(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2010 - Part 2

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


August 31, 2010

Tasting five recent indie 11yo Laphroaig at high strength, four of them being from 1998 and one from 1999, three being ex-bourbon and two ex-sherry (and what else?)


Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (54.5%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Five stars Already previewed. Colour: white wine. Nose: superb, ultra-pure, ultra-clean, medicinal and marine, young but certainly not immature Laphroaig. It’s got everything but no burn and no imbalance. With water: gets magnificently mineral and almondy. Fresh clams. Also hints of wet newspapers. All perfect according to this poor taster. Mouth (neat): powerful but perfect. Sweet, salty, citrusy, earthy, almondy peat. With water: not any more complex but superbly balanced Laphroaig. Finish: very long, with a little more pepper. Comments: it’s not a complex whisky or a whisky that develops much, quite the opposite, but it’s so perfectly ‘chiselled’ right from the start that it’s well worth 90 in my book. What a nice series of casks! SGP:258 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 11 yo 1999/2010 (59.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: more cask influence in this one, a little more vanilla but also more damp earth and antiseptic, flints (tons of wet rocks) and lime. More ‘excessive’ than the 1998 in a certain way but of similar quality. Also a lot of sea air. With water: woo-hoo! This one swims! Huge notes of sea water and metal (old car engine.) It’s quite spectacular and unusual, which is great as there are so many excellent young Laphroaigs in the market. Mouth (neat): same as the 1998 now, but it’s true that it’s hard to pick out nuances at such high strength. Quick, water... With water: oh yes. Once again, it’s got something extra. Something slightly roasted and tarry, earthy as well… And there are various citrus fruits, tangerines, bitter oranges… Finish: very long, very clean but complex. Smoked almonds? Comments: such a fabulous young Laphroaig that’s already complex and ‘wide’ deserves some extra-points. We’re close to the old official 10s ‘CS’ here. A little more tropical fruits and we would be there. But warning, proper water is obligatory. SGP:458 - 92 points.

Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (59.6%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Four stars Already previewed. Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one suffers a bit from comparison with its two predecessors, it lacks a bit of the others’ perfect zestiness, although it’s closer to the Nectar than to the other TWA. It’s also a tad rawer and maybe a little spirity. Now, it’s still quite perfect, it’s just that the other two are terrific in my opinion. With water: improves. Some ham and a little humus. Motor oil (not that far from the 1999 but not as bold). Mouth (neat): I like it better than on the nose when neat, but it’s really brutal at such high strength. Bites your tongue. With water: works, it brings out unexpected resinous notes – and big ones at that. Tastes almost like fir liqueur now! Finish: long, salty, sooty, almondy and resinous. Comments: maybe no pure magic here in my opinion but as I wrote, it’s still some great Laphroaig. The resinous notes in the palate were funny. SGP:268 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2009 (60%, High Spirits, cask #700664) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: what, a soapy Laphroaig? Bizarre, with so much paraffin and plain soap that it’s hard to enjoy. It cannot come from the sample bottle as it was treated just like the other ones. Improves a bit after that (or you get used to it, as you like), with more grapefruit and lemon as well as notes of seashells and raw peated barley. With water: who stole the soap? Just like when you wash your hands, water took the soap off – well, almost. More almonds, roots, leaves, antiseptic… Really nice now. Mouth (neat): no detectable soapiness at this stage but a huge peaty and lemony smash. With water: even better. Typical clean, coastal and medicinal Laphroaig. Finish: long, nice, classic… Comments: I didn’t like the nose too much, but the palate was most pleasant. Dual personality? SGP:267 - 80 points.

Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (61.6%, AD Rattray, sherry, cask #800044, 616 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: probably the most vegetal and earthy within the lot, also the sweetest even if it’s far from being sweet whisky. Some candy sugar, soot, smoked tea… With water: gets unexpectedly dirty, animal and slightly sulphury (hard boiled eggs). Not that it’s flawed, not at all, but you have to like what we call ‘civet’ notes (or ‘old nun who neglects herself’ – yes that’s a true expression we sometimes use in wine tasting in France… not officially that is). Gets then a little more ‘normal’. Mouth (neat): it’s the strongest but quite curiously, it’s also the easiest. A little rounder than the others, a bit more candied or so it seems, a little more leathery and spicy, with smoked pears… Hard to tell you much more, I’ll need my palate tonight. With water: nice notes of oranges, tar and salt! I remember the distillery once had an official 1989 that was rather similar in style, I think it was for Feis Ile. Finish: long, clean, peaty, orangey, peppery and salty. Comments: at times purely loveable, at times a tad more… uncertain, I’d say. That’s the fate of many sherry casks, isn’t it? SGP:357 - 85 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Marie-José Casanova sings Boris Vian's superb song Ta peau contre ma peau around 1965. Please buy these great people's music (and litterature).


