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July 2010 - part 2 <--- August 2010 - part 1 ---> August 2010 - part 2


August 13, 2010


Tasting three old Tomatins

Tomatin 30 yo 1977/2007 (48.6%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts unexpectedly dry for an old Tomatin, without the fruity punch and rather on oak and various vegetables as well as a little liquorice wood. It’s only after a good two minutes (make that five) that the anticipated whiffs of tangerines and Seville oranges do emerge, together with apple peelings (more oak) and quite some ginger tonic. Globally dry and rather austere, with also quite some menthol in the background. With water: liquorice and menthol come out, together with a little pine resin and whiffs of old wood (old cupboard, beeswax), also orange juice. Becomes really nicer. Mouth (neat): this time it starts right on citrus fruits, grapefruits, lemons and just touches of lemon balm. Good mouth feel, rather nervous. Gets then more herbal, kind of grassy, with also notes of plum spirit. Just a tad rawish, I’d say. Gets then fruitier again. With water: excellent! It’s the fruitiness that stands out, with added notes of dried figs. Lots of them. Finish: medium long, fruity and rounder now. More dried figs and dates. Comments: the strength isn’t too high but I think it needs water to express itself. Not the best runner in my opinion but an excellent swimmer. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Tomatin 33 yo 1976/2010 (50.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld,  cask #6818, 250 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: the general profile isn’t too far from the 1977’s, with the same kind of grassy oakiness at first sniffs, but what was more unexpected is this rum profile, with some sugar cane and maybe even hints of white tequila. Other than that there’s a little butter, mint and aniseed. Slightly ‘undecided’ once again. With water: remains dry and rather herbal, the opposite of what happened with the 1977. Maybe a little soy sauce. Mouth (neat): again, very similar to the 1977. Quite punchy, citrusy and herbal. Lemonade, cold tea, candy sugar, white pepper. Faint dustiness. With water: works but not as nicely as with the 1977. A dry spiciness takes control. Finish: rather long, with a lot of cinnamon and white pepper. Comments: a good old Tomatin but I feel the trademark fruitiness is somewhat dominated by the oak. SGP:461 - 82 points.

Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2008 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this is more like it at first nosing, starting right on many fresh fruits such as oranges and tangerines, white peaches, with discreet whiffs of iron (a bag of nails). Some cocoa powder as well. I guess this one will need water as well. With water: quite superb, really ‘antique’, complex. Old turpentine, old varnishes, musk, orange blossom water… Mouth (neat): attacks on ‘old whisky’ notes, with more spices than in the ‘youngsters’, rather more complex… Apple pie, vanilla fudge, a little sweet mustard, old liqueurs, yellow chartreuse, quite some pepper… Maybe a tad decadent in a certain way but nervous and rather powerful. With water: really tastes like a very old bottling now, reminds me of some early Cadenhead ‘black dumpies’. Something slightly metallic. Not sure water worked very well here. Finish: rather long, more on cinnamon just like the 1976, but it isn’t really drying. Touches of cough syrup in the aftertaste, more liquorice and ginger as well. Comments: at times quite stupendous and at times just a little more ‘tired’ but hey, this is very old whisky! SGP:462 - 89 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Tomatins that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: ready for some very good funky blues? Then lets have the Joel Johnson Band doing Cash and pawn (that was on Turnin' Heads). Please buy the Joel Johnson Band's music!

Joel Johnson

August 12, 2010

Tasting three 1977 Glenlivet plus a 1987 for good measure



Glenlivet 32 yo 1977/2010 (44.8%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #13129) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather fruity, really ala Glenlivet, mostly on garden fruits with a little honey and a faint waxiness (beeswax). Apple and very ripe pears, a little orange, peaches. Gets then slightly mineral and faintly smoky, in a rather delicate way, not very far from some old OBs in style. Very nice return on lemon and green apples after a while, with just a little oak and vanilla. Very nice balance. Mouth: punchy and very fruity, with quite some pepper and ginger plus a faint smokiness again. Apple liqueur, tangerines, limejuice, oranges… It’s really fruity while the oak is pleasantly bitter which balances the whole very nicely (a little mustard). Finish: pretty long, more on orange cake. Cooked sour apples and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good Glenlivet, maybe without any big personality but everything is nicely in its place. I guess that’s what you call balance. SGP:542 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 31 yo 1977/2008 (53.1%, Gallery Lounge, cask #7014, 180 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: much more oak influence in this one, with some lactones, vanilla and apple peelings but the whole isn’t really ‘oaky’ as such. Vanilla custard and chickpeas, then a little mint and cut grass. With water: more on malt and nuts, grass, wax… I think it got nicer. Mouth (neat): fruitier than on the nose and spicier as well. Quite some cinnamon on top of an apple pie and a little honey. A grassiness again. Nice body. With water: the spices come out, grapefruit juice, cider, apple compote… Once again, it got nicer with water. Finish: medium long, on vanilla, stewed apples and ginger. Some mint in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe not the most inspiring dram ever but quality is there. An all-rounder, as they say. SGP:441 - 86 points.

Glenlivet 1977/1992 (59.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, C/S, White Label, cask #11302-11302) Four stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: big, starting right on whiffs of rubber (bicycle inner tube) and struck matches, then more blackcurrant bus and various herbal teas as well as a little chocolate and raisins. Quite some sulphur, actually. It’s also rather winey. After 15 minutes: more balsamico, lovage and soy sauce. Less sulphur. With water: all on old vinegar and rancio now. Maggi. Quite spectacular but you have to like this kind of decoction. Mouth (neat): very rich, thick, with a lot of sherry, bitter oranges, tannins, pepper and ginger. Bites your tongue a bit. With water: extremely powerful, even when reduced down to 40%. What a beast! Huge pepper notes. Finish: very long, with a lot of lemon this time as well as some herbal tea. Big cinnamon and pepper in the aftertaste. A lot of lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: probably the most monstrous Glenlivet I ever tried. What a ride. SGP:563 - 85 points.

Glenlivet 23 yo 1987/2010 (52.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #47263) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is rather more floral and fragrant than its older siblings, with notes of orange blossom, nectar, overripe apples, roses, liquorice wood and a little strawberry jam. Some vanilla custard as well, just like in the ‘Gallery Lounge’. With water: very nice herbal notes and a little aniseed. The oak comes out a little more as well. Very pleasant. Mouth (neat): creamy yet nervous, somewhat in the style of the Whisky-Doris, that is to say with many fruits including lemon coated with pepper and ginger from the oak. With water: gentler, more on marzipan and stewed fruits. Light honey, vanilla, a touch of cinnamon. Finish: rather long, a tad grassier. Lemon zests in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe a tad middle-of-the-road but of high quality. SGP:541 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenlivets that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



