(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2013 - Part 1

July 2013 - part 2 <--- August 2013 - part 1 ---> August 2013 - part 2


August 14, 2013


Tasting two excellent indie Dalmore

I really enjoyed the official 1995 ‘distillery exclusive’ a lot (WF 88) but other than that one, the indies tend to issue cleaner, more natural, closer to the distillate versions and, above all, use less wine wood (finishing, finessing, enhancing, whatever they call that). As the other guy said, when whisky gets too winey it becomes cognac. We’re not in 1910 anymore, are we?

Dalmore 16 yo 1996/2013 (46%, The Maltman, sherry finish, cask #3221)

Dalmore 16 yo 1996/2013 (46%, The Maltman, sherry finish, cask #3221) Four stars This one was finished in sherry but the pale colour suggests that was a light treatment. Unless it’s only a matter of ‘no caramel’ in this case. Colour: gold. Nose: Dalmore is a great spirit and that shows here. There’s tangerines and oranges, honey, white chocolate and just the faintest touches of gunpowder. A little grenadine too, touches of strawberry jam, fruit salad, ‘western orchard in summer’… In short, it’s very nicely fruity. Mouth: same big fruitiness, the oranges are there again, together with other citrus fruits. It’s even a tad Rosebanky, in a way. There’s even some lime. A refreshing Dalmore, this one goes down a treat. Finish: quite long, becoming much grassier. Zests, grass. A little sour wood in the aftertaste, maybe from the sherry cask. Walnut wine. Comments: the sherry’s discreet here, and the spirit is great. I enjoy this freshness very much. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Dalmore 24 yo 1989/2013 (46.6%, Cadenhead, small batch)

Dalmore 24 yo 1989/2013 (46.6%, Cadenhead, small batch) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this is a grassier version, with also more roots, coffee beans, maybe celeriac, walnuts… That doesn’t mean it isn’t fruity, but we’re rather more on cut apples before the citrus kicks in, with the expected oranges and pink grapefruits. While I’m at it, a friend asked me why I sometimes write about pink grapefruits rather than just ‘grapefruits’. As a matter of fact, the pink ones are much sweeter and less acidic than the yellow ones. In that sense they’re closer to oranges than to lemons, if you see what I mean. But you knew that, of course. Mouth: same very lively profile as in the 1996 but there’s even more of everything. Mind you, this is perfect! All citrus fruits plus cider apples and touches of passion fruits, then a few green spices, maybe cardamom. Also a feeling of fresh coriander and lemon grass. Maybe even sorrel. Great body, perfect strength. Finish: long, nervous, citrusy. Apple skins in the aftertaste. Comments: I almost went for 90. Superb fresh and clean Dalmore. SGP:651 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Dalmore I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sun Ra. Track: the lovesupremian Door of the cosmos. Please visit buy Sun Ra's and the Arkestra's music...

August 13, 2013


A hotchpotch of some of
the weirdest whiskies around

This should be fun! With all the craft distillers who are inventing new ways of making whisky every day, new styles keep appearing, whether they're intentional or the result of two many other whiskies ;-). Let's have one or six of them today...

Clyde May's Conecuh Ridge (42.5%, OB, Alabama whiskey, +/-2013)

Clyde May's Conecuh Ridge (42.5%, OB, Alabama whiskey, +/-2013) Two stars According to good old Wikipedia, this ‘is a brand of whiskey produced by the Dallas, Texas based Spirits Acquisition Corp. It is marketed as a recreation of a high-quality aged moonshine whiskey which was produced illegally in Alabama during the mid to late 20th century.’ Texas? Alabama? I’m lost, already. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: orangey indeed. You know, when you try quite a lot of whiskies, it’s always pleasant to come across something ‘different’, odd or unusual, and that’s certainly the case here. There’s a massive oakiness, very ‘American’, with a huge sweetness and a very liqueury side, not only around oranges and coconut, but also litchis, roses, violets (parfait amour) and geranium. Bags and bags of geranium flowers, we’re not talking stems or leaves, which would be an utter flaw. So it’s very perfumy, but that’s pleasant even if we’re in sweet liqueur territories so far. After fifteen minutes: vanilla fudge all over the place. Mouth: yeah, it’s a liqueur more than whisky. Ultra-sweet and ridden with sweet spices, crystallised ginger, Seville oranges, honey, with a wee cologne-y feeling in the background. Bubblegum. It’s no deep whisky but it works. Should go very well on ice, the alcohol’s a bit in the front and ice would put it back to where it belongs. Finish: not very long but the ginger keeps it tight and focused. No dullness – which was my fear. Comments: sweet, honest, pleasant. Another good surprise despite the fact that I’ve got no sweet tooth. Craft is not always crap. SGP:840 - 75 points.

Roughstock Montana Pure Malt Whiskey (45%, OB, +/-2013)

Roughstock Montana Pure Malt Whiskey (45%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars This is ‘craft’. They wrote on their website ‘When the world’s best malt barley is grown all around you, it only makes sense to make world class malt whiskey’. Starts well, doesn’t it! Colour: gold. Nose: absolutely nothing to do with the Texan Alabamian. This is all on marzipan and breads, wheat bread, pumpernickel, porridge… There’s a little ginger too, leaven, oak, then more gingerbread as well as a little earth and pipe tobacco. Tons of gingerbread! Once again, this is funny and this is nice, even if it’s quite un-whisky. But what’s whisky today, you may ask? Mouth: strange and nice. Honey-covered cornbread? It’s almost as sweet as the Alabamian but where there was bubblegum there’s gingerbread. It is, in fact, akin to the gingerbread liqueur we’re making here in Alsace. Not the best stuff we make, mind you, but it’s got its aficionados. Finish: relatively short, very honeyed and, again and again, full of gingerbread. Comments: we’re a little closer to the raw materials (remember, it’s not wood, it’s grain), which is always good news, but the sweetness is pretty excessive, says this Scotch lover. Nevertheless, it’s very, very honest stuff, worth trying. SGP:750 - 72 points.

Good, why not stay in America, and have a peaty one now? A peaty one???...

Lost Spirits Leviathan II (53%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2013)

Lost Spirits Leviathan II (53%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2013) Three stars and a half The epitome of unlikeliness in whisky. American single malt, peated to Octomore levels (more than 100ppm in the malted barley) using Canadian peat, then matured in sémillon casks. Sémillon is Bordeaux’s main white grape variety, but I guess this is American sémillon. Why it’s ‘lost’, I have no ideas, maybe I should have done a little more googling. Please fasten your seat belts… Colour: gold. Nose: remember Balcones Brimstone? Nothing to do with it, this is… completely different. It’s probably quite ‘awful’, but I just love it. Maybe I’m getting perverse wrt whisky? Actually, I know why I love it, it smells exactly like ‘a beekeeper working on an open hive’. That means there’s a lot of honey, wood and wax, but also the smoke that the beekeepers use to keep the bees away. My father, who used to be an amateur beekeeper, was using black tobacco (Gauloise type) and that’s exactly what I’m finding in this whisky – and why I find this nose quite stunning. Mouth: oh what is this? It’s immensely bizarre. The smoke is huge but we’re rather going toward some kind of heavy lapsang souchong (‘tarry’) sweetened with honey. Nothing to do with peated Scotch here, absolutely nothing. I also find the same kind of tobacco as in the nose (beyond Gauloise, we call that ‘gris’ i.e. ‘grey’), then a growing sourness that hints at Scandinavian fish specialties. Weird saltiness. Finish: long, a tad obnoxious, not unlike some strong cheeses. I mean, you really have to like this. A little acrid wood in the aftertaste. Comments: sure this is single malt whisky but I’d say rum, cognac or tequila are much closer to Scotch whisky than this very odd spirit. My problem is that I quite love it, I think I may have to go see a shrink. SGP:666 (how devilish is that, doctor?) - 83 points.

Wait, I may have something that might be even weirder… Swiss peated whisky!

Säntis ‘Cask Strength Peated’ (52%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2012)

Säntis ‘Cask Strength Peated’ (52%, OB, Switzerland, +/-2012) one star and a half Another variant by Brauerei Locher in Appenzell, eastern Switzerland. Colour: amber/orange. Nose: coffee, coffee, coffee and coffee. Love this! And it’s totally ristretto, George. What else? Maybe one or two bitter oranges, maybe lapsang souchong tea again and possibly some ‘blackened’ bacon. It’s big and huge, ech hab’ dass gern. Mouth: well well well, things become more complicated. The smoke’s huge but it’s not quite integrated, in that sense it feels a bit like Brimstone, that is to say smoked spirit, not spirit made out of smoked grains. It’s also a little sour and there’s a soapiness arising, while more and more smoked fish come out. Smoked herring im Appenzell? So yeah, it’s a little disjointed but it’s really spectacular. Finish: very long, astringent, saltier and indeed, kippery. BBQ. Sadly, a little burnt plastic in the aftertaste. Comments: a weird beast. Loved the nose, not too sure about the palate. Very difficult to score, maybe I shouldn’t. Duty, heavy duty… But I remain a Säntis fan! SGP:277 - 69 points. PS: Il enjoyed an earlier batch much better back in 2010 (WF 85).

Could whisky get any weirder than those? You bet?...

Orbis Aged World Whiskey (40%, St. James Distillery, +/-2013)

Orbis Aged World Whiskey (40%, St. James Distillery, +/-2013) Three stars and a half We already had ‘mixed’ whiskies from Bruichladdich (Celtic Nations or something) or other adventurous entrepreneurs, not to mention the tsunamis of crappy ‘world’ whiskies that flood our supermarkets at 6 euros a bottle (you know, 95% Indian, 5% Scotch). This goes further, as it’s a blend of Scottish, Irish, Japanese, Canadian and American whisky. As for who’s behind this ‘St James Distillery’ from London, no ideas. I guess they have nothing to do with the ‘St. James Distillery’ in Martinique, do they? Colour: straw. Nose: crikey, this is nice! It’s a light, zesty, lemony spirit that really hints at Sauvignon blanc. It actually noses like a Sancerre, honest! That effect is even more obvious after the few peated monsters that we just had. So chalk and lemon all over the place, that’s nice. Mouth: I hate to say that, but this works. It’s really a shame that they bottled it a 40%, because it remains weak and fragile (not only because of the monsters we had before), but this lemony, slightly grainy, barleyish palate is fresh and pleasant. They may have managed to reproduce old-style Lowland, ala Rosebank! Well done! Finish: a bit short but it’s still pleasant, fresh, between barley, apples and lemon. Smokier aftertaste. Comments: the guy who composed this knew his job. Who are you? SGP:442 - 83 points.

