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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2013 - Part 2

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


August 30, 2013


Tasting three beasts.
I mean, Mannochmore.

Well, not all will be bestial – I certainly hope so – but the Cadenhead may well be as extreme as the very famous official 18yo Manager’s Dram. And maybe as wacky as another famous whisky that used to be made at Mannochmore. Indeed, Loch Dhu 10 years old. Let’s see…

Mannochmore 14 yo 1999/2013 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #9766)

Mannochmore 14 yo 1999/2013 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #9766) Two stars and a half This baby should be the easy one within the trio. Colour: white wine. Nose: hello? Anybody in there? This is ultra-young, ex-tired-cask whisky, so it’s pretty newmaky in fact. Apple juice everywhere, kirsch, some wood smoke, porridge, maybe greengages (or any pretty tarty plums) and then more beer, leaven and straight baker’s yeast. It’s a nice distillate but it’s, well, extremely young. Mouth: very sweet and not un-nice. Jell-Os, jams and bubblegum plus a lot of vanilla and maple syrup. Much nicer than the nose suggested, so a good surprise. Another clean youngster that should go very well on ice. Finish: medium, clean, fruity. Cherries and apples. Comments: fine! I’m sure you could make wonderful macjitos with this (that’s a mojito with whisky instead of rum – nah, I just made that up, apologies). The palate was ten times nicer than the nose. SGP:630 - 79 points.


Mannochmore 17 yo 1982/2000 (66.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 288 bottles) Three stars Actually, with a devilish 66.6% vol., this one even beats the famous old Manager’s Dram (mind you, only a ridiculous 66.0% vol.!) Colour: full gold. Nose: paw! Cask strength chocolate, I’d say. Also some pencil shavings, new planks, a little acetone… But let’s not jump to conclusions, very high strengths can really distort any spirit and not give you a faithful picture of your whisky. With water: a walk in a forest, with mushrooms, a lot of humus, pine needles, damp earth, old branches, moss, bark, leprechauns… Not leprechauns. Great nose, with also more and more menthol. The Manager’s Dram was much more on motor oil and straight mash, this one’s different. Mouth (neat): provided you only take one drop at a time, it’s very fine and even easy, thanks to some crisp lemon and maybe kiwi. Not too sure this isn’t the result of the high alcohol, let’s see… With (quite a lot of) water: oh, no! Water kills it and makes it cardboardy and oddly perfumy. A shame. Finish: long, zesty. Nicer again, even with water. Comments: what to do? Too strong without water, too papery with water (on your palate)… It’s quite Shakespearian, isn’t it! But the fun of it is worth quite a few extra-points, I think. SGP:651 - 80 points.

Mannochmore 21yo 1979 (56.1%, Chieftain’s Choice, +/-2001)

Mannochmore 21yo 1979 (56.1%, Chieftain’s Choice, +/-2001) Three stars Picture, similar label. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s my favourite when undiluted, this is pretty complex, with many herbs, both fresh and dried. So around mint, dill, anise, eucalyptus, straight grass and then even touches of camphor and caraway. Sounds strange but it isn’t. Very nice nose so far. Also citrons. With water: some kind of lemon sauce, chutneys, a little raw wool (wet!), muesli, then potpourri, maybe even patchouli… This one is fun! Mouth (neat): reminiscent of The Beast, with lemons, grapefruits, even quite some limoncello (wait, I think I’ll add a short surprise tasting after these Mannochmores, hehe - don’t start to frown just now, please). With water: aw, it’s not hat this one swims any better than the Cadenhead but I have to say I like the tons of verbena that come out. Or is that genepy? Finish: long, herbal and lemony. Very pleasant zestiness. Comments: Chieftain’s also bottled a 1977 around the same years. I think this 1979 is nicer. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Bonus just for fun: ‘cask strength’ limoncello! Do not worry, this is the only limoncello you’ll ever find on whisyfun, but these lemony Mannochmores really called for this. I may try to do the same with other drinks when I find big notes of them in our little whiskies… Just for fun! No, I won’t do that with engine oil ;-).

Villa Massa Limoncello (30%, OB, +/-2013)

Villa Massa Limoncello (30%, OB, +/-2013) One star Well, not exactly cask strength but I’ve seen some much lighter limoncellos, and not only within all the cheap junk that’s sold to thirsty cheapo tourists. This lemon liqueur is made in Sorrento, strictly from lemons that grow around Sorrente or Capri. Colour: straw. Nose: that’s the problem with lemon, we use so much lemon in our daily lives (in perfumes, washing powders, air fresheners, lemonades, sweets, whatever…) that even genuine lemon smells like it’s ‘chemical’. And yet it’s not, but I guess you have to use it with much care. What’s sure is that this limoncello is absolutely loaded with lemon, both flesh and skin. There isn’t anything else. Mouth: extremely sugary and lemony. That’s all I find. I’m sure it’s better to quaff this on a lot of crushed ice. Finish: long, sugary, lemony. Comments: now, that was useless, wasn’t it. I find this quite pleasant but I think ice is obligatory. Or in some kind of cocktails? Let’s not elaborate… SGP:830 – (pointless) points.
PS: I knew a guy who used to add drops of limoncello to his oysters. I’m not saying you should try that.

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



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August 29, 2013


Tasting three Ben Nevis 1996
and a worthy bonus

So, today it’s Ben Nevis again. It’s a fun whisky, everything is unusual at Ben Nevis’. The way they market it (do they?), the place, the people, the reputation and, of course, the whiskies. Ben Nevis is never boring! We’ll have three newish 1996s today and then we’ll try to find a nice old one. As the digestif, if you like!

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1996/2013 (51.6%, Pure Spirit, hogshead)

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1996/2013 (51.6%, Pure Spirit, hogshead) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: not a lot happening when it’s neat, although there seems to be some nice citric elements on top of a light smokiness and a few apple peelings. Let’s see… Wait, it’s becoming waxier after a few minutes, so more ‘east coast’ in a way. With water: the coastality (coastalness? I’ll never know) of the distillery is pretty obvious here. We have a kind of blend of tinned pineapples and oranges with some kelp and oysters. And that works. Mouth (neat): excellent! It seems that this new French bottler favours distillate-driven bottlings over wood or wine bombs and we just couldn’t not applaud. So this is a perfect lemony dram, very zesty, with a very solid waxy and slightly phenolic/smoky base. Perfect! With water: wax and artisan cider. White pepper. Careful with water, it can just kill it if you add too much of it (too much cardboard). Finish: long, maybe on Schweppes Lemon? Comments: just took notice of the bottlers’ name. I mean, not just the name, also what it means. Pure Spirit… but of course! Well done! SGP:452 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1996/2012 (51.7%, OB, sherry cask, cask #1654)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1996/2012 (51.7%, OB, sherry cask, cask #1654) Three stars and a half Colour: light amber. Nose: this one is pleasantly dirty, like many official Ben Nevis in my experience. There’s some hay, touches of manure, some bitter chocolate, petrol, gunpowder, gravel, overripe apples, charcoal, mint… yeah, that’s already quite a lot. Oh and then litres of walnut wine. With water: the raisins make it through and there’s plenty of them. It all became much narrower but also cleaner and easier. I also quite like these small metallic touches. Silver cutlery? Mouth (neat): this is big, phat, leathery and orangy, with oak spices in the front, which is not always a good thing in my book. It’s absolutely not excessive here but I prefer my ginger and my pepper in the finish than in the arrival, if you see what I mean. But we’re nitpicking, this creamy arrival is most appealing. Who stole all the bitter oranges? With water: not the best swimmer I’m afraid. It got dry and cardboardy. Finish: nice when naked, drying and flat with only one drop of water. Comments: very fine but it hates water. I think Ben Nevis never quite likes water, which takes the biscuit when you know where the distillery is located ;-). SGP:551 - 83 points.

Ben Nevis 1996/2012 (53.1%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12054, 270 bottles)

Ben Nevis 1996/2012 (53.1%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12054, 270 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark gold. Nose: do you know crème au beurre? I guess you could call that butter cream. Well, this baby has a lot of crème au beurre at first nosing, before it starts to move toward the OB with more coffee, apples, chocolate, hay and charcoal again. Quite some ham and bacon too, as well as strawberries (I think there are often strawberries in Ben Nevis but they’re often buried under litres of sherry). With water: same. Even more crème au beurre. Also a little raw wool, farmyard… Mouth (neat): this is extreme. Think strawberry jam with many spices including pepper (strawberry and pepper works just as well as strawberry and champagne, say the girls), then bitter chocolate and even raspberries. Who said Ben Nevis was never boring? With water: no! No water! Fela Kuti used to sing ‘water no get enemy’ but I think Fela had never heard of Ben Nevis. Finish: flat when reduced, nicely long and strawberry-ish when neat. Strawberry jam with cumin and ginger. And raisins. Comments: whacky whisky. It’s fun but it’s whacky, which is lovable in itself. SGP:561 - 84 points.

Ben Nevis 44 yo 1966 'Finest and Rarest' (40.7%, Kingsbury, Japan, +/-2010)

Ben Nevis 44 yo 1966 'Finest and Rarest' (40.7%, Kingsbury, Japan, +/-2010) Four stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: its funny that this baby does not really smell much older than the 1996s, but this is obviously more complex, more ‘tertiary’. That means more leather, tobacco, old herbal liqueurs, some tar, more smoke than in the youngsters, then anything meaty including beef stock, ox tail and chicken bouillon (oh whatever) as well as dry herbs such as thyme (loud!) and maybe oregano. Oops, almost forgot liquorice, it’s also very liquoricy. It’s also funny that this oldie isn’t any shier than the youngsters, despite a much lower strength. Also a combo of bitter chocolate and coffee, more and more of that. Mouth: 40.7%, really? This one has all its teeth and you would think it was rather bottled at around 46-48%. There’s a wee sourness at times, that comes with spices such as coriander and cardamom, but other than that, it’s all quite fruity and rather easier than other old Ben Nevis. I think there’s even a little litchi but sshhh… Bananas? Too bad there’s also something slightly soapy, nothing too disturbing but that’s a little handicap. Also sandalwood, rose jelly, orange blossom water, Turkish delights… In a way, it’s a little gewurztraminery (would you stop that, S.!) Finish: nah, the low strength starts to show now, this is a tad weak and a little too short. Plus, the aftertaste is a little cardboardy and ‘chalky’, but there are strawberries too! Very old ‘little’ Bourgogne. Comments: all right, I wouldn’t say this old baby was utterly glorious, it’s got quite a few weaker spots. But it is fun! SGP:541 - 86 points.