Hotchpotch of tasting notes
Newer batches of well-known official Scotch malts
Bunnahabhain 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2010) Three stars and a half I always like the Bunny 12. Colour: gold. Nose: typical Bunny, starting on this blend of soft honey, caramel and cappuccino, getting then maltier and more roasted but still fresh. Nice nose, a classic. Mouth: malty and caramelly, honeyed, globally soft but not weak at all even if the middle is a tad, err, absent. Hazelnut liqueur. Finish: medium long, roasted and honeyed. Comments: a very nice dram as I remembered it. Having said that, not quite sure about where these bold caramelly notes do come from ;-). SGP:531 - 83 points.
And now a bunch of northern highlanders...
Old Pulteney 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: completely different from the Bunny, much more coastal and even a little briney, with also more wax and touches of olive oil. Too bad there’s a little ‘dirty wood’ arising after that, ginger tonic. Mouth: sweet, fresh, all on bitter oranges. The attack is rather expressive but it really drops after that. Some caramel again, honeycomb. Finish: short, a little more herbal. Hawthorn tea? Very fresh. Wee touches of salt. Comments: another very good entry-level single malt. SGP:441 - 81 points.
Old Pulteney 17 yo (46%, OB, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, a profile that I like a lot, kind of Old-Clynelishesque. Wax, flints, damp earth, beehive, ginger, faintly briney… Too bad it’s soon to become very austere and dry as well as extremely grassy and porridgy. Quite hard. Gets much nicer again but only after thirty minutes ;-). Mouth: sweeter but a little prickly, on lemon zests and a big grassiness. Fresh walnuts then more vanilla, keeps improving after a while. It’s nicer than in my memories. Finish: long, more lemony. Comments: this baby is hard to follow, it keeps changing! SGP:541 - 81 points.
Old Pulteney 21 yo (46%, OB, +/-2010) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: another world, much more expressive than the 17, with beautiful roasted notes, coffee, then sea air, marzipan, thyme, liquorice, tar… then cinchona and macha… A profile that’s not to be found in any other malt whisky in my opinion. Seaweed. Mouth: ah yes. Beautiful lemony and peppery profile, perfect balance, good oomph, some salt, some wax, a little mint, seashells… Great! Finish: long, very compact, very ‘defined’, kind of chiselled. Comments: lovable. Up two points since last time (2008). SGP:453 - 89 points.
Balblair 1989 (43%, OB, 2009?) Three stars and a half There used to be a Blablair 1989 in 2006 that I tried at the time, but this bottle is widely available in 2010. Not sure if it’s the same batch… Colour: straw. Nose: Balblair’s trademark fruitiness is well there but there’s also a rather big grassiness and quite some oak, even a little mustard. Ginger tonic. Lacks a little depth in my opinion, despite the pleasant waxy notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity, with good pepper and vanilla. Not too ripe bananas and white pepper, then cinnamon. A greenness. Finish: medium, on green bananas and hints of butter pears. Green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: very good Balblair but there are several better official versions in my opinion. SGP:441 - 84 points.
Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, +/-2010) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes, I remember I loved the first batch of the ‘new’ 25 and I do love this one as well. Very peculiar notes of olive oil, orange juice and honey, then some quince jelly and various dried fruits (figs and dates, sultanas). Plum jam and beeswax, then sugarcane. Extremely elegant. Mouth: perfect attack, oily mouth feel, fruity and spicy, lively, with hints of salt and various fresh fruits. Guavas and sweet apples, quinces, honey, figs, orange cake… And an impressive freshness. Finish: long, perfect, very elegant. Liquorice in the aftertaste, a few tannins. Comments: much similar to the older batches. Excellent but too expensive. SGP:641 - 90 points.
Dalmore 40 yo (40%, OB, +/-2009?) Five stars Same comment as regarding the Balblair, I already tried a Dalmore 40 @40% that was bottled in 2007. The version we’ll try came from a bottle that was available in late 2009, not sure it’s the same batch… Colour: dark amber. Nose: superb mix of smoke, precious woods (and thuja!) and dried fruits. Roasted chestnuts, Demerara sugar (and rum), chocolate, old balsamic vinegar, caramel, coffee, a little cumin and some old-style mint liqueur. Mouth: perfect, very complex, starting with many honeys (including fir honeydew), then liquorice liqueur, eucalyptus drops, prunes, chocolate and a lot of orange liqueur. Also orange blossom water, baklavas… Really luscious. Finish: long, all on chocolate and oranges plus wee hints of black olives and some kind of herbal liqueur. Kummel? Comments: an impressive mouth feel at 40% vol. I love this one, I think I’ll score it one point higher than last time (provided it was the same batch). SGP:642 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: on December 10, 2009 we had an orchestral version of Egberto Gismonti's Loro and now's the time to have the solo version of Loro, that was on the great guitarist and pianist's album 'Alma'. Just like his compatriot Hermeto Pascoal, Gismonti would be part of Whiskyfun's official wall of musical geniuses, should such an oditty exist


August 11, 2010

Tasting more old Glen Grant

Glen Grant


Glen Grant 24 yo 1985/2010 (55.8%, AD Rattray, bourbon, cask #12364, 210 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather delicate despite the high strength, on tinned fruits and a little mocha plus hints of cured ham and something toasted or rather barbecued. Very nice. Tinned apricots and pears. Even more ham after a while, quite unusual. With water: more flints, grass and pepper. Nice but dry. Some beeswax in the background. Mouth (neat): good fruitiness, with some unexpected cheesy notes (fruity Comté). Goes on with crystallised oranges and a little kirsch and plum spirit. A little raw globally. With water: cleaner and fruitier but maybe a tad simple. Malt, orange drops. Finish: medium long, with a little more honey and orange drops. Pears in the aftertaste. Comments: very good Glen Grant but I think they usually have to wait for at least ten more years to become really magical. SGP:441 - 84 points.

Glen Grant 36 yo 1973/2010 (53.6%, The Whisky Agency, sherry wood, 251 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: big and quite hot, starting on honey and overripe apples, with something flinty and even metallic in the background. Another old Glen Grant that’s rather unusual. Nice notes of pine resin, moss and eucalyptus. With water: becomes more complex, with some dried beef, liquorice, cough syrup, waxed paper, tangerine liqueur… All that is fresh and lively. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, with quite some herbs and spices but rather less fruits and creaminess than in other vintages. Maybe a tad sharpish when neat. With water: doesn’t change too much. A little more liquorice. Finish: medium long, with more spices, liquorice and ginger. Comments: excellent but still a tad rawish after all these years – while the oak is already quite big. SGP:451 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 38 yo 1972/2010 (52.4%, Whisky-Doris, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1650, 202 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: starts unusually fresh for a 38yo whisky, on both fresh and dried fruits. Ripe apples, a little maple syrup, stewed peaches and apricots, butter pears, a little coffee, vanilla oranges, honey, sultanas… And just hints of new oak (newly sawn). With water: more notes of fresh herbs, mint, a little dill… Mouth (neat): I like it better then on the nose when it’s undiluted, it’s rather fruitier and kind of luscious, as old Glen Grants can be. Quite some kumquats and orange marmalade, mirabelles, hints of blood oranges and then quite some spices. Pepper, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon (and bitter chocolate)… With water: smoother, waxier and more orangey and honeyed. Finish: long, clean, a tad more citrusy and gingery. Comments: delivers! SGP:562 - 88 points.

Glen Grant 37 yo 1972/2010 (51.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #6446, 196 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: quite different from the Whisky-Doris, a little less fruity but waxier and a little more toasted, more a classic so to speak. Quite some beeswax. Really beautiful. With water: oh yes. A whole beehive – minus the stings. Also something coastal. Sea air? Mouth (neat): yes it’s one of these very fruity, honeyed and slightly mentholated 1972 Glen Grants. Almost perfect. Enough said. With water: perfect. Finish: long, maybe a tiny-wee tad greenish in the aftertaste (tannins). Comments: another great 1972 Glen Grant. Only the faint tannicity in the finish will prevent me from going higher than 90. SGP:551 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glen Grants that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: an absolute wonder, John Coltrane and his Blue Train (1957). Total genius - yes I know, no breaking news, but please buy John Coltrane's music.