Good, that one was not weird enough, it was even not weird at all. So, last chance…

Eristoff Gold ‘Golden Caramel’ (20%, OB, vodka?, +-2013)

Eristoff Gold ‘Golden Caramel’ (20%, OB, vodka?, +-2013) Hell, I had thought this would be aged vodka. I’ve always wanted to do a nice little session with various aged vodkas. What I hadn’t notice when I sourced this baby was that it was actually bottled at a feeble 20% vol. What’s that? A ‘drink’? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: reeks of caramel, like the cheapest bourbons. Caramel here, caramel there, even Bailey’s Irish Cream has less caramel. Even the lethal Coca Cola. Even plain caramel. Now, if you enjoy caramel… Mouth: this is made to enslave our youth and to make them addicted to sugar. It’s one of the ugliest alcoholic drinks I’ve ever tasted, it’s shock-full of sugar and it should just be streng verboten absolutely anywhere. Finish: none, only sugar. Comments: this does not belong here, I know, but while I’m at it, I think this is a public health issue. No state or nation should allow the multinationals to sell cheap drinks that contain so much industrial sugar. Shame! SGP:900 - 0 points (right, that 0 is more symbolic than anything else, it's not really worth only zero, but it's close.)


Pete and Jack in St. Tropez



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: some superb boppy trumpet with Marvin Stamm. Track: Airegin. Please visit Mr Stamm's website and buy the music...

August 12, 2013


Seven Convalmore

Convalmores don’t grow in trees these days, they never did anyway. The distillery was closed in 1985 and apart from a very nice old OB a few years back, new Convalmores have become rarer and rarer. Except that the magicians at Cadenhead’s just issued a brand new one, a 1977. Time to compare this new baby with a few siblings, why not in a wee traditional verticale? We’ll first have an aperitif that could have been the last one in the verticale, but as it’s also the lightest and most possibly the most fragile, we’ll have it as #1 if you don’t mind. Oh, and it is to be noted that I hardly ever tasted more than ten Convalmores until today.

Convalmore 1969/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice)

Convalmore 1969/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Two stars The only 1969 I’ve tried before was a very young CC old brown label (12 yo, WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: definitely old style, with a sourness that’s not be found anymore in contemporary whiskies. We’re rather between sour apple juice, pine needles, old wood, soot (a lot) and then this feeling of old toolbox, possibly from a little OBE. It’s a rather aromatic nose, certainly not weak. Maybe a little curry too? Mouth: ah, it’s like sipping a cocktail made out of shoe polish and walnut liqueur (have to try that). It’s bitter, acrid, grassy, becoming even cardboardy after a few seconds in your mouths, with some white pepper as well, cinnamon, cocoa powder (not the sweet ones!)… This really isn’t easy despite some pleasant touches of lemon. Finish: a little short, leaving only the drier parts on your tongue. Overinfused green tea. Comments: certainly interesting and obviously un-modern. It’s really indie malt whisky as it used to be sold a long time ago: as ‘interesting variants’, if not alternatives. SGP:372 - 76 points.

Convalmore 23 yo 1984/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill sherry hogshead)

Convalmore 23 yo 1984/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill sherry hogshead) Three stars and a halfThis one was distilled not long before the distillery was closed for good. Colour: straw. Nose: whah! We’re very far from the 1969, this is much grassier, bitterer, difficult, with whiffs of burning plastic and paper. The good news is that as often, things tend to improve once the fruits manage to come through, in this case a combination of bitter almonds and apples. Maybe also white peaches? Also putty and a little soapiness. A tad wobbly, I’d say, but it improves. Some paraffin too. Mouth: much easier than the 1969, fruitier, without so much drying parts and with rather more power as well. Nice touches of bananas and pineapples. A fruit salad with green spices, cinnamon, juniper. Enjoyable! Finish: quite long, becoming drying this time, with a rather massive pepper coming out. The paraffin is back in the aftertaste. Comments: not much easier than the 1969, but this one’s pleasant and the first part of the palate (arrival and middle) were even very nice. SGP:462 - 83 points.

Convalmore-Glenlivet 26 yo 1981 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, sherry, +/-2007)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 26 yo 1981 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, sherry, +/-2007) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts where the 1984 ended on the nose, that is to say with paraffin. There’s some curry as well, pinesap, maybe more leather and apples, soot… I also seem to detect green bananas but the whole always remains quite waxy and paraffiny. Wasabi mixed with honey, which should give us some kind of sweet mustard? Mouth: ah, now we’re talking! Another planet, with many crystallized fruits, citrus, bananas, maybe mangos, as well as angelica and lemongrass. Perfect mouth feel and a perfect green spiciness around ‘the end of the middle’. Soft curry? Finish: long, with a little chocolate now, oranges, marzipan and bitter almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: this one was less sooty/bitter than the G&Ms. The palate’s well above the nose (yes, grand horror mister anatomist). SGP:561 - 87 points.

Convalmore 22 yo 1978/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 336 bottles)

Convalmore 22 yo 1978/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 336 bottles) Four stars There used to be a superb 1978 in the official Rare Malts series (WF 90). Colour: straw. Nose: this one is more powerful, quite obviously, but also more mineral, austere, almondy and… paraffiny. Hints of very grassy white rhum agricole, freshly mown lawn, then moss and this discreet touch of plastic that we already had in the 1984. It’s much more ‘northern Highlands’ than ‘Speyside’, assuming that regions do make sense in Scotland. Well, maybe they did more in the past? Mouth: same as with the 1981, the palate is much sexier than the nose. We do find the same notes of citrus fruits, oranges, almonds, sweet curry paste and not-too-ripe bananas. It remains a grassy whisky but the zestiness makes it most pleasant. Finish: long, with the same wee touch of plastic and paraffin again (nothing disturbing, honest) and then lemon honey, apple peelings and marzipan. Comments: very close to the 1981, same high quality. Convalmore is going up in my estimation. Oh and this one needed no water. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Convalmore-Glenlivet 36 yo 1977/2013 (58.2%, Cadenhead, small batch, hogshead, 288 bottles)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 36 yo 1977/2013 (58.2%, Cadenhead, small batch, hogshead, 288 bottles) Five stars This is Cadenhead’s new one, obviously. The fairly recent OB was a 1977 as well and it was great (bottled 2005 – well that’s not too recent, is it – WF 89). Colour: full gold. Nose: ah. Can one mix tar with vanilla and chocolate? That’s all I get at first nosing, all other aromas remain very tiny, almost negligible (maybe tobacco, maybe mangos, maybe bananas, maybe grass, maybe almonds). Water is needed. With water: oooh! The best use of water, the whisky does ‘the peacock’s tail’, on many fruits and spices. The oak woke up as well but I guess that was unavoidable (old wood, musty wine cellar). Great nose. Mouth (neat): big, what do I say, huge crystallised lemon and tangerine on a bed of wax and paraffin again. Very creamy, oily body. Maybe a little mead too, orange blossom… With water: fab fruitiness, especially ‘green’ fruits. Carambola? Lime? Finish: maybe not the longest, but it’s clean, fruity, complex and the honeyed aftertaste is lovely. Comments: there aren’t enough around but maybe, I said maybe 1977 was to Convalmore what 1976 was to Benriach and 1972 to Caperdonich? Elegant fruit bombs… SGP:751 - 92 points.

Convalmore 30 yo 1976/2007 (44.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL ref #3520, 192 bottles)

Convalmore 30 yo 1976/2007 (44.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL ref #3520, 192 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the first one that’s frankly fresh and fruity at first nosing, and that’s most enjoyable. It’s actually very ‘fruit-salady’ (S., you’re fired), with plenty of oranges, pears, peaches, melons and even white cherries. Not to forget the bananas. Behind this massive fruitiness, also a few aromatic herbs, verbena, wormwood, aniseed and such. Lovely, and I mean lovely nose. Should we call it an ‘un-Convalmore’ nose? After fifteen minutes, some amazing grapefruit coming through, loud and crystal clean. Mouth: bang, another stunner! This one’s narrow and even simple, with ‘only’ crisp and zesty fruits and fresh, minty herbs, but that’s more than enough. Great spicy counterpoint in the background (pepper, cardamom). Finish: long, with maybe only a tiny-wee soapiness again, but the grapefruits are absolutely wunderbar. Comments: Convalmore’s going up up up in my list. SGP:751 - 91 points.

Convalmore 31 yo 1975/2006 (46.9%, Enjoy Whisky, 268 bottles)

Convalmore 31 yo 1975/2006 (46.9%, Enjoy Whisky, 268 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale straw. Nose: a pretty different style again, this time it’s the vanilla and touches of bread that strike first (strange, usually bread goes away with age), together with a little varnish and then aromatic herbs. Maybe touches of lavender? Geranium? Maybe also green melon. It’s an interesting nose, quite unusual, not just at Convalmore’s. The paraffin is back as well. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: it’s having a little trouble after the 1977 and 1976 but it remains a very fine dram. Maybe the oak’s got a little too loud vs. the zesty fruits that are well there again. I mean grapefruits again, also passion fruits and mangos. Some mint as well. Very, very fine but I’m afraid it’s got a bad seat. Finish: quite long, more vibrant again, on lime and grapefruits. Touches of cane sugar and mint… Scottish mojito? Some chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: no, it’s very, very fine, but probably less ‘focused’ than the beautiful 1977 and 1976. SGP:651 - 85 points. We’ll have more Convalmore in the coming weeks.

(with big hugs to Ivar)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Convalmore I've tasted so far



Block Today: FOLK JAZZ. Performer: the extraordinary Italian accordionist Filippo Gambetta. Track: Fica Mal Com Deus. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 11, 2013


Malternatives, four Jamaican rums

So today we’re also going Jamaican. I have to say some Hampden by various whisky bottlers have been much to my liking in the past, for example!

Mezan Jamaica XO (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Mezan Jamaica XO (40%, OB, +/-2013) Four stars It seems that Mezan is a relatively new brand that specialises in rums. So they’re indie bottlers but strangely enough, they bottle at 40%vol. This one is a blend of Hampden and Monymusk. Colour: white wine. Nose: lovely fatness and herbs, with a lot of sugar cane and all these olives that I often find in heavy rums. Well, this isn’t heavy as such, but it’s got a great structure. The ripe bananas make a late arrival, which might be all for the better. After five minutes, more, much more tinned pineapple as well as more putty. Some green tea too. Surprisingly complex. Mouth: the 40% aren’t a problem, at all. It’s all much in line with the nose, with these olives, a very grassy sugar cane, a touch of salt and then more and more almonds, marzipan and a feeling of putty. There’s almost a little peat, in a way. Finish: a little short now, and thinnish, but I like this saltiness in my rum. Touches of mescal. Comments: exactly the kind of rum that peat lovers would enjoy, if I may say so. A very excellent surprise! SGP:462 - around 86 points.