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



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August 28, 2013


Sherried Tomatin and Glenfarclas

Tomatin 12 yo 2001/2013 (58.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #1598)

Tomatin 12 yo 2001/2013 (58.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #1598) Four stars Bizarrely, I have the feeling that we find more old Tomatins than young ones these days. Colour: dark amber. Nose: quite a chocolate bomb at first nosing but there's also raspberries and quite some flints. We're not talking gunpowder. Nice leather and tobacco as well but it's all quite strong and powerful. So... With water: pipe tobacco up, wet earth, a wee mustiness, orange marmalade and a little bacon. Typical young sherry monster. Mouth (neat): once again, an ultra-heavy chocolaty sherry with the right amount of eaux-de-vie such as kirsch and, again, raspberry. Really reminds me of the youngish hyper-sherried Macduffs or Glengoynes that are around these days. Tomatins's usual lightish fruitiness is almost undetectable. With water: a spicy marmalade plus some green tea and cloves. Liqueur-filled chocolates. This one swims very well, not every sherry monster does. Finish: long, and funnily enough, the distillate starts to speak out. Papayas? Some green spices too. Comments: water's best friend. Very much to my liking despite its relative heaviness. SGP:661 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 2003/2013 (56.8%, OB, Family Casks for Le Gus't, cask #1450, 316 bottles)

Glenfarclas 2003/2013 (56.8%, OB, Family Casks for Le Gus't, cask #1450, 316 bottles) Four stars and a halfLe Gus't is this small French bottler in Manosque, Provence, that already had a superb Bowmore a few months ago. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it's very different from the Tomatin, that is to say drier, nuttier and much more on walnuts, grass and leather than on chocolate or fruits. Having said that, it's just as pungent on the nose so quick, water! With water: Virginia tobacco and Cuban tobacco too. It smells like a box of Partagas (as far as I can remember, that is). Also more raisins and figs, this is lovely.

Mouth (neat): very funny! Well, sort of... Starts rather more with heavy (and heady) notes of smoky tequila, bags of liquorice and then even more tequila. Serious, it's very agavy and I'm not just saying that because I just tried 20 tequilas (and so became an expert - not!) In fact, it's the best tequila ;-). Lovely spiciness, with a lot of cloves and juniper berries (typically tequila, haha). Now, there's also prunes and chocolate. With water: really, it's not unlike some powerful tequila (extra-anejo). The spiciness is really special. Finish: long, with a wee saltiness that further 'lifts' it. Comments: absolutely excellent, and barely 10 years old! Should we expect a Glendronach vs. Glenfarclas match in the coming years (as far as sherried power monsters are concerned)? This one is brilliant. SGP:461 - 89 points.



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August 27, 2013


The two extremes of Glen Moray.
Make that three.

Glen Moray, yet another name that's more to be heard of within the chatting whisky circles, while just ten years ago, it was almost only fodder for lower shelves. I'll always remember that Stuart Thomson, ex-Ardbeg and ex-Glen Moray, used to say that Glen Moray was his favourite tipple. Let's try to find why...

Glen Moray 17 yo 1995/2012 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 610 bottles)

Glen Moray 17 yo 1995/2012 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 610 bottles) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: whah! Plain porridge, malt, leaven, baker's yeast and then cut apples and maybe gooseberries plus just touches of vanilla and white chocolate. And hints of overripe pears. Oh and cardboard. Raw and young, not very interesting I must say, pretty poor and cheapo blending stock. Well, it must have been cheap. Mouth: sweet raw malt whisky like they have millions of litres over there in Bonnie Scotland. Schweppes, lemon zests, apples, bread, oatcakes, grass. Did I mention Schweppes? Finish: of medium length, on Schweppes. No that wasn't product placement, we don't do product placement yet. Comments: Iggy Pop would have shouted 'I'm' bored'. It's not bad whisky at all, so I won't go below 70, but it's just totally, completely and utterly uninteresting. Yawn... SGP:341 - 70 points.

Glen Moray 1991/2013 (57.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, hogshead, 270 bottles)

Glen Moray 1991/2013 (57.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, hogshead, 270 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: whah again! But this time it's very different, it's a very grassy one, with hay and oils (maybe sunflower and such), then many beers, ales, herbs and leaves. A lot of fresh putty is arising too, marzipan, wet paint and then a dry spice mix, a little oriental (whatever that means). It's not easy at all but it's very intriguing. Water is needed. With water: phew, it became kind of cooler and gentler, but remains very grassy. Some fresh butter too, hay, a little earth, fresh walnuts... Remains austere but pleasantly so. Mouth: ha! Very singular, very powerful, starting with very heavy notes of pepper, ginger and cumin. French oak, by any chance? It's actually very bitter, just like some successful liqueurs are bitter (the infernal trio Unicum, Jaegermeister, Underberg). Heavy citrus too. Quite extreme so far, let's see what water does to it again. With water: lemon up, resins down but it remains resinous. Fortified retsina wine? This is amusing because the colour is light, so this cannot be high oak extraction, can it? But yeah, its gentler when watered down. Also nice honeydew, liquorice wood... Finish: long and, good news, rather smoother. No feeling of 'heavy chlorophyll' that kills your palate - because mind you, we have a glory yet to taste! Comments: it's an extreme grassy/herbal one and so it's very unusual and really worth trying. I'd call this an anti-beginner's whisky, if you agree. SGP:271 - 85 points.

Glen Moray 25 yo 1959/1984 (46%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glen Moray 25 yo 1959/1984 (46%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles) Five stars Always a thrill to taste very rare whisky that was born before me. Barely! Amazing colour. Colour: dark mahogany or even ristretto coffee. Even Loch Dhu 10 was paler. Nose: sweet Vishnu! This is extraordinary and maybe also because of the very dark colour, it reminds me of the old Highland Park 40yo black ceramic. Like many old wonders, it starts with displaying only notes of some rich Christmas cake, but then it does the 'peacock's tail', like if that (stupid) cake would have exploded into myriads of smaller aromas. We're talking very old Demerara rum, we're talking dried fruits (absolutely all of them, raisins and prunes first), we're talking oils and waxes and we're talking honeys and teas. It's absolutely splendid and I think I'll leave it at that as far as the nose is concerned, it's too early to call the anti-maltoporn brigade anyway. Just one thing, it's dominantly sappy/waxy/resinous. Mouth: sweet Jesus! There's this heavy, almost chestnutty (!) and coffeeish oak that strikes first, but then it's a whole movie, with citrons, verbena and other citrusy/minty herbs, oranges, sultanas, bitter chocolate, prunes, black pepper, (very) strong liquorice, cinnamon... It's all quite dry and even a tiny-wee notch drying, with this feeling of walnut stain (the colour again, maybe autosuggestion, hard to resist). Oh and bags and bags of cocoa powder that 'sticks to your tongue'. Finish: long, very chocolaty. Very, very chocolaty. Menthol and blackcurrants in the aftertaste. Comments: this was bottled by Duthie's/Cadenhead's after careful selection by signor Samaroli. No wonder. SGP:562 - 93 points. (with thanks to Diego at Lion's Whisky)

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



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August 26, 2013


Tasting some old Arran

Yes I know, Arran just cannot be old as they started distilling in 1993 (correction, that's building, distilling started in 1995), but these expressions are more or less the oldest one could find these days!

Isle of Arran 15 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Chieftain's, butt, cask #935, 786 bottles)

Isle of Arran 15 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Chieftain's, butt, cask #935, 786 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: we’re pretty much on a bag of fresh garden fruits (apples and peaches, then pears) plus a mixture of vanilla cream and muesli. Also a wee coastal touch ala Bruichladdich, maybe. An easy, clean, fruity nose, with a feeling of fullness despite the relative simplicity of all this. Mouth: very simple and very excellent at the same time. Proof that complexity is not obligatory in malt whisky. So a creamy vanilla is blended with honey and various fruit syrups, which makes the whole pretty, er, syrupy. Pear, apple, tangerine, also a little cane sugar syrup… It’s all very easy and very sweet. Finish: medium length. Sweet barley, tangerines, touches of nutmeg. Comments: flawless ‘young’ malt whisky, with a lot of sweet malt and fruits. What’s not to like? SGP:541 - 85 points.

Isle of Arran 16 yo 1996/2013 (46%, The Maltman, oloroso sherry, cask #1094, 391 bottles)

Isle of Arran 16 yo 1996/2013 (46%, The Maltman, oloroso sherry, cask #1094, 391 bottles) Four stars The Maltman also had a 14yo that I still have to try. Colour: light gold. Nose: this is easy, it’s the Chieftain’s plus touches of sherry. So same fruity notes plus muesli, but we’ll add a little tobacco, walnuts and touches of ‘old wardrobe’. Tarte tatin (make that apple pie). Very nice. Mouth: same comments, exactly. Creamy fruitiness and honey plus more herbs and mild leather and tobacco. Some marzipan too, almond cake, sweets, zesty liqueurs (lemon and such). Works very well. Finish: quite long, with a pleasant grassiness bringing that extra-length. Comments: truly excellent, again with this malty sweetness that’s so easy and appealing. I’d say we’re somewhere between Bruichladdich, Balblair and (rather unsherried) Aberlour. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Lochranza (Arran) 16 yo 1996/2012 (52.8%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, cask #51, 309 bottles)

Lochranza (Arran) 16 yo 1996/2012 (52.8%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, cask #51, 309 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: ouch! This is much less easy because there’s some huge nail polish remover, so acetone, varnish, wet paint… Behind all that, some crisp touches of not-too-ripe kiwis, lime… And then a lot of mint tea, Moroccan style, probably from the oak. Quite a beast! With water: changes a bit, becoming bourbony and gentler, but the varnishy side never completely disappears. Mouth (neat): strong and astringent, with some lemonade and pepper plus a feeling of vanilla cake. A varnishy side again, grass, peppercorns… Not an easy one indeed when neat. With water: more sweet vanilla, and less varnish, but also something more porridgy. Finish: quite long, nicer, zestier. More typically Arran. Comments: water helps here, maybe the spirit is a little too estery to stand high strengths? SGP:551 - 80 points.

Isle of Arran 1996/2013 (56.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13002, 249 bottles)

Isle of Arran 1996/2013 (56.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13002, 249 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the exact opposite of the Blackadder, so we’re much closer to the first two, except that this one has more creamy vanilla, acacia honey, praline, cappuccino… Although these notes of mint tea do arise again after a few seconds. Also white chocolate. With water: more mineral notes, rocks, limestone… Even a little clay or chalk. I like that in my malt. Also marzipan. Mouth (neat): only honey! Right, and vanilla, then chlorophyll and touches of bitter sawdust. In the background, pear and pineapple drops. Estery. With water: plain fruit syrup and barley water. It’s very sexy, easy, sweet, coating… Finish: long and, just like the other ones, a little zestier. Honeyed aftertaste. Comments: It’s always nice to have a zesty finish and aftertaste. A very good Arran to pour to beginners because it’s so easy and good. Experienced maltsters will like it too! SGP:651 - 86 points.

Bonus: Arran’s Bere Barley. I’ve regretted I couldn’t compare this baby with Bruichladdich’s Bere when I had that one. Ah well, nothing is perfect.

