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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2015 - Part 1



July 2015 - part 2 <--- August 2015 - part 1 ---> August 2015 - part 2


August 14, 2015


Breakfasty Deanston fair and square

I don’t quite know what to say about Deanston. Maybe that I’m happy to try some Deanstons?

Deanston 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2015)

Deanston 18 yo 'Cognac Casks' (46.3%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars This baby was finished in cognac casks for six years, so more double maturation than quick aromat… I mean, finishing. It’s advertised as being ‘simple, handcrafted, natural’. Ah. Now if it was genuine cognac wood, it was genuine European oak, which isn’t that common… Colour: gold. Nose: I like these whiffs of wet fabric, raw wool, carbon paper, then peaches, lemons, and apricots. It does have a cognacqy side indeed, and that would even be cognac de propriétaire (grower’s). There’s also a little dairy cream and baker’s yeast, which is ‘Deanston’ in my book. Mouth: hey, this is to my liking! Spicy oak and teas, more lemon, tangerines, bitter oranges, gingerbread, spicy honey, speculoos, malt, honey… I think this works, even better thanks to the oily mouth feel. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, honeyed, creamy… It’s liquid gingerbread. Marmalade, cloves and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: I wouldn’t say this is a surprise. Well, there, this is a surprise. An excellent surprise… SGP:651 - 86 points.

Deanston 16 yo 1997/2014 (54.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1962)

Deanston 16 yo 1997/2014 (54.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1962) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: very breakfasty, and that would be some full Scottish breakfast, with porridge, mushrooms, sliced oranges (is that Scottish?) and… malt whisky. That, is Scottish. Once again, there are these Deanstony whiffs of raw fabric and wool, and even a little graphite oil. Are those distillery markers? I have to work on my Deanstons. With water: wet papers and more porridge, plus plenty of barley and squeezed oranges. Mouth (neat): excellent! Zesty and freshly oaky, with grapefruit skins, tree bark, then the expected porridge and these slightly yeasty touches. Malt. With water: a touch of fabric/wool, then malt, ale, lemon, and green tea. The combo works well, its pretty ‘organic’. Finish: good length, grassy, fresh, barleyish and porridgy. Comments: an excellent cask, I’m impressed. Feels extremely natural and unfiddled-with. SGP:551 - 87 points.

That one made me feel like I should try a very young one, to further – and better - check Deanston’s distillate profile. Most luckily, I’ve got one at hand…

Deanston 7 yo 2006/2014 (49%, Spirit & Cask Range, 390 bottles)

Deanston 7 yo 2006/2014 (49%, Spirit & Cask Range, 390 bottles) Two stars and a half Is this new make? Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah well, there is an eau-de-vie-ish side to this, and even some… vodka? Raw kirsch, plum spirit, sweet porridge, yoghurt, dairy cream, bread dough… You see what I mean. This is all nicely young, but I do not seem to manage to find any obvious distillery character. Must be me. Mouth: same feelings. Eaux-de-vies, lemon liqueur, sweet porridge, orange squash… All is jolly good, feisty and young, and even quite flawless, but indeed, it’s young and it hasn’t got much singularities I’m afraid. Tastes more or less like any very young unpeated malt whisky. Which is good, and bad at the same time. Finish: quite long. Pure kirsch straight from your Holstein. Almondy and slightly burnt aftertaste – I told you, kirsch straight from the still. Comments: how to score this? It’s good, but it’s too young. On the other hand, it’s good. And yet it’s pretty immature. And yet, I like this… Ooh my head! SGP:541 - 78 points.

Couldn’t we go on a bit? A fourth Deanston, how does that sound? Not sure I’ve ever tasted four Deanstons in a row…

Deanston 19 yo 1994/2014 (58%, Master of Malt, refill bourbon)

Deanston 19 yo 1994/2014 (58%, Master of Malt, refill bourbon) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not a whacky Deanston, I don’t seem to find any odd concrete-y, or very porridgy notes in this, rather soft notes of ripe apples, sunflower oil, and white rhum agricole. Which pleases me enough, mind you. Some vanilla, some blond Virginia tobacco, a new pack of American cigarettes, maybe slices of fresh rhubarb (after the rain), some barley, some white chocolate. Firm and light at the same time. With water: I don’t think I’d find anything better to say than ‘very fine malty malt whisky’. Mouth (neat): everything by Kellogg’s, Ovaltine, and Van Houten. Syrups, roasted seeds, sesame oil, butterscotch, vanilla cake… It’s powerful, but it’s very approachable. And very, very barleyish. No fabric, no engine oils, no raw kirsch, so it’s a clean one. With water: yes it’s good. A feeling of...  margarita? Finish: medium, creamy, barleyish, vanilla-ed, with a citrusy aftertaste. Comments: maybe not malt whisky that we’ll remember forever, but quality’s there. Very ‘natural’. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Good, I think we might have managed to boost the image of Deanston in WF’s little (not so little) book. But four is enough!