Hampden 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Hampden 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2013) Three stars and a half Pure Hampden Estate this time, but always by Mezan and always at 40%. Colour: white wine. Nose: rather sweeter and fruitier than the XO, although the olive-y side shines through again. Some candy sugar too, more olives… What’s funny is that where the XO got fruitier, this one becomes more herbal and grassy. And yes, olive-y. More and more sugar cane. Very nice, pretty complex nose again. Mouth: a gentle beast, tarry, putty-like, salty. The olives are back again, both black and green, while a few capers and just a little lime blend well with a very moderate sugariness. We’re well at Hampden. Finish: a notch longer than the XO, a little hotter and more spirity too, but it’s still excellent. More liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent indeed, it’s just that I could try some even more excellent Hampdens by whisky bottlers such as Germany’s Whisky Cask or Duncan Taylor. Or Blackadder. SGP:462 - around 84 points.

Coruba 18 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Coruba 18 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) Two stars A Jamaican rum by The Rum Company Ltd. Not too sure they own a distillery. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is having trouble after the aromatic and very fresh Mezans, it’s less characterful despite an older age, and rounder and smoother. More maple syrup, honey, vanilla cream and candy sugar, it’s nice but a whisky lover may find this a little too narrow. Mouth: yeah, it’s good, no doubt, and starts right with bananas and vanilla, but we’re far from the Mezans’ complexity. Some butterscotch, apple pie, honey, touches of salt again… Yes, good but maybe nothing to write home about. Finish: slightly short, a little indistinct, lacking precision, I’d say. I seem to find olives again in the aftertaste. Comments: just a very fine old rum, not much else to say. SGP:641 - around 75 points.

Appleton Estate 21 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Appleton Estate 21 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) A well-known brand. As we Frenchmen have our own distilleries in the Caribbean, we hardly ever come across these but I’ve heard good things, it’s one of the ‘foreign’ names that do come through within the chatting circles. Colour: full amber. Nose: this is funny, it reminds me a bit of some aged bourbons as well as of some orange liqueurs. It’s very pleasant but very sweet and almost too heady. It is, so far, exactly the style of rum I’m not too fond of. A lot of jam and honey too, roses, maybe strawberries... Very liqueury. Mouth: same feeling. It’s probably great, but it’s not my kind of spirit. Too smooth, too sweet, too aromatic in a way, and even too sugary, while some sweet oak (big vanilla) complements the whole. More a liqueur than rum. Finish: pretty long but quite oaky. Sweet cinnamon and orange liqueur. Comments: don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s excellent rum but it’s not my kind at all. Feels like ‘arranged’ rum. Read flavoured. I’d rather have one tiny glass of the Mezans rather than a demijohn of this thick spirit. SGP:730 - around 60 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: something very sweet to go with the rums, Joe Bataan. Track: I wish you love. Please visit Joe Bataan's website and buy his music...

August 10, 2013


Tasting two discreet official Balvenie

I love Balvenie’s apricoty/quincy profile, so I’m usually a little less fond of those that are more oak-influenced or finished, but that’s not always the case, lets see… Having said that, DoubleWood is a little last year, there’s now TripleWood and I’m sure we’ll soon see Quadruple or even QuintupleWood versions (generally speaking, not especially at Balvenie). We could as well start to buy planks if you ask me ;-)…

Balvenie 14 yo 'Caribbean Cask' (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Balvenie 14 yo 'Caribbean Cask' (43%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars and a half There used to be a very good (WF 85) 14yo ‘Cuban Selection’ a few years back but I guess that one hasn’t been very successful in the good old US of A, unless the owners haven’t even tried to export it to Uncle Sam’s. Ah, nothing beats a sweet old embargo… Colour: gold. Nose: I do not know if this is sugar cane, but there’s an obvious leafiness, while the whole is not very aromatic. I had thought this baby would be mucho tropical, it’s not. We’re actually rather on tea and there’s even a feeling of wet newspaper, then mushrooms. A shy nose. Nice touches of grapefruits coming through after a while, though. Mouth: much, much more happening. Very nice ‘nervous’ start, citrusy, reminding me of some lemon-flavoured fudge I had in Scotland a while back. There is, indeed, a little cane sugar and even praline, then these touches of black olives and a saltiness that hint at rhum agricole (which they wouldn’t make in Cuba, would they?) I like this ‘world’ palate. Finish: medium length, maltier and more caramelly again. Muscovado sugar and orange zests. Comments: liked the palate quite a lot, the nose was more… What was it again? Same score as the older Cuban version. SGP:441 - 84 points.

Balvenie 17 yo 'DoubleWood' (43%, OB, 2012)

Balvenie 17 yo 'DoubleWood' (43%, OB, 2012) Two stars and a half An older version of the very popular 12 yo DoubleWood, which is highly popular in France. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is even shier than the Caribbean, which says a lot. Probably not a nosing whisky, but I do seem to discern whiffs of old roses, patchouli and oranges. Then we have a little vanilla, quite some fresh oak and more apple skins. It’s all discreet and shy but it’s also a pretty elegant whisky. After ten minutes: shortbread? Mouth: once again, the palate’s much more expressive but I’m not too fond of these notes of newish oak. You know, these gingery notes, bitter orange zests, oak pepper and such. On the other hand, it’s nicely fruitcaky as well (excuse me). Roasted nuts. Finish: not quite long but sadly, the green oakiness got even louder. Nothing overwhelming, but there are enough other great Balvenies. Comments: I do not want to try the TripleWood. I believe oak is malt’s best friend, but it can also become its worst enemy, especially when the distillate is fantastic. SGP:461 - 78 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Balvenie I've tasted so far



Block Today: FOLK ROCK. One of the very first LPs I bought when I was a kid. A rare band, between America and CSN&Y. Performer: Lazarus. Track: Refugee. Please buy their music...

August 9, 2013


Three Benriach 1976 plus a short verticale

Benriach + 1976 sure is a winning combo, but some say that the best casks have already been bottled and that what we’re now seeing is the second choice. Really? And assuming that is the case, wouldn’t even the second choice be of great quality? Let’s see…

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.3%, OB for The Whisky Fair, sherry, cask #731, 195 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.3%, OB for The Whisky Fair, sherry, cask #731, 195 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: no, seriously, this is textbook 1976 Benriach, ridden with passion fruits and mangos. The oak is maybe a notch louder than in earlier +/-30yo bottlings, and maybe this is a tad less fresh and vibrant, but given that the sherry is minimal (wee touches of sultanas), we’re remaining in high territories so far. Also very nice notes of cider apples that keep it clean and fresh. So absolutely nothing to complain about, getting especially since the mango notes never stop growing. Mouth: yeah well, the oak’s louder for sure. I mean, louder than in the most famous 1976s. It hasn’t taken over yet, but one can feel that it’s a matter of two or three years, max. Anyway, so far it remains a very fruity Benriach, with the same tropical fruits plus a citrusy side that’s most pleasant. Oak aged tangerine eau-de-vie? Finish: of medium length, with a little more vanilla. Cardamom, menthol and nutmeg in the aftertaste. And cloves – just a little. Comments: still excellent, even if maybe not as fab as earlier 1976s for The Whisky Fair. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Benriach 37 yo 1976/2013 (49.6%, OB, batch 10, hogshead, cask #2013, 102 bottles)

Benriach 37 yo 1976/2013 (49.6%, OB, batch 10, hogshead, cask #2013, 102 bottles) Five stars This one is the brand new one. Bottling cask #2013 in 2013, how smart is that? Colour: dark gold. Nose: we aren’t far from cask #731, this is just a notch more closed and mildly chocolaty. There’s a little more custard too, but other than that and despite a little sour wood and coffee, we have the usual topical fruits. Indeed, mangos and passion fruits first. Also growing notes of humus and freshly broken branches. This is probably less immediate than earlier bottlings, but I’m wondering if it’s not a little more complex. The palate will tell. Mouth: ah no, this one’s still in the first league. It’s even powerful, and sure it’s got a little wood, but everything is still vibrantly tropical. Rather more grapefruits, in fact, it’s a pretty zesty old Benriach. I also enjoy the pepper and even the touches of chillies that, combined with the mangos and the grapefruits, give it a funny Mexican touch. Or is that Tabasco? Finish: very long, maybe a little acrid but I actually enjoy that, with a grassier aftertaste. Lemon zests? Maybe it’s because we’re having quite some mescals and tequilas these days, but I’d even dare adding… agave? Comments: it’s actually not that far ahead of cask #731 but the added zestiness works very well in my book. But you have to like them sharp! SGP:651 - 91 points. PS: in the older 1976s, the S in the SGP could go up to 7 or 8, that’s not the case anymore in current bottlings.

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,6%, OB for The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, cask #963, 132 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,6%, OB for The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, cask #963, 132 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: this one might be a little more difficult at this point, maybe it’s the sherry that’s creating these wee almondy/soapy touches that are less ‘Benriach’. Having said that, the sultanas and figs do mingle very well with the topical fruits, and I must add that the growing notes of walnuts are much to my liking. Also more wild touches, mushrooms, humus like in the new one, a slight gaminess and then more and more tobacco. A pack of untipped Camels from the olden days? Mouth: nah, honestly, this works. The oak and the fino-ish sherry are pretty loud but the passion fruits and the lemons are big enough to stand that. That creates a rather mentholated profile, which works well since it’s no sweetish whisky. Mint alone is superb, mint plus sugar/sweetness is a nightmare in my opinion. The oak, although very obvious, remains respectful (!?) Ah well, I know what I’m trying to say. Finish: long, maybe a little biting and peppery thanks to the oak. Leathery aftertaste and even a smokiness. Where does that smoke come from? Comments: all excellent. I’ll keep it at 90 because I’ve decided to sell any points above 90 from now on. 1.00€ a point, 12 for 10.00€, how does that sound? Seriously, I still think cask #2013 was a notch more to my liking, thanks to its bigger zestiness. SGP:651 - 90 points.

You know what, I think we should go on with younger Benriachs while we’re at it. There are many new ones and this is a good occasion to compare them with the old 1976s. Let’s just take our time so that no death seat effect can occur… (zzz zzz zzz).
Good, I’m ready, let’s do a wee verticale!

Benriach 15 yo 1998/2013 (56.1%, OB, batch 10, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #7633, 630 bottles)

Benriach 15 yo 1998/2013 (56.1%, OB, batch 10, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #7633, 630 bottles) Three stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s a powerful, rather chocolaty and leathery Benriach, apparently less richly sweet than other PXed malts. There is some gunpowder and struck matches (maybe even cordite if I remember cordite well) too but no ‘asparagus or eggs’, while rounder notes of raisins and all kinds of dried fruits stat to come out after just a few seconds. Also moist and fruity pipe tobacco. After ten minutes: remained very chocolaty. With water: as often with these sherries – and not only with sherried whiskies – there’s much saponification happening. In this case, you have to wait before the notes of soap go away. No worries, they do go away and then there’s even more chocolate – and struck matches. Mouth (neat): sweet and powerful, we’re more or less in Glendronach territories, which is funny. Big sweet sherry, sultanas, honey and fruitcake with pleasantly loud spices right in the arrival. Cloves and pepper first! It’s quite hot, let’s add water again. With water: it’s the leather that came to the front. I’m not a sucker for this style. Finish: long, still a little harsh and leathery. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: this one has its moments but I feel it lacks polishing. Globally very good but a little harsh, I’d say. Hold on, just saw that this baby was triple distilled. Well, I haven’t noticed anything. SGP:571 - 80 points.

