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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2014 - Part 1

July 2014 - part 2 <--- August 2014 - part 1 ---> August 2014 - part 2


August 14, 2014


Glen Keith 1992 and 1993 as a bonus

Another bunch of independent 1992-1993 Glen Keith have hit the market in recent months. We won’t complain, they’re usually to my liking! We’ll sort them by ascending strength.

Glen Keith
Glen Keith 21 yo 1992/2014 (48.2%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, 201 bottles) Four starsColour: pale gold. Nose: classic fresh and ‘bourbon fruity’ nose, packed with bananas, mangos and vanilla, then rather juicy plums, liquorice allsorts and jelly babies. Very fruity, there’s something pleasantly Haribo-ish to these. Mouth: very much the same, with a fresh oaky backbone. So banana sweets, marshmallows, maybe pear drops, also more citrus this time, tangerines and oranges – or rather some sweets made thereof. The body’s firm but not aggressive at all. Finish: quite long, citrusy, with more green oak in the aftertaste. Comments: one of the fruitiest Speysiders. A sexy baby, very easy to drink and probably hard to beat in this category. SGP:651 - 87 points.
Glen Keith 21 yo 1992/2014 (49.3%, Jack Wiebers, The Distillery Sites, 194 bottles) Four stars A new series by this tireless German bottler. Colour: gold. Nose: styles are obviously very similar, but this one’s got a little more creaminess, the fruits are kind of riper, and I may also find more peaches and melons ala Bruichladdich. Mouth: same comments, I won’t bore you to death with further hair-splitting descriptions and theories. Finish: same comment. Comments: ditto. SGP:651 - 87 points.
Glen Keith 22 yo 1992/2014 (50.7%, Liquid Treasures, 117 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time it’s rather the bubblegum/marshmallow side that’s taking the lead, and this baby really smells like a new pack of those. Indeed, or jelly babies or beans. Have Haribo bought Glen Keith Distillery? Did you hear anything? All in all, this one’s closer to the Whisky Fair than to the JWWW. Mouth: we’re extremely close to the Whisky Fair. This one’s maybe a notch rougher but that may come from the (very) slightly higher strength. No, I doubt that. Finish: same, rather long, fresh, fruity, with a signature on green oak. Comments: ah well oh well. SGP:651 - 87 points.
Glen Keith 21 yo 1992/2014 (51.5%, Archives, barrel, cask #120599, 218 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time I seem to find a little more grain and beer, but only touches, while the structure remains very fruity and very fresh. Bananas, vanilla, plums, fruit salad… Very easy again, and it does not call for water at all, so let’s drop that, so to speak. For once! Mouth: I think I may have to start to tell you stories, because this palate is oh-so-close to the others. Oranges, vanilla, ripe pears, plums, peaches… And all that. Finish: same comments again. Comments: we’re maybe touching the limits of the concept of ‘single cask’. Not too sure single casks make much sense, when all casks are almost identical. Oh well indeed… SGP:651 - 87 points.
Glen Keith 21 yo 1992/2013 (52.1%, Silver Seal) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: wait, it seems that this one’s a little thicker, creamier, more candied and rather deeper. Rather more tropical as well, with more tangerines and more mangos, and, above all, more juicy ripe mirabelle plums. I especially like these oily touches that come to front after a few minutes, almond oil… It’s even very faintly phenolic – or maybe I’m dreaming? Mouth: a real fruitbomb now. Plenty of plums on brioche, butterscotch, vanilla fudge and marmalade. Also pink grapefruits? It seems that the barrel was more active, and greatly so. Finish: long, with a few acidulated notes that keep it playful and very fresh. Comments: just excellent, just excellent. Perfect fruity style. No water needed, I feel. SGP:641 - 88 points.
Glen Keith 1993/2013 (54.7%, Malts of Scotland for Der Feinschmecker, bourbon barrel) Four stars Not a 1992 this time, but I’m not sure that would make much difference. Der Feinschmecker is a famous German magazine about food and such. Colour: straw. Nose: and yet another very fine fruitbomb, maybe a tad zestier than the previous ones. Peaches and grapefruits plus honey and a little butter cream. Unquestionably lovely, but this time let’s also try it with a few drops of water. With water: more marshmallows! Mouth (neat): thick and creamy, starting with touches of mocha and toast from the oak, as well as a few spicy herbs that I hadn’t found in the others. Sage, perhaps? After that, the same fruity procession, with ripe pears, bananas, peaches… With water: it becomes both a little zestier and mildly spicier. Was one mustard grain added when filling the cask? Finish: of medium length, fresh, fruity, with more vanilla. Tinned peaches. Comments: I’m running out of comments. SGP:641 - 87 points.

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



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August 13, 2014


Bits and pieces, today blends

This and that, coming from here and there. Of course there are great blends out there, but there are also oceans of wishy-washy whiskies. Let’s try to avoid them today…

Syndicate 58/6 12 yo (40%, Syndicate, blend, +/-2012)

Syndicate 58/6 12 yo (40%, Syndicate, blend, +/-2013) Two stars This whisky made quite a few commentators either frown, or laugh, or both, because of the very unlikely stories that came and keep coming with it, which are not always the same depending on the sources. At random, all that involves various labels, Douglas Laing, a secret syndicate, a solera, 1954, Richard Paterson, a dozen fully exclusive retailers and distributors (uh?) and prices that range from €50 to €120 for the same bottle. I have to say I did not understand much of all that, so let's simply try it without any preconceptions. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a rather malty one, well in line with several big brand blends of moderate age. Touches of honey, cereals, orange cake, a few roasted nuts, a bit of caramel, some praline and a spoonful of Ovaltine. Nosing a Mars bar. Doesn’t do any harm – less harm than a Mars bar in any case. Mouth: it’s a good, nutty blend, with good body, some pleasant honey, baklavas, marmalade and just a small touch of smoke. Becomes pretty kumquaty over time. Also heather honey? Plum pie? Finish: not too long, malty, more chocolaty. Touches of coffee and candy sugar. Comments: it’s very all right, not much else to say. SGP:441 - 76 points.

Hankey Bannister 'Heritage Blend' (46%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Hankey Bannister 'Heritage Blend' (46%, OB, blend, +/-2013) Three stars Hankey Bannister’s been a recent revelation to me. Well, especially the fabulous 40 yo! This one comes in what seems to be a kind of replica bottle, hence the name ‘Heritage’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a slightly narrower but bigger, smokier and grassier nose after the Syndicate, with more minerals, oils and all that. So it may be a little less expressive, but it’s also more ‘Highlands’, whatever that means these days. Mouth: it’s really big, oily and fat, yet rather zesty, with an obvious peat smoke and something slightly steely. I also find touches of brine, and behind that, more ‘usual’ oranges, honey, plums and cakes. It’s really characterful. Finish: long, now even more citrusy, between pink grapefruits and lime, with the peat again in the aftertaste. Too bad there’s alos a little sawdust, a feeling of flour… Comments: a full bodied blend that would appeal to many malt snobs (because you see, if you prefer malt, you’re obligatorily a snob according to a few rather embarrassing articles in the general press.) SGP:552 - 80 points.