Arran 2004/2012 'Bere Barley' (46%, OB, Orkney Bere)

Arran 2004/2012 'Bere Barley' (46%, OB, Orkney Bere) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: lovely! Bags of fresh zesty fruits, lemon, gooseberries, yellow peaches (not the sweet juicy ones), with a grainy/cerealy side that’s well there in the background but also rather less ‘invading’ than in Bruichladdich’s no-less excellent bere, as far as I can remember. I have to say this fruity freshness comes as a surprise to me. There are also lovely touches of fresh herbs, angelica, dill, citronella, verbena, lemongrass… Lovely lovely! Maybe even a little caraway. Mouth: excellent! More character now, more spices, always these zesty touches, a lovely creaminess, various honeys, touches of ginger, caraway again, vanilla, a slight earthiness, probably agaves, even sugar cane, chamomile… All much to my liking. This malt never stops unfolding, which usually happens more with (much) older whiskies. Also superb notes of citrons and grapefruits. Excuse me, but wow! Finish: long, superbly fresh and clean, zesty of course, with an expectedly spicier aftertaste. Maybe an excellent curry? Comments: I’m so sad I couldn’t do a head-to-head with the Bruichladdich. It’s impossible for me to tell you which I like best, so same score! I think the Arran is a little easier and a notch sweeter, but it’s also bottled at a lower strength (the Laddie’s at 50% vol.) Oh, and sadly, I haven’t got any of Michel Couvreur’s Bere either. Maybe you know that Michel Couvreur passed away on August 17 this year. RIP! SGP:461 – 90 points.

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



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August 25, 2013


Tasting two Strathmill

Yet another distillery we’re seeing a little more new bottling of these days, thanks to the independent bottlers. Now, I wouldn’t claim I’ve got much to say about Strathmill, Emil…

Strathmill 21 yo (50.5%, The Maltman, bourbon cask, 2012)

Strathmill 21 yo (50.5%, The Maltman, bourbon cask, 2012) Three starsColour: gold. Nose: I wouldn’t say there’s much happening when you nose it neat, it’s a little middle-of-the-road, with a little vanilla, a little apple pie, touches of tea and a tiny-wee metallic touch. Although it tends to become a little more grassy/leathery after a few minutes. Right, seconds. So it’s ‘nice enough’. With water: the oak comes out more. Wet wood and a little dust. Maybe a notch musty. Mouth (neat): starts with sweet malt plus a little grenadine or maybe strawberry syrup and becomes then rather oakier, with some greenness and quite some nutmeg and ginger. Mustard. Good structure and body but it’s a rather narrow profile. With water: no changes or very little. Maybe more porridge and a little lemon. Sweet bread. Finish: medium, malty, with some white pepper and cinnamon. Black tea. Comments: no flaws whatsoever but it’s a little ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Simply good, very decent malt whisky in my opinion. A good example of a 80-points whisky in my book. SGP:341 - 80 points.

Strathmill 23 yo 1990/2013 (51.3%, Single Cask Collection, sherry butt)

Strathmill 23 yo 1990/2013 (51.3%, Single Cask Collection, sherry butt) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is interesting, this one is ex-sherry while the 21 yo was ex-bourbon, and yet both whiskies are extremely similar when nosed neat. Maybe this one’s got a little more tobacco, but that’s pretty all. Water should help differentiate them. With water: not quite, they remain very similar. Maybe this one’s got a little more honeydew this time. The tobacco got louder as well (new pack of Camels, you know…) Soaked wood (touches). Mouth (neat): the spirit is well similar again but this one’s rounder, with an oilier mouth feel and more honey. Having said that, the spicy oak is there again, with the same nutmeg and ginger than in the 21yo. Rather more vanilla too. With water: it’s probably now that the sherry makes the difference, because of these dried fruits and this honey that shine through. But no miracle ;-). Finish: medium very close to the 21 again, with drying spices (cinnamon) and black tea. Comments: fair and good in my opinion. SGP:441 - 81 points.

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



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August 23, 2013


Three Bladnoch IB vs. OB
and a strange aperitif

I’ve always liked Bladnoch’s zesty side, although I’ve found quite some Bladnochs that weren’t that zesty. Today we’ll have two 1990s and one 1991 but first, a young one that was distilled by the current owners, while the others were still ‘UD’ make if I’m not mistaken.

Bladnoch 11 yo 'Christmas 2012' (55%, OB)

Bladnoch 11 yo 'Christmas 2012' (55%, OB) Two stars Christmas? It’s about time… Colour: gold. Nose: a rather thick, extremely raisiny kind of sherriness, still a little rough like many young sherry monsters – but this Bladnoch is not a sherry monster at all. Actually, I don’t quite know what it is. There’s some leather, some tobacco, a little gunpowder (not too much), NO used matches, quite some grass, a feeling of new green oak and then more figs that complement the loud raisins. Also quite some menthol after a while. With water: how very strange! The lemons come through but there’s also some manure, burnt plastic, ginger ale, juniper, milk… How strange indeed. Mouth (neat): oh this is even stranger! Many bitter oranges, touches of plastic, many spices, a slightly bizarre fruitiness, quite sour, some mustard for sure, overripe apples, some ginger, literally litres of mead, fermenting honey… I think it’s the first time I come across such an odd palate. With water: sweet spices everywhere, this shouts ‘European oak’. I’m sure I’m completely wrong, am I not? Finish: long, peppery and gingery. Bitter oranges. Comments: a very strange one indeed, I’d have loved to know this cask personally ;-). What was it? SGP:471 - 72 points.

Bladnoch 22 yo 1991/2013 (47.8%, Pure Spirit, bourbon)

Bladnoch 22 yo 1991/2013 (47.8%, Pure Spirit, bourbon) Four stars and a halfPure Spirit are a new independent bottler from France. This is one of their very first offerings. Colour: straw. Nose: it is a zesty one, hurray! It’s relatively light after the heavy-ish 11 yo but I certainly prefer this kind of complex waxy, citrusy, almondy and slightly mentholated profile. Touches of yellow chartreuse, lemon squash, crème de menthe, maybe a little tar and then more and more lemonade, with a slightly spritzy and chalky side that even gives it something a little medicinal. Baked apples too, some cider. Mouth: it’s a bit like peppered lemon juice, if you will. Or a cocktail made out of lemon squash, black pepper and ginger tonic. Very singular, rather different for sure. After a few seconds, we find also chlorophyll (gum), green tea, quite a lot of lemon balm… And it remains a little spritzy, while other citrus fruits start to come though, mainly grapefruits and citrons. Pure Bladnoch! Finish: pretty long and even zestier. A handful of lemon drops. Comments: it’s quite tart but that’s the style I was expecting. Again, a genuine Bladnoch and a style that’s nowhere else to be seen. Well selected, Pure Spirit! SGP:661 - 89 points.

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2013 (51.7%, OB, cask #5070)

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2013 (51.7%, OB, cask #5070) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this was to be expected, we’re near the Pure Spirit, this one’s maybe a little earthier. There’s a little more cardboard too, but also more herbal notes that are very nice. Old wood, wine cellar, then aspirin tablets, grass, apple peelings… It’s also a little chalky. Let’s see what water will do to it. With water: obviously no sherry cask and yet it’s wine that comes out once water has been added. A mineral riesling? Mouth (neat): an exact ‘copy’ of the 1991, only with more oak impact and more oomph but that’s only the higher strength. Same heavy lemon, zests and grass. Excellent. With water: exactly the same feeling as with the nose, it’s very similar, only a little earthier. And, given that I’m much into good mescal these days, a little agavy too. Finish: long, with the grassy spices coming to the front. Some Tabasco or even Worcester sauce in the aftertaste – serious! Comments: simply the same very high quality as with its independent sibling. I don’t feel like I should give it a different score. Lovely Bladnochs! SGP:661 - 89 points.

Bladnoch 23 yo 1990/2013 (48.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Bladnoch 23 yo 1990/2013 (48.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this one is very similar again but it’s rather a fatter version, with more butter, cake and vanilla. Biscuit straight from the oven, cashews, then indeed, a lot of lemon cake and hints of fresh walnuts/apple peelings. Mouth: nah, this is excellent again, fresh, zesty, lemony, maybe a little more syrupy than the two others again but frankly, it’s lovely whisky. To tell you the truth, this reminds me of some Alsatian riesling vendanges tardives, a wine that’s not often to be seen but that can be stellar ‘only at good winemakers’. Finish: long, zesty, a notch rounder than the others. Very funny touches of fresh parsley in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m afraid I just couldn’t tell you which Bladnoch 1990/1991 I like best. All three are almost perfect whiskies and no other distillery makes this style anymore in my opinion. I think you should buy one of these bottles, honest. SGP:561 - 89 points.

PS: these kinds of clean Bladnochs are dangerous at tastings because they go down a treat, which doesn't mean they are 'too easy' at all. Watch out!

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Charlie Parker. Track: KC Blues. Amazing sound for the time. Please keep on buying Charlie Parker's music...

August 22, 2013


Malternatives, eighteen tequilas anejo

I know, I know. Actually, I had planned to publish these tasting notes in four chunks but as I wasn't too pleased with the results, I've decided to publish everything in one go. Whisky geeks may prefer this anyway ;-). Please note that all these little añejo have not been tasted during the same session, I've actually done four different sessions on four different days. Also remember that it's all done from a whisky lover's point of vue, tequila freaks may have come up with very different notes and comments. Good luck!


Tequila anejo, session one

We’ll have a few añejo tequilas @38% vol. today. That way, no spirit will be ‘better’ because it’s ‘bigger’. Or rather more powerful. I have no idea how to sort these babies, I think we’ll use their prices in the UK (at Master of Malts). Of course that’ll be in an ascending order, let’s see if more expensive means better, at is certainly not always the case with Scotch whisky. By the way, my indications regarding the ages are pure guesses as not two websites seem to agree on those. Bah, they’re all NAS anyway and are probably younger than 3, as otherwise they would be labelled as ‘extra- añejo’.

1800 Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

1800 Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars This one’s mostly aged in French barrels for around one year. It’s 100% blue agave and it seems that it’s a brand by José Cuervo (i.e. still the Beckmann family, a deal with that fine little company called Diageo having failed last year). Colour: gold. Nose: starts very aromatic, almost explosive, easy, sexy… There’s this huge kind of soapiness (lavender and juniper) that’s typically ‘tequila’ as well as a smooth oakiness, with quite some vanilla. I also find touches of melons and peaches. So yes, it’s easy and it’s very pleasant. After ten minutes: more earthy tones, which is great news. Mouth: nice enough but a little indistinct, blending honeyed and grassy/salty notes in a slightly bizarre way. What I enjoy is all this lemon and grapefruit that make it more lively despite the low strength. Sadly, it becomes weakish after just a few minutes. Perfumy as well (lavender). Finish: short, soapier, with more lavender. The lemon’s gone. Comments: fine, but I seem to prefer them grassier and closer to the agave. Nowhere near the excellent Arette that we had on July 3, but that one was much older. SGP:451 - around 75 points.