Benriach 17 yo 1995/2012 (56.7%, OB for Best Taste Trading Switzerland, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1768, 160 bottles)

Benriach 17 yo 1995/2012 (56.7%, OB for Best Taste Trading Switzerland, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1768, 160 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: peat! It’s a peaty one and I have to say I like it quite a lot. It’s a rather medicinal peat and it’s actually not hugely smoky, we’re rather navigating around bandages, antiseptic, seawater and then more rock dust, rainwater and saltpetre. It’s becoming more camphory too. Nice! (yeah, thank you.) With water: crystal clean medicinal peat. It became narrower but that sort of worked. Maybe a little fresh butter, and then growing porridge and ‘farmyard after the rain’.  Mouth (neat): sweet peat galore! Peppered and smoked limoncello, grassy tequila, an acridness too (grape pips, apple skin, old walnuts) and rather less coastal and mineral notes than in the nose. A grassy peatiness. With water: more peated lemons, haha. Works. Finish: very long, sharp and sweet at the same time, with a peatiness that became more peppery, I’d say. Green peppercorns and vanilla. Comments: it’s never easy for peaters from the mainland, because you just cannot avoid thinking of the glorious Islays. I have to say this cask was much to my liking. Big presence. SGP:657 - 88 points.

Benriach 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.5%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak hogshead, cask #4385, 261 bottles)

Benriach 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.5%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak hogshead, cask #4385, 261 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: very interesting, the fresh oak shows as much as in many bourbons, for example. There’s a feeling of sawdust, vanilla, ginger liqueur, melon liqueur, tiny wee touches of cologne (although it’s no cologny whisky!) and then juniper (or rather genever) and more and more crème de menthe. This does not feel very natural but I won’t deny it’s very sexy whisky so far. With water: even more of all that. A very unScotch Scotch. Mouth (neat): oh yes, definitely bourbon. Very thick and oily, sweet and spicy at the same time, with plenty of fresh oak (feeling of pencil shavings), ginger/speculoos, big vanilla, big coconut, not so big bananas and big maple syrup. Very rich whisky and yet it remains kind of light. Quite an achievement. With water: sweeeeeet and syrupyyyyyyy… Finish: long, honeyed and extremely liqueury. Comments: I don’t quite know what to say. It’s bad Scotch but it’s pretty brilliant bourbon, I cannot think of any other Scotch that’s that ‘American’ (even Nadurra or Glenmorangie new oak experiments and such). Okay, enough babbling, it’s wonderfully made (and yet, I feel that they shouldn’t have…. Yada yada yada). SGP:831 - 89 points.

Benriach 21 yo 1992/2013 (53.3%, OB, batch 10, Pedro Ximenez hogshead, cask #986, 312 bottles)

Benriach 21 yo 1992/2013 (53.3%, OB, batch 10, Pedro Ximenez hogshead, cask #986, 312 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: we’re close to the 1998 at very first nosing but this one tends to become less fruity and rather more on meat, ham, beef stock and such. More age, more tertiary aromas, more complexity. Goes on with more toffee and mint (After Eight?) as well as Corinthian raisins and liquorice plus the obligatory Christmas cake. Wonderful nose, this could be had in a large cognac glass (aka fishbowl) and then nosed for years. Perfect. With water: lovely! A lot of shoe polish now, which could suggest there was a little peat, hidden behind the sherry. Also whiffs of fresh oak. Mouth (neat): very sweet this time, but not cloyingly so. Beautiful tobacco and leather, chutneys, raisins, cardamom, Moroccan spice mix (ready made for your tajines) and then some kind of spicy nut cake. Walnuts? Great body, structure and balance. With water: perfect. Little changes, except that it became more drinkable. Do I seem to detect touches of tinned pineapple? Finish: good length, quite fresh, surprisingly clean. Quite some coffee in the aftertaste, which I like. Some praline too – or isn’t that the dreaded Nutella? A wee feeling of fresh oak again, as in the end of the nose. Comments: no, this one is perfect, even if it’s actually just a finishing ;-). Loved the coffeeish punctuations. SGP:661 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Benriach I've tasted so far



Block Today: CUBAN JAZZ. Performer: Ruben Gonzalez. Track: Fabiando. Please buy his music...

August 8, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Caol Ila
(2000s, 1991, 1981, 1979, 1969)

I believe one word may describe Caol Ila better than others, it’s the word ‘consistency’. Caol Ila is always, and I mean always to my liking, I don’t think I’ve tried a dud since ages.

Port Askaig 12 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2013)

Port Askaig 12 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2013) Three stars Let’s assume this was distilled in the very early 2000s. Of course, I have no proof that this is Caol Ila. Hold on, Port Askaig… It could also be Bunnahabhain! Colour: white wine. Nose: we aren’t far from the official 12 here, it’s even got these notes of fresh butter and apple juice. There’s also a little aniseed (lovely hints of ouzo) and then the trademark light brine, oysters and peat smoke. Also touches of antiseptic. A clean nose, much in line with what was to be expected. The smoke tends to become bigger. Mouth: youthful and joyful – and a little rough, maybe. The saltiness strikes first – it’s very briny – and then come apples and lemons, while the smoke is quite green and almost bitter. I like this but I cannot not think this baby would be even better on ice. Finish: long and always very salty. Comments: so, a good salty youngster, maybe a little raw. I had a quick go at other recent Port Askaigs and they’ve been more to my liking, we’ll taste them more ‘formally’ in the coming weeks. SGP:257 - 80 points.

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles) Three stars From the first batch of these new ‘black’ ones by Cadenhead. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s very briny and very coastal. A large plate of oysters, some kippers as well, then a little grapefruit and more seawater. Maybe a little pineapple too, that wasn’t expected. It’s a light, elegant yet straightforward nose. More barley water and almonds after ten minutes. Mouth: it’s pretty big, we aren’t far from the Port Askaig. So very salty too, it’s almost brine, with also a grassy feeling. Apple skins, fresh walnuts… Finish: quite long, a tad prickly, slightly bitter and always salty. Slightly bandage-y too. Comments: simply another good Caol Ila. A trial run before the excellent new 'square' ones that are just out? SGP:267 - 81 points.

Caol Ila 31 yo 1981/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor for Silver Seal)

Caol Ila 31 yo 1981/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor for Silver Seal) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: these 1981s can rock, and this one does. The peat is already ‘degraded’, which is great mind you because with age, peat can ‘explode’ into many phenolic smells plus tropical fruits (think old Bowmore or Laphroaig). It’s rather linseed oil here, passion fruits, motor oil, green cigars, then kippers again and maybe ‘old seashells’. Empty ones, gathered at low tide. Nice touches of ‘a pack of lemon drops’. With water: we go more toward raw wool, beach sand, a little ink… Mouth (neat): very good, this one. Powerful, salty and lemony (I think the lemon was missing a bit in the two younger ones), with many sappy and almondy notes, between putty and walnut cake. Cider apples. With water: ah yes! Sweeter, easier, complex, salty, smoky, putty-like, with some marzipan and anchoiade (right, right, it’s crushed anchovies with olive oil and various spices, typically Provence). Finish: medium length, on salted and smoked almonds and, guess what? Anchovies! Comments: all very good. SGP:366 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 33 yo 1979/2012 (53.2%, Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, Zurich, Switzerland)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1979/2012 (53.2%, Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, Zurich, Switzerland) Five stars My excellent neighbours the Swiss are more and more active on the global whisky scene. Colour: pale straw. Nose: after the rather fruity 1981, this one is rather drier and smokier at first sniffs, we’re more geared toward ‘old garage’ stuff, oils, petrol, greases and tyres. Becomes more coastal then, with maybe anchovies in salt and, well, tinned sardines. Lovely nose. With water: classic lapsang souchong. Oh, I’ll take this opportunity, since I often quote lapsang souchong, to tell you that I perfectly know that LS is NOT for tea geeks ;-). I still like good lapsang souchong! Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 1981 on the palate, with pretty much the same lemon, salt and nutty flavours. Smoked oysters, a little eucalyptus. Powerful dram. With water: it’s a greener and leafier version. Many herbs, including bitter ones, then more waxy notes and ashes. Finish: long, balanced between the smoke and bitter herbs. Medicinal aftertaste (cough lozenges and such). Oh, and brine. Comments: the straightness and the dryness are assets here. SGP:356 - 90 points.

Caoll Ila 1969/2004 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, sherry, casks #1755/1760, 374 bottles)

Caoll Ila 1969/2004 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, sherry, casks #1755/1760, 374 bottles) Four stars This old ones could be fab I’m wary of reduced ones. Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, it’s a notch weak at very first sniffs but what’s deep inside seems to be very complex. Let’s wait a little longer… zzz… Good, indeed, there are more notes of old walnuts, butter cream, smoked tea, marmalade and various chutneys (probably mango, maybe pineapple), some soot, some metal polish (do you know Glanzol? It’s a genuine Alsatian brand!)… Touches of old white wine as well but the whole remains a little shy. Also touches of camphor, then aniseed and wormwood after a good fifteen minutes. Maybe smoked cheese as well? Curious about the palate… Mouth: the oak’s taken over, or is about to. It’s not that it’s unpleasant, not at all, but the distillate hasn’t much to say anymore, there’s just an acrid smokiness. The older (so younger) Caol Ilas by G&M could be magnificent, but I feel these casks were a little tired. Having said that, should you wait a little longer, the mentholated and resinous notes can be very interesting. Isn’t this eugenol? That would be C10H12O2. Just trying to be smart. Finish: of medium length, always woody and resinous. Astonishingly, the aftertaste is neither too drying nor too astringent. Mint. Comments: I think very old peaters are always having trouble on the palate, whichever the distillery. It’s the Ardbeg ’65 syndrome. Now, the nose was quite brilliant! SGP:285 - 86 points.

(with thanks to Markus and Philip)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Caol Ila I've tasted so far


Pete and Jack in St. Tropez



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: France's Raphael Sebbag with Cuba's Telmary Diaz. Track: Alegria Africana. Please buy their music...

