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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2009 - Part 2

August 2009 - part 1 <--- August 2009 - part 2 ---> September 2009 - part 1


August 31, 2009



Ardbeg 1991/2005 (43%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice) Colour: straw. Nose: archetypical Ardbeg from that period in my opinion (the distillery was only running intermittently), with probably more tar and coal on the nose than before… and later.
There’s also a little lemon and then exactly what some guys call ‘a fisherman’s boat’. Fish (obviously), diesel oil, seawater, fuel smoke, tarry rope… Tod bad there are also notes of wet cardboard that arise and that get bigger and bigger, but it also gets more medicinal, somewhat ala Laphroaig (antiseptic). Mouth: much more lemon in the attack, candied fruits, straight peat… And a lot of salt that comes very early. There’s a little cardboard once again but less than on the nose. Goes on with notes of seashells and lemon, bitter almonds, maybe a little green tea, and finally some pepper and even more salt. Faint mouldiness but that goes well with the profile here. Finish: rather long, tarry, peaty and almondy, with even more salt. A lot of salt. Comments: very good, and the 43% aren’t a problem at all. There isn’t only cask strength in life, is there? SGP:358 - 86 points.
The next Ardbeg, bottled August 2009, sold out in a flash, like anything Ardbeg at cask strength these days or so it seems. So, I don’t see why I’d bother with writing in large, very expensive letters or with finding a small picture of the label! This photograph, taken at random from the Internet, will do. And I wont even spend big money on stars... ;-)
Orang Ardbeg 15 yo 1993/2009 (58.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1724, 292 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: bang! Violent, spirity, brutal, almost aggressive, roasted and very, very smoky. Peat smoke but also tobacco smoke and coal smoke. Also some gunpowder. Perforates your nostrils, water is needed! With water: amazing, it’s still brutal, even at +/- 45% vol. Other than that, it’s an avalanche of organic aromas, wet fern, old rabbit hutch, sheep, of course wet dogs (sorry again, dogs). Unusual hints of orange marmamalade. Mouth (neat): hot! Peat, oysters, lemon and over-infused green tea. Not really subtle when naked, but I guess that was to be expected. Having said that, it does ‘show its potential’. With water: perfect now. Perfect balance between the wildness (read above) and notes of crystallised fruits and marzipan. Finish: long, more on peat, lemon and salt but there’s less salt than in the G&M. Comments: a simple, wild beast, almost as peaty as the Supernovas. Not too sure but I believe it’s the first Ardbeg by Duncan Taylor (according to our Malt Maniacs Monitor), let’s only hope they’ll have more of this spectacular kerosenish malt! SGP:269 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a true unidentified flying piece of music, Ghana's late blind man Onipa Nua (check this magnificent blog!) doing I feel alright. Please buy Onipa Nua's music - if you can find it.

Onipa Nua
Let's never forget Michael Jackson. Yesterday August 30 was the second anniversary of his death.