M.O.S 18 (45%, Malts of Scotland, blended malt, +/-2013)

M.O.S 18 (45%, Malts of Scotland, blended malt, +/-2013) Three stars This one’s 18 year old and all malt, no grains. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a little peat inside, and while it’s never dominant, it does a large part of the singing, so to speak. Fir honeydew, a little eucalyptus, moss, some soot, wet gravel, touches of barbecued ham, smoked almonds, marzipan… And a distant garden bonfire (not in your own garden.) Mouth: rather starts with stewed fruits, sour apples, mulled white wine and touches of cardboard. Goes on with more spices, a little cocoa powder and ground coffee beans, and then a rather unusual spicy combo. Maybe a tenth of a gram of chilli plus caraway and cloves? Also touches of tropical fruits. Finish: medium length. The cardboard hasn’t left but it’s minimal, while there’s also a wee touch of soap. Coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m having a little trouble with some blended malts, when there’s more than, say three different malts. This one seems to have more indeed, and so can be a little dissonant at times, but other than that I find it all very fine. SGP:552 - 82 points.

We’re making good progress, aren’t we!

Blended Malt 33 yo 1980/2014 (45,8%, The Whisky Agency, blended malt, refill butt, 636 bottles)

Blended Malt 33 yo 1980/2014 (45,8%, The Whisky Agency, blended malt, refill butt, 636 bottles) Four stars Good one, while the whole industry is withdrawing age statements from their malts, the Whisky Agency does blended malts… with both vintages and age statements.  Well, they did this one. Colour: gold. Nose: I may well be dreaming, but I seem to detect quite a lot of Bunnahabhain here. Superb notes of cake straight from the oven, nectar, honey, mocha, roasted pecans and then a little tobacco and earth. Smoky earth. Mouth: there’s a little old wood and sour fruits in the arrival, which come together with notes of hawthorn tea. Eglantine. Then rather overripe damsons and more sherry. It is a little grapy at times (white grapes). Finish: long, this time more on stewed peaches, with always a wee sourness. Malt and honey in the aftertaste plus touches of ink. Comments: I’m not too sure there is Bunnahahain inside anymore. Erm… Also, what’s a ‘refill butt’ regarding blends? All components aged in refill butts or a marriage/finishing in a refill butt? Not too sure all that matters much. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Black Bull 'Kyloe' (50%, Duncan Taylor, blend, 2013)

Black Bull 'Kyloe' (50%, Duncan Taylor, blend, 2013) Three stars A blend with grain this time. Kyloe seems to be a kind of cattle breed. And why not, we’ve seen sillier names/themes, haven’t we. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re back to the style of the first ones, that is to say a blend of nuts, honeys, cakes, malt and overripe fruits, mostly apples. Then a few spcies, around cloves and ginger. Certainly nice, but it’s lacking what, I think, most blends are lacking: individuality. But yeah, it’s pleasant… Mouth: I like this better, even if I wouldn’t say it’s got a lot of character. Granted, it’s got more of that than most big commercial blends, and everything’s perfectly balanced, and there’s even a peatiness that’s coming together with lemons, but it’s still a little… ‘indefinite’. A little indefinite but certainly good. Grows on you. Finish: quite short. A little dust, overripe apples, honey, oranges. Curious notes of sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: same quality as the Hankey Bannister in my book. One of the better ones for sure. SGP:552 - 80 points.

And a last one as the digestif, preferably an oldie…

MacPhail’s ‘Gold 106’ (60.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, pure malt, 75cl, +/-1985)

MacPhail’s ‘Gold 106’ (60.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, pure malt, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars and a half The label states pure malt but I’m almost sure it’s an undisclosed single malt. They still make it, it seems, but the sources may have changed over the years. Colour: amber. Nose: I won’t play the guessing game but it’s certainly got something of a lightly sherried old-style Macallan – as well as something of a lightly sherried Glenfarclas. Superb notes of plum pie with a little mint and camphor. And honey, milk chocolate, cigarette tobacco and drops of stout. With water: light floral notes and hay come out. Lovely. Mouth (neat): superb again! Creamy honey and candied fruits, roasted and caramelised nuts, raisins, dried apricots… And it’s not even too strong at 60.5% vol. Sauternes? With water: oranges everywhere. Finish: long, very resiny and yet a notch phenolic, like a good old Sauternes that’s becoming dry. Comments: former bargain bottle. SGP:651 - 88 points.



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August 12, 2014


Contrasting Auchentoshan

Let’s have two newish Auchentoshans, after all this is summer, even if it’s raining cats and dogs over Alsace at time of writing.

Auchentoshan 1998/2013 ‘Lemon Zest’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 342 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1998/2013 ‘Lemon Zest’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 342 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: fruits, fruits and fruits. And I mean fruits. One of the fruitiest drams I could nose in recent months, and I’ve nosed quite a few fruitbombs. As they say, this is fruitier than GlenMacFruit, the winner of last year’s fruitbomb competition! But which fruits? Oranges, peaches, pineapples, pears… Just add one marshmallow and a tiny bit of bubblegum and you’ve got it. Mouth: very fruity again, simple, narrow, extremely easy. Frankly, it’s hard not to like this, even if you’re more into the deepest old Highlanders. It’s almost like wolfing down a large pack of marshmallows. Finish: same, plus just a tiny blade of grass. Comments: fruitful and youthful. In other words, one of the friendliest malt whiskies. SGP:651 - 83 points.

Auchenstoshan 17 yo 1995/2013 (53.5%, Single Cask Collection, sherry butt, 263 bottles)

Auchentoshan 17 yo 1995/2013 (53.5%, Single Cask Collection, sherry butt, 263 bottles) Four stars Let’s see what a sherry butt can do, even if it’s probably refill sherry. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it hasn’t got these fruitful, almost feisty notes, but it’s got a little varnish, touches of vinegar and certainly some limejuice. Mind you, it’s a combo that works, and that rather hints at white wine. Also touches of chestnut honey and chocolate. Mars bar and orange liqueur? With water: gets much rounder and you could well think it’s a Speysider when trying it blind. Overripe apples, cake, malt, honey cake, gingerbread… The sharpish zestiness is gone – no problems! Mouth (neat): very good! I mean, much to my liking! It’s a fatter, bigger Auchentoshan, full of marmalade, baklavas, with even traces of peat, some salt, gravel, a grassy side… Big stuff, far from the almost-ethereal 1998. With water: now touches of earth, liquorice wood, fennel… Finish: long and malty. Comments: I like it quite a lot, even if it’s not very… Lowlands? SGP:551 - 86 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez



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August 11, 2014


A handful of independent Glenrothes

Time to have a few Glenrothes again. If I remember well, Glenrothes was the first distillery the Malt Maniacs as a group ever visited, quite some years ago. It was great. Let’s see what we have…

Glenrothes 1988/2013 'Aromatic Orange Tobacco' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 730 bottles)

Glenrothes 1988/2013 'Aromatic Orange Tobacco' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 730 bottles) Four stars Probably from a refill butt, according to the colour. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re not very far from official Glenrothes, with this blend of honey, orange blossom, roasted nuts and cake. I also find yellow flowers (you know, dandelions and all that) as well as a little porridge, cornflakes and ale, which makes it rather malty in fact. Mouth: very, very Glenrothes, really, this could have been an OB. Again, some Ovaltine, orange cake, notes of pink grapefruits, quite some honey, a little chocolate and then a few spices from the oak, including white pepper and probably cloves. No tobacco that I could find, but why worry? Finish: of medium length, with a blend of smooth orangey paste or cream with a little white pepper and drops of earl grey tea. Cloves and toasted bread in the aftertaste. Comments: good good good! But a little pricey, I’ve seen it at around €150. Hum… SGP:551 - 86 points.