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



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August 13, 2015


Going a little too far with Edradour

Edradour’s maybe not the easiest malt ever, and indeed some earlier batches have been a little nasty, but I’ve noticed much improvement since the current owners took over in 2002. Having said that, it’s been a long time since we did our latest proper Edradour session, so now’s the time to try to ‘dig deeper’. We’ll start this with some older bottlings for good measure and for a better historical perspective, and then go as far as we can… But we have resources! Please fasten your seat belt…

Edradour 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995)

Edradour 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995) Actually that was The Edradour, like in The Macallan. Other ‘Chivas’ bottlings have been… hard. Colour: gold. Paler than other batches. Nose: starts well, with smoky malt and roasted nuts, but some kind of vegetal soap is soon to surface. And wet paint, burnt papers, other burnt things… Plastic? Mouth: no way. A lot of plastic, some cheap supermarket balsamic vinegar, paper again, and always this soapiness. Sugar syrup. Finish: rather long, but that’s not great news ;-). Burnt vegetables and household soap. Comments: a rather bad batch for sure. We’ve had better ones, but I guess we could have seen it as some solid foundation for improvements. SGP:471 - 64 points.

Indeed, room for improvement, but let’s also check an older indie…

Edradour 24 yo 1976/2000 (51.2%, Signatory Vintage, cask #142, 320 bottles)

Edradour 24 yo 1976/2000 (51.2%, Signatory Vintage, cask #142, 320 bottles) I have to say these ones bear a very shady reputation… Colour: pale gold. Nose: eh? Rotting artichoke? Burnt carbon paper? Anti-rust paint? Quick, with water: soap, fish liver oil, a pile of brown coal, new sneakers (Nike’s very ugliest, I’d say), and then, quite appropriately, gym socks. Hard. Mouth (neat): the other day I had thought an old indie Glenfiddich was the soapiest whisky I had ever tasted. Well, this one’s pretty good at that as well. Extreme lemon-flavoured soap. With water: frankly horrible. Very soapy, with a rotten side. Those artichokes again? Finish: quite long, with ‘better’ notes of almond oil, but the aftertaste remains very soapy. Comments: I guess the usually excellent Signatory Vintage just wanted to have whiskies from just any Scottish distillery. Including Edradour. SGP:272 - 15 points.

Indeed, there was room for improvement… But now that we’ve tried the ‘bad old ones’, let’s have newer bottlings more or less at random, for more fun.

Edradour 24 yo 1985/2009 (50.2%, OB, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #09/151, 682 bottles)

Edradour 24 yo 1985/2009 (50.2%, OB, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #09/151, 682 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: here we go, a rather great nose! It’s unbelievable that this came from the very same distillery, but some say that heavy batch variations were simply coming from the cooling problems that they could have when the weather was hot, and when the wee river was warm or simply low. Makes sense. Anyway, this is perfectly malty, with good raisins and nuts from the PX. Some walnuts too, and a wee bit of leather. With water: profound viscimetry ;-). Perfect whiffs of earthy tea and walnut cake. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, sherried, quite PX but not excessively sweet. Lovely leathery raisins plus a little lemon balm and walnut liqueur. I like. With water: excellent, really. Triple-sec, raisins, a little tobacco, mandarin liqueur. Finish: long, a tad sweeter, with an oily feeling. More mandarins in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m very happy. Great cask and great finishing work by owners Signatory. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Edradour 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.6%, Artist by La Maison du Whisky, bourbon barrel, cask #139, 235 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.6%, Artist by La Maison du Whisky, bourbon barrel, cask #139, 235 bottles) Four stars In my book, the fact that LMDW selected this cask for this series is a good sign, but anyone may fail. Colour: straw. Nose: ooh, a lemony and steely one! It’s quite unusual, we’re almost nosing silverware. And hay, old aluminium pans, an engine… And then, rather rhubarb, kiwis, angelica, lime… Yup, all things green. Interesting and very unusual. With water: the barley comes out. Hints of bananas, rocks, silver fork, old coins, brioche. Mouth (neat): oh very good! It’s got a Clynelish side, which cannot not please me, with waxy grapefruits and, yet again, green herbs and fruits covered with iron filings and aluminium. Sounds strange, but it’s totally excellent. Tart. With water: oh yes it’s good, bright, rather fat, fruity, zesty, waxy… Finish: quite long, very waxy. Comments: a perfect young Edradour that could challenge many colleagues further North. Definitive proof that things have improved a lot at Edradour, but let’s go on… SGP:552 - 87 points.

Good, two ‘bad’ ones and two great ones, it’s a tie so far…

Edradour 12 yo 2003/2015 (55.6%, OB, bourbon, decanter, 1,979 bottles)

Edradour 12 yo 2003/2015 (55.6%, OB, bourbon, decanter, 1,979 bottles) Four stars This an annual ‘deluxe’ bottling by the current owners, distilled by the current owners. Wasn’t Iain Henderson already there in 2003? Colour: straw. Nose: a little more austere than the Artist, rather less waxy and citrony, and more mineral, with whiffs of concrete dust and mown lawn. It seems that with these bottlings, Edradour definitely became a true Highlander. With water: superb resinous, sappy, waxy and mildly rubbery – in a good way. Mouth (neat): how very good! I want to sing and I want to dance (better not do that, S.), because it seems that the times when any Edradour had to be taken with caution are definitely over. Hurray! Lemon, chalk, sunflower oil, butterscotch, orange drops, a little earth… All great and balance is perfect. With water: a wee touch of candy sugar, other wise all very fine. Finish: long, rather candied. Orange blossom water, candle wax, earth. Comments: on par with the LMDW. What a lovely, thick yet bright spirit! Almost a resurrection – and God knows I’m no religious person (eh?) SGP:552 - 87 points.

But let’s check earlier bottlings, just to make sure and to keep this fight fair… Why not go back ten years?

Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 (60.7%, Signatory, Straight from the Cask, sherry, cask #310, 860 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 (60.7%, Signatory, Straight from the Cask, sherry, cask #310, 860 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: wee whiffs of gunpowder and used matches at first nosing, but what comes after that is most pleasant, with fino-ish walnuts, toasted bread, chestnut purée and simply toasted white bread. With water: quite a lot of leather, tree bark, some kind of vegetal caramel perhaps? Mouth (neat): there might be a discreet soapiness indeed, or rather a wee bit of plastic, but again, what comes after that is pleasant. Orange cake, marmalade, walnuts again, minty tea, some liquorice, black raisins… With water: does not swim extremely well, I’m afraid. More soap. Finish: long, not soapy at all when undiluted, otherwise a little soapy. Comments: shall we call this an intermediate bottling? SGP:561 - 79 points.

Let’s try again…

Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 (46%, OB, Un-chillfiltered Collection, cask #313, 792 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 1993/2004 (46%, OB, Un-chillfiltered Collection, cask #313, 792 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: well this sherried dram is cleaner than its CS counterpart, and while we do not find any soap, matches or gunpowder, some leather walnuts and other nuts are playing first parts. A little mead, then some game and shoe polish. I’m in favour of this kind of nose ;-). Mouth: yes, it’s a cleaner cask, with plenty of dried fruits (it is fruitcaky), a little leather and liquorice again, marmalade, dry caramel, and various roasted nuts. An earthy side as well, which works very well. Finish: long and even earthier. Some cured ham in the aftertaste. A mineral side, but not gun flints. Comments: very quaffable, and flawless. Good body and structure, good sherry. SGP:451 - 83 points.

… But just like Bruichladdich and Arran, Edradour have also issued many finished whiskies, and have never been shy with just ‘any’ wines, as long as those did age in oak. So…

Edradour 10 yo 1997/2008 (56.9%, OB, Straight From The Cask, Moscatel Cask Finish, 468 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 1997/2008 (56.9%, OB, Straight From The Cask, Moscatel Cask Finish, 468 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: no moscatel whatsoever. And I think I could tell, there’s Muscat growing around 100 m from WF’s headquarters. Rather butterscotch, brioche and other stuff from a pastry shop, then a little leather. Walnut cake again and again. Nothing to complain about. With water: noh, doesn’t swim. That often happens with whisky finished in wine, water makes them either too leafy or too paraffiny, like here. Mouth (neat): indeed, it is rather raisiny, and indeed the muscatel starts to feel. Pineapple, muscat de frontignan, and other muscats. Some say that Muscat can be a little whoreish, but I wouldn’t say that about this whisky. It’s just a little winey. No soap. With water: swims rather better on the palate than on the nose, although some faint soapy/plasticky touches do emerge. Finish: quite long, with muscaty pineapples and even litchis. Comments: one of the strange ones. Not bad at all, just a little.. say unnecessary? But that was seven years ago… SGP:641 - 77 points.

Moscatel, he said…

Edradour 15 yo 1997/2012 (55%, OB, Straight From The Cask, finished in Moscatel hogshead, 441 bottles)

Edradour 15 yo 1997/2012 (55%, OB, Straight From The Cask, finished in Moscatel hogshead, 441 bottles) Three stars A moscatel hogshead is obviously a wine-treaded cask, unless some winemakers have been making and/or maturing their wines in ex-Scotch wood. Which we both doubt, don’t we. Colour: deep gold. Nose: similar, just a little cleaner and, apparently, fresher. Sultanas and other raisins, fudge, Werther’s Originals, tinned pineapples… With water: more earth, even mud. Wet clothes. Mouth (neat): less winey than the younger 1997, as if they’ve been using refill moscatel wood. So this works well, especially since there’s no soap whatsoever, rather a pleasant spicy earthiness. A little pineapple again. With water: good, sweet yet firm, rather malty. But the pineapples haven’t left. Finish: good length, a little sweet, but balanced. Tropical aftertaste. Comments: liked this one a wee notch better than its younger bro. SGP:651 - 80 points.

Edradour 11 yo 2001/2012 (57.2%, OB, finished in Frühburgunder barrique from Weingut Singer-Fischer, 303 bottles)

Edradour 11 yo 2001/2012 (57.2%, OB, finished in Frühburgunder barrique from Weingut Singer-Fischer, 303 bottles) Three stars German Frühburgunder? This is an encyclopaedia of wine, even Hugh Johnson hasn’t done any better ;-). But hey, haven’t I always said that whisky and wine were connected? Even more so than whisky and beer? ;-) Anyway, what’s Frühburgunder, you may ask? It’s simply pinot noir that’s more precocious than its parent grape. Maybe not too useful with global warming, eh… Colour: gold. Nose: I’ve never tried precocious pinot noir, so I couldn’t tell you if there is some inside, but indeed this is perhaps a little extra-leafy, with more herbal teas. Behind that, fudge and nuts. With water: nice old wood, old wine cellar, herbal teas, and mushrooms. Saltpetre. Mouth (neat): you know what, I used to dislike all these wine finishings, but with all the current oak-doped NAS whiskies that all taste the same, I may start to like them better. Coz half a loaf is better than no bread. So, this works, it’s finely caramely, and nicely leafy. Cherry stems, blackcurrant buds (how very Burgundian) and cracked pepper. With water: fine, really fine. Raisins and kirsch(enwasser). Finish: long, a bit spicy. Cherries and pepper. Comments: I’m very fine with this. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Wait, Burgundy/Burgunder?...