August 29, 2009



Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (56.5%, The Whisky Cask) Colour: white wine. Nose: bang! Pure lime juice, tincture of iodine and mercurochrome® at cask strength plus a little almond milk. Marzipan, also a little carbonaceous. New plastic pouch. Amazingly sharp and brutal, quick, water! With water: added notes of burnt herbs (thyme) and a very, very heavy resinousness. Is that normal? Was the cask made out of pinewood? Mouth (neat): not quite clean I must say, these notes of plastic and an uebergreenness are a tad disturbing. Bitter, burnt vegetables. Water should help. With water: it does get better but this bitterness behind the whole isn’t much to my liking. Barbecued herbs, soap, perfume? Finish: long but yet not quite straight. Comments: I feel something isn’t quite right with this one. A 1998 by the same excellent bottler was waaaay superior in my book. SGP:268 - 72 points.
Laphroaig 12yo 1996/2009 (56.9%, The Perfect Dram II, Bourbon, 120 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: oh well, this is even sharper and narrow when nosed ‘naked’. Lime juice and five dozen oysters. Manages to develop a bit, mainly on heavily medicinal notes. Embrocations, mercurochrome again, iodine… Gets just a tad rounder once your nose got used to it (apple juice). With water: not a lot of development, it stays very medicinal and rather flinty as well. Medium-peaty. Mouth (neat): a big beast, heavily phenolic, oily, very almondy and ‘walnutty’, slightly bitterish but much less so than the Whisky Cask. Lemon-flavoured marzipan. With water: same. A little more on tar and hard liquorice. Finish: long, tarry, slightly ‘burnt’ and bitterish. Comments: certainly good but not exactly my favourite kind of Laphroaig, a little too austere. As always, a matter of individual taste - and I'm happy I could find at least one bottling that I did not adore within the Perfect Dram's otherwise fantastic range ;-). SGP:267 - 82 points.
Laphroaig 1996/2009 (58.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #5382, 243 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a version that’s much more vanilla-coated, without having lost its character. It’s actually more expressive and maybe better balanced, with a lot of lemon marmalade, lemongrass and turpentine on top of the iodized/coastal notes that are well here. Bandages again, a little tar and, yes, mercurochrome. With water: more coastal notes, oysters, seaweed and just hints of fresh paint. Mouth (neat): rich, thick, creamy, the richest of them all once again. Very tarry, ashy and peaty but once again, it’s all coated with rounder notes of pastries, liquorice, lemon drops and vanilla. Hot stuff but very good stuff. With water: balance totally achieved. Coastal, earthy, citrusy and finely candied. Finish: long, smoky, medicinal and maritime, with a peppery kick at the end of the end plus an extreme ashiness (cigar). Comments: a classical, almost perfect young Laphroaig that easily defeated its competitors of the day. This new bottler sure knows how to select his casks! SGP:458 - 90 points.
Laphroaig And also Laphroaig 1998/2008 (58.5%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, Re-coopered hogsheads, 50cl) A very fresh and coastal Laphroaig, more salty and kippery than usual. A summertime 'phoaig to sip on the beach. SGP:448 - 87 points.
And also Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof, OB, Regal Brands N.Y., eary 1970s) Nose: superb smoke, fireplace, fresh butter and candy sugar. Mouth: crystallised lemons and fine peat, fir cone smokiness. Impeccable although not quite at the same level of complexity as some old versions for Italy. SGP:466 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Art of Noise and their Island (from Below the waste, 1989). Please buy Art of Noise's music.

Art of Noise

August 28, 2009

Right, I always try to taste several malts from the same distillery together, it’s much better to pick up nuances (how can you try a Glenkinchie and a Laphroaig in the same session? Why not a Bud Light with a Westvleteren? A Partagas Lusitania with a Marlboro Light?) but it’s not impossible that I never find any other sample of the ultra-rare Glenflagler in the foreseeable future so let’s try this singleton from the Lowlands alone, if you don’t mind. As you may know, Glenflagler used to be made at Moffat from 1965 to around 1980 if I’m not mistaken. Careful, several ‘official’ Glenflagers that can be found at auctions are actually vatted malts, not the true single.
GlenFlagler 23 yo 1970/1994 (50.1%, Signatory, Dumpy, casks #1260+7861, 350 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: the oak does all the talking but nicely so, with notes of ginger and vanilla that smell very ‘modern’. Hints of coriander, then cloves and cinnamon, a faint meatiness (beef bouillon) and an obvious leathery character. With water: more mint and liquorice, then coriander again. Rather pleasant but it’s hard to get anything that doesn’t came from the oak. Mouth (neat): big attack, oily and once again, it’s the wood that speaks out, with some big resinous notes. Retsina? Develops more on ginger and cloves, getting more and more bourbonny. More cask strength bourbon than Scotch whisky. With water: even oilier and a lot on cough syrup and fir tree honey. A lot of wood extracts but no excessive tannins. Once again, rather bourbonny in style. Finish: long and even more resinous. Green Chartreuse and ginger liqueur. Comments: the whole is pretty pleasant but the Scotchness is hard to detect. I’m afraid it’s not today that we will have found the true character of Glenflagler! SGP:362 - 80 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Ben Sidran playing For Margarita Xirgu (from Sidran's excellent Concert For Garcia Lorca). Margarita Xirgu was a Spanish actress who was a friend of Federico García Lorca. Lyrics by Garcia Lorca. Please buy Ben Sidran's music!