August 30, 2010

Two 12yo Highland Park at high strength

Highland Park Magnus

Highland Park 12 yo 'Saint Magnus' (55%, OB, 11,994 bottles, 2010) Four stars and a half A sequel to the excellent 'Earl Magnus' 15yo from last year. Mostly Spanish oak casks, of which 20% first fill. Please not that the picture is of last year's version but it should be very similar. Colour: gold. Nose: really punchy, starting quite smoky with hints of barbecued spare ribs with honey sauce and a noticeable kirschiness. It’s no gentle whisky – or is it a gentle brute? It’s also rather flinty and liquoricy, with some leather as well as quite some grass and spicy oak. Very nice but a tad rawish so far. With water: gets grassier, as expected, closer to the malt, with some smoked apples (or something like that) and maybe hints of banana skin and heather honey. Smoother but still quite ‘terroir’. Also damp clay, slight mouldiness, very pleasant.

Mouth (neat): really punchy, starting all on spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and a tarry smokiness that reminds me of some sherried Islayers in a certain way. The cinnamon is really big. Only marginally honeyed so far. With water: now it’s really excellent, with a great earthiness, roots (is that terroir speaking? ;-)), marzipan, a waxiness, notes of bitter oranges… Finish: long, with a wee dash of pepper and ginger added to the combo. The peat is more obvious too. Comments: it’s got an obvious relationship with last year’s ‘Earl’ but this one is maybe a little rawer – and, I think, peatier. Global quality is similar in my view, and this one swims very very well. A true islander. SGP:363 - 89 points.

Old Man

The Old Man Of Hoy 12 yo (58.9%, Blackadder, Cask Ref # 2001/H06, 2001) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: more or less the same profile as the Magnus’, only with more sherry and candy sugar. Maybe hints of bubblegum as well instead of the kirschy notes. Other than that, it’s very similar. With water: it went into another direction than the OB, more on roses and sandalwood, patchouli, mint-flavoured tea and a rather obvious rubber (new bands) that’s far from being unpleasant. Quite some paraffin as well. Nice and interesting nose. Mouth (neat): once again, this is more or less the same whisky as the OB ‘behind the wood’. More sherry again but less so than in the nose. Herbal teas, pepper, cinnamon. With water: once again, water made it different. Less peat and more sherry, maybe a tad bitterish. Rocket (aragula) salad. Finish: long, with some honey and oranges emerging. Comments: this big baby almost stood up to the new OB. SGP:462 – 87 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Highland Park that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: wow, this rocks! It's Lonnie Brooks and his punchy take on Got lucky last night (recorded 1986). We are lucky! Please buy Lonnie Brooks' music...

Lonnie Brooks

August 28, 2010

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

Balblair jazzed up
As you may now, I rarely publish press releases, as most are limited to claiming that an utterly exciting, amazing and delightful new best whisky in the world is about to be launched...

... Sometimes with quite a bit of fluffy storytelling  (we found some hidden casks in warehouse #77 or our legendary master distiller decided to experiment with ex-cucumber casks or we teamed up with a famous winery in Outer-Mongolia or we decided to recreate a secret 1885 recipe that we found in the exciseman’s drawer and so on…) And frankly, some other excellent blogs do it so much better that we ever could anyway, such as the great Whisky Intelligence, already 2,000 posts, triple wow!

But this is different. It comes from Balblair, who just announced that they partnered with a Scottish jazz singer named Niki King to launch a new concept called the ‘Balblair Lounge Events’ that will match tasting Balblair malts with jazz performances in various cities over the world. Frankly, I think sponsoring or organising gigs is an excellent move, especially with jazz.

Balblair jazz
Niki King and John MacDonald

I should confess that I didn’t know Niki King but just checked her works on her website and I must say she’s very good so all I can say is ‘kudos to Balblair, to their engagingly unobtrusive manager John MacDonald and to Niki King!’

Now, after Cutty Sark with Asian Dub Foundation and Balblair with Niki King (and many bourbons with blues or country music), what are we to expect from other whisky brands? Ardbeg with doom metal (or punk/pub rock?), Amrut with Ravi Shankar (or his offspring)? Yamazaki with Sakamoto? (no, not Tokyo Hotel)… And who will take poor André Rieu? Susan Boyle? I also remember that Glenfarclas used to stick a nice mini-CD of Scottish rock and roll to some of their bottles ten years ago or so… That was smart as well! May we expect some free iTunes downloads on some bottles soon?

Whisky and Music go Together!

PS: I couldn't find a list of upcoming events yet but as soon as I do I'll post the link on these pages

Niki King's website - Balblair's website


August 27, 2010

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

Art is art
All right, some distinguished readers (one of them, actually, but a very distinguished one) asked me whether I would taste and publish tasting notes for this new 'Gilpin Family Whisky' (the wording 'designer's whisky' may have been coined for this!) I'm afraid the answer is 'no thanks' - I don't think anybody ever tasted Manzoni's merda d'artista either...
Whisky can be art, but I doubt art could be whisky ;-).


PS: please note that I spared you funny comments such as 'but some distilleries ARE taking the piss ou of us' or 'now, THIS is organic whisky!' or 'they use pipes anyway' and so on. Gilpin whisky
Now, action whisky is a new concept that could be most appealing. True innovation could be made there... Radioactive whisky to protest against nuclear weapons, black whisky against starvation in Africa or ultra-premiumised bottlings to protest against ultra-liberalism gone mad... Wait, that's already been done, hasn't it!


Glenmorangie Finealta

Tasting two Glenmorangie

Okay, we’re back! I checked my nose using some ‘reference malts’ and it seems that we’re back to normal, just in time for the brand new Glenmorangie Finealta that just arrived. I think the best way to assess it is to try it alongside the well-known 10yo ‘Original’, here in a very recent version.