Jose Cuervo Gran Centenario Anejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Jose Cuervo Gran Centenario Anejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars Blue agave again, aged for one year and a half this time, in American oak instead of French oak. Should be even smoother, shouldn’t it? Cuervo is the largest tequila brand. Colour: straw. Nose: suffers a bit after the 1800 since it’s rather grassier, more toasted as well, with more, well, toasted bread and rather less agave-y notes. Also rather more notes of vegetables, gherkins, capers, olives… Which is all nice I have to say. So it’s the largest brand, but this tequila’s rather less ‘commercial’ in my opinion. After ten minutes: gets really briny and sour! Mouth: nah, this isn’t much more to my liking than the 1800 on the palate. Lacks definition, I’d say, there’s a molassy feeling and some bitter touches that don’t mingle well with that. The saltiness is pleasant, though. Just fine. Finish: a little short but rather more agave-y. Comments: I liked Jose Cuervo’s ‘Reserva de la Familia’ much better! SGP:360 - around 75 points.

Sauza 'Tres Generaciones Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Sauza 'Tres Generaciones Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Aged for 12 months in American oak. It’s a very large brand by Jim Beam, it’s seems that it’s #2 in the world. Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one’s even less aromatic, and it’s rather soapier than both the 1800 and the Cuervo. I mean real soap, not agave. Nice touches of green olives, though, always good news. After ten minutes: not much development but the olives stayed there, hurray. The soap as well, booh. Mouth: this soapiness is always there, while the briny part got bigger, but without much precision, it’s all kind of jumbled. Some vanilla and maple syrup coming out after a few minutes but that doesn’t help. It’s okayish, I’d say. Finish: short, salty. A feeling of capers again, maybe a little smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly good, and I know a kind of soapiness is an asset to tequila, but I feel it’s excessive here. SGP:270 - around 65 points.

7 Leguas Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

7 Leguas Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Four stars Under the Scotch Whisky Regulations, it would be forbidden to put a large '7' like this, which, of course, suggests this is 7 years old while it's only one year and a half. Having said that, Siete (7) Leguas were the original makers of Patron and still seem to grind the agaves using stone wheels. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s the most agave-y so far, and the cleanest/purest as well. It’s actually a little closer to a Reposado in style (less than 1 year) and it’s also hinting at some great gin. I also enjoy this wee smokiness. Excuse me, a pequeña smokiness. Also white peaches, perhaps, and… gentian? Lovely nose. After ten minutes: more gentian. Mouth: ah yes this is a whole different league. Bigger, fatter, more flavourful, more agave-y, more lemony, more earthy and rooty… This is great! It’s a perfect example of tequila for malt lover, I’d say. It’s even a little waxy, which says a lot. Finish: long, with bags of olives both black and green. Maybe even kippers, imagine! An ‘Islay’ tequila. Comments: impressive distillate, very clean yet complex and characterful. My favourite so far and by far. SGP:281 - around 85 points.

Don Julio 1942 (38%, tequila, añejo, +/-2013)

  Don Julio 1942 (38%, tequila, añejo, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Sure no drinker of medium intelligence will ever believe 1942 is this tequila’s vintage, but still, using such marginally likely years is dodgy. You cannot do that in Scotland either – I mean, you cannot write such years in big bold letters anymore. Not even 1824! What’s more, Diageo seem to be involved in Don Julio. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh no, this is much sweeter, more sugary, less grassy than the others. There’s much more vanilla (and yet the colour’s pale) as well as quite some honey. Even tinned pineapple and white chocolate. So the smoothest and the easiest of them all. Interesting to find all these huge differences, so tequilas are not all the same, after all? (just joking). I have to say this one grows on me once the sugary smells are gone. It’s complex, fruitier, more tropical tequila. Mouth: well, it’s a little too sweet after the 7 Leguas, there’s too much custard and maple syrup, vanilla cream, even fudge, coconut oil… I have no proof but some newish American oak must have been involved here, it’s probably great tequila (it’s certainly luxury, ahem) but it’s rather more oak-driven than spirit-driven. Not obligatorily a bad thing but I like the sharper styles much better. Finish: short, rounded, but the agaves have their say now. Comments: so it’s a creamier and sweeter tequila. Not quite my taste but I’m sure it’s technically perfect. SGP:460 - around 78 points.

WAIT! While we’re tasting Mexican spirits at 38% vol. we could as well have a little bonus. An añejo sotol! But what is sotol? Frankly, only one moth ago, I had no ideas. I would have told you it’s a blend of Motul and Veedol or something like that. Actually, it’s a spirit made in Chihuahua out of desert spoon and should be quite close to mescal. Desert spoon is a plant that… oh well, google is your friend!

Hacienda de Chihuahua Oro Puro Añejo (38%, OB, Sotol, +/-2012)

Hacienda de Chihuahua Oro Puro Añejo (38%, OB, Sotol, +/-2012) Three stars Nice name, don’t you think? This one comes with gold flakes in the bottle, like more and more 'innovative' spirits and liqueurs do these days. Innovative? You bet, my grandpa’s old love the Danziger Goldwasser used to have that fifty years ago and probably way before that. Besides, all that glitters isn’t gold, so let’s see… Blow, trumpets, this is my first sotol! Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not unlike some buttery mezcal, I’d say. It’s a little burnt as well, bizarrely toasted and roasted, with little clear hint at some specific raw materials (I agree, that’s rarely the case with whisky anyway, and I’m no expert in... what again? Ah yes, desert spoon aka sotol). Having said that, I enjoy the olive-y touches, like in some of the tequilas we just had. There’s a feeling of sugarcane as well, in fact we’re somewhere between mezcal/tequila and rhum agricole. Interesting. Mouth: but this is quite good! It’s a rather fat spirit, creamy, that starts on both fruity (papayas?) and grassy, olive-y, briny/salty notes. There’s quite some lemon oil too and all that ends up with a… mojito! Just with less mint than in a regular mojito. Finish: rather long, always on a rather dry mojito. Say a mojito with green olives instead of mint leaves. Comments: a very good surprise, my first sotol was a very good one, I hope I’ll find more. As for the gold flakes, I don’t think they brought much flavours. SGP:471 - around 80 points.


Tequila anejo, session two

Amate Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Amate Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars and a half 100% blue agave, made by the same people who make Casa Noble (which I enjoy). It was matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a clean, slightly perfumy one, with some vanilla right from the start. A lot of custard and a little café latte, then a little melon, perhaps. It’s all very light and not extremely ‘agavey’. Vanilla fudge. Also hints of roasting coffee beans (torrefaction). Mouth: the creamy vanilla is back on the palate, this is very smooth and easy, certainly well made. There’s quite some white chocolate, a touch of crème de menthe, then a little grapefruit and salt but it all remains very smooth and extremely easy. Finish: pretty short, smooth, easy, creamy. A little sugar cane and pepper in the aftertaste, nothing too big. Comments: it’s an extremely easy tequila, the bourbon wood really shows. There was much less grassiness than in most other tequilas I could try. SGP:440 - around 78 points.

Casa Vieja Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Casa Vieja Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars and a half 100% blue agave and kosher, it seems. Colour: straw. Nose: this is very different, this time it’s more an almondy side that’s striking first, there’s also more agave as well as a little chocolate. So slightly rougher than the Amate but also a little more spirit-driven, I’d say. Does that come from less active oak? I must say I like it. Mouth: well, it’s a rawer, rougher tequila than the Amate, maybe more ‘natural’ but rather less clean and immediately enjoyable. Having said that it’s rather more interesting, and I like these oranges and the touches of williams pears. Finish: medium length, with some honey coming through as well as a grassier aftertaste. Comments: more oomph this time, but less clean smoothness. Same score, I’d say. Certainly a good tequila but nothing to write home about. SGP:350 - around 78 points.

Cazadores Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Cazadores Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Probably 100% blue agave, and probably from the Highlands (Los Altos) just like the others. Colour: straw. Nose: much less interesting than both the Amate and the Casa Vieja at first nosing. It’s much more spirity and less aromatic, slightly vodka-ish. Not very interesting so far, maybe this one’s more for mixing? Tends to improve but it reminds much less expressive than the others. Mouth: it’s the soapiest so far, and the most spirity too. Lacks coherence. Some juniper this time, a little cumin, grass, grapefruit, a faint dustiness, something slightly burnt…  Finish: short, grassy, a little burnt again. The soapiness remains there in the aftertaste. Comments: very forgettable, I’d say, but maybe tequila geeks will disagree? SGP:361 - around 65 points.

Patrón Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Patrón Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars A very well-known brand, even this whisky guy knew about Patron, imagine! Now I’ve done a bit of googling and it seems that it’s also very controversial, some tequila guys seem to really hate Patrón… It’s supposed to be ‘luxury’ (how vulgar!), let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: well, not much, it’s more or less in the same league as the Cazadores on the nose. The almondy side is nice but it lacks aromas and I find it rather weak. It’s also a notch eau-de-vie-ish. However it tends to improve a bit, with touches of brine and nougat and liquorice. Remains light and shy. Mouth: same feeling of caramel and vanilla as in the Amate, but this is a little bigger this time. Nice spices, cloves, caraway, some vanilla, some oranges and some Chinese anise. It’s a very easy drink. Finish: medium length, smooth, slightly sweetish. Juniper and a little pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: SGP:451 - around 74 points.

Some pretty good tequilas today but I don’t think we’ve seen much light! Maybe next time? Two more sessions and we’ll have exhausted our stocks of tequila. Who said thank god, who?


Tequila anejo, session three

We’re going on with our little exploration of Tequiland today. The latest session was a little disappointing, especially the pretty expensive and hype Patron has been frankly underwhelming…

Herencia De Plata Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Herencia De Plata Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars and a half 100% agave, aged for 12 or 18 months depending on the (apparently very serious) sources. I’ve already noticed that things can be very shady with tequila information. A brand by Tequilas del Señor. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it seems that it’s a rather simple and fairly fruity tequila. It’s a tad spirity but I do kind of enjoy the touches of oranges and pears, the moderately agavey notes and the hints of ripe kiwis. There’s a growing vanilla from the oak as well but it’s a rather shy tequila so far. Pleasant, reminds me of the Amate.

Mouth: really easy, rather light and fruity, smoothly citrusy (tangerines and oranges), with also a little passion fruit, all that coated with vanilla and a few soft spices from the wood. Very soft curry. Finish: short to medium, with a little more agave and less vanilla, which is good news. Only a pinch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: a round and easy one, in the same league as the Amate in my opinion. Maybe not for people who are seeking deep character and personality in their spirits. SGP:431 - 78 points.