Ben Sidran

August 27, 2009



Invergordon 1971/2009 (48%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6) Colour: gold. Nose: powerful, nosing rather higher than 48% vol. Starts rather less on the expected coconut/vanilla combo, and more on fresh fruits such as quinces and figs. Sure there’s a little varnish as almost always in the old grains (remember they’re originally filled at much higher strength than malt whisky, and often into first fill casks) but it remains way below the (well, my) limits. Gets then more toffee-ish and even a little caramelly. Werther’s Originals. Also fruitcake. As I said before, it’s rather powerful, so let’s try it with water. With water: superb oakiness, with more green tea, mint, roots, even wet earth and then notes of tinned pineapples and dill. Celery. Some sage, and then more sage … No sluggishness whatsoever, whilst many grains can become a little sluggish when diluted. Mouth (neat): excellent attack that reminds me a bit of the stupendous old ryes by Willett. Encaustic, dried dates, fudge, chestnut liqueur, honey, chocolate-coated marzipan. All pleasure, this one! Water isn’t really needed on the palate but while we’re at it… With water: wowie! Something such as strawberries covered with crushed mint leaves and grated chocolate. Finish: not the longest but gets more and more mentholated. Comments: a beautiful grain – and god knows I’m no grain freak. More complex than usual old grains for sure. SGP:651 – 91 points.
Invergordon 43 yo 1965/2009 (50.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #15528) Colour: gold (a little paler than the 1971). Nose: we are extremely close to the 1971, I guess six more years don’t make much difference with very old grains. Maybe a little more coconut and also more grassy notes and coffee that give it a slightly ‘malty’ profile. Maybe also a little more plain oak and quite some mint from the wood starting to show off. A faint Irishness, something of that old Dungourney 1964/1994, remember? With water: not a lot of development, only an added waxiness and more mint and coconut, then cloves. Very nice anyway. Mouth (neat): exactly the same differences with the 1971 as on the nose. More coconut liqueur (no brand names!) and more milk chocolate, dried ginger and a ‘responsiveness’ that’s quite unusual at such old age. Sure it’s kind of an oak liqueur but it’s all under control and mucho pleasant. With water: more spices and more direct oakiness. ‘Pencil chewed during math class’. Liquorice. Finish: rather long, even more on liquorice, with an unusual salty touch and a late fruitiness (gooseberries). Comments: let’s face it, all these old Invergordons are very good, and such is this brand new bottling, even if it hasn’t got all of the 1971’s magic. SGP:630 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the most singular jazz voices, the great Andy Bey, singing Dark shadows (it's on Shades of Bey). Please buy Andy Bey's music!