Glenmorangie 10 yo 'Original' (40%, OB, +/- 2010) Two stars and a half I’ve never been a huge fan of the rather undemanding 10yo but I think I did notice some improvement in fairly recent batches (circa 2008 and 2009). Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts a little spirity, with also wee hints of rose-tainted cologne, before some pleasant toasted and slightly coffee-ish notes start to emerge, together with a little vanilla and ginger that suggest some fairly active oak in the vatting. In the background: various garden fruits, apples, gooseberries, then dairy cream and a little porridge. Globally fresh and clean, with more sweetness than earlier batches in my opinion. Notes of earl grey tea after a while. Mouth: exactly the same kind of development as on the nose. Some toasted vanilla/oak, notes of cider, apple juice, roasted malt, a little caramel, cappuccino, candy sugar (quite a lot)… Good body. Finish: medium length. Toast, cake, oranges, hints of overripe apples… Some ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: I think the 10 became a good entry-level (or access-category) malt whisky that won’t disappoint, maybe thanks to improved wood technology. SGP:341 - 78 points (earlier batches were at 70, then 74...)
Glenmorangie NAS ‘Finealta’ (46%, OB, 2010, duty free) Four stars In a rather Dalmoro-macallanesque manner, this one is ‘an exquisite recreation of Glenmorangie based on a recipe dating back to 1903’ and is ‘lightly peated, as Glenmorangie used to be’ according to the Distillery’s sales pieces. Frankly, I don’t know whether some kind of peated Glenmorangie has been distilled in recent years, but many Scottish distilleries have been doing that so why not? Or maybe has some Glenmorangie been matured or finished in some ex-Ardbeg cask? As for yeast and barley, I guess they can’t be the same as 1903’s but never mind, it’s the end result that counts. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: a completely different beast indeed. Much more assertive, and rather less ‘Glenmorangie’ than the whole core range from the 10 to the 25 via the finishes. More punch and depth in my opinion and more secondary and tertiary notes. More rawness as well. I get humus, marzipan, a little camphor, leather, soy sauce, dried mushrooms, ginger, white pepper… And much less fruity and vanilled notes than in other versions. Big notes of nutmeg arising after a while, even a little horseradish... and something such as peppered coffee? Rather dry globally and, indeed, fairly ‘old northern Highlands’ in style (more towards old Clynelish or Pulteney and certainly not towards Balblair or even Dalmore). Very well done so far! As for peat, well, maybe there’s a little… Mouth: rich, creamy, rather more ‘Glenmo’ now but there are many many spices starting with various peppers (no I won’t list them all just for the sake of sounding smarter), a little mustard and ginger, then coffee beans. Gets then more citrusy, with some orange marmalade (peppered!) and even more bitterness – a very pleasant bitterness, unusual in Glenmorangie. Juniper berries. Finish: long, gingery, drier than the other Glenmorangies. A lot of spicy oak in the aftertaste. Comments: I guess nobody will be able to tell you if this is how malt whisky (let alone Glenmorangie) used to taste one hundred years ago but what’s sure is that this is a pretty fine dram, even if there’s probably much more spicy oak than in ‘genuine’ old whiskies. May I add that I’d love to see a picture of the old recipe? SGP:362 - 86 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: today let's have some absolutely stunning contemporary Morrocan gnawa music by Hamid El Gnawi. It's called Fangoro and it's on Hamid's 2001 CD 'Saha Koyo'. Please buy Hamid El Gnawi's music!

Hamid el Gnawi

August 26, 2010

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

Closed distilleries to buy (I mean their whiskies)
I got quite a few remarks about the ‘buying signal for closed distilleries’ that I seem to have issued the other day (really???), some friends even asked for a list of worthy names. Well, the problem is that some of those names weren’t always consistent so it’s a tricky issue.

Anyway, provided you didn’t already stock up, I’d say that these names may be worthy of your attention in my opinion but watch the prices and try to find only the good bottlings:
Brora, closed 1983 (especially early 70s but not only)
Glenugie, closed 1983 (many true gems)
Lochside, closed 1993 (not always fab but rarely so-so)
Port Ellen, closed 1983 (but sherried versions can be hit or miss)
St. Magdalene/Linlithgow, closed 1983 (sometimes the most complex Lowlander)
Tamdhu, closed 2010 (often excellent but not rare yet of course – could be reopened)
Banff, closed 1983 (old style grassiness)
Caperdonich, closed 2002 (superb oldies, still cheap. Not rare.)
Glenury Royal, closed 1985
Convalmore, closed 1985
Glencraig, closed 1981 (Lomond stills at Glenburgie)
Glen Keith, closed 1999 (superb old sherried versions, not rare yet)
Kinclaith, closed 1975 (rare and very expensive)
Rosebank, closed 1993 (should start to become a bit rarer)
There are several other names but they’re a tad riskier in my opinion, even if some casks were brilliant (Inverleven, Coleburn, Pittyvaich, Dallas Dhu, Littlemill -great casks of Littlemill surfaced recently- and the three Inverness malts, Glen Mhor, Millburn and Glen Albyn that could sometimes be great - and sometimes quite 'wacky'.)