Edradour 2003/2010 'Burgundy Cask Matured' (46%, OB, Batch number one, 2600 bottles)

Edradour 2003/2010 'Burgundy Cask Matured' (46%, OB, Batch number one, 2600 bottles) Two stars and a half Not a finishing, it appears that this was fully matured in Bourgogne casks. Red or white? The label wouldn’t tell, unless, the pink colour… Colour: salmony amber. Right, red wine. Nose: straw-ber-ries! As jam, as liqueur, as syrup, as jelly, fresh… Just genuine strawberries. Not the noseless junk from our supermarkets mind you! Funny stuff, this, you just have to enjoy strawberries… (and malt, yoghurt, oak, nuts…) Mouth: this is a new concept, desert whisky. I’m surprised no one at Diageo or Pernod ever came up with this brainwave, designing whiskies to match this or that food. But we all know it’s coming, eh? Strawberry yogurt, custard, strawberry-flavoured Chupa Chups, marmalade, Turkish delights, rosewater, baklavas…  Finish: medium and… full of stewed strawberries. Comments: don’t get me wrong, this is no dull strawberry liqueur at all, it’s well whisky. But I find this a little excessive… Says the guy who’s been studying in Burgundy for five years. SGP:751 - 78 points.

Tired? Not at all, I’m still as bright as a button, let’s go on…

Edradour 2003/2012 (46%, OB, Ruby Port hogsheads, batch number one)

Edradour 2003/2012 (46%, OB, Ruby Port hogsheads, batch number one) Two stars Again, this baby was totally matured in ruby Port hoggies. How scary is that? Remember ruby’s the cheapest type of Port… Ahem… Colour: not much port, there are almost no apricoty hues. So, gold. Nose: no, no no. The plastic is back, the soap is back as well, and they come with whiffs of cheese cellar and burnt caramel. Mouth: weird, wicked, and whacky. Blackcurrant jelly with Swiss cheese and fresh paint. Pass. Finish: quite long but pass. Comments: something must have gone wrong. Some parts were ‘funny and fun’, hence a goodish score, but others were really… unlikely. SGP:641 - 70 points.

Edradour 18 yo 1993/2012 (59%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, cask #301, 599 bottles)

Edradour 18 yo 1993/2012 (59%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, cask #301, 599 bottles) Two stars and a half Again, full maturation, not a finishing. I find it great that Edradour would tell, while so many other ‘brands’ are trying to make us believe that quick finishings were actually full maturations. You know, lies of omission, some are very good at that. No, no names. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: no soap. That’s done. Rather roasted nuts (aplenty), old walnuts, horse saddles, black mushrooms (black trumpets, how succulent is that?), then rather old kirsch, cherries, herbal teas. Peach leaves spring to mind. With water: fern, humus, manure. That’s the sherry talking. Mouth (neat): rich, very kirschy, very marginally soapy – but there is some -  and with a bourbony side, between pencil shavings and wood varnish. With water: a little harder. Cherry-scented soap, does that exist? Finish: quite long, now with bubblegums and liquorice allsorts. Strawberries in the aftertaste. Comments: fair, just a little… different. SGP:651 - 79 points.

Now, perhaps do we need a little Sauternes… But we’ll do this quicker, that is to say without water…

Edradour 10 yo1993/2004 (57.2% OB, Straight From The Cask, Sauternes finish)

Edradour 10 yo1993/2004 (57.2% OB, Straight From The Cask, Sauternes finish) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: refill, obviously. No peaches, apricots, mirabelles and stuff, rather a mellow combination, with vanilla fudge, butterscotch, croissants and grass. A fine nose. Mouth: it’s clean, and it’s even very good. Nothing that goes astray, rather barley, cereals, a touch of earth, some greengages indeed but no excessive mirabelly notes, and just a handful of golden raisins. All is fine and well in this baby. Now, it’s, cough, quite strong. I should have added water. Finish: long and there, mirabelles and the fabulous eau-de-vie we Alsatians are making thereof. Haha… Comments: whisky + Sauternes doesn’t always work, but when it does, the combination wins. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Phew, how many Edradours have we just tried? This is becoming a little insane indeed, but since we’re doing an Edardour session only every two years, let’s go on!

Edradour 10 yo 1997/2008 (57.1%, OB, Sassicaia Cask Finish, 464 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 1997/2008 (57.1%, OB, Straight From The Cask, Sassicaia Cask Finish, 464 bottles) Two stars and a half Sassicaia. To think that with all the fabulous Nebbiolos or Sangioveses the Italians have, they had to come up with a so-called Bordeaux blend. Sassicaia is like a Porsche with a front engine, if you ask me… Yeah well… Colour: gold. Great new, no pinkish tones. Nose: fine, not winey (refill?) and with nice touches of malt, banana, earth, flints, gravel… Mouth: rich, coating, a little caramelly, but becoming a little greenish and leafy. Green peppercorns, rocket salad, grape pips. I find this dispensable. Finish: long, peppery, leafy, grassy… But not un-enjoyable. Just leafy. Comments: not bad, but the world didn’t need Sassicaia (or Ornellaia for that matter.) Just watch Mondovino again. SGP:561 - 78 points.

We could go on and on, but I think it’s more than time to put an end to this cavalcade. With some ‘new’ spirit of course!