Andy Bey

August 26, 2009

Glen Garioch


Glen Garioch 18 yo 1989/2008 (53.3%, Duncan Taylor, Lonach) Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather explosively, with plenty of sawn oak and a very pleasant earthiness as well as hints of orange peel and roots. Grows even woodier, this time more on thuja wood and wax polish, with whiffs of camphor and cigarette tobacco. Very compact, very nice. With water: gets a tad rounder and more honeyed but never ‘too smooth’. Some peat comes through, as well as more toffee. Water works very well. Mouth (neat): punchy, very woody once again and a tad spirity, very compact. Notes of kirsch and orange liqueur, with also a faint dustiness (flour). A rather big dram, a tad rough around the edges when undiluted. With water: it doesn’t really get rounder on the palate, only a little more on oranges. The oak is still rather loud. Finish: long, getting a little more citrusy. Lemon balm. Comments: very good, a marginally rougher version of a middle-aged Glen Garioch. Very fairly priced, at that. SGP:442 – 86 points.
Glen Garioch 20 yo 1988/2009 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1558, 249 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: the global profile is not too far from the Lonach’s, only richer and a little more on toffee and vanilla custard. A little more plum spirit as well. With water: gets very different from the Lonach this time, probably more complex, waxier, more mineral, grassier and finally fruitier (grenadine, strawberry pie). Hints of sherry. High quality. Mouth (neat): really rich, creamy and very different from the Lonach this time. Beautiful notes of gentian spirit (or Suze), a little peat, ginger, pepper, liquorice wood, honeydew… Then cough drops and pepper. Another big Glen Garioch of high quality, even if it’s a tad too powerful when naked. Excellent ‘compact’ oakiness, not of the easy vanilla/ginger kind. Also hints of plum spirit once again. With water: excellent, with more spices and a little grapefruit. Nutmeg, peat. Finish: long, with more liquorice and pepper. Comments: just excellent, perfectly balanced. SGP:443 - 88 points.
Glen Garioch 20 yo 1989/2009 (55.1%, Alambic Classique, cask #9475, 168 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re sort of between both earlier bottlings here, with indeed a little vanilla, plum spirit, warm oak, quite some eucalyptus and mint and just whiffs of geranium on top of the whole. Pleasant ones! With water: differs more from the others, with more herbal tea, liquorice, grass and quite some fresh almonds. More mint as well. Mouth: we’re in the same territories as with the DTs but this one has more sweetness (cranberry sweets), getting even a tad perfumy. Orange drops. It’s got something of the late 1980s Bowmores in a certain way, whilst the Lonach from the same vintage did not display that very peculiar profile. With water: just more of the same. Finish: long, on spices, mint and violet sweets. Comments: really a variant, not sure whether that comes from a different distilling regime or from a different kind of cask. Very good anyway, the minor perfumy notes never becoming ‘too much’. SGP:542 - 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the tittle says it all, Slow boat by Andy Shepard, Nana Vasconcelos and Steve Lodder. Let it float a bit... and then please buy their music.


August 24, 2009

Ben Nevis


Ben Nevis 16 yo 1990/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Colour: white wine. Nose: very aromatic but close to mash and beer, with little wood influence. Strawberries, peaches, a little liquorice and a little mint, develops then more on porridge and sour apples and just faint hints of baby puke (I’m sorry babies). Mouth: much fruitier this time but also somewhat ‘burnt’ and very toasted, smoky, very malty, lacking roundness and Ben Nevis’ usual uberfruitiness. Also a little pepper. Finish: long but hot and rough, rather spirity. Comments: rough malt whisky, lacking ‘polishing’ in my view. Younger versions are much more downable, including many by Duncan Taylor. SGP:352 - 71 points.
Ben Nevis 1990/2008 (61.2%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, sherry cask, 611 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: waaaah! Pure varnish! Uhu glue! With water: loads of balsamic vinegar, dead mice, game, soy sauce and finally all kinds of vinegars and even hashish. Gym socks. Totally wacky! Mouth (neat): wood extracts, alcohol, plank and varnish. Not swallowable at full strength. With (quite some) water: right, right, it’s more or less back on tracks but still very bizarre. Bitter oranges galore, Fanta and Maggi, sour. Finish: rather long, getting gingery but still dirty. Comments: oh my, that was something. More fortified vinegar than malt whisky if you ask me, the sherry cask was probably all mouldy. Did they forget to burn sulphur? This one is for malt perverts and certainly a lame duck within Jack Wieber’s usual very high standard whisky ranges. But kind of 'funny' it is! SGP:331 - 39 points.
And also Ben Nevis 13 yo 1990/2004 (46%, The Ultimate, Van Wees) Colour: straw. Nose: the cleanest of them all, much flintier and austere. Half grassy, half on apple peeling and melon, with a faint dustiness in the background. Candle wax. Gets then a little spirity and kirschy, alas. Mouth: sweet, rather round, a little peppery, with notes of apple juice, bubblegum and then some dry spices. Cloves, strong green tea. Finish: long, spicier, peppery, liquoricy. Faint soapiness. Comments: not quite there but it’s more than drinkable in my opinion. SGP:441 - 78 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some free funk from the center of the wooniverse, Bernie Worrell and his apocalyptically powerful Set The Tone/Victory (from Pieces Of Woo: The Other Side, 1991). Please buy Bernie Worrell's music.