As for our bad nose days, they seem to come to an end and we should resume tasting tonight or during the week-end. So...

No new tastings yet but here's some breaking news:

After so many attempts by so many whisky distillers at speeding up maturation, Jameson finally seem to have found a way of creating ready-made whisky bottles right in the casks, including labels and presentation boxes. Below, earlier attempts using regular methods. Right, right...

August 24, 2010

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

Bad nose days and no more stocks
Sorry, due to brutal changes of temperatures, bad nose days since yesterday and no more tasting notes in stock. All that should resume shortly but in the meantime and just to feed the beast, I’ll post small pictures of a few wines that I enjoyed a lot in recent weeks (no scores of course but all would be sure 90+ on the MM/WF scale - not RP's). No worries, this isn’t going to become winefun.com any time soon.


From top left to bottom right:
Santenay Grand Clos Rousseau 2008 Thomas Morey (red, Burgundy)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières 2004 Louis Carillon (white, Burgundy)
Coteaux du Languedoc 2002 Domaine de Montcalmès (red, Languedoc-Roussillon)
Viré Clessé 2002 Domaine de la Bongrain Jean Thévenet (white, Burgundy)
Pinot Gris Hommage à Georgette Trimbach 1996 Trimbach (white, Alsace)
Puilly-Fuissé Les Crays 2007 Annie-Claire Forest (white, Burgundy)
Muscat Goldert Clos Saint Imer La Chapelle 2004 Ernest Burn (white, ALsace)
Meursault 2006 J.F. Coche-Dury (white, Burgundy)
Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 2000 Domaine de la Grange des Pères (white, Languedoc-Roussillon)

Bad nose

By the way, a friend just told me that even if my nose was clogged, I could still comment on some whiskies’ palates. I’m afraid that’s impossible as odours count very much when tasting anything. The tongue is only able to ‘understand’ a few basic flavours (sweet, salty, bitter and sour – right, and umami) while all the more complex flavours are actually detected by the olfactory bulb via retro-olfaction and hence need some ‘breathing’. Not convinced? Try this: put an easily recognizable fruit juice such as mango or pineapple into an opaque glass. Firmly pinch a (ex-) good friend’s nose and ask him to taste the juice, he shouldn’t be able to recognize it.

Let him breathe through his nose again and he should instantly say ’pineapple!’ or ‘mango!’ You could try that as well, eat something, pinch your own nose (not too hard) and check what happens. Please start to breathe again after, say 30 seconds. So, no nose, no tastings at all I’m afraid.



MUSIC - Recommended listening: they've always been a very skilled band since their recordings with Pierre Henry, they're Spooky tooth (with Gary Wright, Mick Jones and Mike Patto) and today they're playing a surprisingy funky The hoofer that's on their 1974 LP 'The Mirror'. Please buy Spooky tooth's music!

Spooky Tooth

August 23, 2010


Tasting two old Macallans

Macallan 1968/2009 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt) Four stars and a half As the excellent people at The Whisky Exchange have noticed, this 1968 vintage came in at just over half the price of a miniature of the officially bottled Macallan 1968 at 46.6%. Enough said. Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, this one is typical of many old Macallans by G&M – proof that warehouses and locations have an influence, don’t you think? Many fruits such as oranges and tangerines, fruity apples (large red ones, for example), various honeys, flowers from the fields, syrups and liqueurs, bananas… It’s fresh and mucho lively! Let’s hope the palate won’t be too dry and oaky… Mouth: great news, there’s some oak of course but it isn’t drying or cardboardy, not at all. Many fruits, strawberries, ripe apples, gooseberries, apricots, peaches… It’s all extremely drinkable! Finish: surprisingly long, on the same notes plus touches of liquorice, ginger and nutmeg. Comments: I’m a fan of these old Speymalt Macallans! They’re all very good and this one is no exception. But warning, they’re highly drinkable, even the 1938! SGP:641 - 89 points. (and thanks, Konstantin).

Macallan 30 yo 1978/2009 (51.3%, 60th Anniversary of Douglas Laing 1949-2009, Rum Cask Finish, 216 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: less nervous and fruitful than the G&M, more on vanilla and café latte at first nosing. The rum is then rather obvious, with also a little coconut. Huge notes of nutmeg arising after a while – I think I never had any malt whisky that had so much nutmeg. The whole is a tad strange and not very ‘Macallan’. Mouth: a rather bizarre attack. There are fruits that are similar to the 1968’s but also some ‘twisted’ notes that must come from the rum. Something like burnt liquorice? Barbecued marshmallows? The whole isn’t unpleasant, only not ‘Macallan’ at all. There’s even a kind of peatiness, I don’t know where it comes from. Finish: long, cleaner, with some grapefruits and pineapples. Comments: imagine you were 60 years old and could choose a cask in a warehouse, and imagine you would find a great 30 year old Macallan. Would you dump it in a rum cask (and then sell it for 250€ a bottle)? I insist, this is very good spirit but it’s simply not pure Scotch whisky anymore in my opinion. Some other bottlings in this 60th Anniversary series were of a much higher standard in my opinion. SGP:641 - 78 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the good Joe Zawinul and his tribe are following the Slivovitz Trail (that's on Zawinul's 'My People' CD). Please buy the great late Joe Zawinul's music!



