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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2008 - Part 1
July 2008 - part 2 <--- August 2008 - part 1 ---> August 2008 - part 2

August 14, 2008


proposes a new Summer malt cocktail

Cocktail #5:
"Laddie's Night"

Pour into a shaker:
- 6 cl Bruichladdich 10 yo OB 46%
- 2 cl Triple sec Combier or Cointreau
- 1,5 cl crème de myrtilles
- 0,5 cl white crème de menthe (Get 31)
- 1/2 lime juice
Add ice, shake then serve in a cocktail glass decorated with a sprig of fresh mint and a lime slice.
- Substitute the 10 yo with another Laddie of your choice.
- Substitute the crème de myrtilles with crème de cassis or crème de mûre.
Comments: A delicious after-drink for ending a romantic night spent with you lover.


Cragganmore 12 yo 1981/1994 (55.1%, SMWS 37.10) Colour: pale straw. Nose: punchy, raw and a bit indefinite. Obvious soapiness plus porridge, wet cloth, wet cardboard and hints of chives. Rather hard to enjoy but water should help. With water: more soap, more wet wool. Pleasant waxy and mineral notes, that is. Mouth (neat): the soapiness is here again, together with notes of lavender sweets and cranberry juice. Sourness. Not flawed but close (in our humble opinion). With water: orangey and lavenderish. A tad better, that is, with less cardboardy/soapy notes. Finish: medium long and a tad fruitier (pineapples.) Comments: little pleasure here and a rather weird profile I think. SGP:331 – 65 points.
Cragganmore Cragganmore 22 yo 1985/2008 (56.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 2461, 218 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: starts on very big notes of oak (sawdust, vanilla) and develops more on apricot pie and cigar box. Whiffs of incense, white chocolate and coconut. Something of an old grain whisky, in a certain way. With water: more of everything but also an improved smoothness. Still demonstrative. Mouth (neat): a much cleaner spirit than the 1981, with a lot of positive wood influence. All kinds of spices (cinnamon first, then cardamom, aniseed, carvi…) Reminds us of ‘Indian chewing-gum’, that is to say the mix of seeds and spices they give you at the end of your meal in some Indian restaurants. Sorry, I can’t remember how they call that. A lot of paprika too. With water: it got a tad more herbal and grassy, with the tannins really coming to the front. Finish: rather long, frankly grassy now (and orangey). Comments: big changes with water but quite funnily, these changes are pretty different on the nose and on the palate. Very good ‘big oak’ Cragganmore anyway. SGP:561 - 87 points.
Cragganmore 31 yo 1972/2003 (51.5%, SMWS 37.22) This one was nicknamed 'orange blossom'. Colour: gold. Nose: more fragrant, floral and fruity than its two siblings. Orange blossom indeed, orange marmalade, apricot juice, yellow peaches, honey and cedar wood. Excellent balance between fruits and spices, with something of an old Balvenie. Develops more towards fresh orange squash and wax polish. Pollen. Rather superb nose. Mouth: more of the same, just with more wood. Close to the 1985 actually, just a tad softer and mellower. A tad jammier as well. Very good. Finish: rather long but the wood gets a tad too big and drying now. Hints of violet sweets. Comments: spectacular old Cragganmore on the nose, a tad less enthralling on the palate. SGP:640 – 87 points.
Cragganmore And also Cragganmore 12 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, old brown label) Nose: very earthy, mushrooms, fern and linseed oil as well as wet newspaper. Maize ear. Mouth: sweet but firm and very assertive. Vanilla fudge, salted butter toffee, caramel. Finish: a bit more tired but still quite enjoyable. Comments: the attack on the palate was truly wonderful. SGP:441 – 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: does - or can - Bach swing? We've had several 'famous' answers (from the Modern Jazz Quartet to Wendy Carlos and from Jacques Loussier to Claude Bolling) but we feel André Bénichou gave us one of the best ones at the guitar with his Bourrée.mp3. Please buy André Bénichou's music. Benichou

August 13, 2008


The British International Motor Show Music Festival, The Excel Centre, London, July 30th 2008
Car Show
I’ve never been to a motor show before, Serge, and it strikes me that they’re pretty weird places. For a start, they’re full of cars. And they’re full of people looking at cars. To be more accurate, they mostly seem to be people taking photographs of ludicrously expensive cars that they’ll never have a cat in hell’s chance of owning. Why would anyone want to do that? And why would anyone want to have to listen to the incessant warbling of past-their-sell-by-date TV C-List ‘personalities’ extolling the virtues of the in-car entertainment system of the new Ford whatever-it’s-called? It’s ghastly. It’s a nightmare. Why are we here? Well, it’s the lure of the British International Motor Show Music Festival, a week or more of evening gigs targeted, as the marketing guys would say, at a particular demographic aligned with the core consumer of motor show products, or in other words, blokes largely aged between thirty and fifty. It’s a way of increasing footfall through the show in the evenings when punters tend to stay away. And just look at the artists – Status Quo, Jools Holland, Alice Cooper, Blondie, Chicago, Meatloaf, and a whole night of British has-beens from the 1980s, headed by Paul Young and Midge Ure. Dad rock if you ever saw it. And before anyone points an accusing finger, let me explain that I’m here as facilitator, not a fan. It’s the boy (“Have you ever heard of a band called Deep Purple, dad?”) who’s here to see the eighth incarnation of one of the UK’s longest serving rock bands, and arguably one who could, along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, be accused of writing the rule book of ‘heavy metal’.
Deep Purple   It happens to be the band’s fortieth anniversary but I have neither the space nor inclination to do their history justice. But so that you know, drummer Ian Paice is the only survivor of the original band, bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan both date from the seventies second line-up (the one that recorded all the really famous albums like Deep Purple In Rock), guitarist Steve Morse replaced Ritchie Blackmore when he walked out on the band for the last time in 1993, and organist Don Airey succeeded Jon Lord, who retired from the band in 2002. Their most recent album, their eighteenth studio work, was 2005’s generally well-received Rapture of the Deep, but it’s perhaps not surprising that only the title track makes it on to the set list. Few in this three-quarters-full 6,000-capacity stadium in the car park of the Excel Centre in London docklands (during the day it’s the ‘Honda Live Action Arena’, which no doubt accounts for the lingering aroma of burnt rubber) have come to see new stuff – and they were no doubt pleased that the majority of the material came from the band’s zenith in the seventies.
Certainly it meant that the group of ladies behind us could sing along with Ian Gillan almost all night long, which to my surprise I found the Photographer doing too. And so ubiquitous was the band’s work in the seventies (no party could be without at least one of their very useful gate-fold albums) that I even found I remembered about half of the songs they played.
It has to be said that Mr Gillan needed all the singing assistance he could get. He seemed somewhat out of sorts, and rarely came close to the sort of vocal pyrotechnics that characterised his earlier performances. He stumbled over some of the lyrics, shortcut through others, was frequently absent from the stage and was visibly being carried by the band who seemed to take on lengthy solos to cover his deficiencies. It’s a shame, as otherwise they turned in a really cracking performance, although perhaps a little benign, lacking the menace of years gone by.
Glover Gillan Morse
Glover, Gillan and Morse (L to R)
Glover was hugely exuberant on bass, and with Paice, drove the band through the set like a steam train. Airey’s keyboards adequately filled in for Jon Lord, providing much of that classical/rock Hammond sound that was one of the signatures of the band’s sound. Morse, after a slow start, delivered a master-class in heavy rock guitar techniques, without the histrionics normally associated with the genre. I’m assured that his playing involved the following techniques: two-handed tapping, sweep picking, raking, volume swells, dive bombs, alternate picking (apparently “good enough to rival Paul Gilbert”), whammy bar tomfoolery, pinched squeals, bending and pre-bending, and “more natural harmonics than most people know about”. Pretty good, eh?
For all that, what the audience had come for was the hits, and in a rather rushed set of about an hour and a half (I sensed a local authority-imposed curfew looming) they delivered ‘Fireball’, ‘Into the fire’, ‘Strange kind of woman’, the hugely dated-sounding ‘Mary Long’, ‘Space truckin’’, ‘Highway star’, ‘Smoke on the water’, and an encore of ‘Hush’ and ’Black night’. Sadly, no ‘Speed King’, which would have been a most appropriate valedictory caution to petrol-headed Motor Show devotees, and no ‘Child in time’, which frankly would have been beyond Gillan’s vocals.
Motor Home  