Palapa Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Palapa Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Four stars100% agave like all the other tequilas we're having. It was aged for 18 months in American oak barrels. Colour: straw. Nose: much, much more happening in this one, which is much more agave-y, earthier as well, pleasantly fragrant (cologne, lavender) and slightly smoky as well. A little humus, moss, wee touches of turpentine (nice touches), pinesap, honeydew and then a little charcoal and maybe coal smoke. A nose that I enjoy a lot, high quality, complex, fresh. Mouth: again, we’re close to the distillate, with a lot of agave, juniper, lime, pepper, olives and… stuff. It’s no big spirit but I like the fact that it’s close to the raw materials. Finish: quite long, very spicy, with more salt and pepper. Comments: we’re very close to the good mezcals! But always the same song, they should do batches at 45% vol., I’m sure they would be brilliant. SGP:362 - around 85 points.

Corralejo Añejo (38.5%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Corralejo Añejo (38.5%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars This was aged in new charred American oak barrels, just like bourbon. It seems that it's customary to stand while sipping this one. Not very convenient when writing tasting notes if you ask me. Colour: white wine (but the very slim bottle is coloured in red). Nose: nada, niente, nichts, rien, nothing. Well, what’s sure is that the Palapa was much more expressive. Having said that, this isn’t un-nice at all, it’s just very shy. The profile is actually similar to that of the Palapa, but this one only whispers. Maybe hints of pickled stuff… gherkins? Mouth: nice and fine, but extremely light, feels more like 30% vol., and my palate IS fresh. Nah, it’s weak, now I understand why you can stand while sipping this. Finish: very short, but I like this salty feeling. Comments: I think this is very good spirit (so no bad score), it’s just that it’s extremely light. And yes it came from a bottle that was just opened. SGP:230 - around 70 points.

El Charro Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

El Charro Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two starsThis one is 100% Blue Agave harvested from proprietary fields and aged for over two years in French oak barrels (I mean the spirit). Colour: straw. Nose: we’re more in the style of the Herencia, with more vanilla than in the other two, and less agave. Having said that it’s clean and even kind of pleasantly crisp, with maybe more lemon than in all the other ones. Also a little chocolate, caramel and mocha, then touches of juniper as often, cinnamon cake. Decent, I’d say, but I seem to like them crisper. Mouth: yeah, the caramel and the vanilla are a little loud, but it’s a pleasant dra… her, spirit. It’s not big, it’s a little too sweet for my taste, but yeah, it’s decent. Not much else to say I’m afraid. Finish: short to medium, a little roasted, a little sugary. A little burnt stuff in the aftertaste, as well as touches of salt. Comments: same league as the Corralejo. But it’s very cheap, less than 20 euros it seems. SGP:430 - around 70 points.

Right, four more tequilas añejo and we’re done. We’ve especially got two from very crazy bottles, you’ll see… And then we’ll tackle the reposados, and then the blancos… No, I’m joking, I don’t think we’ll touch any other tequila before long. Unless some cask strength Arette or such crosses our path ;-). Now, high-end mescals, any day!


Tequila anejo, session four

Esperanto Seleccion Añejo (38%, OB, +/-2013)

Esperanto Seleccion Añejo (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) It’s true that we sometimes scoff at some of the Scots’ crazy decanters, wooden longships or stag’s heads in metal-plated plastic, but tequila goes way further and this handmade bottle is plain crazy. And the blue agave looks like some thistle! This tequila by Distilleria Azteca was aged for three years, which is long for tequila. Almost extra-añejo. Colour: white wine. Nose: nice, clean and smooth, extremely easy, fruity, vanilla-ed, with a little brine and a very discreet smokiness in the background. I also get a little triple-sec or orange liqueur, touches of Campari and a little honeydew. So all smooth, soft and relatively light, but clean. ‘Pleasant’ (not that I like that word too much). Mouth: it’s very short, there isn’t much body but it starts nicely on lime and brine, then vanilla. The problem is that it’s really extremely short so you have to keep sipping away until you find more flavours. No thanks! ;-). Finish: non-existent, there isn’t any finish. Nah, okay, touches of grapefruits and honey. Comments: I’m sure this is quality tequila but frankly, it’s weak. Okay, weakish. And yes my palate is fresh, this is my very first spirit today and I haven’t eaten anything since five hours. Honest! SGP:230 - around 65 points.

Ocho Curado (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Ocho Curado (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Four stars This is actually tequila blanco to which they have added cooked agave for a while. That’s what has coloured this tequila. I have to confess I had thought it was an añejo when I sourced it, because of the colour. I should start to read the finer prints! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: bizarre stuff, very unusual and a little disconcerting, but it’s got a mezcaly side that’s appealing. There’s quite some cooked apples or tarte tatin and then more and more caramel, but it remains clean and kind of pure. No caramel bomb at all. In the background, as usual, brine and lime as well as a little olive oil. I like this nose. Mouth: three times bigger than the disappointing Esperanto (got that one?). And good! It’s a briny spirit and there are bags of olives, I’m really feeling we’re much more in mescal territories. Moderately smoky but there’s a lot of agaves, with touches of quince jelly in the background. Some pepper too. Finish: quite long, all on brine and lemon. Did I mention olives? Comments: I had thought this would be a mistake but it’s not, I’m glad I could try this mezcaly Curado. Now I understand why Ocho seem to have a very good reputation! SGP:462 - around 85 points.

Herradura Añejo (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Herradura Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars This is a large brand by Brown-Forman. It comes from the Lowlands, not the Highlands. It’s aged in white oak for around two years. Colour: straw. Nose: how un-tequila! This is pure apple juice with a little vanilla thrown in. It’s extremely soft, whispering, with an agavy side that’s almost unnoticeable. There’s quite some soap, though, apple peelings, and maybe tiny hints of roasted sesame oil (with this smoky side). Cadum? Mouth: not too bad! Much more body again although this is now a little rough and ‘untidy’, certainly a little soapy, with these violety touches that we already found in other tequilas. Finish: quite long and quite peppery. Certainly grassier. Comments: a rather rough – and rather soapy – anejo but I’d count it amongst the ‘not-too-bad’ ones. SGP:361 - around 72 points.

Kah Añejo (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Kah Añejo (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) one star and a half The craziest bottling, it’s said that ‘Its bottle and spirit are reflective of the Day of the Dead.’ How scary is that? The bottles are hand painted so no two bottles are exactly the same. I hope this ‘deadly’ (albeit organic) bottling will make for a perfect last tequila! Colour: straw. Nose: ah, this is interesting. This time it’s rather mushrooms and damp earth that speak first, then we have more coffee. It remains light and discreet, like the vast majority of the tequilas we could try, but at least it’s got some personality. There’s also some tobacco smoke (cigar) and a very moderate brine. Little lemon or lime but a little olive oil there is. Soft but, er, very pleasant. Mouth: nice, hard to say more. Good structure, a little brine, lemon, some kind of grassy gin (right, juniper), violet drops, lemon liqueur… Sadly, the middle is weak and… Finish: it’s very short again. Only the slightly salty/limy aftertaste is fairly pleasant. Comments: seriously, it’s not a bad one, it’s just that it’s lacking knack and zest and oomph and responsiveness. SGP:250 - around 68 points.



So, we’re done! There are very mixed feelings at Tequilafu… er, Whiskyfun Towers. I think it’s obvious that tequila has some potential, but also that by not always mastering white oak too well (vanilla kills agave, I’d say) and by keeping the strength too low (40% can be okayish some time but 38% is really too low) the makers are missing opportunities quality wise. I think mezcal (rather the mezcals I could try) is much more interesting than tequila (right, than the tequilas I could try). What seems pretty obvious to me is that apart from the odd cask strength or single cask versions such as some Arette, tequila isn’t quite a worthy malternative and that’s why you won’t see much more tequila on whiskyfun. Now, I’d love to be proven wrong!
PS: these three have been quite very good, though. 7 Leguas Añejo - Palapa Añejo - Ocho Curado.




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August 21, 2013


Two 1996 Glentauchers
or the joys of consistency

There are more Glentauchers around than in the not-to-distant past, it’s more or less like Imperial or, say Littlemill. And many are good!

Glentauchers 1996/2013 (54.5%, Riegger's Selection, cask #1167, 239 bottles)

Glentauchers 1996/2013 (54.5%, Riegger's Selection, cask #1167, 239 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s fresh, quite mineral at first nosing (limestone) and fruity (anything from all sorts of apples). Some gooseberries too, red currants, then a little more vanilla and white pepper from the oak. Also touches of mint and maybe a little ginger. Nice’n’clean. With water: goes on in the same direction. A western orchard in August (yes we’re a bit early). Mouth (neat): creamy and fruity, powerful but easy, sweet, with a bag of well-aged bubblegum tablets ;-). I also enjoy these touches of tangerines and then the slightly astringent grassiness that brings more backbone. With water: very easy sweet barley and fruits. Goes down well, with no fuss and no hassles. Finish: of medium length, always fruity. A little more citrus. Very pleasant malty aftertaste, with just a little cinnamon. Comments: my definition of a very fine malt whisky. Nobody will write a book about this baby but it’s all pleasure. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Glentauchers 1996/2013 (55.2%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1155, 167 bottles)

Glentauchers 1996/2013 (55.2%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1155, 167 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: we’re obviously very close to the Riegger, but this one has a little more vanilla and café latte from the wood, and so rather les fruits in comparison. But other than that, both are very similar. With water: both converge even more. Maybe this one has a little more sweet fruits this time, such as bananas. Just wee touches… Mouth (neat): it’s almost the same whisky again, there’s just a little more oak again. With water: same whisky as above. Finish: medium length, clean, slightly citrusy, with malt and raw sweet barley in the aftertaste. Comments: same pedigree, same wood, what did I expect? Good stuff anyways. With all this rampant consistency ;-) at the Scottish distillers, I think I may drop tasting whiskies from the same distilleries, wood, age and vintage at the same time from now on. SGP:651 - 86 points.

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


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Block Today: ROCK AND ROLL. Performer: 'the French Dr Feelgood' Little Bob Story. Track: Like Rock 'n Roll. Please visit Little Bob's website and buy the music...

August 20, 2013


Tasting three surprising Craigellachie

Craigellachie is another name that was rarely seen until just one or two years ago and that becomes more easily available these days, thanks to the indies. In my experience, Craigellachie’s usually a fairly light malt.