Glenrothes 24 yo 1990/2014 (49.8%, Sansibar, sherry, 121 bottles)

Glenrothes 24 yo 1990/2014 (49.8%, Sansibar, sherry, 121 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: not the same vintage, but we’re oh-so close! Maybe this one’s a bit more on the grassy/barky side, but I’m splitting hairs. Same orangey, honeyed and cakey profile, much enjoyable. Mouth: oh yes, very similar whisky. Classic malty/honeyed profile, very ‘official’ if I may, only the extra-power makes it a notch rougher, perhaps. Finish: same, orange cake, white pepper and cloves plus a little gingerbread. Slightly grassier aftertaste. Comments: ueberclassic Glenrothes again. Must be the ueberclassic sherry ;-). SGP:551 - 86 points.

This one should be interesting, with similar data but it’s an ex-bourbon one...

Glenrothes 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #35484, 210 bottles)

Glenrothes 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #35484, 210 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: yes indeed, this is very interesting. The core’s the same, with oranges, honey and porridge, but both the roasted nuts and the cake are gone. On the other hand, we’ve got more fresh herbs, lime and, above all, more fresh fruits. Especially garden fruits, along apples, plums and peaches. Lovely freshness. Mouth: very fruity, with a slightly hottish side (strong eau-de-vie), some kirsch, unaged zwetschke spirit, then various plums, then a green spiciness. Green peppercorns, a little ginger, then more malty goodness… Finish: rather long, maybe a tad spirity again, with a grassier aftertaste. Comments: I think I enjoyed the sherried ones a notch better, but this one’s very fine. And good news, no vanilla! I’m joking… partly. SGP:551 - 85 points.

And now, a young little beast to round this off…

Glenrothes 1989/2001 (63.8%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, cask # 30898)

Glenrothes 1989/2001 (63.8%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, cask # 30898) Four stars You may want to fasten you seatbelts! Colour: straw. Nose: I don’t know if it’s the high strength, but I get plenty of oils, sunflowers, linseed… I also find some peat smoke, which comes unexpected. Ex-Islay cask? Also camphor, antiseptic, pine-scented detergent… No this is not some mislabelled Laphroaig. Fun stuff! With water: Glenrothes’ garden fruits come out, but I don’t find much oranges or honey this time. The peat got almost killed (at +/-45% vol.) Mouth (neat): the Islayness is back, with some salty things, some peat smokiness, smoked salmon, lemon… This is really funny! Now Glenrothes hasn’t got much to tell us in this context. Maybe a few apples? These touches of oranges? With water: between both worlds, and all that is nicely integrated and mingles together, somewhat ala HP. Really interesting. Finish: long, very zesty now. It kept changing. Comments: a great and very unusual little baby that’ll trick all your whisky friends. It certainly tricked me. SGP:553 - 86 points.

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



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August 10, 2014


The Quest for Malternatives,
today more rum

Yes we’re not done with our ron. Ha! Today we’ll fly to the Philippines, to Cuba and to Jamaica.

Don Papa (40%, OB, rum, Philippines, +/-2014)

Don Papa (40%, OB, rum, Philippines, +/-2014) Two stars This newish 7 years old rum seems to be extremely successful in France, you just see it everywhere. It’s to be said that the ‘retro-banknote’ label is very fashionable these days, we’re seeing this style on more and more bottles of spirit. Also the Che-Guevara-like story. Colour: dark gold. Nose: extremely fragrant, starting rather on citron liqueur (cedrat) and Grand Marnier (or Cointreau). I also find a lot of caramel, fudge and vanilla, and rather little sugar cane. So it’s all extremely sweet, rounded and easy. Mouth: more a liqueur than straight rum indeed, with a thickish, sugary arrival on tangerine liqueurs, or citron, or triple-sec. Also some maple syrup, perhaps, some honey, banana sweets… In short, it’s one of these very sweet rums, but it’s not exactly cloying, thanks to the citrus. Finish: a little short, sugary, citrusy. Notes of mead. Comments: probably not meant to be sipped like that, but I’m sure it would go pretty well on a few ice cubes. Needs cold. The good news is that it’s not very expensive, around €35. SGP:730 – around 72 points.

Brugal '1888' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Brugal '1888' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Two stars Apparently, Brugal belongs to Edrington (Macallan…) This one is medium-aged, around 7 or 7 years on average, and finished in sherry. I had found the Brugal ‘Extra Viejo’ very sugary (WF 72). Colour: gold/orange. Nose: smooth and rounded but it’s not all sugar, syrups and liqueurs. Sure there’s quite some pineapple liqueur, a feeling of rhum arrangé and hints of tinned litchis, but I also find a small earthiness that’s really an asset here. Also a little cedar wood, maybe, a few pencil shavings, a fistful of golden raisins… Mouth: starts very sweet, on many honeys and liqueurs (hazelnut) and goes on with some oak, Demerara sugar, coffee, custard and chocolate. Very easy and smooth. Finish: of medium length, this time with touches of aniseed, mint and caraway. Comments: not my style but I do find this rum rather honest. SGP:751 - around 75 points.

Ron Cubay 10 yo 'Reserva Especial' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Ron Cubay 10 yo 'Reserva Especial' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Cuban domestic rum, now exported, by the makers of Havana Club. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a much narrower and grassier, but also more elegant rum after the two sugarbombs we just had. There are whiffs of sugar cane (hurray!), hay, honeydew, then more and more ripe melons, Provence-style. Some wee feinty touches that make it more ‘artisan’, probably for the better. Maybe some parsley too. Mouth: it’s sweeter this time, and even frankly sugary, but curiously, I do not dislike that here. Also touches of oak, vanilla, maybe a little curry powder, honey, artisan orange liqueur… It’s all quite drinkable. The sugar’s well integrated. Finish: medium length. Sugar cane, brown sugar, vanilla, touches of grass, oranges. A little burnt sugar and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I do like the artisan feeling. SGP:641 - around 77 points.

Let’s have another Cuban…

Santiago de Cuba 11 yo 'Anejo Superior' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Santiago de Cuba 11 yo 'Anejo Superior' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) one star and a half Another domestic bottling that seems to get exported these days, mainly to Spain. Colour: gold/orange. Nose: another very aromatic one, sweet, reeking of saccharine and corn syrup, then honey and overripe bananas. And then there are litres of vanilla crème as well as a little hay and chocolate mints. Not unpleasant, but the palate may be too sweet for my taste, let’s see… Mouth: indeed, it’s a little too sweet and while the arrival’s quite oomphy, it tends to drop and to become flattish. Having said that there are pleasant notes of pineapple sauce and an oaky spiciness. White pepper. Finish: not too long, with some sour wood and overripe apples. More pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it struggled a bit after the Cubay. SGP:640 - around 68 points.