But as I said, a cracking performance for all that, and in listening to some of these classic songs a nice reminder of just how influential Deep Purple were, or should I say, are? And by the way, Serge, did I mention I picked up a new bus for this year’s Whiskyfun Festival Specials? Quite a bargain at one hundred and thirty-eight grand. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Deep Purple's M

Glenlivet 14 yo 1973/1988 (59.4%, Intertrade, sherry wood) Colour: amber. Nose: starts really powerful, on what seems to be a mix of ‘smoky’ sherry and resin, and gets then frankly resinous. Fir liqueur and honeydew, something like mead, fir liqueur and even absinth… Goes back to sherry (quite winey) after that, with also quite some rubber (bands), strawberry jam, kirsch… And then pine needles again. Very ‘funny’ so to speak, even if the rubber is a little ‘too much’.
With water: a little less rubber but even more resinous notes. Retsina? Soy sauce. Also more peat… Way nicer anyway, much less winey. Quite superb in fact. Mouth (neat): big and very punchy, starting on fruit spirit (strawberry eau-de-vie and kirsch) and getting then hot, winey and rubbery, just like on the nose. Also notes of rose-flavoured Turkish delights, lychees… A fruit spirit indeed. With water: rounder, less rubbery and fruitier (cooked apricots, strawberries, raspberry liqueur, big notes of blackcurrants.) Finish: long, still a bit wild (the rubber never completely vanished) but very satisfying. Interesting peaty aftertaste. Comments: this Glenlivet is a little brutal when naked but truly excellent when watered down. Certainly not a Glenlivet ‘de salon’. SGP:543 – 86 points.
Glenlivet 21 yo 1973/1994 (56%, Signatory, cask #3946) Bottled seven years later. Colour: amber. Nose: ah, this is extremely interesting! Roughly the same whisky as the ‘Intertrade’ but with an obvious evolution. The smoke got bigger, the ‘rubbery and strawberry-like’ notes got rather less obvious, and there are added notes of chocolate, orange cake and toasted wood. The extra-7 years may have erased a part of what was a little too much in the 14yo, and have added extra-complexity. Now, both weren’t from the same cask, obviously, but still… With water: it’s almost the same whisky as the 14yo when watered down. As if the extra-7 years were useless. Quite some peat again, whiffs of garden bonfire… Even more smoke, actually. Mouth (neat): starts almost like the 14yo, only a little softer and better integrated, just like on the nose. More spices as well (gets very peppery after a moment – wood influence?) Still a little harsh. With water: almost the same as the Intertrade again. Maybe a tad fruitier and jammier. Finish: similar but no obvious peatiness at this stage. Comments: another big and wild Glenlivet, that benefited from more time in wood but not in a totally obvious way. SGP:553 – 86 points.
Glenlivet 29 yo 1973/2003 (57.9%, Private bottling, cask #3309) Bottled after another eight years in wood. Colour: amber. Nose: ha-ha! This one was obviously not very far from the 21yo originally (637 casks before, actually) and once again, there are many similarities and also huge signs of ‘good’ evolution. Everything is still there but the rubber almost vanished, the winey notes got better integrated, the smoke got even bigger (must come from the wood then, as peat smokiness usually diminishes over time – or so I thought) and the resinous notes remained as they were in the 14yo, that is to say quite big. Better balanced, for sure, and rather wilder than most other old Glenlivets we had up to now. With water: it’s really the smoke that stands out now. Hints of tarmac, bicycle inner tube. Very unusual Glenlivet. Mouth (neat): this one changed a little less on the palate than on the nose, when compared with its ‘younger twins’ (!), at least at the attack. But then it gets hugely resinous and smoky. Cough syrup, pepper, salmiak… Extremely big in fact! With water: same comments but the oak gets apparent now (tannins) besides the smokiness. Still very big, even at roughly 45% ABV. Finish: long, on a rather perfect sherry/peat/pepper combo. Would be interesting to know if Glenlivet made a lot of rather peated malt in 1973 (remember that several mainland distilleries started to distil peated malt at the beginning of the 1970’s, such as Brora, Tobermory, Springbank, Benriach etc.) Comments: very good and very interesting. SGP:454 – 88 points.

August 12, 2008


Strathisla 11 yo 1997/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland) Colour: white wine. Nose: very fresh and very fruity /porridgy. Muesli with freshly cut strawberries, Kriek (Belgian cherry-flavoured beer), butter pears (‘beurrée Hardy’) and mashed potatoes with hints of white pepper. Very clean and pure spirit with little wood influence but quite some character. A rather perfect summer malt at 43%. Mouth: mashier and spicier at the attack, as well as less fruity. Bigger maltiness. Plain barley, bitter beer, paprika and apple peeling. A tad les distinctive on the palate than on the nose but still most pleasant. Finish: medium long, clean and peppery, with a much more obvious oakiness (ends up on chlorophyll.) Comments: if you’re looking for very ‘natural’ but certainly not immature malt whisky, you should try this. SGP:540 – 84 points.
Strathisla 40 yo 1968/2008 (43.7%, Duncan Taylor Lonach) Colour: gold. Nose: what’s pretty amazing is the obvious relationship between the young and the old. Indeed, the fruity and mashy notes are all well here, except that the wood is much more obvious, which makes sense of course. Still extremely fruity and fresh, quite superb I must say. Peppered strawberries? Bring Champagne! ;-) Mouth: again, it’s in the same family as the 1997, except that it starts right on coconut, vanilla, white pepper and ginger, all that probably from the wood. Develops on strawberries again, ripe pears, black tea and a little butterscotch before the oak gets more vivid again (tannins.) Good, fresh old Strathisla. Finish: medium long and, funnily, quite similar to the 1997 (chlorophyll, tannins.) Comments: like in many old malts by Duncan Taylor, the oak has become quite obvious but certainly not drying. A matter of taste; I don’t dislike that, even if that’ll often prevents a malt from fetching 90+ points in my humble ‘rating system’. SGP:541 – 87 points.
Strathisla 18 yo 1989/2008 (63.5%, The Clydesdale, cask #0036/9418, 244 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is a different beast, extremely punchy but not assaulting despite the high ABV. Starts on a lot of smoke, putty and liquorice and then strawberry pie and hay. Rather more ‘tertiary’ than both the Jean Boyer and the Lonach. Faint hints of rubber. With water: it’s the rubber that wins for a while, just before all the rest takes off. Slight milkiness, mint leaves, sour cream. Maybe a tad too butyric at this stage. Mouth (neat): very creamy and oily, with the extravagant sweetness that one can find in very strong whiskies (bubblegum) and notes of dried ginger. I must say I like this quite a lot. With water: it got even fruitier (all sorts of fruit drops, except tropical fruits.) Raspberries. Finish: long, still very fruity, with a slight green-ness fromt he wood now. Comments: a rather excellent version that’s rather wilder and more phenolic than the ‘usual’ Strathisla on the nose, but not on the palate. SGP:531 – 87 points.
And also Strathisla 1964/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Nose: very round and soft, beautifully floral and camphory. A lot of eucalyptus as well. Unusually phenolic. Mouth: soft, maybe a tad more tired than on the nose but still extremely good. 89 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Liquor Still.mp3 (of course) by the great Cora Mae Bryant (of course). Please buy Cora Mae Bryant's music (of course - will U stop that?) Cora Mae Bryant

August 11, 2008

Barbican, London, 28th July, 2008

Barbican, London, 28th July, 2008

I’ve been away for two weeks, sailing amongst the hidden secrets of the Inner Hebrides, with not a few whisky-pirates. So what better reintroduction to London life than a pizza, followed by a piratical evening of sea shanties and songs about sailors, ships and the sea, based on the Whiskyfun’s 2006 Album of the Year, Rogue’s Gallery. You may recall that collection of songs by a multiplicity of artists, ranging from Seattle’s Baby Gramps, through Nick Cave to Sting and Bono, was dreamt up by Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, and brilliantly executed by polymath producer Hal Willner.