Hotchpotch of short tasting notes
A bunch of Irish (newer batches)
Bushmills NAS 'Original' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh, typically Irish. Overripe apples and liquorice, something slightly metallic in the background. Gets then grassy and dry. Mouth: easy, sweeter, drops in the middle. Some liquorice and a lot of cereals. Cornflakes. Finish: short but clean, a little sugary. Comments: easy, I like it better than many Scotch blends. SGP:440 - 77 points.
Bushmills NAS 'Black Bush' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more fragrant than the Original. Banana liqueur and roses. Rather expressive. Mouth: much more caramel and liquorice than in the Original. Corn syrup, liqueurs, toasted bread. Finish: shortish, caramelly and liquoricy. Comments: I like the Original better, I think it’s fresher and cleaner. SGP:540 - 73 points.
Redbreast 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a little more complex, dry, herbal teas and leather. Rosehip. Less aromatic than earlier batches. Mouth: creamy, oaky, something bourbonny. Maple syrup and vanilla. Bananas and other tropical fruits. Finish: medium, sweet, a little cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: I think earlier batches were a tad more complex but it’s still excellent. SGP:530 - 84 points.
Kilbeggan 15 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Three stars Not a single malt despite what some web sites said. Colour: gold. Nose: rather more oak influence, coffee and vanilla, grass, broken branches, marzipan and overripe apples in the background. Mouth: not too far from the Redbreast, only with more oak and more grass. Finish: medium on vanilla and straight oak. Liquorice and black pepper. Comments: another very good Irish blend. SGP:451 - 80 points.
Tyrconnell NAS (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2010) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: garden fruits and muesli, with some vanilla. Easy and pleasant. Mouth: not big. Apple juice and ginger, porridge, liquorice allsorts. Finish: short, rather clean. Comments: an easy dram. Should take ice well. SGP:341 - 76 points.
Bushmills 16 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: very aromatic, very ‘Bushmills malt’. Bananas, litchis, tangerines and cranberry juice. Very sexy. Mouth: oily, ultra-fruity. Tropical, so to speak. Finish: rather long, all on tropical fruits and soft spices. Comments: I’ve always liked the 16. SGP:631 - 82 points.
Tyrconnell 10 yo 'Sherry Finish' (46%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2010) Two stars and a half Colour: pale amber. Nose: flinty and chocolaty, grassy and dry. Blackcurrant jam in the background. Mouth: better ‘mingled’ than on the nose but the malt and the sherry create some kind of ‘grassy rubber’ (leaves and fruit stems, teas…) Finish: medium long. Rubbery fruitiness. Comments: a little strange but interesting. SGP:261 - 78 points.
Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: peated apple juice ;-) and other smoked fruits. Coal smoke. Grapefruits. Mouth: the easy side of peat. Fruity, slightly peppery. Orange juice, ginger and pepper. Finish: medium long, clean. Comments: I feel the Connemara NAS is getting better (okay, more to my liking). SGP:535 - 80 points.
Connemara NAS 'Sherry Finish' (46%, OB, Irish, +/-2009) Two stars and a half Colour: Nose: full gold. Mouth: rather closed. Leather, butter, old barrel and Seville oranges. Very unusual actually. Finish: bitter oranges and leather. Good body. Quite some oranges, juicy fruits. Medium peatiness. The palate is much fruitier than the nose. Comments: I quite like it but I feel it’s a tad ‘patched’. SGP:625 - 79 points.
Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Irish, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy, extremely grassy and aggressive. Flints and garden bonfire, acrid smoke… It’s extreme but I like this. Mouth: powerful, sweeter than on the nose, with excellent balance. Peat, pepper, lemon balm and grapefruits. Very zesty. Finish: long, clean, lively. Comments: this one too is getting better in my opinion. It’s got something Ardbeggian. SGP:537 - 82 points.

August 19, 2010


Tasting two Banff

This is a message to the new whisky lovers (and bloggers out there): as you may know, a whole bunch of distilleries were closed in 1983. These distilleries are now getting scarcer and scarcer and the less famous ones (not Port Ellen, not Brora) are in the process of disappearing from the shelves because they’re no big names.

I’m not saying that all were great drams but I truly believe that you should try to put your hands on some of them before they’re gone forever (or in the hands of some dirty speculators who will soon sell them all for £500 a bottle or more.) Remember Coleburn, Millburn or Glenugie? Or Banff, for that matter? Try them before the youngest expressions are all 30yo!

Banff 1976/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry) Four starsColour: straw. Nose: starts a tad fruity (apples) and maybe faintly soapy but the expected notes of sweet mustard and seaweed (Japanese nori) are soon to be unleashed, together with quite some cinchona and ginger and some wee metallic notes. There’s also quite some leather and shoe polish as well as hints of bitter oranges. As un-modern as malt whisky can be! Some white rum as well. Mouth: good body, starting on mustard and pepper again, green apples, herbal liqueurs, lemon marmalade… More spices after a moment, pepper, capsicum, even a little juniper… perfectly dry and grassy, truly old-style. Finish: medium long, herbal and bitter, with more metallic notes. Comments: think of some modern, sweet, vanilled and honeyed malt whisky. This is exactly the opposite. SGP:262 - 86 points.