Craigellachie 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.5%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon barrel, rum finish)

Craigellachie 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.5%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon barrel, rum finish) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, it’s a rather light one that starts mainly on apple juice and a little vanilla. Wee touches of varnish as well but there’s no acetone or nail polish remover. Rather than that, there’s more white chocolate after a while, as well as baked pears and just a little cider. With water: swims very well! The chocolates remains there while the fruitiness became wider, so to speak. There are now also notes of peaches and melons, maybe a little ala Bruichladdich. Mouth (neat): ripe garden fruits and sweet vanilla, with a dash of white pepper. It’s powerful and pretty estery, not bubblegumy though. Nice fresh fruitiness. With water: very easy, sweet, fruity. A little muesli, maybe. Easy and very good. Finish: medium length, a notch grassier. More oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: simply a very lovely fruity young Speysider au naturel, with just the right amount of vanilla. Flawless. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Craigellachie 15 yo 1997/2013 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, 293 bottles)

Craigellachie 15 yo 1997/2013 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, 293 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this is a grassier one, instead of juice we have apple skins, fresh walnuts, then rather obvious notes of sunflower oil and green tea. A little menthol too. Pleasant. With water: a little fruitier. Baked apples and then more apricots. Apricot pie, even zwetscke plums. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 2003 but this one has more citrus this time. Oranges, apples, pears, maybe cherries, then a little more nutmeg and pepper. The refill hogshead was still quite active. With water: the oak became a little bigger but so did the oranges, so, all fine. Finish: medium length, fruity, citrusy, clean. Comments: same comments as regarding the 2003, we’re in similar territories. A little more citrus but also a little more oak, so it’s a tie. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 18 yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, small batch, 432 bottles)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 18 yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, small batch, 432 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: the new series by Cadenhead is doing wonders again, this time with ‘incorporated OBE’ that blends a little metal polish, fino sherry, walnuts and dry tobacco. It’s very complex whisky, I’d have sworn to Vishnu this came from a 30 yo bottle, serious. Right an old black dumpy ;-). Also beautiful whiffs of shoe polish, engine oil and pu-erh tea. It’s all very tertiary, at just 18 years of age. It was a great cask, hope they’ve refilled it! With water: maybe not. There’s a faint vinegar coming out, whiffs of old wine barrel… But all that tends to go away, as usual. A little smoke now. Mouth (neat): wooah! Same impressions, same complexity, same bigness and same feeling of ‘great old bottle’. Various waxes and polishes, tobacco, leather, quinces, bergamots, Seville oranges, even touches of sugar cane, certainly a wee saltiness, more tobacco… This is impressive indeed. With water: even more of all that! Granted, water lets drying notes of cocoa powder come out, which is not obligatorily a good thing, and maybe quite some overinfused black tea too, but all that remains more than bearable. Finish: long, dry, waxy, phenolic. Comments: this is becoming a little embarrassing, all the new ‘black’ Cadenhead I could try so far (not all published yet) have been quite fantastic in my book. Let me swear to both Manco Capac and Alfred Barnard that I haven’t received one single penny from Cadenhead’s or any of their representatives (or any other bottlers or distillers by the way). Crikey, I shan’t give baddish scores just to look more ‘unbiased’, shall I? Now, regarding this little Craig', careful with water! SGP:462 - 90 points.

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



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August 19, 2013


Tasting new single casks
by Glendronach and an aperitif

I think most newish Glendronach single casks have been embarrassingly good, provided you’re sometimes not against a little gunpowder in your sherry monsters. I’ve got plenty yet to taste but we’ll focus on the new ‘batch 8’ today. Well, not quite, let’s not make their lives too easy and rather start with a nice little ‘challenging’ aperitif as we like to do at WF Towers…

Glendronach 12 yo (70° proof, OB, 26 2/3 Fl. ozs, +/-1975)

Glendronach 12 yo (70° proof, OB, 26 2/3 Fl. ozs, +/-1975) Five stars This one is different from the versions for Italy that used to be bottled at 43% vol. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’ll say it again, you never quite know what comes from bottle ageing or what was in the whisky in the first place, but this is beautifully sappy, resinous, waxy and almondy, although it’s no big spirit. There’s also a little fruity olive oil, touches of newspaper (ink) and then more fruits, rather around pink grapefruits. A wee mustiness too but that’s OBE for sure. Old wine cellar. After fifteen minutes, a lot of apple peelings, which is great. Mouth: perfect! Clean and zesty but also thick and oily, unexpectedly phenolic and waxy, very ‘old Highlands’ in a way. There’s even some salt and a few clams and whelks (any shellfish, really), which gives this old young Glendronach a funny coastal side. Finish: sure it’s not the longest but now we find fresh mint and other herbs. The aftertaste is even saltier. Comments: fab young old-skool Glendronach with very little sherry inside, if any. Some great smoke in the aftertaste. This starts very well. New ones, over to you! SGP:353 - 91 points.

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (55.6%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1988, 664 bottles)

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (55.6%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1988, 664 bottles) Five stars Colour: full amber. Nose: plenty of chocolate (both milk and dark) and then coffee and more coffee. It’s absolutely not sweet or fruity, this is very dry. Very little gunpowder this time, not one single used match and rather gravel and sand, soot, leather and then a growing humus and smoke. Charcoal. So yes, I think it’s very dry for a ‘PX’. With water: no it’s not. Water makes it sweeter, smoother and rounder. Big time! Stunning leather/tobacco, like nosing an old Habanero from a good house. Woo-hoo! (excuse me). And there’s even smoke. Mouth (neat): instantly reminds me of the current ‘Cask Strength’ – unless my memory doesn’t serve me well. There’s a faint note of kirsch, then ‘ideas’ of slivovitz or even date arrak, then more triple-sec, raisins, figs and other dried fruits. There’s also more gunpowder this time, which translates into a slightly chalky/mineral side. I think this is still a little rough, but it’s a very fine one for sure. Also cloves and cumin, more and more of that. With water: I was wrong, it’s not rough, it just needed water. Old sweet wine that got dry. Rivesaltes, Maury or, maybe, PX indeed. Finish: long, smoother, raisiny, easy. Smoky aftertaste. Comments: I just had an idea, I’ll do a big bold session with only sherried Glendronachs and Karuizawas. Why am I telling you this now? SGP:462 - 90 points.

Glendronach 17 yo 1996/2013 (53.1%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1490, 709 bottles???)

Glendronach 17 yo 1996/2013 (53.1%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1490, 709 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: ha! This one comes from the same kind of cask as the 2002 but it’s completely different. Not that it’s much sweeter or fruitier when neat, but this time we find distinct gunpowder, bags of soot and ashes, some soy sauce, amontillado sherry, a lot of bacon and then a great sourness. Chocolate sauce, leather, tar and straight beef meat. Oh, and a lot of mustard coming through after a while – which goes well with beef, haha. I love these dry gamy noses. With water: a perfect example of how ‘gunpowder’ can be an asset. We’re exactly between a gun that just shot and dried porcinis. Yes that’s a new – albeit expensive - way of harvesting mushrooms ;-). Mouth (neat): yes, THIS is sweeter. An extremely rich palate, very tertiary, leathery, with cakes and cakes of old pu-erh and many raisins. Also Christmas cake ‘of course’, cloves, chewing tobacco, mint sauce, millionaire shortbread and, alas, also a growing green grapiness that’s a little less stunning. White Armagnac (blanche). With water: crikey, water put that straight. Amazing. Green tobacco, gingerbread and myrtle. Finish: very long, more leathery. Caraway and cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: same overall quality as the 2002, same score. Good sherry makes wonders. Sure the distillate is hard to find (not much of what was in the old 12yo is to be found in these sherry monsters) but is that important when the sherry’s great? SGP:561 - 90 points.

Glendronach 19 yo 1994/2013 (58.4%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #101, 628 bottles)

Glendronach 19 yo 1994/2013 (58.4%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #101, 628 bottles) Five stars Colour: very dark amber. Nose: why this oloroso is sweeter than the PX on the nose, I don’t know. This is much more on classic prunes and raisins and Seville oranges and dark rum and… burnt matches. Not many, but quite a few. Some ham too, tobacco, then more old wine, barrels, saltpetre, chocolate… Tends to converge with the PXs I have to say. With water: chocolate, chocolate and chocolate. So it became narrower but if you like chocolate, this is for you. Mouth: very rich but crisper than the others. Blood oranges? Sure it’s a heavy baby but it’s sippable even at almost 60% vol. Maybe it’s just a little too prickly and gritty. Read ‘green and grassy’, as some sherry monsters can be. Water should help. With water: you bet it does! This time it’s cinchona, tonic water, pepper and ginger that play first fiddles but I love that. Indeed, I’m a Campari kind of guy. Finish: long, peppery, greatly bitter. The aftertaste is a little dusty but that actually works in this context. Comments: another 90. They’re all different but it’s just impossible to claim that one is ‘better’ than the others. Or even ‘more to my liking’, apologies Mom. SGP:461 - 90 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #3, 633 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #3, 633 bottles) Five stars Colour: full amber. Nose: very different again, this is shier but also seemingly more complex, maybe more elegant… So less ‘wham-bam’, with more flowers (orange blossom, lime tree), then rocks, earth, this feeling of old wine cellar again, a few walnuts, touches of balsamico, fresh almond and… gewürztraminer. I mean roses and litchis, but only wee touches. So heavy sherry can remain complex and elegant! A little bacon too (that’s less elegant, I agree). With water: an old cabinet of Partagas Lusitania. I smoke very rarely these days but these stunning aromas remain very vivid in my mind. Mouth (neat): it’s desert! Many honeys and many liqueurs, with a perfect combination of oranges, caraway, orange blossom honey, Virginia tobacco, candied ginger and a fistful of juicy sultanas to round this off. With water: absolute perfection. Love the dryness. Finish: very long, it’s like a grande finale. Love the bitterness, no aftertaste should be sweet in my opinion. Comments: I almost went for 93 points. This one might well be the best recent 20 years old I could taste. Very, very impressive. So, old Lusitanias, I remember very well when we first… But you don’t care, do you? SGP:462 - 92 points.

Sweet Vishnu, not one single middle-aged Glendronach below 90 points! Believe me, I tried very hard to find flaws or whatever, I just couldn’t. And I even started the session with a very skilled and fast pacemaker! The new ones simply got me, fair and square. Congrats.

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


Pete and Jack in St. Tropez



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August 18, 2013


Official and independent
ultra-young Speyburn

Well, one is NAS but that should well mean very young. It comes with one of these sweet, smart, highly melodious and ever-charming Gaelic names the marketing departments are dying for. BTW we're expecting a new official 35yo, that should be something...

Speyburn 'Bradan Orach' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Speyburn 'Bradan Orach' (40%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars It appears that the name means ‘golden salmon’, let’s only hope this is no fishy bottling (now, that was smart, S.!) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s quite aromatic but we’re all on beer, bread and porridge at first nosing. Baker’s yeast, yoghurt and then a lot of fresh malt. In the background, touches of pineapple and pears, as often in very young malts. It’s far from being unpleasant but you really have to care for fresh cereals. After a few minutes, more fresh mushrooms and (even) more sourness. Mouth: nah, it’s pear spirit with a little roasted malt, breadcrumbs and barley water. It’s not repulsive – at all – but it’s not to be sipped. For cocktails? Finish: of medium length, with the alcohol and touches of pineapple again. Comments: rather immature, not bad at all and certainly not flawed (so we won’t go below 70) but we’re bordering vodka territories in my opinion. Now, the price is 25 Euros, which is more than fair! SGP:430 - 70 points.