August 10, 2010

Rumfun, tasting six contrasting islanders


Jefferson 'Dark 1785' (40%, OB, Antigua) Four stars Said to be a ‘navy rum’. Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: starts very aromatic, deep and rich but balanced, not fattish so far, mostly on liquorice, strong honey, toffee and ganache (fruit flavoured chocolate). Rather less on sugarcane than other rums. Goes on with a little more spices (aniseed but also spearmint and just hints of cloves) and a little coconut liqueur but not too much. Surprisingly balanced and rather elegant for a young dark rum. Mouth: rich, tarry and orangey, with good balance and a kind of dirtiness that’s actually most enjoyable (hard to describe, maybe game?) There’s also a lot of chocolate and various roasted nuts, caramelised peanuts, hints of honey sauce, cardamom… Very nice! Finish: rather long, much cleaner and fresher than expected. Something slightly salty, also unexpected. Comments: this is very cheap (£18 a bottle) but very good. Bang for your buck! SGP:741 - 86 points.

Santa Teresa 'Selecto' (40%, OB, Venezuela) Two stars Distilled from molasses and aged for a few years in ex-whisky barrels (there must be some swaps happening!). Colour: amber. Nose: a much lighter profile than the Jefferson’s, with a little more grassy and earthy tones, a little more sugarcane but much, much less toffee and chocolate. Not unpleasant but almost whispers after the Jefferson. Hello? Mouth: there’s more happening on the palate, but less than in the Jeff. Sweet, with something slightly burnt, caramel, corn syrup, honey… A tad thickish now. Finish: medium long, with a bitterness (wood). Comments: not unpleasant, that’s all I can say (remember I’m no rum connoisseur!) SGP:531 - 75 points.
Mahiki (40%, OB, Barbados, double matured in Cognac casks) Two stars and a half Finishing strikes rum as well it seems. Colour: amber. Nose: a wee tad more aromatic than the Santa Teresa and maybe a tad more medicinal (eucalyptus, cough syrup) but other than that it’s pretty inoffensive. There might be notes of cognac, or maybe not, hard to tell. Hints of dried coconut. Becomes finally a little grassier than the Santa Teresa, with also whiffs of oak and a little moss. It’s nice. Mouth: nice balance and a pleasant attack on coconut and dried bananas, with some oak in the background. Drops a bit in the middle. Finish: medium long, more on liquorice (salmiak). Comments: very drinkable. SGP:640 - 78 points.
Caroni 1988/2003/2008 (43%, Velier Italy, blended Trinidad, 5200 bottles) Two stars Probably re-racked in first fill or new oak. Colour: deep gold. Nose: much more presence than in the two previous ones, first with much more oak and varnish and then a lot of coconut and vanilla that make the whole resemble an old grain whisky or one of these ‘modern’ malts that spent some time in super-active oak. Pencil shavings. The ‘rumness’ is toned down a bit but the whole is pleasant. Mouth: same feeling, there’s a lot of tannins and maybe not much between them ;-). Gets bitterish and tea-ish, even a little mustardy. Finish: rather short but quite tannic. Comments: not sure everything went smoothly with this one, I think there’s rather too much oak. Just my opinion! The nose was nice. SGP:570 - 70 points.
Dennery Superior 1988 (43%, Silver Seal, St Lucia) Four stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: now, this is unusual! Starts on notes of vegetables such as turnips or celeriac as well as quite some roasted nuts and goes on more on a little cardboard, dried coconut, wet rocks and flints, a little smoke (and tarmac) and finally very nice whiffs of citronella oil. Very interesting and quite complex. Mouth: ah yes! Rich, kind of dry at times, concentrated, with a lot of coffee liqueur, walnuts, herbs (do I detect Jägermeister?), toffee… And Bailey’s! I like this. Finish: long, a little firmer. Nuts and cream, malt, Guinness… It’s all quite unusual. Comments: very interesting and very good in my opinion. SGP:750 - 87 points.

Unhiq XO Malt Rum (42%, OB, Oliver & Oliver, Cuban-style, solera 1989) Not quite sure about what ‘malt rum’ means. Anything whisky related? Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: extremely sweet, rich, on banana liqueur and coconut, with notes of treacle toffee. Not quite my style I must say, it’s too extreme and too sweet, even if it does get a little more complex after a while. I get strawberries and molasses, then avalanches of marshmallows. Opthimus 25 yo by the same makers is much, much more to my liking on the nose. Mouth: yah! Cane sugar syrup, plain sugar and… err, sugar. I think this is the sweetest spirit I ever had in my mouth and I doubt it’s fully natural. Something must have been added. Finish: long but – cough, cough – rather cloying. Comments: this one is extremely syrupy. I guess some people do enjoy this style – which is very cool of course - but I do not. It’s anti-malt whisky, if you see what I mean. I’ll have to rinse my mouth with an espresso now, as simple water wouldn’t work. SGP:920 - 64 points.

I have to reiterate my deepest thanks to Alexandre, who kindly provided me with most of the rums I could taste so far. There will be more rumfun until the end of August...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this excellent slice of psychedelic funk jazz was probably one of the most influential track ever but little people know that it was composed and played by Brazil's Eumir Deodato in 1973. It's called Super Strut. Please buy Deodato's music!


August 9, 2010


Tasting two strange undisclosed singe malts

Highland Queen Majesty 30 yo (40%, OB, single malt, 2000 bottles, 2010) Three stars and a half An old brand name that used to belong to Macdonald & Muir and now belongs to Macdonald Martin. Colour: gold. Nose: light and inoffensive, rather fresh, starting quite floral (dandelions) with a little honey and notes of overripe apples. Then more oranges and maybe hints of papayas and finally notes of oak (vanilla and tea as well as a little coconut). Very easy, classic old refill nose.  Mouth: good attack, with the oak upfront but also white garden fruits, butter pears, oranges… Notes of orange cake, earl grey tea, more overripe apples, with something slightly sour... Finish: medium long and a tad spicier now. Cinnamon and nutmeg ‘as usual’. Comments: this oldie is pleasantly uncomplicated and could be a Glenlivet or something like that (but I wouldn’t put my house on it!) How PC is that? SGP:441 - 83 points.

The MacPhunn 18 yo (57.1%, Sherry, single malt, 2008) Four stars A bottling by the excellent Loch Fyne Whiskies. According to the bottlers, this one should to be drunken neat. Aye aye! Colour: dark amber. Nose: big and meaty, starting rather on soy sauce and game, with also notes of old leather and balsamic vinegar. Goes on with some chestnut honey (thick black honey) and prunes, also something brandy-alike (was this one secretly brandified?) and whiffs of old Burgundy wine (these animal notes, civet, wild boar…) The wine’s influence is huge here and the distillery is unrecognisable. Mouth: thick and ultra-sherried. Soy sauce again, balsamic vinegar again, rich honey again, high game, strong herbal teas (cherry stem, blackcurrant buds and leaves and so on)… A true sherry monster! There might be 10% sherry in this! Finish: long, grapey, with more mint and quite some liquorice in the background. Comments: a sherry monster. I couldn’t just couldn’t tell you from which distillery (but it’s got a rather Mortlachian meatiness)! SGP:561 – 85 points.

And also James Martin 30 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, +/-2009) Four stars and a half By Glenmorangie or affiliates for Portugal. Colour: full gold. Nose: dry at first nosing but complex, with a distinct peatiness. Oranges and cereals, tangerines, old papers and honey. Then more on mead. Very nice. Mouth: sweet, rounded but firm. Papayas and white pepper, then oranges and just touches of curry. Good body. Finish: rather long, even fruitier. Comments: excellent surprise, extremely quaffable. Recommended. SGP:642 - 89 points.