Edradour 2003/2011 (57.4%, OB, Natural Cask Strength, Second Release, decanter, 1820 bottles)

Edradour 2003/2011 (57.4%, OB, Natural Cask Strength, Second Release, decanter, 1820 bottles) Two stars and a halfAh, young new Edradour au naturel, we can’t wait… Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, malt whisky au naturel indeed. Bread, leaven, limestone, grasses and leaves, waxes and oils, greases and metals… Nah, it’s not that ‘Highlands’, but indeed it’s deep and characterful spirit. Yeah, not just wood-flavoured ethanol. With water (we must): putty, paint, almond oil, fish oil… This is surprising and a little un-Pitlochry. Mouth (neat): full, vanilled, maybe-a-wee-bit-soapy-but-I-guess-you-cannot-get-it-totally-right-on-the-first-try, with some fat wax and various herbs and mints. With water: not sure it swims too well. Smoked salmon (that’s bizarre). Finish: medium, with more oils, husk, grass… Comments: not an easy one. Maybe one should try this baby on a fresher palate. I may have missed something, better stop this Edradoury madness now. SGP:462 - 78 points.

Conclusion: buy carefully selected Edradour that was distilled from 2003 on and matured in either refill or bourbon. You’ll be surprised, Edradour is back, and should match this old description by RJS Macdowall, who did write, in the 1960s and in one of his excellent books, that Edradour used to be the most expensive new filling. There must have been a reason.

(With thnks to the Burlet Bros and Konstantin)

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



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August 12, 2015


Singletons and individualities of Dufftown

There are quite a few different NAS Singletons of Dufftown around. We’ve already tried a little bunch, such as ‘Artisan’, ‘Spey Cascade’, or ‘Sunray’. There are more of them, but first, an aperitif!...

Dufftown-Glenlivet 8 yo (43%, OB, +/-1980)

Dufftown-Glenlivet 8 yo (43%, OB, +/-1980) one star and a half A famous old bottle by Bell's. We've already tried various other versions, at 40% vol., or at 70°proof, with mixed results. This one should be a little punchier... Colour: gold. Nose: some OBE rising to our nostrils, with some iron and some paraffin, some coal burning in the distance, and plenty of notes of burnt bread, wood, coffee, malt, and herbs. All that makes it very dry and even a little challenging, but the palate could go in a completely different direction. Mouth: not quite! It’s another old pretty cognacqy malt whisky, with a feeling of boisé, bitter caramel, more burnt bread and waxes that ‘are not Clynelishy waxes’. Rather paraffin again, plasticine and all that. There are also fruits, but this very dry and bitterish profile would never let them come out. A shame, because the background of the background seems to be most pleasant. Finish: long, but bitter and very tea-ish. Tannins. Comments: perhaps a taste of light? Something else that went wrong? This baby’s quite bitter and acrid, but some parts remained acceptable. SGP:362 - 69 points.

Singleton of Dufftown 'Tailfire' (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Singleton of Dufftown 'Tailfire' (40%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a halfThis one has got a higher proportion of ‘European oak casks’. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s got a wee steely, chalky side that reminds me of the old 8, and perhaps a little wet cardboard, but other than that, I find this combination of citrons and oranges plus honeyed malt rather pleasant for 28€ a bottle (in France). Mouth: it’s not big, of course, but I do enjoy this balanced mix of marmalade, pencil shavings (not too much), green tea and praline. You do feel a certain oakiness, but at least it’s not totally dominated by vanilla and coconut. Although there is a little coconut. Finish: a little short, with some cinnamon and honey. Oak in the aftertaste. Comments: a modern drop, but I think I like it a little better than Sunray and Spey Cascade. Goes down well, which is already a lot. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Singleton of Dufftown 'Unité' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/2015)

Singleton of Dufftown 'Unité' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/2015) Three stars Just found this on the World of Whiskies website (so from a large travel retail operation): ‘appears to be yet another of those products which 1. allows the distillery to get rid of average but excess stock and 2. Do so through airport outlets.’ An axe to grind, perhaps ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: it seems to be older, maltier, more cake-y, and fruitier as well. I have to say I’m not against this at all. Whiffs of newly sawn oak, cinnamon cake, vanilla, walnut cake… It’s rather ‘full’. Mouth: indeed, a better body and more depth. Cakes and jams, soft spices, toasted oak, figs, raisins, a little caramel… Only the low strength makes you want ‘a little more’. Finish: a little short, but clean, malty, honeyed and cake-y. Comments: good introductory malt whisky. No travellers will be harmed by this baby! Now, why the French name ‘Unité’?... SGP:551 - 81 points.

Singleton of Dufftown 'Trinité' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/2015)

Singleton of Dufftown 'Trinité' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/2015) Three stars and a half Comes with a story about marrying casks or something. It’s all about wood anyway these days ;-). What’s funny is that its named in French since this is for the European market, while the equivalent Singleton of Glendullan for the USA seems to be called ‘Trinity’, unless I’m mistaken. Ha, geopolitics and whisky! Colour: full gold. Nose: more roasted and toasted than Unité, with a little more coffee, malty things (Ovaltine), black tea Russian-style, and something rather bourbony. Rather nice nose. Mouth: I find this pretty good. Mars bars, chocolate, corn syrup, malt, nut pie, marmalade, gingerbread… The ABV’s the same, and yet this one feels oilier and just bigger. Finish: medium, malty, toasty. Toasted oak, bread and pastries. Comments: I wouldn’t say this Trinity is totally holy, but we’re clearly above average in my book. We’re making good progress, aren’t we. SGP:551 - 83 points.

Good, I think we’ve had enough NAS, this wouldn’t be Whiskyfun without a good indie to bring these proceedings to a close… But let’s find one that’s not too strong!