Johnny Depp Pirate
Willner, you may also recall, pulled off the equally brilliant (if not a tad shambolic) concert last year at Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown, Forest of No Return, which brought together a crazy and generally unlikely cast to sing their way through around thirty-eight classic songs from the films of Walt Disney. Well, Willner’s at it again, and this time, introducing the artists himself in a rather unflattering pirate’s outfit, he’s responsible for almost four hours and forty-odd songs. It’s somewhat better organised than Forest of No Return, there’s only one no-show (Pete Doherty, who “wouldn’t get out of the car”), and most of the audience manage to stick it out to the bitter end – not bad going.
It’s an eclectic bunch of performers, some featured on the album, but the majority not. And there are some surprises – who would have expected Squeeze’s Chris Difford to sing ‘Mingulay boat song’ quite so tunefully, or to see actor Tim Robbins, on guitar and vocals, turning in gallant versions of ‘My son John’, ‘The cruel ship’s captain’ and coping with Shane MacGowan on ‘Bound for South Australia’? But what really turned this from a simple, if not tuneful, rendition of familiar songs by familiar artists, was the genius of the band, who managed to inject something sinister, and even something slightly otherworldly, into even the most innocent performance. Led by Kate St John on mostly accordion and oboe, it included Leo Abrahams on guitars and hurdy gurdy, Roger Eno on keyboards and euphonium, Andy Newmark on drums, Martyn Baker on percussion, Dudley Phillips on bass and David Coulter on banjo, mandolins and saw. They almost, very modestly, stole the show.

Rogues Gallery
Shane MacGowan
Martha Wainwright

Baby Gramps
David Thomas
I say almost, because there are too many potential show-stealers on the bill to allow them to do that. There are some Big Names. The hideously affected Martha Wainwright was hideously affected as she sang ‘Lowlands away’, performed for the record by her brother Rufus, and mother Kate McGarrigle. Suzanne Vega seemed strangely out of touch as she stumbled over ‘Caroline and her young sailor bold’, as did Robyn Hitchcock. The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon is definitely not as funny as he thinks he is; he threw away ‘High Barbary’, but recovered somewhat on ‘Turkish Revelry’, one of the prettiest songs on the record, a story about a cabin boy who is betrayed having mined an opposing vessel and “sank her in the lonely lonesome water”, which is predictably where he ended up too. And Shane McGowan never did quite figure out which way round to hold his harmonica.
Looking like a refugee from ZZ Top, Seattle songster and guitar twirler extraordinaire Baby Gramps had a much surer touch, kicking off the show with a rambunctious ‘Cape Cod Girls’, and ending with ‘OId man of the sea’, bewildering the assembled chorus with his verses, to which they were attempting to respond. White Magic, with Mira Billotte’s dreamy vocals, performed a splendid ‘Long time ago’, and Ed Harcourt did pretty well with ‘Farewell Nancy’, accompanied on violins and vocals by the Langley Sisters, whose virginal appearance (yes – even the pregnant sister managed to look virginal) seemed rather out of place in such a group of rogues. Richard Strange, sang ‘The good ship Venus’ as well as anyone could, looking rather like a nervous English teacher about to be caught by the headmaster. The throaty and infectiously enthusiastic Sandy Dillon rasped out ‘Bully in the Alley’ and ‘Leave her Johnny’ (or should that be Johnnie?) with a voice like barnacles being scraped on the deck of an old hulk. And then there was David Thomas, whose ferocious ‘Drunken sailor’ sounded as though it was being sung with all the rage of those many hapless mariners trapped deep in Davy Jones’ famous locker.
Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, and Eliza Carthy
Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy
But for all that my show stealers were mother, father and daughter, Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, and Eliza Carthy, both individually and severally. Waterson’s ‘Bay of Biscay’, sung with the support of the family, was simply sensational, her mesmerising voice filling every corner of the hall and she wasn’t bad in ‘Farewell my Juliana’ either. Martin Carthy included the marvellously percussive ‘Hog-eye man’, and Eliza (also with child) seduced the audience with ‘Rolling sea’ and ‘The nightingale’. A very special word should also go to Teddy Thompson, who had to follow Waterson’s ‘Biscay’ – “This is going to be easy then” – and triumphed with the mysterious ‘Sally Brown’ – he even got the audience to sing. He also brought the best out of the band on ‘Haul away Joe’, and pulled off a very nice duet with Kathryn Williams. Sister Kami Thompson also sang very nicely.
Teddy Thompson
Teddy Thompson
Rogues Gallery
By the time Mr Gramps danced and tripped across the front of the stage, guitar over his head, singing ‘Old man of the sea’ we’d had, as I’ve already observed, almost four hours and forty-odd songs, and it was a testament to the spirit of the evening that both the audience and performers still had the same sparkling enthusiasm that had witnessed the start of the night.
These events are always going to be a little hit- and-miss, a tad disorganised, but they are very, very, special, and on those few occasions when it all got a bit too much for me, I simply closed my eyes and revelled in pictures of dolphins swimming wildly at the bow of our boat as we sailed off the entrance to Loch Braccadale on Skye, the music adding a suitable salty and occasional saucy flavour to my reminiscences. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
Classic Malts Cruise



Dalmore 1990/2007 (46%, Montgomerie's, cask #68) Colour: white wine. Nose: very, very ‘Dalmore’, combining into a mix of smoke, dried oranges, thyme and malt. Faintly mashy as well, developing on more ‘mundane’ fruity notes (pears, apples) and whiffs of warm milk. Very interesting as many versions of Dalmore are more influenced by the wood/wine. Classy spirit, a lot of character. Mouth: very fruity and very spicy attack. First apples (including peeling), and only then oranges, various herbs (not just thyme but also rosemary and even chives) and a good deal of liquorice. Little smokiness this time. A rather oily mouth feel, with something slightly resinous (bee propolis). Finish: long and spicier. Pepper. Comments: a big dram, without the usual ‘polished’ side of Dalmore. Good and interesting. SGP:462 – 84 points.
Dalmore 17 yo 1990/2008 (56.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #7328, 378 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much, much more wood influence here, plain oak that is. Pencil shavings (lead included), vanilla, toasted bread, warm sawdust… The orangey notes are more discreet than in the Montgomerie’s but they’re well here. With water: less oak and more fruits, the smoke coming more to the front. Notes of warm butter, peat and mint. Mouth (neat): sweeter and much more orangey than on the nose. Very powerful. The ‘oaky’ vanilla is well here, as well as something interestingly ‘oriental’ (baklavas and Turkish delights, with a lot of orange blossom water.) Also slightly bubblegummy but that may come from the high ABV. With water: more oranges – and tangerines, as expected. Resin. Very good and very clean. Finish: long, big, rather superbly balanced Comments: a big dram again, it’s funny how water really softened the woodiness here. Dalmore really stands ‘natural ageing’ (no wine) perfectly well. SGP:452 – 87 points.

August 8, 2008

GOOD NEWS (we hope so!) Many of you have been experiencing difficulties accessing these modest pages recently, so we decided to change hosts. That will happen tomorrow so expect even more difficuties for a short while, or maybe not. Wish us luck. Everything should be back to normal - so to speak - on Monday morning, latest. If WF keeps not functionning, please keep trying. Thank you!