James Martin

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the excellent Nino Ferrer doing his sombre Blues en fin du monde (that was on his last CD La Désabusion). Nino Ferrer is sadly missed, please buy his music.

Nino Ferrer

August 8, 2010


Tasting two Edradour

Edradour 12 yo 'Caledonia' (46%, OB, 2009) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: sometimes some Edradours are difficult because of their, say unusual profile, but sometimes that profile can be an asset, especially when it’s not too obvious. Yes, talking about that kind of soapiness that, in fact, isn’t really soapy, rather ‘bizarrely leathery’ if you see what I mean. Anyway, it’s well here in this Caledonia but blended with several very nice aromas such as chestnut honey, cured ham (Jabugo, really) and just touches of camphor that go very well with the whole. Also some flinty notes and just wee whiffs of gunpowder. Mouth: I think this one’s got all the good sides of Edradour. Marrons glacés, orange cake, marmalade, some leather and chlorophyll (gums), hints of kummel and cardamom, grapefruits… Nice profile, probably cleaner than usual. Liquorice allsorts. Pleasant, creamy mouth feel. Finish: rather long, coating, a tad jammier now. Chocolate-dipped orange zests. Comments: rather rich but unexpectedly refreshing for Edradour. One of the good ones, I like it. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Edradour 1995/2008 (57%, OB, Cask #458, 683 bottles) Three stars and a halfThis one’s been extremely polarising at the MM Awards 2009, individual scores having ranged from 53 to 90! (remember, all blind!) Colour: full gold. Nose: well, this one’s even more ‘Edradour’ than the Caledonia, with more of everything and certainly more flinty notes, struck matches, gunpowder and bitter chocolate. Also a deep grassiness (cut cactus or something like that). Let’s see what happens with water. With water: gets explosive, on cinchona, leather grease and leaves/cut grass. Mouth (neat): yes, it’s the Caledonia with more power. Fruitcake and liquorice plus the same leathery notes as in the Caledonia. With water: extremely close to the Caledonia now – yet I didn’t use pure Highland water ;-). Maybe an added grassiness once again. Finish: long, fruitier. Oranges and bison herb vodka plus liquorice. Comments: almost like a CS version of the Caledonia, maybe just a little less easy. Same score, no doubt it’s one of the good Edradours. SGP:451 - 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Edradour that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a rather rare Gainsbourg track sung by Danish-born French film actress Anna Karina in the mid 1960s, it's called Roller Girl. Don't many new bands sound just like them? Please buy SG's and Anna Karina's works!


August 6, 2010

Tasting four Lowlanders from four closed distilleries


I know I should try whiskies from the same distillery but I’m afraid I haven’t got several Inverlevens or Ladyburns at hand, so let’s go a tad wider than usual for once – thanks for your understanding ;-).

Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 1970/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old) Two stars and a half Ladyburn is really getting rare these days and this is only the fifth version I could ever taste. Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather aromatic, this one seems to have kept a lot of youth despite the 30 years in wood. It’s somewhere between malt and grain, with quite some coffee beans and cornflakes but also some bubblegum and fresh pears as well as notes of soda. Irn Bru? Also a little rosewater and then more wood and a slight dustiness. ‘Not unpleasant’, I’d say (another version of ‘rather nice’). Mouth: more or less the same feelings as on the nose but the whole is rather drier, with the oak being more apparent. Quite some cinnamon, for instance, as well as some tea and oatcakes. Also notes of overripe apples, a little caramel, cake, malt… It’s not big but the mouth feel is okay. Hints of orange marmalade. Finish: shortish and rather dry, slightly cardboardy, with quite some cinnamon and a little paprika in the aftertaste. Comments: I still remember that Ladyburn by Cadenhead’s that the excellent MJ had slaughtered in the first edition of his Companion. This one is probably better but Mr Jackson was probably quite right (of course he was). SGP:231 - 77 points. (thanks for this rarity, Stéphane).

Inverleven 1969/2002 (51.2%, Cadenhead, Chairmans Stock, sherry hogshead, 222 bottles) Four stars Inverleven's Lomond still aka Ugly Betty is now making gin at Bruichladdich (maybe it'll be ginfum here one day?) Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one is surprisingly varnishy, almost bourbonny in fact, with heavy notes of oak, vanilla and maple syrup. The varnish calms down after a while, leaving room for more polished wood, new furniture and roasted chestnuts. Blood oranges. I’d have never said this is Scotch, had tried this baby blind. Nice bourbon! ;-). With water: the oak comes out even more but it’s a nice one. Carpenter’s workshop, pencil shavings, antiques shop. Mouth (neat): same comment. A pleasant sweet wood decoction but you have to like that. Tons of vanilla, honey and eucalyptus drops and some earl grey tea. Then many spices such as pepper, cloves and cardamom plus a little mint. Peppered corn syrup. A little bubblegum. With water: more of the same, with the sweetness coming to the front (bubblegum, marshmallows, strawberry drops). Finish: long but a tad less demonstrative. In other words, more relaxing ;-). Comments: spectacular and kind of transatlantic. Perfect to play tricks on your anoraky friends. SGP:471 - 86 points.

Littlemill 20 yo 1990/2010 (54.3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: much, much, much straighter than both the Inverleven and the Ladyburn, starting with a bit of oak (flour, cinnamon) but soon to become beautifully waxy and spicy. There’s quite some ginger (Schweppes), some cinnamon, fresh walnuts, a little lemon, candle wax, paraffin, white pepper, vanilla… With water: very funny! Even after quite some time, there’s a kind of saponification remaining (no plain soap) that converges with lemon zests and ginger and finally merge into… marzipan. Very nice. Mouth (neat): excellent, big and lemony, with many tropical fruits in the background, mostly citrus. Tangerines and passion fruits plus a touch of liquorice. Perfect. With water: excellent citrusy and resinous/waxy profile. Some ‘remote’ mangos in the background and more passion fruits. Finish: rather long and even more citrusy with a little white rum. Comments: surprisingly good, probably closer to a Rosebank or Bladnoch than to the ‘average’ Littlemill. SGP:461 – 89 points.

Rosebank 13 yo 1990/2003 (58.3%, Hart Bros) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: starts much more lemony and slightly sourish. Dairy cream, yoghurt, white wine (sauvignon), some oak, faint hints of baby vomit, a little mint and then more oak (faint dustiness, tapioca). Not the most pleasant Rosebank so far but water may help. With water: nope, even more sour wood. Mouth (neat): rather creamy mouth feel, with some plain sugar and notes of spicy oak (ginger and nutmeg), then lemon drops and pepper, getting bitter and kind of green. With water: better, much better, with these nice citrusy notes but also a faint soapiness. Finish: rather long, almondy and lemony, sugary, with some wax and pepper in the aftertaste as well as a wee saltiness. Comments: some parts are very nice, but some other parts aren’t in my opinion. Less ‘Rosebank’ than the Littlemill, go figure! SGP:351 - 78 points.



MUSIC - Recommended listening: Steve Earle's Feel alright. Alright. Please buy Steve Earle's music.

Steve Earle

August 5, 2010


Tasting two of the managers’ Inchgowers

I think we already did that, I mean opposing a Manager’s Dram and a Manager’s Choice from the same distillery, but I just can’t remember which ones. Ha, old age! Anyway, let’s do it again, this time with some powerful Inchgowers.