Compania Licorera de Nicaragua 2001/2013 (63.20%, Isla del Ron, 214 bottles)

Compania Licorera de Nicaragua 2001/2013 (63.20%, Isla del Ron, 214 bottles) Two stars and a half One of the strongest rums I could taste, after a few explosive tropical-aged Demeraras. Colour: gold. Nose: this is more to my liking, although the very high strength makes it a little ‘silent’. I find more sugar cane than in the others, more grass, more coffee, more earth, traces of green olives, some tobacco… With water: some burnt oak coming through, wood smoke, dark chocolate… Also curious touches of grain whisky. Mouth (neat): it’s a sweeter style again, with plenty of stewed fruits, bananas, oranges, marshmallows, then more peppery oak. Strong stuff, one has to be careful. With water: the marshmallows win. Some sugar. Finish: not very long, still sweet, with an oaky structure. Comments: I rather like it, given that this is not quite my favourite style of rum. SGP:631 - around 78 points.

Jamaica 30 yo 1982/2013 ‘Freya’ (50.8%, Lord of the Drams, 35 bottles)

Jamaica 30 yo 1982/2013 ‘Freya’ (50.8%, Lord of the Drams, 35 bottles) Four stars and a half Indeed this baby’s named ‘Freya’, just like that Highland Park, but the rum’s been bottled first! Colour: deep gold. Nose: home! I mean, this is as phat, oily, grassy, olive-y, tarry and dundery as a Jamaican can get, and yet there’s a perfect balance and even some refinement. Also superb touches of fir honey, camphor, turpentine, smoked tea, then hints of melon and mango skins. I may have forgotten a few drops of diesel oil. Perfect. Mouth: a little more on the sweet side but the heavy style remains there, with this tarry/oily side, the brine, the olives, the ‘good’ rubber, the menthol, the liquorice… The oak becomes a notch louder after a minute or two, but it never becomes oaky. Finish: long, fruity, with oranges and more liquorice. A load of pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: quite love it. I had another 1982 by Liquid Sun that I liked rather less, even if it was very similar. Maybe a matter of context, or a death seat? SGP:562 - around 88 points.

After such a powerhouse, session is over!

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Ted Taylor. Track: How's Your Love Life Baby. Please buy his music...

August 8, 2014


An unusual session,
a verticale of North British

That’s right, grain whisky from North British Distillery in Edinburgh, from a young 2000 to an old 1962. The distillery, a Diageo-Edrington joint venture, produces almost 70 million litres of pure alcohol per year, mainly for Johnnie Walker and Famous Grouse, so it’s not Edradour or Kilchoman, is it? But those figures include vodka according to some sources. I also remember North British used to distil maize, but not too sure that’s still the case today.
North British
North British 2000/2013 (55.6%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13030, 242 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s relatively winey at first nosing, but in no way a sherry monster. No fruitcake or raisins, rather notes of kirsch and even zwetschke spirit, with a wee oaky spiciness. Touches of Belgian kriek beer – the cherries again. Sour apples. With water: a few struck matches, artichokes, rubber… Mouth (neat): rather hot, starting on strawberry jam with a lot of ginger thrown in, black pepper, then more marzipan and again this feeling of cooked cherries, kirsch... It’s a rather rough grain whisky, indeed a little eau-de-vie-ish. Also funny and unexpected touches of mustard, probably from the cask. With water: becomes a little more complex, with some malty touches, always welcome. Finish: medium length. Rather cleaner, with notes of maraschino. Comments: this is what I’d call a fine whisky, but always remember that I’m not really a grain fan. SGP:641 - 79 points.
North British 1994/2013 (52.6%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #309880, 260 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: not a lot happening here, even if there are very pleasant touches of dill, lilies and custard. A little sawdust too, vanilla, grated coconut, apple peelings… Not a nosing whisky, but no problems! With water: more or less the same, but a little more on the grassy side. Leaves and almonds too. Mouth (neat): sweet, rather creamy, all on sweet oak. Marshmallows, vanilla, coconut, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon… You know the song, don’t you. With water: notes of oranges come out, this works. Finish: rather long, sweet and zestier than most grains. Comments: classic sweet grain whisky. If you like coconut… SGP:830 - 82 points.
North British 30 yo 1978/2009 (55.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #38472, 267 bottles) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: same ballpark as the 1994 at first nosing, then even more coconut and vanilla, light honey, sweets, marzipan, touches of mint-flavoured green tea Moroccan-style… As always with grains, the wood did all the work, but it did pretty well so far. With water: no changes this time, or maybe a little dust. Breadcrumbs. Mouth (neat): quite a lot of varnish this time, bitter grass, oak, fruit skins, jellybeans, pepper… With water: same. A lot of raw alcohol. Finish: medium length. Tutti frutti spirit. Comments: I think it’s fair, but not more than that. To use in cocktails? SGP:550 - 75 points.
North British 50 yo 1962/2013 (53.3%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, refill sherry butt, cask #9783, 150 bottles) Four stars There were quite a few very old North British in the shops two years ago, and most have been very good in my opinion. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: this is obviously much more complex than the others, wider as well, more ‘tertiary’, with tobaccos and teas plus leather and cedar wood. There’s also something balsamic and waxy, as well as a little ham. Me like this very much. With water: something akin to OBE. Iron, earth, oils… Mouth (neat): starts with touches of gentian and coffee, then something that’s not very far from the 2000, around kirsch and plum spirit. In the background, loads of cinnamon from the oak, which tends to make this baby a little drying. With water: it’s the earthy side that grows. More gentian – we won’t complain. Finish: a little short but less drying than expected. Funny touches of ouzo/pastis. Comments: the nose was greatly complex, whilst the palate was just fine. Some very nice old juice in my book. SGP:561 - 86 points.



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August 7, 2014


Port Charlotte, a verticale
that’s almost horizontal

Ah, Port Charlotte! The former new owners, that is to say Mark Reynier and gang, have been distilling this peated version of Bruichladdich since the reopening in 2001, and have sold quite a few casks of new fillings to private individuals and bottlers alike. Many are now coming out since a few years, and most of them are just excellent in my opinion. Let’s see how many of them we can find today, starting with the lower strengths (rather than the older ones)…

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1015, 460 bottles)

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1015, 460 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the purity that stands out here, and I guess the moderate strength helps. Narrow, but wonderful combination of seawater, grapefruit juice, smoked tea and damp gravel. That’s all folks, but the balance is just perfect. Mouth: same. A crystal-clean, mineral, smoky and zesty arrival that definitely hints at Islays south shore, without any form of feintiness or eau-de-vie-ness. So fully mature. I also love the development on green olives with their brine. Superb. Finish: same, maybe not too long – its no fatty peat monster – but again, it’s all crystal-clean and void of any sugariness. Comments: I especially love the absence of sweetness. Very solid sharpy stuff. SGP:457 - 90 points.

Port Charlotte 9 yo 2004/2014 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1032, 330 bottles)

Port Charlotte 9 yo 2004/2014 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1032, 330 bottles) Five stars This one’s been reviewed by the very excellent Ralfy (whisky review #464) and it’s even a sample from his own cupboard. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a rounder version, not that it’s any more fat or sweet, it’s simply fruitier, and a notch less briny/smoky than the 2001. Just a notch… So more grapefruit, maybe white peaches as well, as well as an intriguing wee combination of menthol and myrtle. All the rest is appropriately smoky. Mouth: a bit more ‘brutal’ than the 2001, a tad rougher, with more bitter grasses, perhaps. Other than that, it’s brilliant youngish Islay whisky again. Maybe rather gherkins and capers instead of olives this time at the vegetable department. Finish: long, briny, smoky. A touch of sour lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: more ‘artisan’ than then 2001, maybe because of the younger age, but overall qualities are just identical in my book. Let’s check Ralfy’s score… right, 90, that will be my score as well. SGP:467 - 90 points.