Highland Park
Highland Park 8 yo (70 Proof, OB, cork stopper, mid/late 1960’s, 75cl) Colour: gold. Nose: how smoky and how dry! Very compact and extremely waxy, peaty and quite resinous (pine resin, mastic, putty). Gets then grassier and more vegetal, with quite some fresh walnuts, almond milk, even avocado. Also pepper and mustard, horseradish… And then it’s back to a big, bold peat, with smoke from various origins (wood, coal, peat.) What a stunning, big whisky! Little sweetness and almost no fruits. In short, ultra-dry. Mouth: thick, oily, phenolic and resinous, with quite some lemon in the background (crystallised.) A tad simpler than on the nose, but that would have been a miracle at 8yo, even at the time. Sweet almond oil, bergamot, wax… Also a little pepper and quite some ‘muted’ peat – this time - like in some old Laphroaigs or Ardbegs. Notes of grapefruits. Excellent. Finish: long, lingering, phenolic and sweetly lemony. Comments: a little less dry on the palate than on the nose, but the whole is truly wonderful. 8yo and 40%, imagine… SGP:355 – 92 points.
Highland Park 22 yo (75 proof, OB, Green Dumpy, yellow St Magnus label, 75cl, 1960's) Colour: amber. Nose: this one starts on amazing notes of mushrooms, both fresh and dried. Boletus and morels – I’m not joking. Then we have dark chocolate, dried beef, peat, balsamico, old wood polish, walnuts, leather, Havana tobacco, parsley, game (pheasant), coffee… Absolutely stunning again. Mouth: round and sweeter, assertive yet extremely complex, with some dark chocolate, old red wine (Bourgogne), oranges (similarities with very old Dalmores spring to mind), black tea, marmalade, cloves, dark toffee, prunes… The sherry’s much more obvious than on the nose. But let’s cut a long story short: this is just a brilliant oldie! Extremely complex. Finish: long, almost invading, drier again, with a lingering peat (and pepper.) Comments: amazing that this one stayed so big after more than 40 years in glass. Truly fabulous. SGP:464 – 94 points.
Highland Park NAS (43%, OB, yellow St. Magnus Label, dumpy bottle, 1950's) Colour: amber. Nose: a tad less ‘big’ than the 22yo and certainly more austere, but probably not less thrilling. More wax and walnuts, paraffin, linseed oil, shoe polish… A little less peat, that is. Ultra-dry just like the 8yo, of which this one is a slightly bigger version. Cigarette tobacco and kelp. No, we don’t smoke kelp. Also big peat and obvious notes of Belgian beer (trappist). High-end yeast. In short, another very dry beauty! Mouth: ho-ho-ho! This is even bigger than the 22. Incredible punch, with a lot of peat and pepper this time, to the point where it’s almost hot a whisky. Keywords: dry sherry, coffee, smoked ‘things’ and liquorice. Finish: a tad shorter than expected but rounder and a little sweeter now. Bitter oranges. Comments: how can whisky at 43% stay this big after 50+ years in a bottle – and it wasn’t even a spring cap? SGP:465 - 95 points.
Highland Park NAS (100° Proof, OB, yellow St. Magnus Label, tall bottle, Late 1950's) Colour: deep amber. Nose: this is another wonderful variant, displaying just a little less peat but much more coffee and chocolate. More sherry, obviously. It’s also more vegetal (cabbage – the good side of cabbage, liquorice roots, gentian roots, humus), getting then frankly animal somewhat like the 22yo (game, dried beef, cured ham.) Also pretty much the same wonderfully yeasty notes as in the ‘dumpy’ NAS. It’s completely impossible to decide between the three last ones on the nose, all are stunning. Exceptional dryness. Mouth: probably the peatiest of them all, and also the most sherried. Extremely wild as well, thanks to the 100°proof, restless, immensely spicy, even a tad spirity. It’s like if they had bottled it right yesterday, except that they don’t make it like this anymore, do they? The peat and the pepper grow bolder and bolder, with also notes of mead, Port, tobacco, blackcurrants, herbal tea (thyme), rubber, liquorice… Well, it’s almost too harsh, which is incredible. Maybe one should keep these bottles unopened for a further 50 years? Finish: endless and restless, still quite rough, even a tad mustardy. Comments: let’s be frank, this lacks a bit of polishing on the palate – honest. But it’s extremely impressive old whisky! SGP:364 - 92 points.
Highland Park Coopers


Murray McDavid believe in fast ‘wine cask enhancement’ of their whiskies (a few days or weeks) whilst the Cooper’s Choice we’ll also have has been re-racked and has spent six extra-years in sherry casks. Rather double maturing than straight finishing in this case. These two whiskies should be very different!
Highland Park 27 yo 1979/2006 (46.2%, Murray McDavid, "Mission Gold", Bourbon/Syrah, 500 bottles) Colour: salmony. Nose: first we get a little rubber (bands) and notes of blackcurrant leaves and warm butter and then whiffs of wet wool and stones. Faint spiciness (ginger, thyme) and then more fruity notes, such as raspberry jam. Mulled wine. Sort of discreet and much, much less extravagant than expected even if it gets a little farmy after a while (hay). No actual HP markers that we can get except for a very slight waxiness. Gets very winey after fifteen minutes (empty wine barrel.) Mouth: starts on raspberry drops and cranberry juice, then liquorice allsorts and blackcurrant jelly (Jell-O?), the ‘whisky’ side coming out only after a moment, with a certain maltiness (good news). It sort of works even if in no way our cup of malt. Finish: long, with the notes of blackcurrant buds coming back (or the tea made thereof) as well as a kind of a saltiness. Comments: let me insist, it’s really a matter of taste and even if this isn’t our thing at all, I wouldn’t say it’s not properly done. Lovers of wine-finished whiskies should, well, adore this one. SGP:641 – 79 points.
Highland Park 27 yo 1978/2005 (52.2%, Cooper’s Choice for Alambic Classique, cask #3498, 150 bottles) Colour: gold/pale amber. Nose: again, this isn’t a very expressive HP at first nosing, even if it’s straighter and maybe a little more elegant than the 1979. Gets suddenly extremely orangey, with huge notes of orange liqueur, bitter oranges and Fanta. Whiffs of gunpowder and wet earth. Again, much straighter than the 1979 in spite of these big orangey notes. With water: there’s a little rubber now but it quickly disappears. It’s a little more vegetal globally (as often after reduction with water.) ‘Cleanly orangey’. Mouth (neat): very rich, candied, thick, starting all on jams (oranges again, plums, apricots…) and developing on nougat, honey and vanilla fudge. Almost ‘spoonable’. With water: we’re very close to very good officials now, the distillery being rather easily recognisable. ‘Phenolically honeyed’ (and what else?). Finish: long and smooth at the same time, even more ‘OB’ now. Comments: this is one of the indie HP’s that are closest to the best officials in our book. Maybe it’s the double-maturation that did the trick? (probably, probably…) SGP:553 – 88 points.
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August 7, 2008

Highland Park


Highland Park 17 yo 1958/1975 (43%, OB, Green Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is perfectly in the style of most HP’s distilled in the 1950’s, that is to say big, oily, peaty and wonderfully dry, without these very honeyed notes that came only one decade later, unless the disappearance of honeyness is another aspect of old bottle effect (OBE). No idea… anyway, this 1958 goes on with rather grassy notes (fresh walnuts, hay), linseed oil, faint hints of lemonade (unusual), getting even a little mouldy. More smoke and more peat come through after a while (burning matches), hints of toasted bread, beer, dark chocolate… Like many of its siblings, it’s rather wild whisky on the nose. Hints of fermenting hay. Mouth: sweet yet nervous, then slightly syrupy (big contrast with the nose) before it gets back to crystallised oranges, kumquats, peat and various kinds of soft spices. Also a tad more honeyed. Extremely satisfying if not the most complex of all old HP’s on the palate. Finish: long, slightly drier (flour) and maltier. Hints of ginger at the aftertaste, also tannins. Comments: of all the old dumpies we could try, maybe this one is the closest to the current range in style. Great whisky anyway. SGP:453 - 91 points.
Highland Park 19 yo (43%, OB for Edgar Gembrys, Germany, plastic screw cap, 75cl) Colour: amber. Nose: not very different from the 1958 at very first sniffs, but gets then more candied, honeyed (but not immensely so), beautifully fruity (lemons, tangerines) and still very smoky and peaty. Perfect balance. Then fresh almonds, seashells, putty, wet wood and fresh ink (newspaper of the day.) What can I say, it’s just another wonderful old Highland Park, maybe a tad more multidimensional than many others. Mouth: extremely close to the old 1958 in style – almost the same in fact, rather unexpectedly. Maybe a tad more nervous. Finish: long, orangey and gingery. Comments: yet another great old HP – starts to be boring, eh?! SGP:453 – 91 points.
Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55.6%, G&M for Intertrade, 215 bottles, 75cl) Last time I tried this wonder, it was back in 2004 and I scored it 95 points… Time to do my revisions! Colour: full amber. Nose: Jesus! One of the most stunning mix of all kinds of chocolates, all kinds of smokes, all kinds of dried herbs, all kinds of dried fruits and all kinds of, well, all the rest. There’s only one kind of fruit, that is (apart from dried ones) and it’s oranges. Squeezed, crystallised, dried, in liqueurs, in food… And let’s not forget all what’s beautifully meaty and animal. This whisky is pure magic and guess what, we won’t even dare to add water to it, in spite of its high ABV. A matter of respect… Mouth: what can we say? One of the rare whiskies that display both a wonderful complexity (it’s got everything, really) and a kind of ‘coherence’. Does ‘compact and multidimensional’ make any sense? Finish: extremely long, back on all forms of oranges, with a peaty/spicy signature (cloves.) Comments: anybody who tries this one will understand that malt whisky is magic and not science, and that any attempts at making it in a different way (read quicker and/or cheaper) is plain ridiculous. As if Botticelli had suddenly started to paint like LeRoy Neiman… Well, I’m sure the Medicis would have cut his throat. SGP:663 - 96 points.
Highland Park