August 7, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Glen Grant
(1997, 1984, 1972, 1969, 1959)

I think Glen Grant, which was a shining star in the 1960s and 1970s, recently became a bigger name again thanks to the… independents. Thank you, Gordon & MacPhail (and affiliated smaller bottlers), who filled so many superb sherry casks! And yet we’ll pick only Glen Grants that were not matured in heavy first fill oloroso-style sherry today… Such as…

Glen Grant 15 yo 1997/2013 (55.8%, Chieftain's, Islay cask matured, cask #70451, 318 bottles)

Glen Grant 15 yo 1997/2013 (55.8%, Chieftain's, Islay cask matured, cask #70451, 318 bottles) Three stars Should we expect a peatiness? Colour: white wine. Nose: anybody who’s tried to blend malt whiskies knows that the slightest proportion of peated whisky shows like the nose in the middle of the face, and that’s the case here. How many litres of peater were remaining in the cask? Several for sure, as Glen Grant hasn’t got much to say anymore. Only touches of pineapples and pears… It’s actually a little weird, it feels aromatised. With water: pears and pineapples galore! And straight peat smoke. Curious about the palate…Mouth (neat): the peat is even louder, it really is virtually a vatting. Now, it works better than on the nose. It’s actually as peaty as, say Talisker. Not kidding. And pineapples again, pears, sweet peat, barley sugar, liquorice allsorts, smoke…  With water: this is nice now. Easy fruity peat. Finish: long, sweet, peaty. Lemony aftertaste. Comments: the nearest whisky I can think of is actually Connemara. A fun bottling to confuse your friends and enemies during tastings. And it’s quite good! SGP:624 (unusual profile) - 80 points.

Glen Grant 25 yo 1984/2009 (55%, Jack Wiebers, Scottish Castles, cask #4008)

Glen Grant 25 yo 1984/2009 (55%, Jack Wiebers, Scottish Castles, cask #4008) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this is funny! There’s plenty of chocolate sauce and lovage (or is that soy sauce?) and quite some tar too. Where does that come from? It’s so un-Glen Grant… And some struck matches and cooked asparagus too, and yet the whisky’s so light in colour, it cannot be first or even second fill sherry. Mysteries… With water: matches matches matches. Bizarre… Mouth (neat): sweet malt, sweet malt, sweet malt. And milk chocolate. Not much else. With water: better, but the matches remain. It’s an unusual – and pretty challenging – Glen Grant. Finish: rather long, curiously herbal and even astringent for Glen Grant. Comments: for the record. Some parts were quite nice but Glen Grant produce millions of litres of malt whisky. Some are better. SGP:271 - 70 points.

Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (51.2%, Jack Wiebers Old Train Line, refill sherry)

Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (51.2%, Jack Wiebers Old Train Line, refill sherry) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: oh holy featherless crow, it’s one of these 1972s again. How many great malts have been distilled in 1972? Perfect honey, pollen, overripe plums, figs, flowers, sultanas, passion fruits… Indeed all this is perfect. With water: OH! Mouth (neat): fantastic. The fruits are fabulous here, and yet it’s no simple fruit bomb, there’s much more than that. Like, some Virginia tobacco (when we smoked untipped cigarettes and when a little tobacco was coming into our mouths). Or the best cuvees of Cointreau, Chartreuse, Gebirgs Enzian ;-)… Perfect. With water: ueberperfect (or wouldn’t that be ueberperfekt?) Even the oak, that now gets louder, is adding appealing flavours. Such as oriental aniseed and coconut liqueurs… Whatever! Finish: long, rather complex. It’s only in the aftertaste that the oak’s becoming too drying – loses at least 3 or 4 points at this stage. Comments: too bad the finish was less entrancing, otherwise, what a Glen Grant! But then again, it’s 1972… SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glen Grant 34 yo 1969/2003 (51.5%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless, cask #2539, 163 bottles)

Glen Grant 34 yo 1969/2003 (51.5%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless, cask #2539, 163 bottles) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s so difficult to pass after a 1972! Some parts are very interesting and even nice (the roses, the litchis) but it’s also sourer, with more sawdust and even a little sour cream. What’s much nicer, though, is the bergamot or earl grey tea. The jury’s still out… With water: yes and no. The sour side gets louder, but the tropical fruits are louder as well. We’re talking coconut and pineapple. That’s right, pina colada. Mouth (neat): it’s less overshadowed by the 1972 than on the nose at this point but still, it’s not as thrilling. The oak’s greener and grassier – and more tannic – and that creates tiny false tastes, around paraffin and plastic. But don’t get me wrong, it’s very fine old Glen Grant, it’s just not as perfect as the 1972. With water: wait, it swims better than the 1972 on the palate. Granted, this pina colada’s a little dull but at least, it’s sexy. Finish: no. Too drying, green, grassy, tannic. You can count your vertebras while it goes down, which is actually handy. In a way. Comments: many ups and downs in this baby. Long story short, it’s too oaky. SGP:471 - 82 points.

Glen Grant 1959/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling)

Glen Grant 1959/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: and yet another perfect one. It’s amazing that the very low strength goes unnoticed, maybe it’s the stunning complexity and subtleness that just wins you over. Dates, raisins, dried bananas, figs, mangos, pineapples, various honeys, various herbal teas… And old Sauternes, old vendanges tardives from Alsace, high-end pipe tobacco… I don’t know, this is just wonderful. Now, it may be a little too weak on the palate, let’s see… Mouth: indeed, it’s lightish and maybe a notch unsatisfying because of that. The low strength seems to make the oaky/drying parts stand out, while the fruits and associated herbs have less to say in this context. A crying shame because you can feel that there’s a lot going on, it’s just all muted, in a way. Especially the herbal teas… Finish: quite short but not as short as feared. A little more tropical again. Papayas? More menthol in the aftertaste.  Comments: I’ve probably written this one thousand times, this, at 45 or 50% vol., would be an extraordinary whisky. And what a nose! And yet, some Glen Grants at 40% by G&M have been stunning in spite of their low strength… SGP:541 - 89 points.

(With thanks to Konstantin)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Grants I've tasted so far



Block Today: AFRO JAZZ (kind of). Performer: French Urugayan singer Elli Medeiros. Track: Toi mon toit (1986). Please visit her website and buy the music...

August 6, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Glenfarclas
(2002, 1990, 1980, 1970, 1969)

Everybody loves Glenfarclas – what’s not to like anyway? After the new 1953 that we had for WF’s 11th anniversary, we’ll have very different ones today, some heavily sherried or so it seems, and others lightly sherried. Or so it seems…

Glenfarclas 9 yo 2002/2011 (55.1%, OB, Kirchhellener Private Tasting Circle, casks #2655-2658, first fill oloroso, 677 bottles)

Glenfarclas 9 yo 2002/2011 (55.1%, OB, Kirchhellener Private Tasting Circle, casks #2655-2658, first fill oloroso, 677 bottles) Four stars 677 bottles! That’s a huge private tasting circle! ;-) Colour: amber. Nose: Glenfarclas is one of these whiskies that can be stunning at young age, provided there’s a good dose of sherry and not too many ‘kisrchy’ notes (not too much spirity roughness). Well that’s exactly what’s happening here, it’s a superb chocolaty, raisiny and christmascaky (S.!) nose, without any gunpowder/matches and rather great touches of old Demerara rum as well as a little tobacco and menthol. Unbeatable at 9yo. With water: water works very well. It doesn’t make it any more complex but I like these added wee touches of hevea (natural rubber) and soot a lot. Maybe also papayas? Papaya in Glenfarclas? Mouth (neat): sure this is a little more brutal and, partly, immature, and sure the liquorice from the wood is heavy, but this very thick style works well. Raisins marinated in marc and rum. A little kirsch indeed and also a slight acridness. Green coffee. With water: the tannins come out more. Blackcurrant and cinnamon, it gets pretty drying. Not too sure it likes water. Finish: long, very chocolaty. Green/drying aftertaste. Comments: brilliant nose, very good palate but it’s still a little rough and green. The sherry’s heavy. SGP:572 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 1990/2011 'Family Casks' (57%, OB for TSMC Taiwan, cask #5098, 596 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1990/2011 'Family Casks' (57%, OB for TSMC Taiwan, cask #5098, 596 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: a more polished version of the 2002 but we aren’t that far. Fantastic prunes, sultanas, dates and figs, plus many liqueurs and many old rums. Add to that touches of beef bouillon, parsley and Havana cigar and you’ll get a lovely-lovely nose. Nearly perfect and it’s even kind of smooth at 57% vol. With water: indeed, it’s rather meaty. More meat bouillons and soups as well as hints of agave. A funny one! Quality’s extremely high so far. Mouth (neat): huge! Heavy orange liqueur, figs, a feeling of pastis, coffee and bitter chocolate, then more zests and liquorice. A saltiness. With water: excellent despite an oak that became a notch too obvious (pencil shavings). I love all this coffee… Water makes it a little dry. Finish: very long, with the jammy side fighting back. Perfect aftertaste, on raisins and PX. Comments: a big, rich one. Well selected Taiwan! (as always). SGP:661 - 90 points.

Glenfarclas 1980/2002 (50.7%, OB Christmas Edition, cask #11045, 229 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1980/2002 (50.7%, OB Christmas Edition, cask #11045, 229 bottles) Three stars and a half Most ‘Christmas Editions’ have been interesting and quite ‘individual’ in my opinion. I’ve already tried several 1980s, all to my liking (WF 86-90). Colour: dark amber. Nose: oh, lovely again, but this is different. It’s much more herbal and earthy, with more menthol, eucalyptus, even camphor, wormwood, old wardrobe, herbal teas (hawthorn, orange blossom). Certainly more smoke too, it’s frankly smoky but that’s not quite spent matches. With water: excluse me but LOL! Very unusual notes of Thai spices, sorrel, something sour but that’s quite splendid in this context, sweet cheese (Comté of the year)… This one tells you stories!  Mouth (neat): oh yes, it’s very smoky, almost peaty. Well, it IS peaty, was an ex-Islay cask involved? I have to say it’s almost got something of Lagavulin 21yo, and I’m not joking. Impressive but, I have to say, a little unlikely. Big leather and a lot of astringency. With water: oh, no! Doesn’t stand dilution unless you just add drops. Is that the peat? Finish: long, peaty, herbal. Jaegermeister remade in Speyside (and Islay). Comments: it’s a dangerous one, you have to be the king of pipette to reduce it but yeah, it’s fun. SGP:463 - 84 points.

Glenfarclas 28 yo 1970/1999 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Chairman’s Stock, sherry hogshead, 180 bottles)

Glenfarclas 28 yo 1970/1999 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Chairman’s Stock, sherry hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half One of the rare ‘disclosed’ independent Glenfarclas. I remember a 1971 at 47% that was truly wonderful (WF 91). Colour: full gold. Nose: the sherry’s lighter, this one’s fresher, more fruity, more on ripe plums, yellow flowers and honey. In a way, it’s quite Balvenie-ish – and god knows that the early 1970s were particularly great at Balvenie. After ten minutes, more menthol again as well as beautiful notes of warm strawberry jam. Nutshell: lighter, fresher, more floral. With water:  oh yes, another one that swims like a champ, like many Glenfarclas in my experience (just not some that we just had ;-)). Wonderful mead and honeydew, it’s all very beehive-y. Mouth (neat): oh yes, it’s one of these very honeyed Speysiders, also ridden with honeydew and jams. Think Caperdonich 1972 or Glen Grant 1970 or, or, or… Actually this one’s just a notch too oaky for my taste, but the wheelbarrows of juicy sultanines and plums are just perfect. Let’s hope water won’t make it too dry. With water: nope! More of all that plus mint and liquorice. Finish: long and spicier. The oak’s just a tad biting but nothing ‘too much’. Comments: do not overlook these bottlings! SGP:461 - 89 points.