Banff 34 yo 1975/2010 (44.9%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 146 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s more or less the same whisky as the G&M, except that everything is rather louder. More sweet mustard, wax, tiny metallic notes, cider apples, wet papers and ink (right, newspaper – will there ever be iPad aromas?), paraffin, grass, lime… Unsexy but very attractive! Mouth: ah yes! Again, it’s not unlike the G&M but with more oomph and just a little more sweetness that makes it a tad more drinkable. Other than that, it’s all on herbs, lemon zests, Jägermeister, green tea, pepper and many other spices. Gets just a little drying towards the end but that’s fine. Finish: long, peppery, grassy, mustardy, minty and very dry. Comments: a true testimony to the older days of distilling. Sob… SGP:362 - 88 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another Whiskyfun favourite, the Azeri jazz princess (and genuine princess) Aziza Mustafà Zadeh playing and singing Yandi Ganim Daha (that's on her CD 'Always'). Please buy Aziza Mustafà Zadeh's music!


August 18, 2010

Highland Park 1970

Tasting two official old Highland Park

Highland Park 34 yo 1974/2008 (41.5%, OB, Ambassador’s Cask #5, cask #8845, 228 bottles) Five stars From a refill sherry hogshead. I already had the other Ambassador’s 1974, the 33yo cask #9035 and thought it was great (WF92). Colour: full amber. Nose: fantastic at first nosing, so full yet elegant and very ‘polished’. Exactly this moment when the mingling of the spirit with the oak create a true third dimension, as in other majestic old spirits such as cognac or rum. First we have mainly honeycomb, figs and quinces coated with mint, eucalyptus and pine resin, the whole then bursting into myriads of secondary and tertiary aromas such as wax polish, hessian, tobacco, mushrooms (both fresh and dried), pipe tobacco, prunes… Then more tar, peat and liquorice, a tad heavier but never ‘too much’. Gets finally frankly balsamic (more pine resin, also turpentine, camphor, thuja wood…) Mouth: starts spicy and fairly tannic but with enough dried fruits and other honeyed bits to back it up. Develops on an obvious citrusy zestiness (orange peel, dried tangerines) and quite some tar and peat, just as in the nose. Quite some pepper too, a little curry and finally quite some cinnamon and a little nutmeg. Classic. Finish: long for its strength, with more liquorice and quite some mint in the aftertaste, as often with these oldies. Comments: I think this one is (well, was) a good example of what ‘good’ oak can do to a fine distillate. Sure it’s rather oaky, but what a wonderful oakiness. SGP:462 - 91 points.

Highland Park 1970/2010 (48%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 1800 bottles) Five stars This is the brand new ‘Orcadian’ expression but it’s a fairly large bottling, whilst there were only 290 bottles of the 1964 that I absolutely adored (WF94). This one is a vatting of refill butts and hogsheads that’s been further ‘married’ for around two years in new Spanish oak hogsheads. New oak finishing on a 40yo HP? Colour: gold. Nose: unusual! Very different from the 1974, starting with rather big whiffs of fresh mushrooms, fern, moss and balsa wood as well as a little mustard. Does all that come from the new Spanish oak? The whole is much less rounded and honeyed than usual old HPs, and certainly not vanilled. Also whiffs of sea air and a little graphite. It’s only after you got used to those aromas that you start to detect a honeyed fruitiness, with some dates, dried pineapple and honeydew, a combination that gives it a wee old rum-alike profile. Also rosewood, sandalwood. With water: gets a little simpler but more ‘focused’ on the usual HP notes, heather honey, figs, nectar, beeswax, oranges, sea air and just hints of peat. Really beautiful now – sometimes simplicity is great! Mouth (neat): this is funny, it now resembles the nose of the 1974 as it starts with some rather grassy and balsamic notes such as pine resin (cough medicine), bee propolis, coriander, balm, even a little capsicum, juniper berries… Behind all that we have the same zestiness as in the 1974, with some lemon marmalade and a little passion fruit. With water: once again, water works greatly even if it does bring out more ‘new-oakish’ notes of sweet vanilla and ginger. Beautiful notes of verbena liqueur, lemon balm and mint. Finish: long, spicy, with more oak again and a return of the balsamic and even terpenic notes. Mint in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s no ‘picture-malt’ and rather a ‘movie-malt’ as it’s clearly multi-phased in its development and rather sensible to water (swims well!) I’d have loved to be able to try the initial vatting before it got filled into new oak. PS: at £2,250, this one isn’t cheap. It’s roughly eight times the price of the Ambassador’s Cask #5 when the latter was still available. SGP:561 - 92 points.

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



MUSIC - Recommended listening: more rooty acoustic blues today with Corey Harris and his... Roots woman. Please buy Corey Harris' music and go to his gigs.

Corey Harris

August 17, 2010

Rumfun, Barbados versus Martinique by Rum Nation


Barbados and Martinique are neighbouring islands but while Barbados makes rum from sugar cane molasses, Martinique often distils cane juice (rhum agricole). Rum Nation is an independent bottler, owned by the people who are also behind the excellent whisky bottlers Wilson & Morgan.