Inchgower 13 yo 1994/2007 'Manager's Dram' (58.9%, OB) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: bang, this is powerful – and unusual! Starts on big notes of sour apples and Jerez vinegar, with some flints and whiffs of damp clay as well as quite some cider. Also discreet whiffs of old roses and musk but it’s otherwise a little closed. It seems that water is de rigueur here. With water: more old roses! And also litchis and plain gewürztraminer. Some sour oak in the background and just ideas of a clean cow stable. Mouth (neat): oily! And wow, a lot happening here. First, a ‘modern oakiness’, with a lot of ginger, vanilla, cinnamon and… vanilla. You know this profile. Then there’s more citrusy notes, quinces, bitter oranges, some pepper, more ginger… It’s definitely ‘modern’ when neat. With water: even more so. Sweet spicy oak. Finish: long, sweet, gingery. Pineapples, vanilla and sweet spices. Comments: very good, not very complex but very ‘modern’ and ‘mastered’. SGP:631 - 86 points. (many thanks, Alain!)

Inchgower 1993/2009 'Manager's Choice' (61.9%, cask #7917, 564 bottles) Four stars This one ex-Bodega sherry European oak. Colour: amber. Nose: very powerful and much more on ‘chocolaty sherry’ than the MD. Fruitcake, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate plus a little blackcurrant jelly. Also just a little rubber. Quick, water! With water: a part of it reminds me of the MD (the clean cow stable ;-)) but the rest is a full-blown meaty sherry monster. Cured ham, hints of Parmesan cheese, lees… And the rubber disappeared. Mouth (neat): it’s extremely powerful and very oily, but some flavours do emerge, such as these notes of roses and Turkish delights that we already had in the MD’s nose. Also a little mastic, cough syrup and liquorice, probably from a high-extraction cask. And something that makes me think of some heavy thick rums (probably because I tasted quite a few recently). And yes, molasses. With water: it became extremely sweet, almost like a Cuban-style rum. Not kidding. Also quite some mint liqueur, Verveine, Grand-Marnier… Finish: long, extremely sweet and syrupy. A liqueur indeed! Comments: this one is very good again but as un-Diageo as the MD in my opinion. In other words, a variation. Hard to decide between the MD and the MC… Okay, same scores. SGP:641 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Inchgower that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



Recent arrivals
A bunch of preliminary notes (no scores yet)

Macallan 18 yo 1991/2010 (55.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #9714, 288 bottles) Three stars and a half Nose: rather oaky, mentholated, with quite some liquorice. A lot of marzipan too. Mouth: concentrated, oaky, herbal, with a lot of liquorice wood. A nervous Mac.

Glen Grant 37 yo 1972/2010 (51.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #6446, 196 bottles) Four stars Nose: surprisingly fresh and herbal. Chamomile and then beehive, vanilla and chardonnay (white Bourgogne). Mouth: excellent attack, nervous, dried fruits and cinnamon. Gets then oakier, a little drying and too tannic. Mint.
Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/ 2010 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7438) Five stars Nose: one of these fruity 1972 Caperdonichs, with abundant mirabelle jam, honey and quinces. Mouth: superb honey and soft spices, cake, brioche… Nutmeg.
Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2010 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7414, 147 bottles) Four stars and a half Nose: similar to cask #7438, only a little drier. Mouth: this time it’s a tad fruitier, also a bit more resinous. Some lemon too.
Bunnahabhain 12 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Three stars and a half Nose: fresh clean peaty Bunnahabhain. Still very young (pears). Mouth: easy sweet peatiness, a lot of gentian. Simple but very pleasant.
Caol Ila 25 yo 1984/2010 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #6275, 197 bottles) Four stars Nose: mat, vanilled, a little tea-ish. Fresh butter. Maybe not a winning CI. Mouth: rounded, easy, lemony Caol Ila, with a little salt. Much, much nicer than on the nose in my opinion.
Caol Ila 29 yo 1981/2010 (55.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3491, 224 bottles) Four stars and a half Nose: more fragrant and unusually floral. Marzipan. Medium peatiness. Mouth: oaky but nervous, lemony and salty, very zesty. Peatier than the ’84. Very good.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Three stars and a half Nose: curiously herbal. Extremely grassy Laphroaig. Mouth: fruity this time, lemony, slithtly earthy, with good saltiness. Pineapple drops.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #56363, 187 bottles) Four starsNose: very austere and grassy again but straighter and cleaner. Some Campari and bitter oranges. Mouth: classic lemony, zesty, grassy and medicinal.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #56441, 197 bottles) Four stars and a half Nose: more typical, seaweedy and medicinal Laphroaig. Slightly earthy. Mouth: very punchy, lemony, earthy, pleasantly bitter. Underberg? My favourite among these three ’97 Laphroaigs.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: time for a little straight ahead soul with young cat Florence Rawlings and her Fool in Love. Yes she did listen to the masters! Excellent - please buy Florence Rawlings' music.

Florence Rawlings

August 4, 2010


Tasting six great old indie Glengoyne

We’ve seen almost no indie Glengoynes for years but quite a few of them were launched into the market lately. All the ones I could already try were truly excellent in my opinion.

Glengoyne 37 yo 1973 (48.7%, Exclusive Malts, cask #976, 158 bottles) Five starsColour: gold. Nose: typical, that is to say very beautiful, all on citrus fruits at first nosing. Grapefruits, tangerines and kumquats, then more on sultanas and just wee hints of tinned litchis and finally passion fruits. Does little but does it exceptionally well! Nearly a fruitbomb (although I do get hints of beeswax and paraffin after a while). Mouth: very much in line with the nose, the descriptors being more or less the same. Enough said, this is excellent. Finish: ditto! It’s not that often that a malt whisky displays exactly the same notes on the nose, on the palate and in the finish. Just wee hints of pepper and vanilla in the aftertaste. Comments: this one is superbly citrusy but let me issue a warning: it’s extremely drinkable. SGP:741 – 91 points.

Glengoyne 1973 (50.4%, Malts of Scotland, Belgium exclusive, cask #678, 97 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one is far from being austere whisky of course but it does smell a little austere after the exuberant ‘Exclusive’. More on grapefruit skins, a little shoe polish, candle wax, even a little cardboard… The good news is that a few minutes of breathing do open it, unleashing muscatty and citrusy notes. Tangerines, bitter oranges… A faint chalkiness in the background (dried clay). Also funny notes of fruit jelly (freshly opened pack of Haribo bears, remember?). Mouth: we’re much closer to the Exclusive now. It’s almost the same whisky, just a tad oomphier. Finish: same comments. Maybe added hints of pear drops, which is unusual in old malts according to my experience. Comments: high quality fruity old Glengoyne once again. SGP:641 - 91 points.

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972 (51.5%, Jack Wiebers, Auld Distillers, cask #4211, 178 bottles) Five stars In true JWWW fashion, this cask has been split into two parts. This bottling is the sequel of the ‘Prenzlow version’ and was bottled 111 days later. Colour: gold. Nose: well, I’m rereading my notes for the Prenzlow version and I do agree with myself, which is actually a little surprising. But what strikes me this time are the added notes of rum arrangé (pineapple in golden rum). Mouth: same comments. This is brilliant, maybe a little richer and more complex than both the Exclusive and MoS. Beautiful body. Does grapefruit liqueur exist? Probably… Finish: long, beautifully fruity (there’s also a little bubblegum), with a perfect spiciness in the background. Cardamom. Comments: another old unsherried Glengoyne that’s dangerously drinkable. They should add that on a special warning sticker. Very high quality. SGP:641 – 92 points.