Speyburn 7 yo 2004/2012 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #8498)

Speyburn 7 yo 2004/2012 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #8498) Ahem, seven years old? I hope it’s magnificent distillate! Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a softer and more vanilla-ed version of the official. Raw barley and custard, corn syrup, overripe apples, pears and muesli. Once again, it’s pleasant enough provided you like very young and pretty ‘natural’ malts. After ten minutes: a little more fresh mint and a wee geraniumy side. Mouth: very young, not bad at all, just uninteresting and even a little too hot and spirity. Bitter pears? Does that exist? Becomes even a little acrid and astringent. Finish: long and bitter. Comments: I hope this is not malt whisky’s future. It’s certainly not a bad idea to let us try near-newmakes from various distilleries, but maybe not at 45 Euros a bottle? SGP:351 - 65 points

Where’s the malty cavalry when you need them? Well, it’s coming…

Speyburn-Glenlivet 22 yo (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, +/-1985)

Speyburn-Glenlivet 22 yo (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, +/-1985) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: not need to tell you this is a completely different world and proof that Speyburn can be wonderful (not that we weren’t in the know, of course). As always, it’s a little difficult to separate ‘good’ OBE from what was in the whisky in the first place, but this is splendidly metallic and oily, with this feeling of ‘old engine’ (say Aston-Martin since it’s the brand’s 100th Anniversary just now), and then many herbs and nuts. A little patchouli, almonds, barley water, camphor, old herbal liqueur, mint-flavoured tea… The whole’s quite elegant, subtle… Mouth: sure the OBE isn’t perfect here, there are touches of industrial orange juice (the dreadful Fanta) but other than that, it’s very good old malt. Maybe a little lavender as well? Parma violets? There’s even a little peat, it seems. Now, the nose was nicer than this palate, as often. Finish: of medium length, with a curious combo of cranberries and, again, violet sweets. Blood oranges? Comments: this is not perfect but it’s fun and entertaining. The nose was great. SGP:552 - 86 points.

(with many thanks to cavalryman Heinz)

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



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August 16, 2013


Tasting Macallan Ruby and official compadres

Hurray, we’ve got the new Macallan ‘Ruby’. We were missing it after having tried the Gold, the Amber, the Sienna and the Prussian Blue. Nein, that one doesn’t exist ;-). And while we’re at it and in true WF fashion, we’ll also have a few other official Macallans for good measure. Older ones, of course…

Macallan ‘Ruby’ (43%, OB, 1824 series, +/-2013)

Macallan ‘Ruby’ (43%, OB, 1824 series, +/-2013) Four stars Colour: amber. Absolutely not ruby but that’s good news. Well, they could always do a Beaujolais finish on a very young spirit if they need genuine ruby… Nose: we’re somewhere between both worlds. Modern woodiness (pencil shavings, maple syrup, vanilla) and old-style Macallan, with figs, dates, quinces, raisins and touches of both strawberry jam and orange marmalade. It is an aromatic nose, more ‘Macallan’ than many other recent offerings (certainly the Fine Oaks) and it reminds me a bit of the old ‘all blue’ 30yo. One may feel a little ‘wood technology’ but I won’t deny it’s extremely well made. So far. Mouth: the oak doesn’t feel too much but it’s simpler than on the nose, more fruity and jammy, with good chocolate and raisins. It’s a sweet one, it’s only in the background that roasted nuts add a welcome bitterness. Seville oranges. Finish: good length, chocolaty and raisiny. Smoky aftertaste, with a feeling of fresh butter (oak in this context?) Comments: this baby isn’t without reminding me of the best regular 12 yos from around fifteen years ago. It’s very ‘Macallan’, for sure, but I think I liked Sienna even better. SGP:652 - 85 points.

Macallan 12 yo 'Gran Reserva' (45.6%, OB, for Taiwan, 2007)

Macallan 12 yo 'Gran Reserva' (45.6%, OB, for Taiwan, 2007) Four stars and a half The older Gran Reservas were utter sherry monsters, so I’m curious. Colour: dark amber. Darker than Ruby. Nose: much drier, less easy, more metallic than the Ruby at first nosing. More fragrant too, with peonies and maybe a little incense, then cedar wood as well as various herbal teas. Rosehip? There’s also a growing meatiness, between bacon and cured ham, Spanish style. After ten minutes: the flowery notes grew and grew. Also walnuts from the sherry. After fifteen minutes: the metallic touches got bigger. Mouth: wrecked! A lot of plastic! This could well be an accident, thank god I have a sample from another bottle… Please allow me one or two minutes (…) Ah, no, indeed, that was an accident. This is a luscious, rich, very raisiny one. It’s almost pure jam! It’s also a little grapey, the sherry’s quite immense. It’s a rather simple palate but it’s good, provided you like heavy sweet sherry. Finish: long, on dried fruits and raisins. Classic. Comments: let’s not be picky, this phat jammy Macallan is or rather was extremely good. SGP:641 - 88 points.

Macallan Replica '1874' (45%, OB, +/-2002)

Macallan Replica '1874' (45%, OB, +/-2002) Three starsOne of these famous ‘Replicas’ that everybody seemed to kind of hate when they came out. There are various strange stories around the inception of these replicas but we’ll tell them later. Ahem. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a cleaner, less meaty version of the Gran Reserva, but it’s just as fragrant and almost perfumy. This time it’s more sandalwood and incense, maybe roses, then cigars and the usual dried fruits, figs, raisins… There’s also some charcoal, wood smoke, then more bitter chocolate, dried porcinis... I have to say I like this nose. Mouth: I think it is struggling a bit after the Gran Reserva. There’s a bitterish, greenish astringency that makes it a little hard. Grape pips, chlorophyll, pickled ginger… But there are also much nicer sides, of course, the raisins, the figs… I also find a little gunpowder and tar. Finish: long but very grapey, acrid, kind of raspy. A one month old Pauillac ;-). Comments: a little over the top. It probably had a bad seat after the excellent Gran Reserva. SGP:471 - 80 points.

Let’s try to move up another gear if you don’t mind…

Macallan 1963 (43%, OB, UK, 75.7cl, twist cap, +/-1978)

Macallan 1963 (43%, OB, UK, 75.7cl, twist cap, +/-1978) Five stars We already had some excellent official 1963s, especially from a ‘very good’ decanter (WF 88) and a smoky one for Rinaldi in Italy (WF 91). Colour: amber. Nose: bottle ageing did wonders on this one – unless it was already greatly complex back in 1978? It is these bottles that built the legend of Macallan. Especially the complexity is astounding, we’re in great old wine territories. It’s actually not easy to describe because there are many aromas but none is dominant. We rather experience a feeling of fullness here. All right, if you really want to know, I’d say it’s got all dried fruits and teas and soft spices and aromatic herbs. Oops, almost forgot beef stock and chicken soup. Mouth: oh yeah, it’s old Macallan with some peat, many herbs, meats, spices and dried fruits. Where to start? Maybe with the mint lozenges, the liquorice and the chocolate? Or rather with the prunes soaked in Armagnac? The coffee? The verbena and parsley? The ham, the bacon, the game? The oranges? Ultra-classic big and smoky Macallan. Finish: it’s where it loses two or three points, the finish is a little drying, almost tannic. Very nice coffee in the aftertaste, though. Comments: not much to add. A fine example of THE Macallan. SGP:553 - 92 points.

Maybe we could try another 1963? And why not an early indie for a change?

Macallan-Glenlivet 1963/1983 (92 US Proof, Duthie for Narsai's and Corti Bros, USA, 75cl)

Macallan-Glenlivet 1963/1983 (92 US Proof, Duthie for Narsai's and Corti Bros, USA, 75cl) Two stars The Corti Bros also had some great HP! Colour: gold (less sherry, if any!) Nose: strange, very strange. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a ‘blend’ of Swiss cheese with putty/paraffin and Chartreuse or other complex herbal liqueurs (Bénédictine?) As usual, it’s always very hard to guess what was there in the first place and what came from bottle ageing (the bottle was opened in May, so that’s thirty years in glass, more or less) but it’s all very mysterious. It’s even got an absinthy side, serious. So wormwood, aniseed, menthol, thyme/thymol… It’s a stunning nose I have to say, but it’s also scary because many old whiskies that display a lot of mint/herbs on the nose can be completely ‘out’ on the palate, IMHO. Let’s see… Mouth: well if this is sherry it’s second or third fill. It’s ‘stunning’ whisky because for once, old Macallan’s distillate can talk freely. It’s actually quite ‘old Highlands’, closer to say Clynelish or Pulteney than to any contemporary Speysider (including Macallan), and it’s actually very waxy, phenolic, resinous in a way, so sappy, inky, sooty… But is all that really enjoyable? Maybe not that much, actually, because beyond any historical interest, it’s also rather acrid, astringent spirit. Raw and rough, if you will, and in that sense rather un-Macallan. In truth, what I was fearing when nosing it does kind of happen, it’s very astringent whisky. Finish: long, acrid, very green and very drying. Cardboardy and soapy aftertaste. Comments: this baby was a very ‘intellectual’ Macallan. It’s very interesting, but it’s not ‘good’. The nose was quite great, though. SGP:372 - 75 points.

(with heartfelt thanks to Benjamin, Emmanuel, Konstantin and Olivier)

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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August 15, 2013


Malternatives, eight espadin mezcals

After the dodgy ones ‘con guzano’ (worm – actually a caterpillar) that we had the other day, let’s go on with our exploration of mezcal. Mezcal (or mescal, MS Word really wants to write it mescal) has become one of my favourite maletrnative spirits since I’ve tried a few Real Mineros last year, thanks to my friend Nicholas. It’s one of the spirits that does not need aging since ‘everything’ is right there in the new make, which is exactly the contrary of 99% of the Scotch whiskies. Well, of course there’s ‘commercial’ crap in mezcal, like in any category, but I’ve decided to try to learn a little more about the best ones. And to me, learning means tasting! However, here are a few facts:


1. The best mescals are made out of 100% blue agave (maguey)

2. The best mescals come from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. They’re distilled from some kind of wine made out of ‘cooked agave’ using either copper pot stills, or small earth/clay pot stills.
3. Various varieties of agaves can be used, the most widely known being Espadin. The mescals can be made either out of one single variety (usually Espadin) or out of a blend of several varieties, including some wild ones.
4. The very best mescals come from ‘single villages’, where they are distilled in very small family distilleries. They’re artisan products. In mescal, ‘artisan’ really means ‘better’.

That’s pretty much all I seem to know. As usual, we’ll start this with a little aperitif, the only ‘aged’ mezcal we’ll have today, an anejo (minimum 1 years of aging). BTW, contrarily to whiskymakers who won’t tell you much about the barley they use (except sometimes Bruichladdich and maybe some new craft distillers), mescal producers are very proud of the varieties, their exact origins, the altitude, the soils in which they grow and so on. In that sense, they’re much closer to real good winemakers than to most whisky distillers.