What else do we have at 46% vol.?...

Port Charlotte 12 yo 2002/2014 (46%, Royal Mile Whiskies, rum barrel, 308 bottles)

Port Charlotte 12 yo 2002/2014 (46%, Royal Mile Whiskies, rum barrel, 308 bottles) Four stars This little baby comes from Ralfy’s bothy too. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I believe rum’s often difficult to detect. I mean, one can feel that there’s obviously something different, but it’s not always easy to say that it’s rum for sure. Especially sweet wines can impart similar aromas. Now of course, if you use an ex-Caroni cask, or a Jamaican, that’ll be easier. Anyway, there is something candied indeed, a few raisins, a peatiness that’s seriously toned down and an overall softer profile, smoother, rounder… It’s far from being unpleasant, it’s just much… gentler. Mouth: well its not that gentle. The palate’s bigger again, the sweetness not that big, and a grassy peatiness just takes over after a few seconds. Same grassy/smoky profile as in the first Cooper’s, but it’s a little less precise. Less ‘wow’, if I may. Finish: long, with touches of candy sugar again but I wouldn’t call that ‘rum’. Something leafy. Comments: truly excellent, but I’m missing the immediacy and the ‘evidence’ of both Cooper’s a bit. SGP:566 - 85 points.

Let’s have an official if you don’t mind…

Port Charlotte 'Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, +/-2013)

Port Charlotte 'Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, +/-2013) Four stars No age statement this time, rather an indication that not all barley usually comes from Bonnie Scotland. No new news… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s obviously younger than all the others, since there’s quite some roughness that’s climbing up your nostrils. The barley is more obvious, there is a feeling of smoked porridge, there’s also more ‘active’ oak (fresh), touches of green bananas, vanilla, then the expected brine… Globally, it noses a bit like some younger whisky from more active oak. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a different concept. Mouth: a creamier mouth feel and again, more oak. That also means more herbs here, more mint, cough medicine, then a little honeydew, orange liqueur, liquorice, green tea. So a different profile indeed. With water: the oak comes out more, but that works. Makes me think of Ardbeg’s latest, in a way. Finish: rather long, still creamy. Sweet oak, fir honey, vanilla, toffee, peat. Comments: sweet and young but very good, very good but young. Oh well… SGP:556 - 85 points.

Hold on, I found another one at 46% vol…

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2001/2011 (46%, OB, private bottling for Ralf Lapan, sherry hogshead, cask #282, 422 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2001/2011 (46%, OB, private bottling for Ralf Lapan, sherry hogshead, cask #282, 422 bottles) Four stars and a half And another one from the first, almost seminal vintage of Port Charlotte. Colour: gold. Nose: what? Lagavulin 16? I’m not joking, it’s got this combination of new wellies, rubber bands and tarmac that could be found in older Lagavulins, except that there’s also quite some gunpowder in this PC. The whole works perfectly well, especially since more oranges and tobacco do come out after five seconds. Traipsing round an old ironmonger’s, circa 1950 (I imagine…) Mouth: great!!! Bitter and blood oranges, pepper, peat, cranberries, new rubber bands, retsina wine, iodine, potassium… It’s a little unusual but I really love it. Finish: long, with a huuuge saltiness. The ‘good’ rubber’s always there too. Comments: a rather spectacular one. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened, had this been bottled at the original strength. Now, I liked the crystal-clean ones even better. SGP:477 - 88 points.

Looking for another relatively gentler one (like hell!)…

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (54.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 78 bottles)

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (54.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 78 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Its not one of these sherry monsters/bloodtubs/whatever. Nose: we’re a bit between both worlds here. The sherry’s obvious but I do not find any struck matches, nor do I find gunpowder. It’s rather chocolate that you feel, dried kelp, bitter oranges, tar ala old Ardbeg, smoked meats, a new pack of beef jerky, a lot of soot and ashes… Great. With water: becomes leathery. Green tea and old well-taken-care of leather jacket. Mouth (neat): absolutely huge, starting a tad medicinal (antiseptic, eucalyptus) but with a massive saltiness, huge smoke and wheelbarrows of bitter oranges. There’s a bitterness that works very well here. Salted liquorice. With water: notes of iron coming out, silver spoon… And once again it got more leathery. Finish: long, rather grassy and now earthier. Comments: I wouldn’t say it swims like a champ on the palate, but otherwise, it’s just another great one. SGP:467 - 90 points.

And now… The Monsters!

Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, Rioja hogshead, cask #MoS 13027, 358 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, Rioja hogshead, cask #MoS 13027, 358 bottles) Four stars A Rioja hogshead? What could that be? A hogshead made with staves from some ex-Rioja casks or a regular hogshead that’s been treated with wine from Rioja? Unless they’ve shipped some empty hogsheads to Spain and let some winemakers make/mature their wine in them? Bah, this is funny anyways. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s very buttery and it’s got the same notes of rubber bands as… which one was it? Also a blend of seawater with olive oil, some liquorice wood, thuja wood, and then more and more freshly ground black pepper. Very unusual! With water: is someone chain-smoking menthol cigarettes in the neighbourhood? Or even beedies? Indonesian clove cigarettes? Mouth (neat): thick and oily, certainly better balanced and more ‘orthodox’ now, but what’s really striking is these huge notes of dried pears. All that is duly smoked, of course. Fun stuff. With water: gets more ‘regular’. Finish: long, saltier again. And the dried pears never gave up. Comments: of course one may ask ‘why?’ Maybe just for fun? I liked this one. Yes, Serge speaking. SGP:567 - 86 points.

Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram No.1, cask #MoS 13042, 145 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram No.1, cask #MoS 13042, 145 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: balance! A lot of oil (graphite?), a lot of ashes and soot, a lot of iodine, quite some earth, quite some tobacco and leather, and quite some oranges. And all that fires on all cylinders. Probably more complex than others. With water: perfect brine aged in nutty oak. Or something like that. Mouth (neat): immense! Heavy lime and kumquats, plenty of hazelnut oil (yes, really) and loads of bitter almonds. All that is covered with bits of smoked fish (do not try this at home.) With water: ah, a perfect one.  That doesn’t happen very often but what I prefer here is the mouth feel. Very oily and yet very complex. Finish: very long. Extremely long. Black olives, kippers and salted liquorice, all that smoothened up with chocolate sauce. Comments: some would be entitled to wonder if Charlotte wouldn’t be the new Ellen. SGP:568 - 92 points.

… but let’s try to find even heavier hitters…

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (59.7%, Adelphi for Daracha, Norway, Rivesaltes finish, cask #1168, 488 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (59.7%, Adelphi for Daracha, Norway, Rivesaltes finish, cask #1168, 488 bottles) Three stars A Rivesaltes finish for Norway? How unlikely is that? Why not a herring finish for the South of France? (S., please!) Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s very strong. Not too sure I can nose the sweet Rivesaltes. What I rather get is a combo of bitter oranges, leather and cigars. Water please! With water: water doesn’t change anything. Leather and tobacco. Maybe a few farmyardy notes, horse saddle, soy sauce… Mouth (neat): very strong, but I’m afraid it seems to be quite nice. Sweet leather and pipe tobacco, with some salt. With water: darn, a little soap is coming out. But after five minutes, it’s almost gone, leaving a palate that’s full of ashes and tobacco. And leather. Finish: very long, with the salt coming to the front. Salted almonds. Comments: I’m not too sure. Conservatory score. SGP:477 - 80 points.