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972/2010 (52%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: as expected, we’re in the same style as the 1973s but this one is a tad less ‘clean and pure” and less all on citrus fruits whilst it’s also a little more complex and aromatically ‘wide’. Does that make sense? Granted, all the lemony and orangey notes are well here, and so are the lightly honeyed notes, but there are also other garden fruits such as cherries. Also hints of tamarind jam – did you ever try that? Touches of soft spices (mulled wine spice mix, Chinese anise, cinnamon)… With water: not much changes but no deterioration either. Mouth (neat): excellent, fruity, jammy yet fresh, getting then much grassier than the other ones and maybe a tad bitter. Some thyme and unexpected notes of wasabi from the oak (a little, just a little). With water: excellent, clean, fruity, citrusy, delicately gingery… Very easy to drink. Finish: quite long, in the same vein. Nutmeg. Comments: very, very good and very, very quaffable, as are (almost) all these old Glengoynes. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972/2010 (57%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry wood, 220 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: I must confess I do not remember if this one was a cask that was shared with The Nectar (yeah, getting old) but there are many similarities, although this one is significantly sharper despite being only stronger by 5% vol. No, wait, after ten minutes both whiskies are almost identical. With water: even more identical. Mouth (neat): funny how it’s rather different from the Nectar at this point. More on lime and green pepper, green apples, lemon juice… Very, very zesty. With water: the same whiskies now. Finish: same. Comments: same. Let’s add one point for the extra-oomph (and extra-whisky, actually). SGP:641 - 91 points.

Glengoyne 27 yo 1969/1996 (62.8%, Cadenhead, sherywood matured) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: punchy, starting with a profile that’s quite different from the 1972s’ and 1973s’. There’s more oak, more vanilla and more spices but not only that, the fruitiness is also less citrusy and more on gooseberries and strawberries, maybe even cranberries. There are also more floral notes (lily of the valley, peonies) and something rather oriental (rosewater, Turkish delights). With water: ermlmd… it became strange, kind of cheesy. Fermenting fruits, dirty/mouldy wood. Doesn’t take water too well I must say, although these smells tend to vanish but not completely. Mouth (neat): very rich, very creamy, very fruity and even sugary and quite oaky. Obvious notes of crystallised ginger and lemon balm, white pepper upfront (comes usually later) and tons of orange marmalade. Unusually invading for an unsherried Glengoyne. With water: same comments, there’s much more oak and spices than in the 1972s but it all works well – provided you like spices, pepper and cloves first. Finish: long, remaining creamy. Lemon zests and nutmeg in the aftertaste. Comments: I guess the cask was very active, or this one’s been re-racked into first fill bourbon. Unexpectedly ‘modern’. SGP:551 - 89 points. (with thanks to Les Passionnés!)

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glengoyne that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



Recent arrivals
A bunch of preliminary notes (no scores yet)
Auchroisk 1999/2009 'Manager's Choice' (60.6%, OB, cask #11323, 642 bottles) Four starsFrom bodega sherry European oak. Nose: first quite roasted, coffee, then fresh strawberries and gooseberries plus cut grass. Mouth: sweet and fruity, with more direct sherry influence. Strawberry and pomegranate syrup.
Glenlossie 1999/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.1%, OB, cask #14098, 204 bottles) Four stars and a halfFrom bourbon American oak. Nose: rather discreet, with whiffs of old roses and a little musk, then vanilla and new oak. Mouth: citrusy and vanilled, very good balance, sweet spices. Thai coconut and chilli sauce. Youngish but very good.
Benrinnes 1996/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.1%, OB, cask #8994, 324 bottles) Three stars and a halfFrom refill American oak. Nose: elegant, polished oak, vanilla and then grass and green tea (Yunnan ;-)). Shy-ish. Mouth: sweet, balanced, on the distillate’s fruitiness. Apple pie, touches of cinnamon, then fresh apples, lemon balm and a little ginger. Then more lemon. Good and fresh.
Glendullan 1995/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.7%, OB, cask #12718, 636 bottles) Three stars and a halfFrom rejuvenated European oak. Nose: not very expressive. Grass and a little coffee. We’ll try it with water later on. Mouth: much more expressive, almost loud. Sweet oak and cider apples, oranges, notes of sherry. Leaves, cloves.
Glen Ord 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.2%, OB, cask #10181, 204 bottles) Four starsFrom bourbon American oak. Nose: oak, freshly roasted coffee beans and green tea. An austere one it seems. Mouth: good firmness with some honey and malt, typical Ord. A smokiness, black raisins, prunes, marmalade. A little salt?
Clynelish 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.5%, OB, cask #4341, 216 bottles) Five stars From first fill bourbon American oak. Nose: very flinty, elegant, big yet restrained. Beeswax (of course). Mouth: oh yeah. Big wax, oranges, kumquats, more pepper and ginger than usual. Big dram but that was expected. Takes no prisoners, as they say.
Knockando 1996/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.5%, OB, cask #800790, 612 bottles) Four stars and a half From Spanish sherry European wood. A dark one. Nose: flinty and leathery sherry at first nosing, then more stewed fruits plus strawberry and blackcurrant jam. Mouth: rich, pure fruity sherry but with some fresh oak (ginger and nutmeg). Red fruits, blood oranges, raspberries, then cloves and pepper. Spectacularly ‘flavoured’, demonstrative.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a pure gem, Joni Mitchell singing Charlie Mingus' The dry dleaner from Des Moines with a very recognisable bass... That's right it's Mr, Jaco Pastorius himself. Please buy Joni Mitchell's music...

Joni Micthell

August 3, 2010


The Forum, Kentish Town, London, May 14th 2010

My new fangled digital notebook tells me that it’s seventy-nine days since we saw the Alabama 3 at the Forum, so you may rightly consider this review to be a little overdue (where does all the time go?). However this is as nothing to the wait we have endured for the A3’s new album, Revolver Soul, originally scheduled for release last November and only now finally ‘in the stores’ (a colourful but now largely redundant saying from yesteryear). 

D Wayne Love and Larry Love

Like most of their recent stuff it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair with some very strong tracks, and some less so.  The album boasts a parade of celebrity guests, including (in addition to stalwarts such as Reverend B Atwell and Errol T) Shane MacGowan, Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell, the unlikely Aberdare Stabbers (Aberdare, coincidentally, was birthplace of the recently deceased former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable), and DJ and rapper Tenor Fly, who is on the stage  this evening to sing ‘Hostage’.  In addition to this, the band have just released a remix of ‘Jacqueline (one of the better songs on the album) featuring the E Street Band’s occasional Soprano, Steve van Zandt. The new album was co-produced by Segs Jennings, who has rejoined the band as bassist and musical director.  However there is a very noticeable space on the left hand side of the stage normally occupied by The Mountain of Love, aka Piers Marsh, programmer, harmonica player, founder member of the band and ‘analogue terrorist’.  Depending on which story you believe, Marsh either quit the band or was fired by their ‘management’; word has it more changes may be on the way.

Alabama 3

Starting with ‘Soulja’ and ‘Bad to the bone’ the band take the stage draped in camouflaged fatigues, reflecting the anti-war theme that permeates the new album.  Frankly it’s not the most flattering garb for men of a certain age.  Be that as it may the band deliver a characteristically spirited performance, led from the front by a hugely energetic Larry Love, supported by the rapping Reverend D Wayne and singer Aurora Dawn, still standing in during Devlin Love’s maternity leave.  Steve Finnerty’s guitar-work added a distinct rock character to many of the new songs, and interesting foil to Rock Freebase’s country-blues and slide guitar. 