Ilegal 'Añejo' (40%, OB, mezcal, anejo, 100% agave, +/-2013)

Ilegal 'Añejo' (40%, OB, mezcal, anejo, 100% agave, +/-2013) Three starsNothing illegal here, this seems to be much about branding and ‘stories’. It’s made from 100% espadin by Destileria Tlacolula and aged for 14 months in new or recharred whisky barrels. Colour: straw. Nose: this is immensely sour, briny and lemony at first nosing. Some vanilla and sawdust (more than pencil shavings) manage to shine through but the core remains on some kind of blend of lemon juice and seawater. There might be a little rancid butter and damp wood too, but very little smoke. I like this. After ten minutes, huge notes of lavender and violet sweets (not perfume!) Mouth: more smoke and liquorice, quite some vanilla and some gin. We’re closer to malt whisky now. A little chestnut honey too, those violet sweets again, then more dried fruits as well as some pastis (big aniseed). Sure this would be better at 43 or 46%, but it’s a spirit of high quality. Finish: unexpectedly long, much saltier now. Lemons in the aftertaste. Comments: a very entertaining aged spirit and despite the vanilla and the sweetness on the palate that are a little disturbing (vanilla is the new enemy!), I think this would please many a whisky drinker. SGP:552 - around 82 points.

Real Minero 'Espadin Organico' (45,9%, OB, mescal, joven, 100% Agave, batch L00401, 2008)

Real Minero 'Espadin Organico' (45,9%, OB, mescal, joven, 100% Agave, batch L00401, 2008) Four stars This one was distilled in some 80 litres clay pot still by the Angeles family in Santa Catarina Minas and bottled in 2008. It is single village mescal. We already tried another batch back in 2012 and loved it (WF 85). Colour: white. Nose: absolutely nothing to do with the Illegal. This is much more mineral and smoky, sweet as well (hazelnut liqueur?), and I cannot not think of Ardbeg’s new make (serious). Also gentian (hurray) and a little antiseptic, before more brine and green olives start to shine through. I told you, Ardbeg. It’s even to be wondered if they don’t make more ‘old style Ardbeg’ in Oaxaca than in Kildalton ;-). Capers. Great nose. Mouth: explodes in front of your palate with, successively, touches of honey, brine, black and green olives, maybe a little cardboard, smoked fish, lemon and lime juices and maybe one or two small gherkins. Finish: long, even smokier and quite ashy to boot. Juniper. Comments: top notch white mescal, with an amazing complexity and a very ‘Islay’ profile. Does that also come from the stills that are made out of clay? Try to try these! SGP:563 - around 87 points.
<< Lorenzo Angeles Hernandez

Alipus 'San Juan Espadin' (47%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch SJR004109, 2009)

Alipus 'San Juan Espadin' (47%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch SJR004109, 2009) Four stars Distilled in a 280 litres copper pot still by Don Joel Antonio Cruz in San Juan del Rio. The espadins were not irrigated, it seems. Colour: white. Nose: this one is even smokier than the Minero but it’s much less briney and globally less sour. Some fresh almonds, putty, a little tapenade, a faint dustiness, wet gravels, sour apples… So it’s quite smokier than the Minero but it’s also globally less aromatic, less complex as well. And less Islay. Mouth: ah, no, this is huge. It hasn’t got the same long and complex development but it’s high-impact smoky mescal, and in that sense we’re even more on Islay. Smoke and salt all over the place, plus a little wax ala Clynelish. Give this blind to some whisky pals and check their reactions! Finish: long, smoky, briny. Grapefruits and pears in the aftertaste. Comments: not a very complex one but the palate is spectacularly… peaty, if I may so? SGP:455 - around 85 points.

<< Joel Antonio Cruz

Del Maguey 'San Luis del Rio Azul 47' (47%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, +/-2013)

Del Maguey 'San Luis del Rio Azul 47' (47%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This small batch single village mescal by the famous Del Maguey brand comes from the same village as the ‘San Juan’ that we just had, which comes handy. Colour: white. Nose: more, much more happening again, but it’s a little ‘all over the place’ and reminds me of the Illegal. Bags of sour apples, butter and seawater, then some juniper, walnuts and a lot of capers. I may be completely wrong but it’s a little closer to white tequila. The biggest and the least complex so far. After twenty minutes: quite some solvent. Mouth: absolutely huge! I think it’s pretty narrow spirit but the brine is immense and this is almost olive juice (not oil). It’s even a little drying/earthy, which doesn’t happen very often with unaged spirits (unless you distil grass, I imagine). Sour. What’s sure is the smoke in the previous one did not come from the location, as this baby’s much, much less smoky. Finish: long, with a little more sweetness, more juniper… Maybe caraway? Comments: very good, but simpler than the two previous blanco ones. The notes of solvent are a little disturbing. SGP:561 - around 78 points.

Alipus 'San Baltazar Espadin' (47,2%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch 003/09SBG, 2009)

Alipus 'San Baltazar Espadin' (47,2%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch 003/09SBG, 2009) Two stars and a half This one was fermented in pine vats instead of oak. It was distilled by Don Cosme Hernandez in San Baltazar in 280 litres copper pot stills. Colour: white. Nose: a much gentler one again, more or less in the style of Alipus’ San Juan, only with less smoke. It’s maybe also a little more flowery, which is funny. Lilac? Touches of vanilla too, and yet this is unaged. A fairly rounded nose. Mouth: it sort of feels more like a reposado (a few months of age) as it’s got some vanilla and caramel. Strange… It’s a rounded one, there’s some cane sugar, even some gingerbread! Very good but a little too sweet ‘in this context’. The olives, capers, gherkins and the smoke are rather kept to minimal levels. Finish: long but sweet and kind of ‘coated’ while I enjoy zesty, sharp, clean ones better. Comments: I am absolutely sure that they wouldn’t have added sugar to this one (that would be forbidden anyway, I guess) but it feels a bit like they have. But it remains some very good mescal, of course. Not very smoky. SGP:642 - around 77 points.

<< Cosme Hernandez

Alipus 'San Andrés Espadin' (47,3%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, 2010)

Alipus 'San Andrés Espadin' (47,3%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, 2010) Three stars Fermented in cypress vats and distilled in copper pot stills by Don Valente Garcia Juarez in Xitlapehua. Colour: white. Nose: we’re very near the San Baltazar. This is delicate, slightly flowery mescal, it hasn’t got the others’ big briny/smoky profile. But some earth and roots there is, so this is very nice in my opinion, just a little shy for an artisan mescal. But the palate could be completely different, let’s see… Mouth: starts with tiny touches of plastic and smoked meat (this is no pechuga, is it?) and goes on with some kind of sweet grassiness. I like these grapefruits I have to say, the growing brininess, the gherkins that are becoming bigger (que gran horror!), the sweet touches of violet bonbons… Having said that, the body’s a bit thin, bizarrely. Finish: maybe a little short, but smokier. Smoked herbs and teas. Comments: the lightest of them all. You just don’t feel the 47%, which is dangerous. It’s a very pleasant one, I’d say, well worth a good score. SGP:552 - around 80 points.

<< Valente Garcia Juarez

Del Maguey 'Chichicapa' (47.8%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, +/-2013)

Del Maguey 'Chichicapa' (47.8%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, +/-2013) Four stars and a half This one is made by Don Faustino Garcia Vasquez, a ‘humble and talented craftsman with great respect for the ancient processes.’ Acording to some trusted sources, he’s using a continuous still instead of a classic post still. Sounds good! Colour: white. Nose: nothing to do with the others, this one has big wood smoke, straight in your face. That gives it also some tar and some petrol, maybe touches of burnt plastic and also some charcoal. Of course, the agave and the brine are obvious behind the smoke but globally, it’s all very smoky. Maybe a little hay as well, farmyard... Mouth: woohooo! Who did smuggle some Brora in Mexico? Sure I’m joking but this could really be mistaken for some nice sweet peaty whisky and believe me or not, it reminds of a peated Benriach I had the other day. We’re in Scotland… And there’s even quite some tar, oysters with Tabasco, sweetened lemon juice… It’s actually quite sweet, ‘above’ the huge peatiness. Finish: long, sweeter. Maybe a notch too sweet now, but that doesn’t matter. Comments: ‘Westering home and a song in the air, light in the eye and its good by to care…’etc, etc, etc. Seriously, I could have gone up to 90, it’s just that the sweetness is a tiny-wee notch excessive. SGP:655 - around 89 points.

Pierde Almas 'Espadin' (50,6%, OB, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch #05-E, 2010)Faustino Sanchez

Pierde Almas 'Espadin' (50,6%, OB, mezcal, joven, 100% Agave, batch #05-E, 2010) Three stars Distilled by Don Faustino Sanchez & family in San Baltazar. Copper pot stills. Colour: white. Nose: bang! This is now spirity, quite aggressive, with quite some nail polish remover that we did not find in any of the others, but also a lovely earthiness. The green olives are back as well, and so are a few flowers, rather around honeyed yellow ones. Dandelions and such. In fact, once all this varnish has vanished (alliterations kill, S.!) we’re left with a fairly smooth and delicate mescal, with some overripe apples and probably other fruits. After twenty minutes: ouch, the solvents are back. Mouth: this one needs time, let’s not rush it. Starts a little rough and heavy, with some tutti frutti spirit and quite some limejuice. It’s actually a little eau-de-vie-ish, there’s also a lot of brine but it’s, maybe, a little dirty, in a way (well not quite dirty, but I’m sure you see what I mean)… It’s having a little trouble after the brilliant Chichicapa… Let’s try water! With water (while the nose became smokier but also much yeastier, with also more kelp): that worked, there are now lovely lemons and even touches of anchovies in brine. More fruits too, I’d swear I notice bananas! Finish: long, quite fruitier. Pears? Bananas? All that in brine, of course. Not that smoky. Comments: another excellent one, but I’m feeling very tired now. SGP:562 - around 82 points.

PS: in all confidence, that was a very difficult session. While I’m feeling pretty comfortable with around six or seven malt whiskies from the same distillery, it’s another story with spirits I’m not really used to. These mescals are all different, and yet there are very close tgo each other so you have to go to the remotest corners to detect all the nuances, and that consumes a lot of energy. But it’s fun!

(Portrait pictures, thanks to mezcaleria.de)



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



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

Arran 2004/2012 'Bere Barley' (46%, OB, Orkney Bere)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 18 yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, small batch, 432 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #3, 633 bottles)

Glendronach 12 yo (70° proof, OB, 26 2/3 Fl. ozs, +/-1975)

Glendronach 19 yo 1994/2013 (58.4%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #101, 628 bottles)

Glendronach 17 yo 1996/2013 (53.1%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1490, 709 bottles)

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (55.6%, OB, batch 8, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #1988, 664 bottles)

Glen Moray 25 yo 1959/1984 (46%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles)

Macallan 1963 (43%, OB, UK, 75.7cl, twist cap, +/-1978)