Highland Park 17yo 1960/1977 (43%, OB, James Grant, green dumpy, black label, 75cl) Colour: mahogany. Nose: fantastic attack on the nose, blending smoke, tar, walnuts, honey and Corinth raisins. Also lots of various herbs (dried parsley, lovage, hints of bay leaves), then fruit jams (strawberry first, then orange marmalade, plums…), then mint and eucalyptus (make that cough medicine), then leather and cedar wood and finally beef bouillon and balsamic vinegar. In other words, this one’s got almost everything, even if the whole is rather mellow and soft. Mouth: wonderfully rich and creamy, yet really ‘anti-lumpish’ (wazzat, S?) Starts on walnut liqueur (what my grandma called Nusswasser), mocha and orange marmalade, then we have dark chocolate, both smoked and roasted teas, quite some peat, quite some cloves, quite some liquorice… Gets more coffee-ish for a while and then rather fruity (Xmas cake, all kinds of dried fruits.) Brilliant dryness, still. Finish: medium long but very full, on ‘smoky coffee’ and toffee. Comments: great, great old Highland Park but no surprise, of course. Ha! SGP:664 – 94 points.
Highland Park 18yo 1960/1978 (43%, OB, James Grant, green dumpy, black label, dark vatting, 75cl) Darker than the ‘regular’ version of the 18/60, which is amber. Colour: mahogany. Nose: this version is unexpectedly less rich and deep than the 17yo but also more phenolic, almost a little metallic. Quite some gingerbread, tonic, fresh putty, peat, then cured ham, eucalyptus honey, a little camphor, hints of encaustic, leather polish, even motor oil. At the fruits department we have grapefruits, tamarind and dried figs… The whole is very different from the 17yo indeed, but as for which one is the nicest, it’s impossible to make up our mind – yet. Mouth: we’re much closer to the 17yo now, except that there’s rather more honey and more peat besides all the dried fruits and jams. Becomes more and more phenolic, with an almost big peatiness. As much peat as in very old Laphroaigs, as if HP’s peat didn’t ‘mutate’ as much as Laphroaig’s through the years. Amazingly good whisky for sure. Finish: a tad drier than the 17yo’s but similar in style. A tad waxier as well. Comments: one of the peatiest Highland Parks I ever tried as far as I can remember. Brilliant again. SGP:565 – 94 points.
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August 6, 2008

by Nick Morgan
02 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London,
July 5th 2008

Bootsy Collins
We’ve come here on the fourth day of the 02 Wireless Festival, one of a series of sponsor-led events housed in a temporary enclosure in London’s Hyde Park. To be honest, it’s a pretty ghastly affair – a warm Saturday afternoon with the pallid and slightly unwashed-looking juvenile contents of the Capital’s offices spewed out into the park, all seemingly intent on getting seriously wired in time for the headliner, Fatboy Slim. It’s going to be that sort of Saturday night.
There are testaments to Tuborg, the Festival beer sponsor’s presence everywhere, as plastic bottles litter the ground. And you could be forgiven for thinking that the music is placed a poor second to the sponsors, whose messaging is relentless. I have to thank 02 – they’re service providers for the i-Phone, so a flash of my ‘phone gets me into the exclusive and quite heavenly 02 Exclusive Cloakrooms, with attendants, perfumed soaps, balms and hand creams, and even an angel on hand to guide you. Sadly, the Photographer had to slum it with the non-believers. But it’s branding everywhere, leaflets, competitions, ads on the big screens, you name it, we have to endure it. Commercialism gone mad.
Commercial Pressure
The four days have seen mixed fare. Day one was sort of rap, with Jay Z topping the bill (“a pile of crap” said my industry insider), day two sort of Indie with the Wombats, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Beck and Mozzer (all of which the Photographer’s daughter loved), today is maybe dance, tomorrow pretty mainstream stuff with Counting Crows. And before you ask, Serge, we’re only here for one reason, and it’s not the beer, nor is it Mr Slim. We’ve come to see the redoubtable Bootsy Collins, funk-meister extraordinaire, on a rare visit to these shores, squeezed in at 16.45 between Neon Neon, Gruff Rhys’ new project who seem to do a lot of drumming, and Swedish pop starlet Robyn, who doesn’t. Elsewhere (on the Sandisk stage) there are artistes such as Does it Offend You Yeah?, and from Belgium (well, almost) on the Tuborg Stage, the very loud and rather flat Das Pop. As you might guess, I’m just a few degrees beyond my comfort zone.
Phelps 'Catfish' Collins (L) and Tony Wilson (R)
Actually Bootsy doesn’t make it on stage ‘till after five as the crew can’t get the sound right – a great shame as he’s booted off on the dot of 17.45, much to the chagrin of the Photographer, and those others who’ve chosen to forsake the beer tents for some good old funk (did I mention that the Photographer is Bootsy’s Number 1 Fan?). Mr Collins presents us with a Soul Revue-style tribute to James Brown – quite fitting as Bootsy and his brother Phelps, aka Catfish, both cut their teeth in Brown’s backing band the JB’s in the early seventies, when they were responsible for tracks like "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing", introducing a new powerful brand of funk into Brown’s sound. Subsequently they moved on to join George Clinton’s Funkadelic, and later formed Bootsy’s Rubber Band, during which time Bootsy’s voyage into the bizarre extra-planetary world of P-Funk reached its zenith. Since then, his non-stop career has involved numerous successful collaborations across a range of musical genres, most recently with Buckethead (who wears a KFC bucket on his head), all defined by Collins’ tireless, irrepressible and frankly out-of-this-world good humour.
Bootsy Collins
From L to R, Bootsy Collins, Tony Wilson and friend
He’s assembled the original JB rhythm section, including Catfish (who looks bemused but happy) and Cash Waddy on drums. There’s Danny Ray, Brown’s MC and ‘man with the cape’ for over thirty years, and Brown’s last wife and former backing singer, and the subject of on-going legal disputes, Tomi Rae Hynie. The outfit is fronted by Tony Wilson, ‘The Young James Brown’, suitably introduced by Danny Ray. There isn’t much this young man can’t do, he can sing, he can shout, he can do the splits, he can do all that James Brown microphone stuff, he can even moonwalk across the stage on his head. It’s a high-energy performance, driven along by Collins’ pounding bass. By the end, they’d managed to tempt quite a lot of the drinkers from their resting places to join in the fun, but as they were ushered off the stage even the cries of “We want da funk” couldn’t bring them back. What did they play? Well, lots of James Brown songs, of course.

So that was enough for us, and after another cursory tour of the ground, a quick visit to the Exclusive Cloakrooms and exposure to another barrage of sponsors’ advertising, we called it an early day and headed west, begging our pardons of Mr Slim and his colleagues. - Nck Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick's iPhone.)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs

Bootsy Collins' MySpace page

Exclusive Cloakrooms


Highland Park
Highland Park 22 yo (80 Proof, Cadenhead’s, dumpy black label, early 1980's) Colour: full gold. Nose: extraordinary at first nosing, all on that famous heather honey and then blood oranges, tangerines, mangos and passion fruits. Something of an old Bowmore from the 1960’s if you see what I mean, only a bit wilder. Whiffs of peat smoke, camphor, mint and eucalyptus. This one has everything. Exceptional nose. Mouth: all in the same vein, taking off smoothly but getting big, candied, citrusy (orange and lemon marmalades). Fructose, ripe kiwi, ginger, honey, peat… Maybe less complex than other old HP’s but this one’s compactness is superb. Finish: long, getting smoother again in spite of a burst of spearmint and green apples. Comments: ‘s wonderful. As classic and entertaining as, say Ella Fitzgerald’s best gigs (say, with Count Basie, around 1979.) SGP:743 – 92 points.
Highland Park 18 yo 1977/1995 (52.3%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection) Colour: straw. Nose: this is a much waxier and ‘Highlands’ version. Wet stones, linseed oil, green apples, grapefruits, fresh walnuts, fusel oil, shoe polish… Wonderful austerity in this one. With water: more of the same. Something ‘old Clynelish’, quite remarkable. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 22yo now but there’s more oak and, again, more phenolic notes. Cough medicine, various honeys, lemon marmalade, herbal liqueur… Yee-hah! (err, excuse me). With water: perfection, really. Big, phenolic, wonderfully grassy, mineral, lemony… Another ‘Riesling malt’ – and god knows we love great Rieslings. Finish: even more Riesling-alike. Comments: kind of an Alsatian Highland Park, whatever that means. SGP:553 – 92 points.
Highland Park 12 yo 1979/1991 (65.2%, Cadenhead's for Dival di Gabri) Colour: straw. Nose: much rougher than the two other Cadenheads, lemony, sharp, mashy, smoky… Water is needed here, so with water: even harder, even at roughly 45% ABV. Only a little more ‘wet dog’ (thank god dogs don’t read WF.) Mouth (neat): gasp! We only get sugariness from the alcohol! With water: some parts remind us of the 1977 (lemon zests) but other than that it’s a little too sharp and grassy. Green apples, paraffin. Finish: very long, with more pepper but also even more grassy notes. Comments: probably a little too immature, but potential was there, at the time. Too bad… SGP:361 – 79 points.
4.12 And also Highland Park 1982/1992 (57.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 4.12) Nose: wild, very smoky and flowery. Superb. Gets even very medicinal after a while (camphor, antiseptic, iodine.) Mouth: fantastic attack, powerful. Linseed oil, wax, smokiness and kiwi jam. Superb indeed at such young age, a great surprise, unearthed by Olivier. 92 points.
Highland Park