Not for the first time, keyboard player The Spirit defied all expectation by making it from the pub to the stage, and then remaining there almost upright for the whole set.  “The theme tonight is angry” said Love, as he introduced ‘Up above my head’, now a staple of Alabama 3’s live set, a powerful tune built around Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s famous blues refrain.  About half of the songs came from the back catalogue, and half from Revolver Soul, including ‘Hostage’, ‘Jacqueline’, ‘She blessed me’, ‘Keep your powder dry’ and ‘Vietnamisation’, a twenty-first century take on Country Joe MacDonald’s Woodstock classic, focussed on the current conflict in Afghanistan.  Older songs included ‘Woke up this morning’ (with Nick Reynolds playing Marsh’s harmonica part), ‘Johnny Cash’, ‘Woody Guthrie’, ‘Rehab’, and ‘Hypo full of love’.  Love, accompanied by two floor-mopping orange-boiler suited roadies and The Spirit’s intoxicated piano also sang a surprisingly touching version of the ‘The thrills have gone’.

Spirit of Love
The Spirit of Love

The encore featured a rather disrespectful reinterpretation of ‘Mao Tse Tung’, reshaped as ‘Mickey Mao’ (with Love wearing a Mickey Mouse facemask) and ‘Too sick to pray’, which was a timely reminder amidst all the nonsense, of the real potency of some of Alabama 3’s song writing, as well as their performances. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Alabama 3 on MySpace



Tasting two (very) young Ledaig

Ledaig, former name of Tobermory Distillery and name of its peated version since the early 1970s is well-known to anybody who ever tried its sherried 1972s and 1973s (and some unsherried ones were great too) but relatively unknown to other whisky lovers. Now, it’s said that recent batches are fab again… Let’s see…

Ledaig 8 yo 2001/2010 (61%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: Ardbeg??? Seriously, this is just like a young un-bourbonized Ardbeg. Flinty, zesty, coastal, very peaty, crystal-clean, with notes of seaweed and fresh oysters, a little lemon and no dirtiness at all (while earlier young Ledaigs could be a tad dirty-ish in my book). It’s quite stunning I must say… With water: and now come the wet dogs (yeah, we’re sorry, dogs!) and clothes. ‘An old Harris tweed jacket after a walk on the beach under the rain’ – yeah well… Also a little cane sugar. Mouth (neat): maybe a wee tad less Ardbeggian, just a wee tad. Ultra-clean again, extremely zesty and zingy, lemony, with a very ‘chiselled’ peatiness. Impressive and dangerously drinkable at 61% vol. With water: a little sweeter, with also a bigger earthiness. Finish: very long, very clean, very peaty. Comments: surprisingly good and definitely Islay-inspired. Also reminds me of an old 14yo ‘Tobermory’ by Sestante bearing a very Germanic label. Anyway, all very great, let’s hope there will be more of this breed coming out in the coming months/years. SGP:358 - 91 points.

Ledaig 2005/2010 (62.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, sherry butt, cask #900008) Five stars Wot, a 4 years old sherried Ledaig? Colour: amber. Nose: starts on extreme leather, roasted chestnuts, pepper, fumes (say an old Harley’s exhaust pipes, traditionalists will prefer a Velocette ‘T’? ;-)) and truckloads of orange zests and marmalade. There may well be other things below the surface but it’s all very powerful so let’s not take chances. With water: works beautifully. Ginger and orange jam, cardamom, shoe polish, a newly opened box of toffees, chocolate… Mouth (neat): did you ever try any of these Port Charlottes that were matured in sherry bloodtubs? We’re quite close here. Superb combination of peat, pepper, orange marmalade, ginger, buttered fudge and salt. Big, big whisky. With water: works wonderfully, with more chocolate, more dried fruits, nougat, ‘peated marzipan’, Seville oranges… Finish: as long as Der Ring, as they say. Great orangey bitterness in the aftertaste, with maybe just something a tad too paraffiny. Splitting hairs now. Comments: I just couldn’t decide between both versions and will go for the same rating. Different bodyworks but very same engine. SGP:548 - 91 points.

Conclusion: there were already several excellent Ardbeg taste-alike (some peated Cooleys, some Kilchoman or Glann ar Mor’s Kornog to name but a few) and now there’s Ledaig. The more the merrier!
By the way, just checked BBR’s web site to find out about some details on the bottling and found these cool tasting notes for their 2005 Ledaig. Their maltoporn is better than Whiskyfun’s if you ask me ;-):
"Brooding and almost foreboding in the glass, the sheer depth of colour serves as a warning to weak-willed whisky lovers to steer well clear! As expected, this is monstrous on the nose, aromas leap out, held up to the bright light of inspection by the cask strength richness. Ginger and currants interweave with the smoke backed up by ‘herbs-de-Provence’, uncooked flapjack mixture and even some ever-so-slightly burnt arrowroot biscuits!
Huge waves of flavour roll in on the palate with peat leading the way, the sherry cask giving roundness with hints of molasses and treacle. This is exquisitely balanced, albeit with every dial imaginable turned right up to 11! The battle between the sweet fruit of the spirit, the spicy weight of the wood and the primal peat smoke rages on into a sublimely satisfying finish."
(Rob Whitehead- BBR London Shop Spirits Specialist)

More distillery data Our tastings: all Ledaig that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

August 2, 2010

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Vodskies and Woodkas
You had new makes and single malt vodkas (VALT in Scotland since four or five years, then the Italians with ‘Single’, then the Canadians with Still Waters…), so I guess somebody had to make this.

Yes, it's vodka aged in wood. I saw it last week in Berlin’s KaDeWe, it’s called Woodka and it’s German.  I don’t know if it’s any good but I’ll find out sooner or later. Sadly, Woodka's website won’t tell you about for how long it’s been aged in wood but today’s existential question is: is woodka whisky? Now, it's to be remembered that aged vodkas exist since centuries. I did some thorough research (okay, a quick googling) and a well-known example seems to be Starka.
'Categories', they said...



Glen Moray

Tasting three Glen Moray

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 8 yo (40%, OB, Ramazzotti Milano, early 1980s) Three stars and a half I didn’t know Eros Ramazzotti was distributing whisky before starting a singing career ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: nice and pleasantly malty at first nosing, somewhat indifferent, with only notes of porridge, pears and pineapples flying around. The good news is that it gets then more complex, with added whiffs of pine resin, menthol and wet limestone that are very, well, nice. Also hints of cherry liqueur (guignolet). A pleasant surprise, as they say. Mouth: simpler but good, with a creamy mouth feel and a big sweetness. Pear liqueur and marshmallows, cane sugar syrup, tinned fruits (apricots?)… No more mint or resin. Finish: medium long but clean, still very sweet and fruity. Quite some vanilla in the aftertaste. Comments: interesting that this oldie tastes very ‘modern’, with its big sweetness. It’s a relatively simple but very good dram. SGP:630 - 83 points.

Glen Moray 1986/2004 (64.4%, OB, cask #4696) Four stars and a half This one is another (ex) Glenmorangie plc bottling that won the ‘Malt of the Year’ Award in Jim Murray’s Bible – that was in 2006. This baby was bottled to mark the opening of the new Visitor Centre in 2004. I’ve actually already downed two full bottles of this beast but never took any proper tasting notes. Colour: gold. Nose: full bourbon nose, bursting with vanilla, cocoa powder and cinnamon. In the background: some lime, ginger and kiwis as well as a faint honeyness. Also notes of peaches. With water: gets much wilder, farmier (even after having waited for a long time), more on sauvignon blanc and lemon juice. It got zingy and very pleasantly sharpish. Mouth (neat): as creamy as honey and as oily as, well, oil. Huge notes of marshmallows and various tinned fruits lying on a bed of soft spices, mainly cinnamon and ginger. Also some white chocolate and quite some light honey. With water: really excellent now. Ultra-compact and flawless, on coconut, apricot and tangerines. Finish: rather long, more lemony, with something slightly fizzy and spicy. Comments: it’s an excellent Glen Moray indeed, even if the cask did a large part of the job or so it seems. Rather simple but excellent. SGP:641 - 89 points.