Dufftown 14 yo 1999/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #808)

Dufftown 14 yo 1999/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #808) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s more au naturel, as expected. It’s not a very expressive juice, and I wouldn’t say it’s really fresher than the Singletons, but it’s got this mineral, almost steely ‘white’ fruitiness that can work so well. Gooseberries, green apples, then a little graphite oil (perhaps) and a touch of porridge and sour dough. Yeah, it’s au naturel. Mouth: fun! A cocktail made out of citron liqueur, ginger liqueur, Schweppes, cold green tea and grapefruit juice. Nah, please don’t ask me about the proportions. Also rhubarb, more chalk, plain grass, and a drop of grassy mezcal. This baby sure hasn’t got the Singletons’ ‘commercialness’. Finish: quite long, very grassy, a little austere. Green bananas. Comments: the flesh is weak, so even if I find this one lovingly austere and, yeah, natural, I also enjoyed the Trinité’s easiness. So, same score. SGP:461 - 83 points.

(and thank you Jonny!)

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



Block Today: SOUL JAZZ. Performer: Charles Earland. Track: Red Clay. Please buy his music...

August 11, 2015


Clynelish 1996 1995 1994

A pretty ‘square’ session with Clynelish from mid-1990s vintages. Not the first time we’re doing this, and most certainly – and hopefully - not the last.

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2014 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Decanter Collection, refill sherry, cask #8669, 873 bottles) Four stars Probably a butt according to the vast amount of bottles drawn from just one cask – even at 43% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: sometimes Clynelish plus sherry creates dissonances, especially too much leather/flints, but in this case it’s all very okay. We’re rather on honey cake, chocolate, tobacco and liquorice, with good balance despite the (relative) lack of Clynelish character. One of the easiest I could try recently. Mouth: the Clynelishness comes out, with waxy oranges and a very faint salty side, which combines well with the leather and walnuts that should come from the butt. The 43% vol. feel like holidays, no need to toy with Vittel and any pipettes. Cool. Finish: it’s the salty side that comes to the front, which comes unexpected. As if the butt used to shelter manzanilla… Comments: an easy, but anti-dull Clynelish that you could quaff and quaff (and quaff). Dangerous whisky! I find it excellent, and remember, holidays! SGP:462 - 87 points.

But back to work ;-)…

Clynelish 19 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #4676, 221 bottles)

Clynelish 19 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #4676, 221 bottles) Three stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: fine nose, rather US oak-dominated but balanced, with vanilla, bananas, pears, apples… There’s also a chalkiness and whiffs of effervescent aspirin tablets. More fresh garden fruits after a while, gooseberries… Not a very Clynelishian Clynelish so far. Mouth: the oak’s loud and, well, oaky. Drying arrival, then orange peels, more vanilla, grass… There are touches of wax, obviously, but again, it doesn’t feel very ‘Clynelish’. Reminds me of late 1970s vintages that were pretty orchardy as well, with little wax and ‘Clynelish stuff’. Plums, greengages, grass… Finish: quite long, a little acrid. Green apples and oak. Comments: not quite my kind of Clynelish. It’s got a bizarre ‘Lowlands’ style, pretty un-big for Clynelish. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1996/2015 (55.5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #6509, 606 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1996/2015 (55.5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #6509, 606 bottles) Four stars and a half Probably a butt again. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts with chocolate and mint plus porcinis and cigars. I agree a perfect lunch. Gets then ‘extremely more’ complex, with old herbal liqueurs, sawn fruit trees, liquorice wood, aquavit (caraway for sure), walnut stain… We’re almost nosing an old amontillado. Not sure the distillate has much of the floor so far, but the whole’s great. With water: old books and papers, walnut wine, earth, wet grass, wet dogs (hello, dogs!), old wines… Mouth (neat): bitter oranges, leather, tobacco, strong liquorice and bitter chocolate. Notes of heavy Demerara rum. Big stuff, as they say in Sumo. With water: its now that the distillate speaks out. Waxy oranges and orangey waxes, pepper, a little brine... Finish: very long but clean. Comments: what great with these bottlings is that even if it’s very big whisky, it never gets tiring. In other words, it’s moreish. SGP:562 - 89 points.

We have a winner but three isn’t square enough. Let’s have a fourth one…

Clynelish 20 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask)

Clynelish 20 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask) Two stars and a half Despite the fact that they’re fabulous people, working in a great company, located in a great place, located in a great country, I’ve never been a total fan of Cadenhead’s sherried Clynelishes. But things may change… Colour: deep gold/amber. Nose: odd indeed. I’m not saying it’s not pleasant, but where else have you seen a combination of bubblegum with Havana cigars? Nowhere else, I’m sure. Having said that, I’m not against these notes of dried porcinis, old smoky barrels, and dried-out raisins. Almost forgot to mention carbolinium and wet concrete after a heavy summer shower in a large city (wot?) With water: not too sure. Things may have improved a bit. Gin and tonic? Mouth (neat): Kayne West singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Something’s out of tune, and I remember that also used to happen with sherried Bowmores that were available around 2000. Laphroaigs as well, by the way. Jell-O? Lavender perfume? Burt Reynolds’ aftershave lotion? With water: swims relatively well. Orange-scented candle wax. Finish: long and, really, better. I mean, more to my liking, - apologies, Mum. Bitter oranges, Schweppes, damp pepper, sawdust. Comments: Mr M., you were right! But it’s not that un-whiskyfun ;-). What’s more, I’m certainly not the arbiter of whisky taste! SGP:562 - 79 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: War. Track: Where was you at. Please visit their website and buy their music...