FOUR 1966's
by Duncan Taylor

Highland Park 37 yo 1966/2003 (40.9%, Duncan Taylor Peerless, cask #4637, 148 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: immensely fragrant at first sniffs, this one smells just like a beehive, with an avalanche of wax, honey, pollen and nectar. Gets then a tad more phenolic (hints of peat) and fruity (ripe apricots). A good deal of vanilla as well, and a few spices from the wood (white pepper, dried ginger.) All that is smooth and most enjoyable. Mouth: beautiful attack on honey and mint, wax, vanilla fudge and caramelised apple pie (make that tarte tatin). More wood comes through after a minute, with silky tannins, a very soft pepperiness and just a little ginger and cinnamon. The whole is fresh and most enjoyable I must say. Finish: maybe a tad short but clean, half vanilled, half oaky. Comments: as often with very old whiskies, the nose is a little more pleasant than the palate, but the latter is very far from being tired. SGP:652 – 89 points.
Highland Park 37 yo 1966/2004 (41.3%, Duncan Taylor Peerless, cask #4644, 135 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: less directly honeyed than cask #4637, a little drier and rather woodier. A tad bigger as well. Quite some apricot (both very ripe and ‘regular’) and whiffs of peat again. Less demonstrative and more ‘introspective’. Very nice, still. Mouth: we do have the same kind differences on the palate, except that this one is rather bigger now. Candied fruits and hints of mastic and pine resin. Certainly fuller than cask #4637 after a moment. Earl grey tea, cane sugar and gingerbread. Finish: longer again, a tad mintier and grassier. Comments: a bigger version than cask #4637 globally, but less fruity on the nose. SGP:552 – 87 points.
Highland Park 40 yo 1966/2006 (40.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #11009, 294 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: somewhat in the same vein as cask #4644, only a little grassier and more resinous. A little bigger, that is. Mouth: this one is the least fruity of them all, and also the most tannic. Green tea and apple peeling. Finish: long but drying and tannic, even a little prickly. Comments: this one was probably better (less tannic) a few years ago. We had a sister cask (#11010 @ 38yo) that was fresher (85). SGP:371- 80 points.
Highland Park 40 yo 1966/2006 (41%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #4630, 156 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to cask #4644 – almost the same whisky. A little more vanilla. Mouth: this is excellent again. It’s not that there isn’t any wood or tannins, quite the contrary, but they’re rather nicely mingled with a big ‘fruity honeyness’. Apple and cinnamon pie, liquorice and slightly acidic coffee (Blue Moutain and such – I think). Finish: drier now (quite some papper, both black and white) but not really drying (but the aftertaste is quite ‘green’). Comments: a 40yo that’s less tired or drying than others, even if it’s not the most complex of all old Highland Parks. SGP:451 – 86 points. General comments: these old Highland Parks by Duncan Taylor can’t really compete with the old officials, but then again, they’re (were?) much cheaper. Rather good value for money.

August 5, 2008

Highland Park Globus

THREE HP’s from the mid-70’s

Highland Park 20 yo 1975/1995 (43%, Signatory, cask #1291-93) Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather expressively, on white fruits (apples, pears, hints of bananas) and muesli. Also hints of white cherries (I mean, the ones that have a red skin and white flesh.) Good, balanced oakiness in the background. Also mead, light honey, pollen. Gets finally uber-orangey. Freshly squeezed oranges. Very, very nice nose, rather more exuberant than the usual HP’s. No sherry influence. Mouth: sweet and fruity, almost like at first nosing. Same big notes of ripe apples and muesli, oatcakes, bananas flambéed, acacia honey and a little liquorice. A tad less expressive than on the nose but still very good. Finish: quite long, globally fruity (fruit salad.) Comments: good and very, very drinkable. Beware of refills! SGP:731 – 86 points.
Highland Park 21 yo 1975/1996 (52.9%, Signatory, cask #4826) Colour: straw. Nose: this is much grassier, austere, leafy and dry. Artichokes and salad, wet paper. It’s only after a good ten minutes that some fruity elements do arise, albeit never as boldly as in the 20yo. With water: back to grass and mashed potatoes. Sometimes water kills fruitiness. Mouth (neat): sweet (from the alcohol) and rather oily (thick mouth feel, glycerin), with more liquorice and notes of dried herbs after that (thyme) as well as quite some tannins from the wood, the whole getting rather ‘greenly’ bitter and peppery. With water: better now, pleasantly fruity and liquoricy but not really any more complex. Finish: medium long and a tad bitter and drying (tannins.) Comments: well, I liked the 20yo at 43% so much better! And many other excellent HP’s by Signatory… SGP:361 – 75 points.
Highland Park 34 yo 1973/2007 (46.5%, OB for Globus, Switzerland, cask #6384, 100 bottles) Globus is a Swiss chain of general stores, they also had an excellent old 1972 (92 points) Bowmore alongside this HP when they celebrated their 100th anniversary last year. Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts almost exactly like a big bowl of various cut fruits with crushed mint leaves. Very big mintiness indeed, as well as huge notes of eucalyptus, pine resin, fresh nougat and marzipan, whiffs of fresh putty… Rather extravagant for a while but quite bizarrely, all that extravagance quickly disappears, the whisky getting then much drier and almost as vegetal as the 21/1975 by Signatory, with just hints of cedar wood and rubbed orange peel. Still very nice whisky but the change of profile is quite amazing. Mouth: more wood but a similar extravagance as at first nosing (bananas, both ripe and green, dried pineapples.) The good news is that it doesn’t fall apart at all after the attack, quite the contrary as it seems to pick up steam, even if towards a drier profile again. Lots of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper… Finish: long, oakier and more tannic now but there’s a very pleasant aftertaste on ripe pears (that’s very unusual in old whiskies.) Comments: a very interesting old HP that resembles a vatting of, say 75% very old whisky that would have been ‘revived’ with 25% 10yo. Of course that’s not what happened here! SGP:652 – 89 points.
Highland Park


Highland Park 37 yo 1968/2005 (40.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #3459, 133 bottles) The 1968 cask #3460 for the Nectar was exceptional so we have high expectations here. Colour: gold. Nose: roughly the same kind of profile as most other old un-sherried HP’s by Duncan Taylor, only a tad more phenolic and fragrant at the same time. Hints of old roses and liquorice allsorts, then mastic and pine resin, marzipan, strawberry jam… Quite a lot happening in there. Hints of smoked tea… Settles down on the usual beeswax, honey and apricot pie. Little woodiness, which is great news. Mouth: the mouth feel isn’t really big, maybe even a tad weakish, but the fruitiness is perfect (oranges) at the attack. Sort of collapses after that, except for the pleasant ‘orangey honeyness’. Little tannins, which makes that the whole stays clean and fresh. Finish: short but clean. Comments: a superb nose and a good attack, followed by a rather thin palate. But again, no dryness at all. Interesting light oldie. SGP:620 – 83 points.
Highland Park 40 yo 1968/2008 (40.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #3466) Colour: gold. Nose: starts a tad spirity, which is unexpected, getting then waxy and honeyed like many other old HP’s by DT. Much less demonstrative than cask #3459, but there’s quite some fresh orange juice. Half freshly fruity, half oaky (not exactly tannic, that is.) Not big but fresh and pleasant. Mouth: much more oomph than cask #3459 despite the very same ABV. Fruit liqueurs mixed with spices and a little liquorice. Very good. Finish: medium long, very clean and once again, without apparent tannins. Comments: the nose is a tad shy but the palate is rather perfect. Exactly the opposite of its sibling, and a vatting of both works very well, mind you. SGP:631 – 87 points.
Highland Park 40 yo 1967/2007 (47.1%, John Scott Kirkwall, cask #6687, 168 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Nose: this is much, much closer to the old OB’s, thanks to the big sherry. Loads of small red fruits (first wild strawberries, which isn’t so common in whisky, then raspberry liqueur, blueberries) and then honeyed oranges, old sweet wine (Sauternes), sultanas, prunes and milk chocolate. All that is very fresh and without any heaviness. A perfect sherried nose, sweet, jammy and very fruity. Mouth: superb attack, smoky and sherried, with big notes of gunpowder and mastic. Huge notes of cinnamon and nutmeg as well, then fruit jams (strawberries and blackcurrants) and strong honey (chestnut). Unusual notes of overripe bitter oranges and herbal liqueurs (Bénédictine). Finish: medium long, drier now, with hints of flour. Just a tad chalky, in fact. Comments: excellent and, again, close to the best old officials. Maybe a tad more original, actually. SGP:663 - 90 points.