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (60%, Adelphi for Daracha, Norway, sherry hogshead, cask #1162, 442 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (60%, Adelphi for Daracha, Norway, sherry hogshead, cask #1162, 442 bottles) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’m not too sure either. There are some great parts (Barbour grease, fresh almonds and walnuts, waxed papers…) but other parts are a little bizarre. A mix of soap and ink? Let’s see what water can do to it… With water: rubber. Boots, bands and tyres. A little extreme, I’m not against a healthy dose of rubber in my peat monsters, but I find this a little ‘too much’. Mouth (neat): this is more like it. Grapefruits, salt, kippers, orange blossom honey and then a pretty massive dose of green pepper. Very strong stuff. With water: works. I especially enjoy all these almonds, salted, smoked, fresh, chilli-ed… Finish: long, salty, almondy. I wouldn’t claim there’s no rubber left. Comments: probably a polarising version. Loved some parts, didn’t like others too much. I also find these rather un-Adelphi. SGP:377 - 82 points.

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2003/2013 (60%, Alexander, Swisslink 007, fresh Port hogshead, cask #646, 341 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2003/2013 (60%, Alexander, Swisslink 007, fresh Port hogshead, cask #646, 341 bottles) Four stars Right, it’s No.007 because it’s been distilled on 007.007.2003. Not kidding, that’s on the label. And yes it’s a Port hogshead. How could we be against all this (Swiss) fun? Colour: copper/salmon. Nose: ouch, ouch, ouch. This is too strong. Although I do get strawberries. Strawberries? And fino sherry, and vin jaune, old walnuts, mustard… With water: yess! Lovage, soy sauce, Maggi, leather, balsamico, Parmesan cheese (no, really)… I’m not saying gym socks, eh! Mouth (neat): absolutely massive. Some kind of extraterrestrial juice. Very thick mouthfeel, it’s not oil, it’s melted butter. With water: more sherry than Port if you ask me. Walnuts and all that, toasted brioche, speculoos, burnt herbs, sweet mustard, smoked meat… Finish: extremely long but a tad greener and grittier. Artichokes? Comments: this one was funny and fun. Totally unlikely but very funny. This needs to be rewarded, while some many new drams are becoming… a little boring. SGP:477 - 87 points.

No we aren’t done yet…

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (63.9%, OB, private bottling for Raz and Marti, fresh sherry hogshead, 151 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2002/2012 (63.9%, OB, private bottling for Raz and Marti, fresh sherry hogshead, 151 bottles) Four stars and a half Almost 64% vol.? Please do your malty prayers, S.… Colour: dark amber. Nose: good, it’s one of those. Heavy chocolate, wood smoke, exhaust fumes, new leatherette and black pipe tobacco. With water: the fumes of a 3.8l Jaguar E-type. The red one with white leather seats. Or a Holland & Holland double express that just shot. Or Jimi Hendrix’s Marshall amp after a gig. Oh well, I may be tired… Mouth (neat): terrifyingly strong. Concentrated brine plus macerated ashes and tar, all that added to a blend of reduced Cointreau and liquorice extract. No, really, is this legal? What’s the SWA doing? With water: back to civilisation. Sort of. Chocolate and peat smoke plus a little ham. Finish: as long as a Fidel speech. Comments: I’m not sure this kind of very extreme whisky can be rated. But there… SGP:368 - 89 points.

Time to round this marathon off. I love all these Port Charlottes, but they can be very tiring. How many of them have we just tried? Nine? Ten? Twelve?... Here’s the next – and last - one…

Port Charlotte 8 yo 2001/2010 (66.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon barrel, #127.5, 243 bottles)

Port Charlotte 8 yo 2001/2010 (66.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon barrel, #127.5, 243 bottles) Five stars Another one from my good friend Ralfy. It’s a miracle that such an explosive liquid could cross the Channel without having alerted anyone at the Royal Mail, at the French Poste (probably on strike, ha), the Schengen people, the European Commission, François Hollande (no, that’s normal, he’s too busy with his demi-mondaines – I mean, actresses), the NSA, the Mossad, and even the mighty SWA. So since it made it onto WF’s tasting desk, well, let’s try it… But we may need a decompression chamber after this one… Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, but it’s not that strong! It’s rather like a blend of dry limoncello, almond oil, crushed sardines, mashed potatoes and light brine. Easy easy! With water: s.u.p.e.r.b. As pure as whisky can get, crystalline, with touches of white peaches and not-too-ripe melons in the background. We’re well at Bruichladdich. Mouth (neat): tsunamiesque, but superb! We’re actually very close to the very first PC we had in this little session, the 2001 Coopers Choice. Perfect brine, minerals, lemon juice, soot, ashes and kippers. A blade made out of crystal, Bruichladdich’s very tall stills have spoken. It just kills you a bit… With water: amazingly pure. (Wine freak stuff ahead) it reminds of Eric Nicolas’ Jasnières, at the Domaine de Bellivière (end of wine freak stuff.) Finish: long, and one of the cleanest ever. More grass, as often. Only the aftertaste is surprisingly sluggish, loses one point here. Comments: refill bourbon lets the spirit talk. As long as it’s got something to say, which was obviously the case here. SGP:358 - 91 points.

PS: Ralfy, are you 100% sure this is 100% legal?

Yeah, I think we’re done, more or less.

(With thanks to Ivar and Ralfy)

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



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August 6, 2014


Tasting three probable Glenmorangie

Teaspooned, undisclosed, renamed, whatever, these should be Glenmos but the bottlers wouldn’t/couldn't tell.
Images of Tain 'Mansfield Castle' (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, +/-2014) Three starsActually this baby doesn’t say anything, all we know is that it’s Scottish malt whisky. No age, no vintage, no distillery that I can spot… And it’s not even a single malt. So probably Westport aka teaspooned Glenmorangie, as, you know, Tain…. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: orangey sherry ;-). A slight flinty side, orange zests, then hints of sangria, a wee touch of dusty earth, a few sultanas and a lot of tobacco… With water: same. A little warm wood. Mouth (neat): starts with a combination of pencil shavings and Cointreau or any orange liqueur, which isn’t very usual. Oak-aged triple-sec? There’s also quite some Demerara sugar and even drops of rhum agricole, as well as a little cumin. Unusual indeed. With water: rye? Really? It reminds me of some artisan Americans, something must have happened with the wood. Finish: long, spicy, gingery. Speculoos liqueur – should that exist. Comments: an interesting style, very ‘modern’. Some kind of wood technology may have been used at some point. SGP:452 – 81 points.
Westport 2004/2009 (57.8%, Malts of Scotland, Edition Feinschmecker 2013, sherry butt, cask #FS4) Three starsFeinschmecker isn’t the name of a Bayern Munich midfielder, the word means ‘gourmet’. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: an unusual one again, with rubber, exhaust fumes, plenty of damp earth, then branches and roots, then walnuts. A huge bag of walnuts. With water: notes of ale this time. Mouth (neat): it’s a big spicy / oaky sherry monster, rather more on spices than on fruits. Again, in my experience such big spices are rarely to be found in traditional sherried whiskies, but it works well. Oranges, aquavit, cinnamon, liquorice, ginger. With water: same plus a little mint and even more cinnamon. Finish: long, gingery. Quite some strong honey (I often quote chestnut.) Comments: the speculoos are back. Were some Belgians involved at some point? We love the Belgians at WF Towers. SGP:462 - 80 points. P.S. Can we have more Westvleteren and shrimp croquettes?
Westport 13 yo 1999/2014 (52.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 156 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: light, crisp, rather floral, the exact opposite of the two previous ones. Notes of dill and fennel, cut apples, not-too-ripe kiwis, a little lemon…. It’s really cool to be able to nose Glenmo at its most natural. With water: an earthiness comes out, as almost always. Farmyard. Mouth (neat): really very good. It’s rather big for Glenmo, with an impressive oily mouth feel, some Cointreau again (Grand-Marnier if you prefer), apple juice, honeys and pollen, peaches and then more barley sweetness, but in no way it’s too sweet a dram. Excellent balance. With water: a fruit salad with some barley water and light honey. Finish: medium length. Honeyed apple juice. Comments: right, no mindboggling whisky, but quality’s high and it’s very approachable malt whisky. Keyword: easy. SGP:541 - 83 points.