Bernie Worrell

August 20, 2009


by Nick Morgan
Hyde Park, London
July 2nd 2009

I do wonder how many retired rock musicians have been rudely awakened from various forms of bucolic bliss by the knowledge that their hard earned investments, savings and pension plans have shrunk to an alarming degree over the past six months or so. It certainly must have had something to do with the giddy number of reunions that have taken place this year and particularly those that seemed the most unlikely: the comeback of Brit Pop art-school idols Blur tops the list. In case you’ve forgotten, Blur were the middle-class darlings of a musical movement broadly embraced by the chattering classes, and positively hugged by British New Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who for a short while couldn’t be seen enough in the company of young rock and rollers. Artfully arty Blur were the counterpoint to the brash and braggartly Oasis with whom they famously went head to head, and sort of won. But for all their increasing commercial success, the band imploded in the very early twenty-first century with the departure of guitarist Graham Coxon, whose relationship with singer and composer Damon Albarn was widely considered to be irretrievable. Albarn became a regular polymath: Gorillaz; The Good, the Bad and the Queen; an opera about a monkey and various excursions into world music. Coxon, who had embarked on some advanced drinking studies, dried up and reinvented himself as an acclaimed solo performer. Drummer David Rowntree pursued his interest in politics and has stood unsuccessfully for the British Parliament as a Labour Party candidate. And bassist Alex James moved to the Cotswolds, made cheese and became something of a pundit. And then – in the teeth of the worst recession in living memory, they announced they would reform, originally only for a single concert in Hyde Park. This in turn became two concerts, then a tour, a very purchasable ‘best of’ album, and a headliner at Glastonbury, which has, as they say, gone down in legend.
And the Hyde Park gig is worthy of a minor place in history too, if only for the number of junior Morgans in attendance, they being of an age to remember Blur properly first time round. Well, not entirely, and I’m sure, Serge, you don’t need me to rehearse those “but you were too young to really appreciate them …” arguments which seem to delight the youth so much. Anyway the more adventurous of them is almost at the front of the stage, the slightly older one in a more mature midway position, whilst the Photographer and your Reviewer (particularly following their Bruce Springsteen experiences) chose the spacious area at the back.

The sound is astonishingly excellent. The view dependant on numerous large video screens. The tea hot and satisfying (how rock and roll does it get?). And our neighbours are those slightly older Blur fans in their late twenties and early thirties who’ve come along with their youngsters to enjoy an evening out, although not without taking the appropriate precautions.

No-one is disappointed by a career-spanning set that sounds remarkably up to date, and has, along with Blur’s characteristic chirpy English music hall interludes, a surprisingly hard-edged feel.
Albarn is hoarse, talkative and visibly excited. Coxon demonstrates that the plaudits he has earned are more than deserved, and occasionally excels himself. The rhythm section play with a refreshing looseness, now and then suggesting that they might have been introduced only minutes before the show. But the overall effect is absolutely compelling, and a wonderful treat on a sunny, warm, early July evening.
So with a family of critics to hand we later played ‘what was the best song in the set’. The boy swithered, captured by the physical response to second song ‘Girls and boys’ (the earth shook, as they say): ‘Honest, we were so close to the front, that when they started, it really all kicked off and everyone went bonkers’. The girl was on stronger ground, and eventually we all agreed that the critical choice was the song that ended the main set, ‘This is a low’. If you listen to nothing else by Blur you should hear this wonderfully sensitive song, about weather forecasts (well, I’m sure it’s a metaphor really, but let’s not go into that). Coxon’s guitar playing was outstanding. However, I would also have to call out the soulful spiritual ‘Tender’, which provoked a very jolly and largely tuneful sing-along, demonstrating that love really is the greatest thing. And it would be rude not to mention Phil Daniels, who I’m sure some readers will remember as the actor who played the protagonist in the film of the Who’s Quadrophenia. He also provided the original narration to Blur’s Parklife. After a dewy-eyed Albarn had told the story of writing the song in a flat very close to where we stood, Daniels burst onto the stage to announce, to the surprise of many, ‘You can stick your post and your franking machine and all that other rubbish I have to go abaahht with and shove 'em right up your arse!’. I’ll leave it up to you film buffs to work that one out. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Blur on Mypace

