we’ve also got the intrusive arm of an automatic camera rig moving in and out of our view.
Meet on the ledge
As you would expect there are high points and low points as a barrage of guests, including Maartin Allcock, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Mattacks, former guitarist Jerry Donahue, Richard Thompson, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, join the stage. Best for me is the Fairport Full House line-up, playing ‘Walk awhile’, ‘Doctor of Physick’ and ‘Sloth’, the last of which was positively thrilling. My notebook tells me that Jerry Donahue played a guitar solo on Sandy Denny’s ‘One more chance’, which I guess means I liked it. Ric Saunders (who played a wonderful fiddle part on ‘Portmeirion’) deserved a prize for the worst song introduction – “Talking of shooting stars, this song’s about shooting birds…” (it was the Robert Burns’ poem ‘Western winds’). We heard a couple of songs from the new album by the Photographer’s favourite Chris Leslie. ‘South Dakota to Manchester’, like ‘Edge of the world’ showed I thought an unhealthy tendency towards a rather repetitive Ralph McTell style ‘history song’. It’s a format that can work once (or maybe twice) but can quickly become tedious. Talking of which I’ve often been irritated by Dave Pegg’s blokey familiarity and have consequently sometimes doubted his talents. So I should go on record as saying that his bass playing was first class. And that was about it.
Matty Groves
Some controversy when they finally got round to playing the rather bastardised (as the previous evening had reminded us) version of ‘Matty Groves’ that has become a Fairport trademark. Playing a film that used Lego figures to portray the characters in the story was obviously sacrilege for some of those traditionalists around us. Me – I thought it was wonderfully surreal. And then before we knew it was time to meet on the ledge as the cold night closed in around us, with a firework finale to warm us on our way home.
Next year? Same time? Same place? Same people? Well, maybe …
- Nick (photographs by Kate)
LOL! Oyez, distinguished WF readers, oyez! No need to take chances with Easyjet’s sandwiches anymore, nor to confront Heathrow’s dull-witted janitors, it’s all here on Whiskyfun, a whole journey through England’s most characterful countryside, with its beers, sausages, sheep, pork pies, folk-rock singers and Mediterranean influences (both sun and food – yet other signs of global warming for sure). Oh, I almost forgot the strange headgear. Thanks for this very excellent and very funny ethnographic review, Nick! We’re about to resell it to National Geographic, hope you don’t mind... But as you can’t always laugh in life I guess, let’s have something beautiful by Sandy Denny now... This, of course. - S.







Glenlochy 13 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice old brown label) Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts very meaty ans very grassy, really on smoked ham and on parsley (both fresh and dried) and chives. There’s also whiffs of dried kelp, wrack… Rather old style, a little dirty I must say, not too straight so to speak. Aromas we’re not really used to anymore with ‘modern’ whiskies. Mouth: a rather weakish attack, mostly on chives (unusual), taking off very sloooooowly; never getting really bold. A little dusty again, with also quite some cinnamon and nutmeg from the wood. Other than that it’s mostly on cereals and never recovers after the weakish attack. Finish: short. Now, it may be the old bottle, oxidation and so on. 75 points, still (interesting old style).
Glenlochy 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, no year of bottling, circa 1992) Colour: gold. Nose: certainly cleaner but more on grains, cereals and apple juice at first nosing. Again these coastal notes (kelp) as well as a little butter. Also much punchier. Notes of nutmeg again. Mouth: again, cleaner, honeyed and nutty but also quite dry, almost tannic, rather nervous at the attack but falling down after a few seconds, leaving just the tannins and something toasted on your palate. Finish: short, leaving just a rather liquoricy aftertaste. Not bad actually, just very harmless. Like often with these old CC’s, the nose is very pleasant but the palate doesn’t quite deliver. Maybe it’s just that we got used to higher strengths. 77 points.
Glenlochy 26 yo 1980/2006 (53.2%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #2452, 294 bottles) Colour: dark straw. Nose: of course more oomph. Punchy, grassy, waxy and floral, all that at the same time. Starts on heavy notes of orange-scented candles, marmalade, cut grass, lilac and peonies, orange blossom water… And then it’s the oak that starts to play its part, with something buttery (pleasantly so), vanilla, apple skin, grated coconut… Very nice, a little austere but very nice. Mouth: a rather perfect attack blending a little coffee, pear sweets, cooked rhubarb and tea. Really robust whisky, old style. Goes on with more fruits (I can taste peaches, very sweet apples and dried figs) and the oak again, a very good one. Gets nicely dry just like tea. Good in all senses of the word. Finish: long, sweet, liquoricy, with a little pepper and an aftertaste on dried ginger and pineapple slices. A very good old whisky that’s got lots to tell us. Stories from the good old times? 87 points.

August 2007 - part 2 <--- August 2007 - part 3 ---> September 2007 - part 1

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



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

Caol Ila 4200 days old (57.7%, Signatory, Bottling No. 17, circa 2000)

Caol Ila 15 yo 1989/2005 (58.1%, Jack Wieber’s Castle series, cask #4544, 180 bottles)

Caol Ila 1979/2006 (46%, Jean Boyer's Best Casks of Scotland)

Glenury 32 yo 1972/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 226 bottles)

St. Magdalene 11 yo 1982/1994 (61.5%, Cadenhead)

St. Magdalene 15 yo 1964/1979 (45.7%, Cadenhead)

Linlithgow 1982/1999 (62.7%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #1337)

Linlithgow 30 yo 1973/2004 (59.6%, OB, 1500 bottles)