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August 4, 2008

We’ll have quite a few Highland Parks this week (30 of them, actually), mostly old ones. It’s not that HP is particularly a summer whisky, that is, but it’s no winter dram either, is it? Here’s the program (sponsored by many friends, including Konstantin and Olivier 'Master of HP' (Expect a little maltoporn!):

THREE HP’s from the mid-70’s and THREE HP’s FROM THE LATE 1960’s
FOUR 1966's by Duncan Taylor and
and we'll end this series with TWO FINISHED 27yo HP’s (of course)

Highland Park 22 yo 1984/2007 (52.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 4.113) The early eighties weren’t really a ‘good’ period of time for many distillers, especially since there was the huge whisky lake. We’ve had a lot of so-so whisky distilled at that time but Highland Park has always kept rather high standards according to our experience. Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely punchy, with huge notes of gentian and plain oak upfront. Nice notes of ginger and wax as well, the whole getting then grassier and grassier (cut grass, raw French beans) as well as rather kirschy. Rather beastly. With water: it keeps its wild side but gets much more complex, with great notes of hay, moss, mushrooms, old wine cellar (mouldiness), liquorice and mead. Firm and complex. Mouth (neat): just as hot and punchy as on the nose when undiluted, but more on stone fruit spirit. A certain roughness but it’s far from being unpleasant. Gets even more spirity after a moment. With water: it got excellent. Still big, firm and assertive but not spirity at all anymore. A lot of liquorice, honey, ripe apples and also a little mint. Spearmint. Finish: long and going on in the same vein. Comments: excellent with water – I guess many aficionados would forget to add water here, as the ABV isn’t high at all. SGP:572 – 86 points.
HIGHLAND PARK RMW Highland Park 23 yo 1982 (56.7%, Royal Mile Whiskies, cask #1340, 228 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: rather similar but a tad calmer despite the higher ABV. Just as grassy and oaky, that is. Hints of cooked asparagus and artichoke. With water: a similar development when compared with the SMWS but a tad less complex. More liquorice and fresh herbs (chives) but less notes of ‘a walk through the trees under the rain.’ Well. Mouth (neat): quite close to the SMWS. Fruit spirit, oranges and plain oak. More straightforward than that does not exist. With water: same, very straightforward. Quite some mint this time again, plus vanilla and liquorice on top of the orangey notes. Good. Finish: medium long this time but very liquoricy and fruity. Comments: maybe not hugely complex but very clean and very enjoyable – and quaffable. SGP:461 - 86 points.
Highland Park 1982/1994 (56.9%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask, cask#784+786+788) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is just as ‘violent’ as the SMWS at first nosing but also a tad rounder, more on vanilla and honey. Notes of artichokes again and curious hints of pure petrol. Gets finally almost as grassy and oaky as the SMWS. Notes of beer and liquorice roots. With water: much less changes than in its siblings, rather a further development on oak, honeys and vegetables. Big notes of mint-flavoured liquorice (or vice versa.) Mouth (neat): the strongest in alcohol but the smoothest at the attack (and it’s the younger as well!) Excellent balance fruits/honey and oak. Notes of quinces, ginger, vanilla toffee and plum spirit. Good stuff, as some say. With water: develops further, with various fruits now (more quinces, butter pears) and more spices than in the other versions (cinnamon, dried cardamom). Very satisfying. Finish: long and even spicier (white and black pepper). Pleasant bitterness at the aftertaste (chlorophyll). Comments: funny that this one is the younger of the three and the one I like best at the same time. SGP:452 – 88 points.
Highland Park Glenscoma

TWO 1977’s

Highland Park 18 yo 1977/1995 (54%, Glenscoma) Colour: pale straw. Nose: starts very ‘old Highlands’, mineral, lemony, waxy and grassy. Wet stones, wet chalk, car engine, cut grass, cactus, rubber (bicycle inner tube), fireplace… Gets more and more austere. With water: everything gets amplified, notably the waxy and grassy notes. I like this. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, smoky and sweet/lemony, with a huge waxiness again. Simple but extremely clean, dried lemon, pepper and peat. With water: gets maybe a little simpler, as if water worked much better on the nose than on the palate with this one. Finish: medium long, a tad sugary now but also with more ginger. Comments: a very big, very clean and very zesty HP that swims very well on the nose but not too well on the palate. Try that at the Olympics ;-). SGP:362 - 87 points.
Highland Park 28 yo 1977/2005 (52.3%, OB for Juuls, cask #7959, 240 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: much more sherry influence here (blackcurrants, walnuts, flor, chocolate) but HP’s general profile is well here, with quite some honey, big notes of oranges (more than usually, it’s almost Dalmore-ish), cake… Then, beneath the sherry, there’s this minerality that reminds us of the Glenscoma. As if, indeed, it was just the same whisky coming from a different kind of cask. Which it is, after all… (okay, with ten more years of age.) With water: now it got really beautiful, with added metallic notes that one usually find only in old bottles (OBE). More bitter oranges too. Mouth (neat): amazing how, again, this is just like the 18yo that would have matured in sherry instead of refill/bourbon. It’s fruitier than on the nose, that is, with (even) more kumquats and orange liqueur. With water: water worked well this time. Really resembles an old bottle indeed. Hints of ‘smoked cough medicine’ – or something like that. Finish: long, with more spices (cloves.) Comments: big dram again, complex and assertive. There are some great indie HP’s but the officials still rule. SGP:563 – 91 points.


proposes a new Summer malt cocktail

Cocktail #4:
"Longrow Stormy Sting"
Pour into a shaker:
- 6 cl Longrow CV
- 2 cl white crème de menthe (Get 31)
- 1/2 lime juice

Add ice, shake then strain into a cocktail glass. Add very slowly on the back of a teaspoon placed against the glass' edge, a few drops of crème de myrtilles (blueberry liqueur - must drown to the bottom), then a few drops of Angostura bitter (must stay at the top).
Decoration : a fresh mint "blade", one lime slice.
- Substitute the Longrow CV with another version, or why not try your favourite young peaty malt?
- Substitute the crème de myrtilles with crème de cassis or crème de mûre (blackberry).
Comments: Would you dare to try this biting cocktail? It's part of the "Stingers" (cocktails with crème de menthe)...

MUSIC – Recommended listening: absolutely stunning (and thrilling) playing by Archie Shepp on this rendition of In a decent way.mp3 (with Jasper van't Hof at the piano.) Yes, absolutely stunning... Please buy all of Archie Shepp's music!!! Archie Shepp