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



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August 5, 2014


A little hotchpotch

I’m sometimes wondering if we aren’t a little too Cartesian at WF Towers, paring whiskies from the same distilleries and all that. Sometimes I feel the need to go much more ‘randomised’. That’s what we’re going to do today, let’s see what the cat selects ;-)…

Evolution ed. 2013 (47%, Samaroli, 45th Anniversary, blended malt)

Evolution ed. 2013 (47%, Samaroli, 45th Anniversary, blended malt) Five stars The excellent ‘Evolution 2012’ used to contain very old malts from various distilleries, including Laphroaig 1967. Not too sure about what’s in this one, I think you cannot tell anyway, according to the new rules. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with an ashy smoke, gravel, notes of very dry mezcal, white balsamico and linseed oil. So it’s quite dry indeed, with an acetic side that’s quite unusual and that works very well in my book. After that, even more mineral notes as well as drops of antiseptic and something somewhat meaty. Lard? Also touches of leather and Cubans, the whole is very complex and yet coherent, not disjointed at all. Mouth: old peaters and more old peaters. The fruitier ones remain in the background and only add touches of citrus. So it remains dry, ashy, smoky and slightly coastal (seawater). It’s got something of old Clynelish, but I doubt there’s any inside. Wait, did Mr. Samaroli and/or his gang manage to recreate Old Clynelish? Finish: long, very dry, smoky and salty, and grassier as often. A bitterness in the aftertaste (burnt herbs.) Comments: very well made. Probably the ‘addition’ of quite a few old glories that mingled together very well. I believe it’s a more austere version of the Edition 2012. SGP:365 - 90 points.

Glen Spey 25 yo 1988/201 (47.3%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #356079, 163 bottles)

Glen Spey 25 yo 1988/2014 (47.3%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #356079, 163 bottles) Three starsOh Glen Spey! Glen Spey is so uncommon, I’ve barely tasted 20 of them within twelve years of Whisky Fun. Colour: white wine. Nose: is this a magic spell? This is very close to the Samaroli. Not all of it, but the grassy minerality is similar. Wet gravel, cactus, grass, soot… There are fruits behin that, but that would rather be skins, peelings, stems, leaves… Some marzipan too, tree bark… Mouth: bags of bitter almonds, very ‘green’ lemon (wouldn’t that be lime?), bitter walnuts… It’s really ultra-grassy, until more ‘fruity fruits’ start to emerge, especially oranges. Sweets and syrups. Finish: long and rather oakier, with some menthol and liquorice from the oak. Comments: always interesting to taste good ‘fillers’. No sexy ooh-ah malt, but I’m glad I could try it. SGP:461 - 82 points.

Reference Series I (47.5%, Master of Malt

Oh, well done, this is a funny series of three blended malts in which the proportion of ‘older, exciting and altogether yummy whisky goes up’, according to the bottlers. A bizarre idea since not much is disclosed (but they couldn’t anyway, by law.) Let’s have the three of them, since it seems that we ‘must’.

Reference Series I (47.5%, Master of Malt, blended malt, 2014) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: noses young, with sweet porridge and garden fruits. Apples and pears, then maple syrup. Easy, simple, ‘obvious’. Mouth: same, and that works. Sweet beer, sweet bread, apple juice and, behind that, an interesting touch of Tabasco and lime-flavoured beef jerky. I’m not joking. Which single malt is the culprit? Finish: rather long, a little saltier. A wee smokiness that hints at mezcal.  Comments: the nose was so-so in my opinion, but the palate really delivers. Really good stuff despite (or because?) the youthfulness. SGP:552 - 83 points.

Reference Series II (47.5%, Master of Malt, blended malt, 2014) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the vanilla that got bigger. Also more wax, barley syrup, warm brioche straight from the oven and just a touch of cured ham. Intriguing, but this baby may well not be a nosing whisky either. Mouth: a punchier version of the ‘I’, peatier, sharper, more peppery. Talisker-peppery. The mezcal got even bigger, there’s also some menthol, cinnamon mints, bitter herbs… It’s a sharp style that I enjoy a lot. It’s to be wondered if John Glaser didn’t have something to say here… There are also notes of wholegrain bread, which is great. Finish: long, peaty, bready and just lovely. Comments: a great composition. Seriously, who did it? SGP:455 - 88 points.

Reference Series III (47.5%, Master of Malt, blended malt, 2014) Four stars and a halfCould this be even better? Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s still not quite a nosing whisky in my opinion, but I really like these whiffs of old wardrobe, old magazines in an attic, basket of various breads Bavarian style (right, or Austrian)… I also find touches of ripe mangos and sultanas, which is always great news. Actually, it’s a very nice nose. Mouth: excellent. They’re onto something. It’s not a blended malt where all flavours are jumbled and fuzzy, it’s crystal-clear, chiselled, ‘defined’. And it goes beyond malt whisky, it’s actually one of my all-time dreams, doing a vatting of various spirits. A true world spirit! But back to this one, I also find more sherry now, more toasted bread and fudge, more raisins… I’m now wondering if I did not like No. 2 a little better. Finish: long, balanced, between honey and peat. You may add one mint lozenge. Comments: tough call. Seriously, how did they do that? Well, remember what the Germans always say about sausages (right, Wurst), “when you really like something, it’s better not to try to learn how it’s made”. SGP:564 - 88 points.



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August 4, 2014


Glenkinchie 10, 12 and 20

There are very few different Glenkinchies around, but I’m trying hard to do at least one Glenkinchie session a year. Today’s the day.

Glenkinchie 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-1988, 75cl)

Glenkinchie 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-1988, 75cl) Two starsThis one from a very early ‘Classic malts’ bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s rather greasier and fatter than expected, rather far from the current Glenkinchie and certainly not similar to other Lowlanders from that time, whether lighter ones or heavier ones. Although, maybe, St Magdalene did share some similarities, such as this peculiar leafiness. I find quite a lot of walnut skin too, green apples (cider apples), a little paraffin, cosmetics (night cream?) Touches of grapefruits in the aftertaste. Mouth: leaves, grasses and bitter citrons in the arrival, then more malt and a feeling of sooty cardboard. That might be OBE. Add a few sweets, a little candy sugar and a spoonful of ashes and you get something a little… strange. Finish: short, malty, candied and grassy, all at the same time. Comments: I know some of these bottles could be excellent, but I’m afraid this one was really so-so. SGP:341 - 72 points.