Due to some extremely high temperatures over Alsace, I had to stop tasting whisky for a while, and decided to take this opportunity to go to Provence for a few days. I'll try to resume our little tastings around Monday if all goes well. Let's try to survive! CU soon...

August 19, 2009

Clynelish 1996


Clynelish 1996/2008 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Marsala Finish) Colour: gold. Nose: Clynelish’s typical fruity waxiness is well here but the wine has a lot to say as well, with at first whiffs of bubblegum and strawberries, and then a combination that makes this one smell like gingered marmalade. Hints of scented soap too (Cadum?) Fanta. Develops more on toasted brioche and plain malt. Not unpleasant at all but I do like my Clynelish neat. A lot. Mouth: easy and very sweet. Tastes exactly like a mix of walnut and strawberry liqueurs. Try that! Pretty good I must say… Finish: long but it got also a little more vinous, with these over-sweet notes of strawberry drops and even cranberry. Comments: a very good finishing if you like confectionary, less sure about Clynelish. SGP:741 - 79 points.
Clynelish 12 yo 1996/2009 (52%, Whisky-Doris, The Dram) Colour: gold. Nose: Starts a little bizarre, slightly soapy again (it’s not me, I nosed other whiskies before and they had no soap at all ;-)), with a strong sherry influence albeit not a classical one. The combination then gives heavy notes of flavoured marzipan and vanilla, quite some nutmeg, honeydew and even mead. It has also notes of something like a late harvest gewurztraminer. Gets pretty cleaner over time, more on straight beeswax and honey, while the faint soapiness has (almost) completely vanished. With water: the sherry comes out. Gets a little vinous and farmy (wet hay). More ginger as well. Not sure adding water work too well… Mouth (neat): excellent, big, ‘naturally’ fruity, smoky, rather peaty, spicy, citrusy and most certainly not soapy. Maybe a little less waxy than other Clynelishes. Sultanas. With water: more peat but also more dryness. Gets extremely herbal and almost bitter. Finish: long, on very strong herbal sweets, Jägermeister. Comments: more peat than usual in this very good Clynelish that’s a little disconcerting, though. It doesn’t seem that it takes water too well. SGP:373 - 85 points.
Clynelish 12 yo 1996/2009 (58.3%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, 221 bottles) From the same cask as the “The Dram”, only unreduced. This should be interesting… Colour: gold. Nose: this one is completely different, no soapy notes at all, rather a wonderful burst of almonds, wet stones, paraffin and high-end green tea (from a freshly opened box). More austere than the ‘52’ version for sure, but also more elegant in my opinion, as if the higher alcohol tamed the sherry. With water (at +/- the same strength as the ‘52’ the latter was reduced, that is to say +/-45%): more on wet hay and heavy paraffin but other than that water kills it a bit (can’t you kill ‘a bit’?) Mouth (neat): extremely oily, waxy, spicy and resinous. High class, simply the best cough syrup ever ;-). Fresh walnuts. With water: resists better than the ‘52’. A lot of pine resin, though, and a lot more peat than usual once again. Finish: very long, resinous, honeyed and herbal. Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: interesting to check that even when reduced down to the same strength, these two babies were so dissimilar. That may show that reducing a spirit isn’t an easy task, which may explain why some spirit makers (in Cognac, for instance) do reduce their spirit very slowly, degree by degree. Anyway, you got it, I liked the ‘CS’ better. Excellent Clynelish. SGP:273 - 88 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez
Based on another silly old joke