Speyside 42 yo 1969/2011 (53.4%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon)

Speyside 42 yo 1969/2011 (53.4%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon) Four stars There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is Glenfarclas, but there’s no evidence that it isn’t either ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re extremely close to the 1970. Same floral tones and big light honey (I mean acacia and such) but this one has also got a varnishy side that none of the others did have. Touches of nail polish remover. Mind you, no problems whatsoever, especially since those notes tend to go away and to leave room for more… Balvenieness? With water: more barley water, almonds, linseed oil and herbal teas (chamomile is very obvious). Another excellent swimmer… so far. Mouth (neat): liquid honey matured in oak. And oranges, mirabelles, quince, vanilla cake, then more tea and nutmeg. Mint. The oak’s a little loud. With water: hell, careful with water! That’s the problem with very old whiskies that are still strong, in theory they’d need water but practically, water will make the tannicity stand out. Not easy, not easy… Finish: good length, mentholated and pretty oaky. The balance’s a little fragile and water makes it very drying. Comments: nah, drop water. Take them neat and sip them slowly. SGP:361 - 87 points.

And a little bonus ...

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 8 yo '105' (105°proof, OB, unblended, 75.7cl, +/-1965)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 8 yo '105' (105°proof, OB, unblended, 75.7cl, +/-1965) Five stars The ancestor of the well-known 105 black label. Most probably 1950s distillation. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s especially interesting to compare this puppy with the 2002. The old one’s rather more herbal and kind of phenolic, with a little more camphor and cigarette tobacco, but I wouldn’t say it’s superior or more complex, despite the OBE. Well, there’s little noticeable OBE anyway. Lovely whiffs of cut flowers and honeycomb, as well as sultanas again and again. A tiny-wee chartreuse-y side as well. With water: LOL again! Now we have suntan lotion (coconut based. Or monoi?), hazelnuts, Grand-Marnier, more plums… Perfect! And old petrol. Mouth: woah, this is massive! Bags of cough lozenges, raisins, heavy strong black tea and certainly some rum. It may be very complex, but the high strength makes it a tad monodimensional. Nothing unusual, even after all these years. With water: there, this is quite perfect. Raisins, figs, old Rivesaltes, mint syrup and just wee touches of tar. Impressive. Finish: very long, the spicier of them all even if it was young. The aftertaste is a little less thrilling though, there’s a feeling of… walnut stain? Liquorice concentrate? Pitch? Not pitch. Comments: more or less the same very high quality as the more recent – I think – 105 8yo from the 1980s. That is to say very high, let’s not forget that alcohol is a preservative agent. SGP:562 - 90 points.

(wit thanks to Angus, Benjamin, Cyril, Konstantin and Vincent)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenfarclas I've tasted so far



Malternatives, two apocalyptical rums

This, you don’t see in whisky! Or only in bourbons, sometimes… Or stunty vodkas. So these two puppies were bottled at a very measly 75.5% (yeah, each), and I’m sure they were even diluted to make it exactly to 151 proof (US!) Please pray for me…

Bacardi '151' (75.5%, OB, +/-2013)

Bacardi '151' (75.5%, OB, +/-2013) No need to remind you who Bacardi is, I guess. Big brand, big volumes and Porto Rico. Ah, Porto Rico... Colour: pale gold. Nose: nope. Burns. Burning papers, plastic and then butter. Soldier’s Kirschwasser. Pass. With water: not yet. With more water: no, remains raw and extremely spirity. No rum flavours, which takes the biscuit. Mouth (neat): nohh! Sugared alcohol. Unbearable. Destroys your tongue. With water: no, plain alcohol, unpleasant, raw, vulgar. Finish: aahhhhhh! A lot of sugar. Comments: I liked the old Cuban Bacardi that we tried back on July 5 much better! Criminals! (hey, I’m just kidding…) The only worse one I’ve tried was Austria’s Stroh 80. Kills an elephant form a distance of 200m. SGP:310 - around 25 points.

Gosling's Black Seal 151 Proof (75.5%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013)

Gosling's Black Seal 151 Proof (75.5%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013) Is this really natural? Colour: dark red amber. Nose: where’s the alcohol? This is so much smoother and easier than the Bacardi, it’s almost pleasant. It’s actually a kind of heavy coffee liqueur, but let’s not take chances, I’ve got a wine dinner tonight. Serious. With water: nice notes of thuja wood, moss, fern, mint, verbena (verveine du Velay) and genepy. They must have added plants. Mouth (neat): the extremely thick, albeit pretty unnatural mouth feel kind of makes it sort of sippable at full strength, I even get some interesting pinesap and other resinous things. Don’t tell me I’m getting used to these strengths! With water: it’s more cough syrup than rum, but provided you like cough syrup, you may enjoy this. Sweet herbs, many herbal liqueurs. Finish: long, sweet and herbal. Comments: I’m not sure all these flavours come from wood extracts. Or was it pinewood? But yeah, it’s fun stuff. SGP:770 - around 65 points.
Pete and Jack in St. Tropez



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: drummer Harvey Mason. Track: Hop Scotch. That was recorded in 1975. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 5, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Bruichladdich
(2002, 1993, 1988, 1973, 1964)

Bruichladdich is maybe the distillery that’s been the most symbolic of the last ten or twelve years. It went through many adventures, made some people frown, created quite a lot of enthusiasm too and ultimately, was a huge success with, as an epilogue, a spectacular sale plus some marvellous new ‘own’ whiskies (after quite some unlikely finishes, ahem) such as the 10yo and, above all, a stunning and very symbolic young Bere Barley. If there’s ever been terroir in Scotch, it was at Bruichladdich. What will happen now?

Bruichladdich 2002/2013 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MoS 13026, 235 bottles)

Bruichladdich 2002/2013 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MoS 13026, 235 bottles) Five stars So this is distillation by the new owners (agreed, there are now even newer owners). Colour: straw. Nose: this one immediately reminds me of the newish official ten. It’s got the same balance between vanilla and acacia honey on one side and melons and peaches on the other side, all that being coated with a mixture of cedar wood and light brine. And that works perfectly well, with a feeling of fullness despite the relatively narrow profile. Very nice. With water: superb! Sea water and almond oil, what a perfect combo. Admirable freshness. Mouth (neat): oh yes, it’s the official ten at cask strength. Melon liqueur, maple syrup, tangerines, vanilla, honey, rhubarb jam, even a little pineapple… All that is excellent. With water: same, just excellent. Finish: not the longest but still admirably fresh. Comments: top notch Bruichladdich, perfect on all accounts. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Bruichladdich 12 yo 1993/2006 (46%, The Alchemist)

Bruichladdich 12 yo 1993/2006 (46%, The Alchemist) Four starsI’ve chosen this baby because owner of The Alchemist Gordon Wright was one of the early shareholders at Bruichladdich. Colour: white wine. Nose: very different from the 2002, more malty, porridgy and even a little burnt in a way (plastic). Touches of rubber, then more apples and white peaches. It’s less clean but certainly not un-nice. Maybe more complex, in fact, but less straightly appealing. Yeah, a little less balanced. Mouth: hold on, this is very good in fact. We’re closer to the newer ones, with just a little more bitter/burnt things. Burnt grass? The jams are perfect, there are even tropical fruits. Bergamots? Finish: long, fruity, with a peppery/gingery aftertaste. Comments: this one tells us that Bruichladdich au naturel could also be great in the 1990s. But we’ve tasted difficult ones too, haven’t we? Anyway, no surprise that Gordon Wright could select some great casks… SGP:641 - 87 points.

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1988/2008 (52.6%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #1883)

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1988/2008 (52.6%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #1883) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the 1993 with more power and a little more oak. A little less fruits as well. This one really calls for water, it’s kind of blocked in fact. With water: water works, but not totally. A little more fruits, but it’s mostly apples. I haven’t got anything against apples, mind you… A little more vanilla too. Mouth (neat): sweet, rather rounder than expected, between sweet barley and apple juice, becoming grassier after a few seconds. It’s good but it’s simple. Some lime too after a little while – that’s better. With water: nice and clean. Fruity apple juice and barley water. Discreet peppery oak. Finish: long and clean. A tad more roasted/toasted too. Comments: fine, just fine. Not much else to say. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Bruichladdich 30 yo 1973/2003 (40.2%, OB, bourbon, 4200 bottles)

Bruichladdich 30 yo 1973/2003 (40.2%, OB, bourbon, 4200 bottles) Four stars Tried this baby several times but never wrote proper tasting notes. Maybe this bottling lived in the shadow of the stunning 1970 that was bottled just a little earlier. Colour: full gold. Nose: now I remember why I used to like the 1970 so much better. The oak talks first here, not the fruits. Having said that, it’s complex whisky, with touches of metal (old tools), the usual melon (more as a liqueur here) and then many herbal teas, especially tannic ones. Chamomile first! And cinnamon. After ten minutes, some unexpected notes of manzanilla and fresh walnuts – yup I know this is bourbon wood. Mouth: it’s a little fragile. It’s very complex whisky but the structure is a little wobbly, if I may say so. A bitterness from the oak coats the whole (leafy feeling, chlorophyll). Touches of passion fruits, apples, lime blossom, a little eucalyptus, peaches, pink grapefruits, gooseberries… All nice but fragile. Finish: not the longest, as expected, and a notch green and papery. Comments: there are two sides in this whisky. The complexity is quite amazing but there’s little backbone despite an oakiness that’s very obvious. A controversial bottling right from day 1 if I remember well, I’ll go for a consensual score if you don’t mind. SGP:441 - 87 points.

Bruichladdich 1964/1994 (50.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask series, casks #3673-3675)

Bruichladdich 1964/1994 (50.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask series, casks #3673-3675) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: these metallic notes that we already had in the 1973 are back, this time it’s more silverware and even old copper coins. Also a little pitch, saltpetre, tarry ropes… And then the trademark melons, coming together with kumquats. And toasted brioche. In truth this is a lovely nose, a little ‘antique’. With water: haha, the sootiness becomes wonderful! It’s all just like nosing the engine compartment of an old supercar (a Trabant should work too). Oils, Bakelite, rubber, petrol, metals… Mouth (neat): it is, in a way, the 1973 with more oomph and backbone, maybe in a less complex manner. The sooty/metallic aspects that we found in the nose are still there, but the fruits do make up for that. More or less the same fruits as in the 1973, grapefruits, peaches and such. With water: sadly, it doesn’t swim too well. The fruits sing louder – which is very pleasant of course – but there’s also a kind of rubbery cardboard arising. Too bad! Finish: long, sappy. Quite some peat smoke too, I hadn’t detected it before. What a taster! Comments: this baby was already old when it was bottled, and that shows. It’s complex, more phenolic than later bottlings. A shame that it does not swim too well but at +/-50%, water isn’t mandatory anyway. SGP:562 - 88 points.