August 10, 2015


A new Glenfarclassy cavalcade

Maybe is it time to have a few Glenfarclas again. I usually find Glenfarclas rather wintery, but on the other hand, winter is very far away, and we cannot wait any longer. To make this funnier, we’ll do that at random, as we sometimes do. No verticale, no horizontale, only Glenfarclas as they come.

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1971/2012 'Red Baron of Speyside' (51.7%, Glen Fahrn, Switzerland, bourbon, 139 bottles)

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1971/2012 'Red Baron of Speyside' (51.7%, Glen Fahrn, Switzerland, bourbon, 139 bottles) Five stars Ouch, an old one. Probably not the best idea. The Red Baron? Hope this baby won’t go down in flames… Colour: full gold. Nose: instant hit. Beeswax, honeycomb, nectar, yellow flowers, custard, dried figs, crème au beurre. It’s hard to beat this style, and indeed, there’s not only sherry in Glenfarclas’ life. With water: some lovely oakiness, more butter cream, custard, old cigars, honeydew, furniture polish… Mouth (neat): just exceptionally fresh and fruity, while being complex and superbly spicy. Ripe kiwis, overripe apples, dried apricots, old chartreuse, Yquem, honey, verbena, Turkish delights, old chardonnay (Meursault, I should add)… Impeccable and implacable. With water: careful, don’t add too much water or the oak would stand out. Otherwise, it’s getting rather tea-ish and leafy. Finish: long, with unexpected hazelnuts and walnuts. Comments: just great spirit of great age from a great cask. Well done Red Ba… I mean, Glen Fahrn. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Phew, it’s going to be hard to ‘climb over’ that flying Glenfarclas…

Glenfarclas 1997/2011 (56.3%, OB, Family Casks, for Kensington Wine Market, Canada, first fill oloroso, cask #397, 656 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1997/2011 (56.3%, OB, Family Casks, for Kensington Wine Market, Canada, first fill oloroso, cask #397, 656 bottles) Four stars and a half From Switzerland to Canada, doesn’t Scotch make you travel? Colour: deep gold. Nose: and now for something completely different! This is classic toasty, malty, walnutty sherried Glenfarclas, with chocolate, prunes, café latte, wood smoke, liquorice and black Corinthian raisins. The whole is rather dry, and is getting very coffee-ish. We won’t complain, we love coffee. With water: very funny notes of truffles, ‘good’ sulphur, black olives and… well, exhaust fumes. Not sure Greenpeace would approve, but I enjoy this. Mouth (neat): sweeter, rich, jammy, thick, roasted and toasted, with maple syrup, pecan pie, dried figs, raisins, notes of armagnac (the nearest aged booze), and oranges. It’s strong, but it’s kind of fresh, so all goes well. With water: all goes well indeed. A bit thick, but that’s for the cause. The oranges got bigger. Finish: long, spicy, with bitter oranges, marmalade, all those sorts of things. Comments: classic big middle-aged Glenfarclas, wit a sexy roughness. Nothing is missing. SGP:562 - 88 points.

And what do our friends the Russians have to say?...

Glenfarclas 1995/2014 (57.1%, OB, Family Casks, for Classicdram Moscow Festival, Russia, refill sherry, cask #3783, 282 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1995/2014 (57.1%, OB, Family Casks, for Classicdram Moscow Festival, Russia, refill sherry, cask #3783, 282 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: light amber. Nose: it’s a lighter, fruitier and more floral one again, and that might be the wonders of refill (vs. first fill). Smashing notes of quince juice (blended with apple juice, as usual), dried figs, papaya juice, then raisins and a touch of tobacco. Old Rivesaltes – if you never tried good Rivesaltes, now’s the time). Quite some rancio too, so this is rather cognac than armagnac (as far a neighbouring spirits are concerned). With water: the herbal side comes out, blond tobacco, herbal teas, a touch of fudge… All very fine. Mouth (neat): but seriously, folks, this is cognac de propriétaire brut de fût! Raisins, ripe peaches, ripe melon… There’s a lot of fun in this. With water: no, there is some malt indeed. A touch of putty comes out, maybe peach leaf tea, then bitter oranges… Classic dram indeed. Finish: long, spicy, with some pepper. Beyond that, Seville oranges, tobacco, maybe a little curry powder… Comments: excellent. Styles are different, quality remains very high. Well done Vladislav Kamanin! (who’s the distinguished gentleman who selected the cask). SGP:561 - 88 points.

All is going very well, it seems…

Glenfarclas 'Legend of Speyside - Passion' (46%, OB, oloroso sherry casks, Germany, +/-2015)

Glenfarclas 'Legend of Speyside - Passion' (46%, OB, oloroso sherry casks, Germany, +/-2015) Four stars A fairly new one, for the German market. Well well well, Glenfarclas did not do any finishes (hurray), but it seems that they are going NAS just like the others. Or are they only testing the market? (yeah I know, the 105…) Colour: pale gold. Nose: toasted bread, toasted brioche, toasted cake, maple syrup, then dried fruits (figs, quince jelly, dates, bananas…) It’s a simple profile, but there isn’t anything to complain about. Mouth: no, it’s good stuff. Malty, nutty, brioche-y, with a thin slice of mint jelly and chlorophyll. Easy, balanced, and I have to say, beyond reproach at £40. Finish: good length. Cake, nuts, oranges, mint drops. Comments: it’s not very oloroso-ish, so possibly refill, and probably not the most complex Glenfarclas ever, but the gentleman who composed this sure did a great job. There’s NAS and there’s NAS. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Glenfarclas 25 yo 1990/2015 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 192 bottles)