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Allen Toussaint means extreme class and downright authenticity. Let's listen to him playing the Duke's Solitude (it's on 'The bright Mississippi', 2009). More soul than that? Impossible! Please, please buy Allen Toussaint's music!

Allen Toussaint

August 18, 2009



Glengoyne 30 yo 1967/1997 ‘Middle Cut’ (52.5%, OB, 100 bottles) A legendary and rare bottling that was presented in a dazzling brass ‘spirit safe’. As the excellent people at Royal Mile Whiskies have written, ‘Not quite sure what the middle cut refers to... hopefully the feints and foreshots are never bottled!’ I’d bet it was more referring to the packaging ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s quite amazing how dry and austere this one is, whilst we’d have expected something, well, ‘luscious’. Rather grainy and sort of vegetal, with obvious notes of fresh oak and grass. Water may be of help here. With water: bingo, it does get wider and ‘jammier’ but never quite as aromatic as some more recent bottlings. Yet, there’s quite some marzipan, light honey, caramel, cooked apricots and just tiny whiffs of coriander. Mouth (neat): it’s got nothing to do with the nose when neat. Much more expressive, jammy, fruity and wonderfully spicy. Say some peppered plum jam plus quite some quince jelly and just a little orange blossom water. Baklavas. With water: not much change, maybe a little more spices. White pepper. Finish: medium long, with more ginger and quite some white pepper. Crystallised oranges, Smyrna raisins. Comments: this fancy bottling was excellent, but the owners have issued many greater old whiskies since 1997 in my opinion (well, not only mine). The nose was a little disappointing. SGP:541 – 88 points.
Glengoyne 1972/2009 (52.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #3195, 305 bottles) Independent Glengoynes are very rare, not sure I’ve ever seen more than two or three before. Colour: pale gold. Nose: an avalanche of honey and tinned pineapples! Many (great) old Glengoynes that I could try were much more influenced by the casks whilst this is as fruity and pleasantly, say ‘ethereal’ as malt whisky can get. Yet, there is some vanilla and there are some soft spices but the extreme ‘light honeyness’ is spectacular. Develops more on sultanas and plum jam. With water: gets rather more tropical, with notes of pina colada, that is to say more coconut and pineapples. Superb, with an extreme freshness. Having said that, it has a tendency to fade away a bit. Mouth: very oily, almost thick, starting on sultanas and crystallised pineapple, with quite some honey again and just touches of pine resin sweets. The spiciness is bigger than on the nose, with some pepper, ginger and hints of cloves. Extremely more-ish when neat. Nougatine. With water: a tad closer to the OB now, with more notes of orange blossom water, tangerine liqueur, coconut liqueur and a little green pepper. Finish: rather long, the citrus notes managing to balance the oakiness that starts to emerge. Comments: absolutely gorgeous but too drinkable, whilst there are only 305 bottles! The sherry influence is extremely discreet, to be honest, I did not quite notice it. SGP:641 - 92 points.
  In a shock development, The GlenWonka just announced that the distillery has been closed forever on Sunday (while most employees were at some Highland Games or at the pub), stills sold and shipped to Mongolia. Their Twitter account has been suspended (they had gathered 1,300 followers within five days but it appears that they were using automated spam systems to enhance their figures)
A name that will never shine all over Scotland again
Their famous consultant, the very outspoken Angus W. Apfelstrudel, has been spotted jetting out of Inverness airport with the last flight to the Cayman Islands. Two hours before, The GlenWonka have put online what was to be their very last bottlings, ‘The World’ (£7,999) and ‘Jock Koons Edition’ (£5,499). The GlenWonka’s website is still up but for how long?
Whiskyfun’s comment: good riddance, the shortest jokes are the best.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: jazz or Chopin? Let's let Billy Barber answer our stoopid question with his fantastic Parachute (from Shades of grey, 1986). Please buy Billy Barber's music!