Rum Nation

Barbados 8 yo 2002/2010 (43%, Rum Nation, single domaine) Three stars English style (molasses). Colour: full gold. Nose: I had feared this baby would be too heavy and sluggish but that isn’t the case at all. Rather compact, with notes of honey, orange cake and sugar cane as well as a little vanilla. Slightly mineral as well, which is uncommon in my opinion. Mouth: very sweet this time but not thick. Round body, some ripe papayas and bananas, a little caramel, raisins, honey sauce… It’s pleasant. Finish: medium long, very sweet, raisiny and slightly mentholated. Comments: not too complex in my opinion but full and very easy to quaff. The palate is very sweet. SGP:830 - 80 points.

Barbados 12 yo 1995/2008 (43%, Rum Nation, single domaine) Three stars and a half English style (molasses). Colour: dark amber. Nose: completely different from the 8, much more aromatic and extremely unusual with these notes of diesel oil, honeydew, pine liqueur, thyme and liquorice liqueur. Also quite some varnish, heather honey, fruit sauce, very ripe strawberries, overripe bananas… And more and more pine resin. High wood extraction but no tannicity so far. Mouth: oily, very thick, just as resinous as on the nose. Cough syrup, mint, herbal liqueur (50/50 Jägermeister and Underberg) and honey. It’s really unusual and spectacular, with a high oak extraction. Finish: long, all on bitter herbs and spices (quite some aniseed in the aftertaste). Comments: a strange beast! Tastes older than it is. You have to like herbs! SGP:771 - 83 points.

Martinique Hors d'Age (43%, Rum Nation, single domaine, 2006) Three stars French style (rhum agricole). Colour: amber. Nose: bizarrely, this one is a little sweeter than the Barbados (while rhum agricole is usually grassier). We have quite some raisins, molasses (!), caramel-coated nuts, toasted brioche, dried bananas, pineapples… Very nice, let’s hope the palate won’t be too sweet. Mouth: it’ sweet but les so than the Barbados this time. Herbs, grass, honey, cane juice, dried bananas. Classic. Finish: medium long, clean, half grassy, half sweet. Comments: typical Antilles rum of very good quality. SGP:660 - 82 points.

Martinique 12 yo (43%, Rum Nation, Anniversary, decanter, +/-2010) Three stars and a half French style (rhum agricole). Colour: amber. Nose: rather less expressive than the Hors d’Âge at very first nosing but gets then very nicely nutty and resinous, also with more oak, vanilla, toasted bread and coffee… Medium strength. Notes of dried pineapples in the background. Medium sweetness. Mouth: we’re extremely close to the Hors d’Âge. Maybe a little more polished oak and more oranges. Finish: a little longer than the HA, with a little more oak and spices. Black olives in the aftertaste. Comments: classic Martinique – or so it seems according to my weak and short experience with rum. SGP:660 - 83 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a little hard blues today with Maurice John Vaughn's I want to be your spy that was on his excellent 1993 CD 'In The Shadow Of The City' (another one of Aligator Records' great blues recordings). Please buy Maurice John Vaughn's music.

Maurice John Vaughn

August 16, 2010


A wee Longmorn verticale

Longmorn 11 yo 1999/2010 (51.8%, Alambic Classique, cask #10422, 155 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s rather punchy, fresh, still a tad rawish but very nicely fruity, without too many obvious pearish notes, rather gooseberries and light strawberry notes. Also a little melon and peaches as well as some flowers (maybe peonies). It’s globally fresh and very clean but not too simple. With water: interestingly, gets much more resinous and flinty. Damp clay. Then more herbal and grassy. Very nice. Mouth (neat): sweet, a tad youngish but not too much (strawberry liqueur, pear drops), developing on fruit eaux-de-vie and various jams. Also quite some pepper in the background, the cask must have been quite active. With water: excellent ‘young’ fruitiness with a good dose of pepper and a little thyme. Maybe tiny-wee touches of garlic, that’s interesting! Finish: long, clean, on the spicier side. Comments: clean fruity ‘modern’ spirit, not the most complex ever but perfectly made. Gets more herbal with water. Classy young Longmorn anyways. SGP:562 - 86 points.

Longmorn 13 yo 1996/2010 (49%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: interesting and globally quite complex already, more on honey and various sweet and spicy notes. Also more beeswax, a faint flintiness, a little mint and various garden fruits. Ripe apples, ripe white peaches, gooseberries. Longmorn’s natural class is already talking. With water: more leather grease, wax, a little metal polish… Cider apples and chlorophyll. Another dimension. Mouth (neat): rather punchy, with an excellent fruitiness coated with spices and a little wax. Fruit salad. Oily mouth feel. Goes on with more herbs and ‘resinous’ honeys, honeydew, just wee touches of tinned apricots and maybe papayas… High quality! With water: perfect spiced up fruits and a little more ginger. Grapefruits and ‘a feeling of peat’. Finish: long, clean, citrusy and peppery, with some unexpected rosewater in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, I guess it’s close to the best you can make out of a 13yo Speysider ex- bb hhd. SGP:663 - 88 points.