(With thanks to Konstantin and Tomislav)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bruichladdich I've tasted so far



Malternatives: three gentians
from three alpine countries

Although we make some in Alsace, gentian eau-de-vie is more a traditional alpine spirit. I took the opportunity of a little trip across the Alps (ah, the Stelvio!) to gather a few bottles from three different countries, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. It's a spirit I usually like a lot and finding notes of gentian in malt whisky is always good news in my book. Exactly, same as mezcal ;-). Time to try these three gentians...

Enzian (38%, OB, Psenner, Sudtirol, Italy, +/-2013)

Enzian (38%, OB, Psenner, Sudtirol, Italy, +/-2013) Psenner are distillers in Sudtirol, a German speaking part of northern Italy. Bizzarely, the picture on the blottle shows a blue gentian while, in my opinion, only yellow gentian is used in distilling. But does that really matter? Colour: white with very pale yellow hues. Nose: aromatic, appropriately earthy and rooty at first nosing, but loses steam after just two or three seconds and becomes a tad mercurochrome-y. Some wet paint too. Smells also a bit of plain sugar syrup. Could it rather be a liqueur and not an eau-de-vie? I hope not... Mouth: oh no, it's a liqueur indeed! And not one of the best, it's sweet and bitter at the same time, with plenty of sugar. Weak palate. Tends to become a little better when a little caraway kicks in but it remains simple and, well, boring. Finish: short, sweet, herbal. Always these notes of caraway. Comments: what the hell does 'bevanda spirituosa' mean? It's true that the 'not-fully-white' colour should have warned me. My mistake, I guess. SGP:730 - around 40 points.

Gebirgs-Enzian (40%, OB, Liebl, Bavaria, Germany, +/-2013)

Gebirgs-Enzian (40%, OB, Liebl, Bavaria, Germany, +/-2013) Two stars So we're in Bavaria this time, more precisely Bayerwald, the company also makes whisky under the name Coillmór. This gentian is packaged in a traditional stoneware flagon. Colour: full white. Nose: this one isn't very aromatic. Spirity, with some grass, touches of lavender and a moderate earthiness. The good news is that it isn't sweetish, which would be a no-no. A very discreet gentian, that's a first! Mouth: good arrival, not big, a little salty, earthy and slightly smoky (its where gentian can resemble mezcal in my short experience and view). The rootiness is pleasant, I also enjoy these notes of celeriac and turnip. The medicinal side is there but it isn't big. A little cough syrup. Finish: good, medium length. I like this saltiness. Comments: certainly a good gentian, not very complex but it's straight and clean. Quality eau-de-vie. SGP:480 - around 75 points.

Berg Enzian (43%, OB, Kindschi, Grisons, Switzerland, +/-2013)

Berg Enzian (43%, OB, Kindschi, Grisons, Switzerland, +/-2013) Four stars We already tried an earlier gentian by Kidschi and really liked it (WF 82). The distillery lies in Davos. Colour: full white. Nose: much bigger than the two first ones, with much more happening. Gentian, roots and earth of course but also unexpected touches of pineapple, a little pear and even passion fruits. It's much less medicinal than the older Kindschi we had a few months ago, and certainly easier. A fruity gentian. Mouth: ah yes, now we're talking. Big spirit, complex, perfect, with great body. Last time I had found a faint soapiness but there isn't any here, while there's more fruits again albeit faint touches (pear?) Perfect bitterness, with these hints at mezcal again, many roots, a touch of salt and, unexpectedly, something slightly coastal. Must be the saltiness. Finish: very long, with now hints of turmeric. Comments: Switzerland wins - but because we didn't have any Alsatians today, yeah yeah... I've never seen, nor tried of course, oak-aged gentian. Should work... SGP:591 - around 85 points.



Block Today: BIG BAND JAZZ. Performer: French trumpet and band leader Jean-Loup Longnon. Track: Mikonos (around 1985). Please visit his website and buy the music...

August 3, 2013


Tasting two surprising Swiss whiskies

We're live from St. Moritz in Switzerland, more exactly from the Waldhaus am See hotel, where there's one of the largest whisky bars in Europe. It's amazing how many whiskies there are in this country, it seems that all Swiss brewers and all distillers are having a go at it these days. But we'll have only two today if you don't mind...

Monsteiner Whisky 5 yo 2007 (40%, OB, WhiksyVision Monstein, Switzerland, +/-2013)

Monsteiner Whisky 5 yo 2007 (40%, OB, WhiksyVision Monstein, Switzerland, +/-2013) Two stars A very tiny production by a tiny brewing company in Monstein near Davos in the eastern Swiss Alps. All that is very likeable but how's their very rare whisky? Let's see... Colour: straw. Nose: it's the beer, with all its yeastiness that comes out first, while touches of ginger from the oak are soon to join it. It's actually quite interesting, I'm not a beer guy so I don't know much about these super-strong beers that are popping out of nowhere these days (well, probably not out of nowhere!) but I imagine they 'nose' like this. Also touches of vanilla and plain sawdust, then more and more pear. Mouth: not bad, not bad at all. Sweet and malty, with again that feeling of beer, a pleasant creaminess (syrupy feeling) and touches of candied ginger. After a few seconds, more and more pear jelly, honey and maple syrup, with nice spices too as well as, maybe, a little mint. This works. Finish: good length, with touches of sweet mustard. Pears again in the light aftertaste. Comments: not a huge personality (when these kinds of whiskies have a big personality that usually means they're wrecked ;-)). Now, 60 Swiss francs for a 25cl bottle in a shop are a little too much. SGP:431 - 73 points.

Johnett 2007 (42%, OB, Etter, Switerland, +/-2012)

Johnett 2007 (42%, OB, Etter, Switerland, +/-2012) Two stars This one was distilled by Etter, a company that usually rather makes fruit eaux-de-vie. They're located in Zug and source both the bear and the barriques locally. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pleasant, with roasted grains and a little honey. Not unpleasant at all and, above all, not as 'eau-de-vie-ish' as many whiskies by fruit distillers can be. Touches of grass and only hints of pears and bubblegum, good news again. It's even a little earthy. Mouth: sweet and light, pleasantly fruity. Pear compote with a little caramel, tarte tatin... A little vanilla too. Finish: a little short and a little dry. Cornflakes and caramel flavoured tea. Comments: it's really honest and certainly well distilled. Well done Mr Etter! SGP:331 - 72 points.
(with thanks to Waldhaus am See)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ivo Perelman. Track: Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner. Please visit the website and buy the music...

August 2, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Springbank
(2000, 1991, 1972, 1965, 1930s)

Springbank is one of the very few distilleries that keep making malt whisky the old way. Mind you, old doesn’t necessarily mean better generally speaking, and all these wonderful bottlings could well be coincidences, but I’ve tasted quite a few Springbanks and most have been superb. As the other guy said, when coincidences do not stop coinciding, they become law. But there may be (wood-driven) exceptions…

Springbank 12 yo 2000/2012 (50.2%, OB, Open Day 2012, fresh sherry hogshead, 313 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 2000/2012 (50.2%, OB, Open Day 2012, fresh sherry hogshead, 313 bottles) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts all on spent matches, and I mean hundreds of them. A lot of gunpowder too, we’re almost at the shooting gallery! But no cabbage or hard-boiled eggs (not to mention rotten ones) so these heady sulphury tones will please many aficionados – while repelling many others, I guess. Behind that wall of burnt sulphur, I seem to detect mustard, sweet curry sauce and orange marmalade. Extreme stuff! With water: same. Exactly like smelling the chamber of a gun that just shot. Reminds me of my army days. Mouth (neat): heavy stuff! Highly extractive, which makes it rather bitter and heavily liquoricy. Many spices from the wood, cloves big time, caraway big time and a little pepper to match. There’s a certain astringency, I have to say, this is no easy sip. Also a little metal (silver fork) and ginger. With water: same. Very dry, acrid, salty and tarry. Really extreme. Finish: long and drying. Bitter cocoa powder, unsweetened black tea. Comments: very extreme, for lovers of the genre only. Rather mixed feelings at WF Towers, I have to say. SGP:273 - 80 points.

Springbank 1991/2012 (51.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12036, 144 bottles)

Springbank 1991/2012 (51.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12036, 144 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: the exact opposite of the official, this is one of the cleanest young Springbanks – and we know that Springbank can get magnificently dirty -, displaying bags and bags of ripe peaches. Plus peach syrup, peach gums, peach juice and peach jam. Yup! Also a little sunflower oil and maybe fresh butter. Just a little… With water: still peaches, also pears, gooseberries and other fresh fruits. Lovely, one of the most delicately fruity Springers I could nose. Mouth (neat): bigger spirit now, a little acrid and astringent just like the OB, grassy, waxy and spicy. Some peaches remain there, together with just ideas of pineapples, some lemons and touches of salt. With water: lemon and ginger now. Gin fizz? Also sweet apples and coconut oil. Finish: quite long, still very fruity, with only minor oak influences. Oakier aftertaste (tea, cinnamon and white pepper), bitterer. Comments: an interesting Springbank, quite fruitier and easier than what was distilled before… and after that specific period. SGP:652 - 84 points.

Springbank 1972 (57%, OB, Taiwan, +/-1992)

Springbank 1972 (57%, OB, Taiwan, +/-1992) Four stars and a half Proof that Scotch malt whisky was already big in Taiwan twenty years ago! Colour: white wine. Nose: this baby isn’t any older than the 1991, and the colours are identical, so this is a good occasion to try to check how the distillate evolved within twenty years. In fact, this one is much sappier and sootier, I get pinesap, a little cough mixture, definitely a feeling of ‘old coal stove’ as often in old Springbanks, some putty and some honeydew. Certainly less fruity and more phenolic. With water: great, old wardrobe, attic, old books, toolbox, oils, old cellar and all that. Saltpetre. Mouth (neat): oh yeah, exactly the same differences, except that this one has also quite some coconut oil and then various tropical fruits such as papayas and certainly more pineapples than in the 1991. Not too sure some fresh oak was involved as the colour’s so light, but so much coconut certainly shouts ‘fresh American oak!’ in my experience. With water: very very good, the sooty side comes out more, together with ashes, grapefruits and liquorice. Swims very well. Finish: long, on the same grapefruits, ashes, soot and putty-like notes. Comments: a vigorous old Springbank, somewhere between two worlds. I liked the nose (even) better than the palate. SGP:452 - 89 points.