August 3, 2008

Dr Martens Freedom Studio, The Roundhouse, Camden Town, London
July 3rd 2008
It’s hot. The Thai food isn’t helping, or maybe it is. But it’s our usual spot before a Roundhouse gig, and as ever it’s largely full of loud, thankfully opinionated, and always entertaining fellow gig-goers, more often than not, as I may have observed before, a male of the species boring a female of the species to death with “did you know that …” musical trivia. Chili
It is slightly different tonight, because the artist is here too. Ron’s sitting quietly and politely with his manager and the gig promoter, doing the obligatory small talk, and kindly chatting to other diners, even taking requests. Most of all, of course, he’s trying not to spill anything puce or pungent on his shirt. There’s a new Ron album on the way, Exit Strategy of the Soul, and tonight he’s playing a one-off solo gig in Dr Martens Freedom Studio inside the Roundhouse, a sort of small bare-bricked Victorian torture chamber. It’s hot, very hot.
It must be a frustrating life, producing album after album of brilliantly-crafted songs – some close to perfection – and yet never hitting the jackpot in terms of recognition, or for that matter, fame and fortune. Travelling the world, playing gigs to broadly the same or similar audiences wherever you go, having to play a great show every night – not easy. So that’s why I simply have the greatest respect for someone like Sexsmith who perseveres with his art come what may – for what it’s worth my spell-checker wants to substitute Sexsmith with Nesmith – ouch.
Ron Sexsmith
Ron’s wearing a smart shirt and jacket – not the one he ate dinner in (“Do you like it, does it look ok?”). But the jacket’s a big mistake – he’s sweating like a waterfall (“I’m really nervous, I mean this is London, right?”) but by the time he realises that he’s stuck – “I can’t take it off know, you wouldn’t want to see that”. But we’re all in the boat – it’s hot. The girl to my right has a small battery operated fan, which gives us occasional respite from the sticky airlessness, and counteracts the intense irritation being generated by the girl on my left. She’s knitting! According to the Guardian (well, how else am I supposed to find out about these things?) there’s some kind of militant knitting movement threatening world stability, with warped knitters casting off convention and needling the establishment, leading to woolly yarns of stitched-up civil disobedience. Whatever. All I know is that it’s bloody irritating, and I can’t help thinking that if I looked out from a stage to see someone knitting a pair of socks while I sang my heart out, I might also find it somewhat disrespectful.
Ron Sexsmith
Thankfully Ron doesn’t seem to notice, and once he’s settled down after a couple of songs he slips into an easy rapport with the audience, chatting about songs, cracking the occasional joke, and even taking requests. It’s a really pleasant atmosphere, just perfect for his songs – which of course range from the cruelly ironic to the heart-rending. Twenty-three songs in all, including a good number from Exit Strategy, such as ‘One last round’, ‘Helpless dream’, ‘Ghost of a chance’, ‘This is how I know’, and a frankly tasteless drink song – ‘Brandy Alexander’ – yuk! To these add a jukebox full of “the hits” old and new, like ‘Words we never use’, ‘Cheap hotel’, ‘Lebanon Tennessee’, ‘Blues in the coffee shop’, ‘Strawberry blonde’ and of course ‘Secret heart’, all before he leaves the stage for a fresh shirt, returning to finish with ‘Gold in them hills’, ‘Hard bargain’ and ‘Sleeping with the angels’. It’s a hard act to beat. It’s easy to underestimate Ron’s guitar playing (although the five guys taking notes beneath his fret board obviously don’t) but solo like this he really stretches himself and pulls out some cute riffs along with his gentle accompaniments. And his singing, always deeply engaging, is soulful beyond belief – he sounds as though he’s been taking lessons at the Stax Music Academy. It’s a wonderful gig, one of those where you feel quite privileged to be in the audience. And Ron even manages to tame the temperature with his soothing words and melodies. Hot stuff. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
Ron Sexsmith's MySpace page



Ardmore 1991/2007 (53.7%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 212 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts on a burst of ‘mineral’ peat (I know…), green melons and wet stones. Goes on with notes of coal and burning charcoal and gets then rather grassy (fermenting hay, newly cut grass.) Not an easy malt I’d say, perhaps to be ranked amongst what we sometimes call the ‘Jansenist malts.’ With water: it got even sharper and more austere. Distilled peat? Notes of fresh almonds, clams and oysters. Faint fruitiness coming through after quite some time (black cherries). Mouth (neat): raw lemon juice and peat, extremely austere. Distilled lemons? This one will make any Ardbeg or Laphroaig taste like Lychee liqueur when compared with it. Well, you see what I mean. With water: same profile, only more approachable. Peat, lemons and almonds. Better and better. Finish: long, wonderfully almondy and peaty. Comments: an extremely clean Ardmore – ‘Islay’ without the fuss? SGP:257 – 88 points.
Ardmore 18 yo 1990/2008 (59.8%, Signatory, cask #30104, 186 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is much more vegetal than the 1991 and also a little rounder and more ‘civilised’. Vanilla and peat, then something that reminds us of some recent Longrows (not the great CV or 18). ‘Peated lavender’? Gets then cleaner again. Hints of wet newspaper and paraffin, fresh fish (uncooked), a little plastic (new car), chalk… I must say this one is rather hard to pin down. With water: ah, yes, now it settles down. Almond skin, diesel oil, wax and apple peeling plus whiffs of cowstable. Mouth (neat): extremely big and extremely organic this time. Crystallised citrons, kumquats, lettuce, balsamic vinegar (unusual in un-sherried malts) and a huge peatiness. Much, much nicer than on the nose at this point. Big whisky, really, with hints of old Broras. With water: same, with a bigger grassiness. Also kippers – you don’t have to be on the sea to display notes of kippers, do you? Finish: long, uber-clean now, going back to the basics when compared with the 1991 (1991 = mineral, 1990 = grassy.) Comments: enough said. SGP:277 – 89 points.

August 1, 2008



(Royal) Lochnagar 21 yo 1986/2008 (50%, The Whisky Agency, 150 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, this is wonderful! Very ‘full’ and very complex right at first nosing, displaying notes of (at random) leather, coal smoke, lit cigar, toffee, apricot pie, espresso, tar and lemon marmalade. Then we have a little mint (menthol actually), meat sauce, shoe polish and something slightly animal (hare belly, as they say.) I wouldn’t say this is a surprise, but still… Mouth: it’s quite exceptional again! Starts on something lemony ala Rosebank or Bladnoch, very nervously, and gets then beautifully fruity and sort of phenolic at the same time. Orange marmalade, lemon marmalade, liquorice, green apples, molasses, pineapple drops, fruity olive oil… And then we’re back to ‘full lemon mode’. I’m sure I’d have said this is a top-notch Rosebank, had I tried this Lochnagar blind. Finish: long, balanced, very lemony (more on lemon pie) and a tad grassy for good measure (hints of angelica.) Comments: a wonderful Lochnagar, even better than a 1972 by Douglas Laing that I really adored. SGP:633 – 91 points.
Royal Lochnagar 16 yo 1991/2007 (58.3%, Signatory, cask #427, 640 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: more pungent and spirity, as well as very grassy and even a tad cardboardy at full strength, but the aromas are probably hidden behind the high ABV. With water: the cardboard vanished but the grassiness got even bigger together with notes of almonds and pine resin. A tad austere but far from being unpleasant – if you like grassy malts. Mouth (neat): powerful but ‘swallowable’, with a huge grassiness again. Notes of tequila (and lime of course), un-sugared green tea, cactus juice… Soon to get hugely lemony just like the 1986, but less complex. Maybe water will help: yes, it got a tad rounder and softer, as well as much better balanced. Classy spirit for sure, very pure. A cup of green tea with a slice of lemon. Finish: long, with a lot of zing (lemon and grass again.) Aftertaste a little bitter (green tannins and rubber.) Comments: a version that’s probably not easy-easy, but that displays real class in spite of its relative sharpness and its slightly offbeat aftertaste. SGP:371 – 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: too much jazz and too much blues on WF? Right, right, let's have something really Scottish then, with Alistair Hulett singing The Swaggies Have All Waltzed Matilda Away.mp3 in 1991 (from Dance of the Underclass). Please note that we spared you the Internationale, but that you should still buy Alistair Hulett's music. Alistair Hulett

July 2008 - part 2 <--- August 2008 - part 1 ---> August 2008 - part 2

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



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

Highland Park NAS (43%, OB, yellow St. Magnus Label, dumpy bottle, 1950's)

Highland Park NAS (100° Proof, OB, yellow St. Magnus Label, tall bottle, Late 1950's)

Highland Park 8 yo (70 Proof, OB, cork stopper, mid/late 1960’s, 75cl)

Highland Park 1982/1992 (57.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 4.12)

Highland Park 17 yo 1958/1975 (43%, OB, Green Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl)

Highland Park 17yo 1960/1977 (43%, OB, James Grant, green dumpy, black label, 75cl)

Highland Park 18yo 1960/1978 (43%, OB, James Grant, green dumpy, black label, dark vatting, 75cl)

Highland Park 18 yo 1977/1995 (52.3%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection)

Highland Park 19 yo (43%, OB for Edgar Gembrys, Germany, plastic screw cap, 75cl)

Highland Park 22 yo (75 proof, OB, Green Dumpy, yellow St Magnus label, 75cl, 1960's)

Highland Park 22 yo (80 Proof, Cadenhead’s, dumpy black label, early 1980's)

Highland Park 28 yo 1977/2005 (52.3%, OB for Juuls, cask #7959, 240 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55.6%, G&M for Intertrade, 215 bottles, 75cl)

Highland Park 40 yo 1967/2007 (47.1%, John Scott Kirkwall, cask #6687, 168 bottles)

Lochnagar 21 yo 1986/2008 (50%, The Whisky Agency, 150 bottles)