Longmorn 19 yo 1990/2009 (54.5%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #25003, 219 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a fully mature Longmorn this time, obviously more complex, with more spicy herbs, herbal liqueurs, mint, a little vanilla, touches of sour apples and peaches… Quite some nutmeg and cinnamon as well. With water: gets more oriental. Green curry, cardamom, even a little incense, with also some vanilla in the background. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, full, quite complex, extremely satisfying. Perfect balance between the fruits, the resinous notes and the sweet spices. Goes on with a continuous duet between the fruits (peaches and other garden fruits) and the spices and pine resin. Really perfect. With water: purrfekt. Waxy, flinty, citrusy, spicy… And a perfect mouth feel. Finish: long, with the spices cleaning up your palate. Gingery aftertaste. Comments: top notch spirit from a top notch cask, topnotchally selected (wot?) Could also have been a northern Highlander. I may have said it before but why Pernod/Chivas don’t do much out of the Longmorn brand name remains a total mystery to this poor whisky lover. SGP:562 - 91 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the fab Canadian jazz pianist Dave Restivo plays Village Nights (it's on his recent CD Prayer For Humankind(ness)). Please buy Dave Restivo's music.

Dave Restivo

August 15, 2010


1965-1991, a short Lochside verticale

Lochside 1991/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill bourbon barrels) Three starsColour: white wine. Nose: starts a little feinty but with quite a presence. It’s also got some nice flinty, mineral notes and just wee touches of porridge and cut grass. The fruitiness comes out later, with some grapefruit and lemon but it remains a tad feinty and kind of metallic. Paraffin. Mouth: better balanced and more ‘Lochside’, with some grapefruits and lemons. More grass after that, apple peelings, walnuts, green tea, a little paprika… Quite some oak as well, slightly green tannins, more tea… It’s a nice Lochside but the problem is that there also some brilliant Lochsides – albeit fewer and fewer of them. Finish: rather short, lemony and resinous. Lime and mint (right, mojito), marzipan… The aftertaste is very nice though, on bitter oranges and pepper. Comments: well, it’s Lochside so it can’t only be ‘average’. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (54%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 183 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: not as fruity as expected at first nosing, rather on something phenolic and unusually smoky. Whiffs of hay, bonfire, then smoked tea… Very leafy and leathery, actually. Also some parsley. One can feel that there may be some fruits below the surface but they don’t quite make it to your nostrils. Yet? With water: not really, it’s still very grassy and leafy, even after fifteen minutes. Now, lovers of ultra-grassy (and limey) whiskies will probably love this. Mouth (neat): extremely unusual. Punchy and very citrusy, with litres of lemonade and even gin (gin-fizz), tonic water, artichoke liqueur (I think Cynar is one) and other very grassy items. Chlorophyll chewing gums, green tea, bitters, lemon zests… Again, this is very unusual and much less on tangerines and passion fruits than other 1981 Lochsides that I could try. Also a lot of wood extracts, resin and such. With water: ah yes, here they come! More lemon, more grapefruits, more tangerines, even star fruits, passion fruits… It’s still grassy and kind of sharp but the whole is much better now. Finish: long, citrusy and quite bitter, with some green tannins. Comments: I never thought I’d say this about a Lochside but I feel this one is really a love it or hate it expression, or maybe it suffers from the comparison with the fantastic fruitiness of the 1965 (please see below). Okay, I think I’ll go for a ‘conservatory’ score (remember, only one guy’s opinion!) but no doubt it’s a very interesting proposition, as they say in the modern world of cooks. By the way, the Whisky Agency once had a 1987 that I liked much better. SGP:371 – 85 points. PS: this one is really a bugger! I usually get the flak after having published some notes but this time I’ve already been chatting with some friends about it and some loved it and couldn't understand why I loved it less. Really a love it or love it less malt!

Lochside 20 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label) Five stars These 1965s were bottled at various ages, I already had the 17yo back in 2004 and loved it (WF92). Colour: full gold. Nose: blow, trumpets! This one smells just like a large basket full of fresh fruits such as bilberries and blackberries, kumquats, mangos and green bananas plus just tiny whiffs of coal smoke. This is extremely peculiar and truly beautiful but warning, the palate may be as flat as a dab after all these years… Mouth: fan-tas-tic! Fabulously lemony and citrusy, astoundingly complex, exceptionally waxy and stunningly… well, stunning. Enough said – please call that brigade. Finish: this is the only weak side, the finish is a tad short and kind of narrow, which isn’t unusual with whiskies that were bottled at 40% vol. and that already spent 25 years in glass. Comments: state of the art Lochside, like most 1965s and 1966s. Wondering what the good Mr Hobbs did at the time. New washbacks made out of… concrete, like at Ben Nevis? SGP:651 - 93 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: 'tu veux un camembert?' No, no, this isn't the Pink Floyd, it's Gong's ultra-cult spaced-out psychedelic Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads/Foghat Digs Holes In Space that was on 1971's Camembert Electrique album. Gong was an English-French band that used to gather Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe and Christian Tritsch at the time. Please buy Gong's music!


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

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



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

Highland Park 34 yo 1974/2008 (41.5%, OB, Ambassador’s Cask #5, cask #8845, 228 bottles)

Highland Park 1970/2010 (48%, OB, Orcadian Vintage Series, 1800 bottles)

Laphroaig 11 yo 1999/2010 (59.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry)

Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2010 (54.5%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon)

Lochside 20 yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label)

Longmorn 19 yo 1990/2009 (54.5%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #25003, 219 bottles)