Billy Barber

August 17, 2009

Highland Park


Highland Park 10 yo 1998/2009 ‘High Dark Plan’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram) Colour: white wine. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these rather flinty and mineral Highland Parks that are very ‘natural’ and that display the naked spirit’s typical oily waxiness and grassiness. Wet chalk, green tea and fresh walnuts plus just hints of pine needles. Gets fruitier in a second phase, with notes of freshly cut apples, lemon zests and then just wee whiffs of wood smoke and a little honey. Also funny hints of young fruity Comté cheese (which isn’t quite ‘cheesy’, by the way). Mouth: excellent body, rich, full and nervous. Peppery, half-grassy, half-fruity, a little minty, not unlike a strong mojito in a certain way. Some ginger and a little lemon plus the same notes of pine resin that give it a slightly medicinal feeling. Very good complexity and balance! Finish: long, with more oak this time. Tannins, tea, nutmeg and quite some pepper in the aftertaste. Enjoyable smokiness. Comments: not all indie HPs are great but this one is, especially at only ten years of age. Flawless and ‘beautifully naked’, but needs a little time to develop. SGP:452 - 87 points.
Highland Park 12 yo ‘Hjarta’ (58.1%, OB, 3,900 bottles, 2009) A new baby with a beautiful ‘Scandinavian design’ label, exclusive to the distillery, its online shop and Scandinavia indeed. Adapting a label’s design to a targeted market is an interesting idea, let’s only hope they won’t add berets and baguettes to the next bottling for France ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: this new baby is obviously much more influenced by the casks, starting with rather heady notes of liquorice, butterscotch and cappuccino. There are also notes of sweet white wine (white Port comes to mind) and quite some cut grass once again. But it’s very punchy whisky, let’s add water now. With water: the malted barley comes to the front as well as hints of cooked butter and quite some vanilla. Also a little lemon balm, nougat and then we’re back on butterscotch and maybe lemon-sprinkled waffles (I’m sorry). Mouth (neat): once again, this is strong! Starts on big notes of bubblegum and strawberry liqueur coated with many spices from the oak and a good deal of honey sauce. Something that reminds me of that spicy red Thai sauce in a certain way. A little peat it seems, but it’s hot so, once again, water please! With water: excellent! Water worked wonders here, the whole getting extremely well balanced, with a little bit of many things that give a great whole. Peat, liquorice, various dried fruits, herbs, malt, vanilla, coffee, honey… Very ‘full’. Finish: long, a tad resinous, waxier, liquoricy… Comments: this one needs water, and trying it only neat would be a crime in my view. A rich young Highland Park. SGP:552 - 89 points.

proposes his Summertime malt cocktails


Pour into a shaker, with ice :
- 6 cl Glenkinckie 12 yo 43°
- 2 cl watermelon liqueur
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Melon is a very special and difficult to mix ingredient, and i don't like pretty much Glenkinckie... but well, both mixed together is not so bad.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: maybe the most delicate trumpet player ever (with Chet Baker), Art Farmer, playing A time for love (from his 1971 Gentle Eyes album). Over-produced? Nah... Please buy the music of the great late Art Farmer.

Art Farmer

August 2009 - part 1 <--- August 2009 - part 2 ---> September 2009 - part 1

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Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical: a heavy month!

Ardbeg 15 yo 1993/2009 (58.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1724, 292 bottles)

Glengoyne 1972/2009 (52.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #3195, 305 bottles)

Invergordon 1971/2009 (48%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6)

Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof, OB, Regal Brands N.Y., eary 1970s)

Laphroaig 1996/2009 (58.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #5382, 243 bottles)