Glen Moray 36 yo 1973/2010 (53.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7037, 328 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts just a tad acetic but that goes away, leaving room for stewed fruits and several tropical fruits that are usually more to be found in old Lochsides, Clynelishes or even Bowmores. Intriguing! Other than that, we have some cappuccino and vanilla, café latte, hints of marshmallows and whiffs of cut vegetables (asparagus? French beans?) Anyway, this is a very nice surprise. With water: more oak. Sawdust, a little coconut, also sangria, more cinnamon… Mouth (neat): we’re well in the same family as the 1986’s but this is rather less vanilled and pretty fruitier, also with more ‘bitter’ oak in the background (radish and green tea). Pineapples, pears, kiwis, cherries… With water: more or less the same but with an added earthiness, which I like a lot. Roots, liquorice wood… Finish: rather long, with a perfect oakiness. Oranges and a little ginger. Comments: excellent! Two great Glen Morays in a row, that was unexpected. SGP:651 - 89 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glen Moray that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



Recent arrivals
A bunch of preliminary notes (no scores yet)
Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (48%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon, 142 bottles) Four stars and a half Nose: flinty and very close to the malt, old style, smoky. Mouth: citrusy, nervous. Grapefruits. Discreet oak influence. A crystal-clear old HP with a little salt in the finish.
Tobermory 8 yo 2001/2010 (60.9%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Four stars Nose: bursts with fresh clean peat and many coastal notes plus fresh herbs. Isn’t this rather a very clean Ledaig? Mouth: big peat but also a rather unusual fruitiness. Lavender sweets and blood oranges, aniseed and salt. Surprisingly good.
Glengoyne 37 yo 1972/2010 (63.5%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry, 289 bottles) Five stars Nose: the expected fruitiness plus a huge – but not destroying – kick from the alcohol. Ripe mangos and mirabelles in the background. Mouth: extremely jammy. Oranges, tangerines. Another great 1972/1973 Glengoyne.
Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (54.5%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Five stars Nose: very coastal, no wham-bam peat here. Extremely fresh. Whiffs of vanilla. Mouth: perfect earthy peat with a citrusy freshness. Creamy mouth feel. Very high quality, get this.
Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (59.6%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Four starsNose: similar but with less vanilla. More medicinal. Mouth: very good but less polished and pretty rougher than the previous one.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: French cult band Magma do their very free anthem Kobaia around 1970, with leader Christian Vander's powerful drumming. Some say it was an homage to John Coltrane - that's most likely and it's certainly 'ascensional'. Please buy Magma's music, they are still around - and kicking!


August 1, 2010

Tasting various recent single grains


Girvan 1989/2009 (45.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd) Two stars and a half I already had some 1989 Girvan by BBR – at 46% - and found that it was a little too much on coconut and Turkish delights for my taste (WF 78). Colour: straw. Nose: spirity and very much on cologne and even on acetone. Nail polish remover. Then, indeed, more coconut oil, praline and white chocolate. Not really my cup of tea. With water: unexpected notes of rhubarb pie, otherwise mocha and café latte. Mouth (neat): the attack isn’t unpleasant but I feel the profile is a little too undetermined. Resembles some white rums. With water: a little better. More rooty and earthy. Finish: rather short, a tad spicier. Hints of cardamom and lemon. Comments: it’s a fairly good single grain in my opinion but maybe not much magic here. SGP:330 - 78 points.

Carsebridge 30 yo 1979/2010 (48.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #33043) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: more on grated coconut than other Carsebridges 1979 that I already had and rather less grassy. Unusual hints of unaged tequila. Chocolate cake, millionaire shortbread, vanilla fudge. Very nice, easy nose. With water: more of everything. Very, very nice indeed. Superb ‘Chinese’ spiciness. Mouth (neat): very good attack, on many citrus fruits and, once again, touches of coconut. There’s also quite some passion fruits and mangoes. Very sweet but excellent. With water: excellent indeed. More dried fruits and many herbs coming through. Top notch grain. Finish: long, superbly spicy and herbal, with the coconut making a final wink in the aftertaste – so to speak. Comments: I do not think there are many great grains, but this one is one of them, just like several earlier Carsebridges from DT’s stable. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Cameronbridge 1978/2010 (54.6%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask #391150) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: not much, it’s blocked, especially after the very aromatic Carsebridge. Maybe distant whiffs of cut grass… With water: gets a tad more aromatic, with an expected combination of coconut, ginger, white pepper and vanilla but not much else. Burning herbs. Mouth (neat): much better than on the nose when neat. Quite some lemon balm, mint drops, verbena (Verveine du Velay liqueur – do you know that?)… So much more expressive than on the nose! With water: indeed. It’s simple but it’s very pleasant with these notes of lemony herbs. Finish: medium long, fresh, clean, herbal. A little aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: not much happening on the nose but a very, very pleasant palate. That’s many grains’ fate, I’m afraid. SGP:550 - 80 points.

North British 31 yo 1978/2010 (55.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #38471) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: very grassy, the grassiest of them all. Rocks. Very austere. With water: only marginally more expressive. Very shy. Mouth (neat): same palate as the Cameronbridge’s, only a tad simpler. Nice earthiness (gentian liqueur, Suze). With water: same. Finish: quite long, more on pepper and ginger. Comments: once again, a very pleasant palate but an almost absent nose. Still globally good. SGP:450 - 79 points.

Strathclyde 30 yo 1980/2010 (56.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1498) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: same as both the Cameronbridge and the North British: it’s closed – or at least very grassy. With water: once again, water doesn’t work. It’s just the same whisky, even when diluted down to +/-30%. Whiffs of wet cardboard. Mouth (neat): amazingly, this palate is extremely close to the two previous ones’ once again. Hard to find any differences. Maybe this one is a little more on lime… With water: it got a little ‘wider’. Very nice notes of herbal teas, liquorice wood and aniseed, just like in the Cameronbridge. Finish: not too long, more on black pepper than the others. A return on coconut and fresh mint in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a very good single grain on the palate. Will please all the whisky lovers who do not care for nosing ;-). SGP:551 - 81 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the very sweet Canadian band Memphis doing an appropriate (eh?) Incredibly Drunk on Whiskey. Please buy Memphis' music.


July 2010 - part 2 <--- August 2010 - part 1 ---> August 2010 - part 2

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



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

Carsebridge 30 yo 1979/2010 (48.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #33043)

Dalmore 40 yo (40%, OB, +/-2009?)

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972/2010 (57%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry wood, 220 bottles)

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972/2010 (52%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Glengoyne 37 yo 1972 (51.5%, Jack Wiebers, Auld Distillers, cask #4211, 178 bottles)

Glengoyne 1973 (50.4%, Malts of Scotland, Belgium exclusive, cask #678, 97 bottles)

Glengoyne 37 yo 1973 (48.7%, Exclusive Malts, cask #976, 158 bottles)

Glen Grant 37 yo 1972/2010 (51.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #6446, 196 bottles)

Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, +/-2010)

Ledaig 2005/2010 (62.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, sherry butt, cask #900008)

Ledaig 8 yo 2001/2010 (61%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)