Glenkinchie 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013)

Glenkinchie 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this newer one is certainly fruitier, easier and sexier. I find more tropical fruits than in earlier Glenkinchies, for example obvious notes of mangos, which may come from some more active American oak. Not much vanilla, though. Also quite a lot of oranges and just touches of Turkish delights, rose water and all that. It seems that Glenkinchie’s been ‘pumped up’ a bit. Mouth: had I tried this blind, I’d have said ‘Midleton!’ Serious. It’s definitely got an Irish side, with this lovely fruitiness that combines oranges, mangos again, sweet malt… All that with a rather light, but certainly not weak body. I had to double-check my samples, and no, this well is Glenkinchie. Well done. Finish: short and light, just as fruity. Comments: no, the older versions aren’t always better. SGP:541 - 83 points.

And now, drum roll please…

Glenkinchie 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA)

Glenkinchie 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA) Five stars Another super-rare bottle from the good old US of America. I’ve tried some 1966 Glenkinchie in the past, especially one by Cadenhead for the US had been rather superb (WF 90). Moon Import’s was excellent too (WF 88). All may have come from the same lot of casks. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typically old Cadenhead’s, with this sooty/metallic thing at first nosing (metal polish, old coins). After that, the fruits take off, so to speak, with mostly oranges and tangerines, zests… I also find leather cream, ‘old Barbour jacket’, cedar wood, old attic, green tea in an old earthen teapot and all that. Totally unmodern. Mouth: but this is perfect! I had feared it would be flattish – 86 US proof being only 43% vol. – but not so at all. Waxy lemons and oranges, drops of brine, old rum, green tea again, chamomile tea, cider apples and green pears, a little tobacco, a smokiness… What’s really interesting is this saltiness. Has this barrel been aged at Lagavulin? Finish: quite long, on the same aromas, for a long time. The aftertaste is a notch drying, but that’s cool. Comments: I’m rereading my notes from 2008 for the Cadenhead’s, and I don’t see why I would come up with a different score. Thank you Diego and Max! SGP:552 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: FUSION JAZZ. Performer: Jean luc Ponty. Track: On my way to Bombay. Please visit JL Ponty's website and buy his music...

August 3, 2014


The Short Sessions, two Cragganmore

Cragganmore 2000 ‘Distillers Edition’ (40%, OB, Port finish, CggD 6565, 2013)

Cragganmore 2000/2013 ‘Distillers Edition’ (40%, OB, Port finish, CggD 6565) Two stars and a halfColour: gold. Nose: a fresh and fragrant nose, rather on oranges and apple juice, with discrete whiffs of wood smoke. Becomes more cake-y after a few seconds, with biscuits, a little malt, roasted nuts and a little fudge. It’s light and rather fresh, without any winey notes. Jolly nice nose, let’s hope it’s not to flat on the palate. Mouth: it’s more honey that we find, but there are always a lot of oranges. Then custard and more and more roasted malt, Ovaltine, cornflakes and gingerbread. The arrival’s fine, the middle is thinner. Finish: a little short, but clean and pleasantly malty. The oranges are always there in the aftertaste. Comments: too bad it’s a little thin on the palate, because I find the juice fresh and pleasant. SGP:441 - 79 points.

Cragganmore 15 yo 1999/2014 (53.3%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14015, 247 bottles)

Cragganmore 15 yo 1999/2014 (53.3%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14015, 247 bottles) Two stars and a half Officially nicknamed ‘Craggenmore’. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts a little raw, buttery, mashy and then more estery, with a lot of apples and gooseberries. Raw malt, custard, a little oil (sunflower)… It’s a very ‘naked’ one so far. With water: notes of wet clothes, porridge, chalk, grass and vanilla… It’s very natural indeed. Mouth (neat): starts with touches of varnish, goes on with many tart fruits, green apples, kiwis, lemons… Also notes of lager beer. Very naked indeed. With water: same profile. Let’s add a few marshmallows, and a little more bitter grass. Finish: quite long, very barleyish. Ripe apples and cornflakes plus a little grass again. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: more body than the official, but a both narrower and grassier profile. Very honest, very natural, but it won’t make you ecstatic, I’d say. Same score. SGP:351 - 79 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Mary Halvorson Septet. Track: Four Pages Of Robots. Please visit her website and buy her music...

August 1, 2014



Two official
old Balblair

Balblair is a malt we all like to like. The distillery’s beautiful, the people are engaging and the whisky’s the epitome of fruity balance, both elegant and complex.

Balblair 1983/2013 (46%, OB) Five stars Ex-bourbon. Colour: pale gold. Nose: just s.u.p.e.r.b., the embodiment of elegance in whisky. Everything’s been fine-tuned to perfection, with some vanilla but not too much, plums, apricots and quinces but not too much, some honey but not too much, many flowers including honeysuckle and maybe jasmine, and on top of all that, a drop of the fruitiest olive oil. Add three fresh almonds and hazelnuts. I cannot see who wouldn’t love this. Mouth: yeah, everything is perfect. Fruit juice ex-American oak ;-). Flower nectars and honeys, mirabelles, butter pears, white currents, then more soft cinnamon and an elegant vanillaness. Finish: maybe not extremely long but it’s got these ripe fruits again, the soft spices and, above all, a cleanliness that’s always welcome in any finish. Comments: not exactly the fab old ones from the 1960s, but we aren’t that far away. SGP:541 - 90 points.

Balblair 1978/2009 (46%, OB) Four stars and a half One of these older officials that we’ve missed went they came out, shame on little WF! Ex-bourbon barrels as well. Colour: dark straw. Nose: it’s a grassier expression, starting with more oils and waxes as well, although I wouldn’t call this a waxy whisky. It’s also a tad coastal, and rather less vanilla-ed. Not the fruitiest Balblair I’ve been privileged enough to nose, I’d say. Same almonds/hazelnuts as in the 1983. Mouth: ah, this is great again. Rather fatter, with more body than in the 1983, but maybe also less cohesion, whatever that means in whisky. The American oak’s less obvious, so there’s rather less vanilla, while the fruits are a little ‘wilder’. Oranges, peaches, a very wee smokiness (toasted oak?), maybe touches of ripe kiwis and litchis…  Finish: longer than that of the 1983, with a little more menthol this time. Like this finish a lot. Comments: very similar quality, it’s not easy to tell you which one I liked best. Well I think it was the 1983. Both are highly quaffable, in any case. Ha! SGP:551 - 88 points.

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles) - WF 91

Favourite older bottling:
Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA) - WF 98

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #45 (60.28%, OB, 2013) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Diamond 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Guyana, cask #72, 324 bottles) - WF 91



Block Today: SOUL. Easier stuff for once. Performer: The Dynamics. Track: Move On Up. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 2014 - part 2 <--- August 2014 - part 1 ---> August 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Balblair 1983/2013 (46%, OB)

Evolution ed. 2013 (47%, Samaroli, 45th Anniversary, blended malt)

Glenkinchie 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, USA)

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1015, 460 bottles)

Port Charlotte 9 yo 2004/2014 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #1032, 330 bottles)

Port Charlotte 11 yo 2002/2013 (54.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 78 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram No.1, cask #MoS 13042, 145 bottles)

Port Charlotte 8 yo 2001/2010 (66.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon barrel, #127.5, 243 bottles)