Springbank 1965 (46%, OB, tall black label, 75cl, +/-1985)

Springbank 1965 (46%, OB, tall black label, 75cl, +/-1985) Five stars The 1963 (WF 93) and the 1964 (WF 90) were much to my liking so this one should be too, especially since 1965 was a very good ‘vintage’ at Springbank. Oh yes, remember, vintages in whisky have nothing to do with vintages in wine, it’s not a matter of nature, it’s a matter of man’s will (barleys, fermentation, cut, wood, firing, yeast, purifiers, sold stocks, whatever). Colour: gold. Nose: the 1972, only with even more complexity. Same ‘antique’ aromas (old books, fur, wool, wardrobe, old wood, old garage… well, anything old, really.) What’s amazing is that you can also nose ‘the barley’, or at least something barleyish. Also many herbal teas and straight teas, some camphor, cigars, old humidor… All that isn’t big, it’s complex just like some old white wine of extremely high quality. Montrachet-esque. Mouth: perfect. Immensely complex, ever-evolving, nervous, citrusy, sappy, herbal, spicy – but not too spicy –, more coastal and briny than the others… Just one main flavour because we call the anti-maltoporn brigade: lemongrass. Smashing whisky. Finish: very long, still very nervous, chiselled and, once again, Montrachet-esque. Comments: huge whisky that did need neither heavy peat nor heavy sherry to become, err, big. Not even high strength! I love it even more than the 1963 that we had back in June, remember? It’s bigger whisky. SGP:563 - 95 points.

Springbank 33 yo (43%, OB, pear shaped bottle, early 1970s)

Springbank 33 yo (43%, OB, pear shaped bottle, early 1970s) Three stars and a half According to the excellent Lion's Whisky who have the same bottle at time of writing, 'a three star tax flag makes it bottled before 1971, which makes this a late 1930's distillation!!' I already tried this baby when the bottle was opened and I’m afraid it was a little flat. Now that it could breathe for a few months, maybe it has regained colours? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I have to confess we’re nowhere near the stunning 1965, this is much more on ginger tonic and lemonade, which is extremely bizarre. Funny notes of wild herbs, moss, fern, then unusual flowers (unusual in whisky, that is) such as… maybe lilies? Also green oranges and rubbed lemon skin… This could well be the rarest and most expensive gin ever, but there’s also quite some old wood. After fifteen minutes: becomes cardboardy. Blimey! Mouth: same feeling. It’s got oomph despite all these years (33 years in wood + 40 years in glass, no less) but it’s a little narrow and these cardboardy notes remain. Now, it’s also saltier than modern Springbanks (are U kidding? Springbank will never be modern!) There’s a briny feeling (with gherkins), certainly seawater, lemon juice, a little sour wood, more lemon juice… Finish: good length, but it becomes flattish and the cardboardy side never was bigger. Comments: imagine, pre-WWII Springbank! In truth, it’s an interesting old bottling, as most pre-war whiskies I could try used to display more roundness, more dried fruits and… more sherry influence. And just the same amount of smokiness. It crucifies me to score this baby without taking its amazing pedigree into account. Dura Lex, sed Lex! SGP:342 - 84 points.

(With thanks to Ho-cheng, Olivier and Patrick)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Springbank I've tasted so far



Block Today: FUSION JAZZ. Performer: Mike Stern. Track: Jigsaw. Please visit Mike Stern's website and buy his music...

August 1, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Laphroaig
(2000, 1999, 1986, 1970, 1968)

Should we expect a medicinal cavalcade today? What’s sure is that there will be big Laphroaigs and there will be bigger Laphroaigs… Watch the old ones!

Laphroaig 2000/2013 (58.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13010, 243 bottles)

Laphroaig 2000/2013 (58.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13010, 243 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: interesting! Sure it’s not easy to nose such a high strength baby but I seem to find touches of white rhum agricole and candy sugar beyond the bandages and the antiseptic. Maybe also hints of walnut cake, possibly from the sherry cask. It seems that this will be lovely… With water: it is lovely, as much as a, say a Corvette can be lovely. Heavy briny and smoky young Laphroaig! Nah, it’s very classy, in fact. Mouth (neat): perfect, just perfect. Powerful, smoky brine and lemon juice but all that remains elegant. Olive oil and other oils, then lemon juice and salted liquorice. High quality youngster. With water: swallowing a dozen oysters with Tabasco and lemon juice. Finish: long, salty. The Tabasco got even louder. Comments: as great as Laphroaig can be at just twelve or thirteen. Gives you hope and faith but you have to love… Tabasco. SGP:268 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 12 yo 1999/2012 'Highgrove ' (46%, OB, cask #5159)

Laphroaig 12 yo 1999/2012 'Highgrove ' (46%, OB, cask #5159) Five stars Now that the royal baby’s born, let’s try his grandpa’s whisky. We’re all ears… Colour: pale straw. Nose: it’s not old but there are already some touches of pink grapefruits and passion fruits, like in the old Laphroaigs (old tens, Bonfanti and such). This is actually beautiful and much more delicate than expected. Light smoke, moderate camphor, lovely almonds and other fresh nuts (or is this sesame?), clams, whelks (hey!), other seafood… A perfect nose! To think that we were thinking this would be all ears (S., this is becoming ridiculous – Camilla.) Mouth: excellent, perfectly smoky, salty, lemony, medicinal and briny. Everything’s there, balance is achieved, this is perfect Laphroaig at drinking strength. Finish: long, briny, salty. Drinking seawater. Comments: I’ve seen on the telly that his personal butler prepares Charles’ toothbrush every morning, the prince doesn’t even need to handle his toothpaste tube. Hope he gets a glass of this as well. Yup, every morning! SGP:457 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 23 yo 1986/2009 (60.9%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 166 bottles)

Laphroaig 23 yo 1986/2009 (60.9%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 166 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: sure it’s strong and sure there isn’t much that makes it through the high alcohol, but it’s neither brutal nor overly smoky. Antiseptic, seawater, smoke and, maybe, good sauvignon blanc. I cannot not think of an excellent white Bordeaux, Pessac-style. Chevalier? Laville? (I’m just bragging now). With water: some shy oak coming through, but also lemon Jell-O and even some crisper sauvignon blanc. Rather Loire instead of Bordeaux? Mouth (neat): powa! Huge, aggressive, bestial… So, with water: that’s what’s boring with Laphroaig, they can all be great. What’s the point? Actually, this one is rather oilier than the others, and rather less fruity, but it remains great. Finish: long, always with this oily feeling. Like quaffing smoked sunflower oil, if you see what I mean. Comments: big fat oily Laphroaig. Would work as petrol for you car, I’m sure. SGP:357 - 89 points.

Laphroaig 16 yo 1970/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1970/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: yesssss! Perfect combination of smoky/medicinal stuff with tropical, err, fruits. Much similar to the old official tens, with a peat that transmuted into myriads of exotic fruits, first passion fruits, then guavas, then mangos and then grapefruits. Utterly amazing, enough said. Mouth: stunning. Doesn’t taste like 46%, tastes like more. Say around 80% vol. A masterful combination of tropical fruits, all things salty and all things medicinal. Add to that three olives and a greasiness (maybe that’s smoked sesame oil) and it’s, you know, just perfect. Finish: long and with more tar and heavy liquorice. What a beast! Comments: you would think that at 46% vol. and after more than 25 years in glass, this baby would have been tamed and quiet. You bet! It’s totally restless. Perfect for WF’s eleventh anniversary (may I say quite selfishly). SGP:557 - 94 points.

Laphroaig 1968 (55.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Donini, +/-1980)

Laphroaig 1968 (55.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Donini, +/-1980) Five stars Ah, the famous Celtic label! Colour: pale gold. Nose: hold on, this is even greater than the 1970. It’s not as fruity, nor as straightly lovable, but the smoke is huge and, above all, very complex. That means coal but also herbs smoke, peat of course, brown coal (this wettish kind of smoke), even oil, pitch, tar… And also these huge coastal notes, fisherman’s boat, then these fruits, mangos, passion fruits… And pineapples! And oils such as olive and argan! Wow! And after twenty minutes, it’s almost mercurochrome. With water: yahhh! Undescriptable nose. Pure magic. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Nothing beats this. Can you smoke maracujas? Mouth (neat): this should be verboten, finito, interdit. Okay, it’s maybe a wee bit too salty (gherkins in brine) but other than that, it’s got the same oomph than the 1970, only with more power. Was it legal to bottle this? It’s absolutely immense, thick, implacable and self-imposing. Wrecks your evening, in a way, it’s like having dinner with Pete Doherty. Loud and bad-mannered, but very likeable whisky! With water: let’s be serious, this could be defeated by a Bowmore. Maybe also by a Lagavulin, but great old Lagavulins are simply introvabile, even in Italy. Well, watch this space, hehehe… Ardbeg? Nope. Finish: it’s Ali vs. Foreman in Kinshasa. This one’s Ali. Ali, boma ye! Comments: 100% own maltings, no need to say more. Vivaldi’s Gloria RV 589. SGP: who cares? - 97 points (who cares?).

(with thanks to Diego and Jens)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Laphroaig I've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2013

Favourite recent bottling:
Highland Park 25 yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butts, 1086 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Bowmore 11 yo 2001/2012 (46.9%, Sansibar, 263 bottles)  - WF 90



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Scott Henderson with Tribal Tech. Track: Spears. Please visit their website and buy the music...

July 2013 - part 2 <--- August 2013 - part 1 ---> August 2013 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphab

Benriach 21 yo 1992/2013 (53.3%, OB, batch 10, Pedro Ximenez hogshead, cask #986, 312 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,6%, OB for The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, cask #963, 132 bottles)

Benriach 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.3%, OB for The Whisky Fair, sherry, cask #731, 195 bottles)

Benriach 37 yo 1976/2013 (49.6%, OB, batch 10, hogshead, cask #2013, 102 bottles)

Bruichladdich 2002/2013 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MoS 13026, 235 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1979/2012 (53.2%, Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, Zurich, Switzerland)

Convalmore 30 yo 1976/2007 (44.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL ref #3520, 192 bottles)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 36 yo 1977/2013 (58.2%, Cadenhead, small batch, hogshead, 288 bottles)

Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 8 yo '105' (105°proof, OB, unblended, 75.7cl, +/-1965)

Glenfarclas 1990/2011 'Family Casks' (57%, OB for TSMC Taiwan, cask #5098, 596 bottles)

Laphroaig 1968 (55.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Donini, +/-1980)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1970/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Laphroaig 12 yo 1999/2012 'Highgrove ' (46%, OB, cask #5159)

Laphroaig 2000/2013 (58.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13010, 243 bottles)

Springbank 1965 (46%, OB, tall black label, 75cl, +/-1985)