Glenfarclas 25 yo 1990/2015 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 192 bottles) Four stars Oh they don’t write ‘Glenfarclas- Glenlivet’ anymore. Sir, that’s a revolution! Colour: gold. Nose: fresh fresh fresh. One of the freshest Glenfarclas I’ve ever nosed (now, I do remember a 1967 that… oh forget). Custard, melon syrup, glazed chestnuts, a touch of waxed paper, old books, mojito (not joking), fresh mint leaves… It’s a very different Glenfarclas, we’re far from any sherried extravaganza. With water: hay! After all, this is summertime. Not 100% sure it swims well, having said that, water seems to close it down. Mouth (neat): fresh syrups and liqueurs. Hay liqueur, melon liqueur, citron liqueur (you should try that, Mattei in Corsica make a good one), limoncello… In fact, it is very un-Glenfarclas, but I guess that’s what we should expect from a good independent bottler. Love the freshness in this. With water: no, no water please, this baby’s a rather bad swimmer. Makes it a little cardboardy. Finish (without water): long, with some barley, sweet bread, IPA, oranges… Comments: drop water, and it’ll be superb. It’s great to be able to taste a well-aged ‘Farclas without any sherry influence. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Let’s go on…

Glenfarclas 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Averys for Corti, San Francisco, USA, 75cl)

Glenfarclas 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Averys for Corti, San Francisco, USA, 75cl) Four stars and a half Great vintage, young age, this should be great. Colour: golden amber. Nose: whooh! Reminds of some very old Sauternes that went dry, and I’d swear I can find notes of botrytis, dried porcinis, high-end Cuban cigar… This is superlative, supremely elegant, and an ode to bottle ageing. Fantabulous smokiness (coal, wood, charcoal, cigars, whatever). Roasted chestnuts. Roasted cashew, old greases and oils. What I call ‘old garage’. Castor oil. Mouth: madre de dios! How much is 86.8 US proof again? Should be 43.4% vol., am I not right? But it feels like 50% vol., serious. Oils, waxes, burnt stuff (paper, cardboard, wood, pine cones…), chocolate, then rather old herbal liqueurs, Bénédictine, Izarra, Suze, gentian… (why always Chartreuse?)… It’s the smokiness that’s impressive, the herbal side as well, but that one does tend to make it very dry, certainly a little difficult. So not the easiest drop ever. Finish: long, dry, ashy, smoky… Dry old oloroso, I’d say. Bitter chocolate, like 90% cocoa. Comments: I’d call this baby an intellectual whisky. The more you wait, the more it gets kind of Dostoievskian, in a way. I fact, this old young Glenfarclas is fighting with you, and I’m not sure you’ll win. Pretty un-scorable, but there… SGP:462 - 88 points.

Right, this is getting complicated. Let’s have a last one, and we’ll be done. These ‘random’ tastings can get a little tiring…

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1958/1998 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage, 10th Anniversary, sherry butt, decanter, 496 bottles)

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1958/1998 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage, 10th Anniversary, sherry butt, decanter, 496 bottles) Five stars It’s no secret that Signatory Vintage have/had some stupendous old Glenfarclas. This celebratory bottling might fail to prove us all wrong, but you never know… Colour: mahogany. Nose: cancel everything, this is one of the most Demerara-ish whiskies ever. Sure there are pencil shavings and simply newly sawn planks – so yeah there’s some oak – but other than that, this is the most glorious combination of peonies, tamarind, prunes, strawberry jam and blood oranges. And earl grey tea. And Smyrna raisins. And old vintage Port wine. And tapenade. And old muscatel. And sawn mahogany (I’m making that up, never nosed sawn mahogany in my whole life). And thuja wood. And else… With water: old attic or old cellar. Long-forgotten paint, books, clothes, leather, liqueurs, paint thinners, and other carbolic and petroly stuff… As they say, echoes of yesteryears… Mouth (neat): yeah well… It’s old Demerara rum indeed. Burnt wood, liquorice, black olives, dried bananas, waxes and polishes, walnut stain (I imagine, never tried to drink that), bitter chocolate, crème de cassis… What a punchy old spirit! What’s also quite stunning is the way it gets earthier, rootier, almost ‘old Islay’, while remaining very Glenfarclas. In fact, it’s a brute. With water: fir liqueur, menthol cigarettes, liquorice, gentian. What is not to like? Finish: long, a tad gritty and harsh (this old spirit is not dead, at all), perhaps a notch too oaky, but you see we don’t care, and yet, it is a little oaky, but is that important… Comments: a restless fighter that’ll never give up. One of those old whiskies that are constantly trying to come out on top against you, even after a thirty minutes long battle. It’s not a tasting session, it’s a war! SGP:462 - 92 points.

But no, we have no limits!...

Glenfarclas 31 yo 1965/1997 (64%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.76)

Glenfarclas 31 yo 1965/1997 (64%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.76) Four stars Yup, Glenfarclas was the first malt whisky they ever bottled, so it’s #1 distillery. I agree, this session is becoming insane and, according to both the colour and the strength of this baby, heavy… Colour: dark mahogany, almost coffee. An oil slick in your glass. Nose: this feeling of old Demerara again. I guess you can easily imagine how heavy and concentrated some malt whisky that was bottled at 64% vol. AND 31 years can be. Pencil shavings, a bag of liquorice, malted barley (really?) and cherry liqueur (Heering and guignolet), plus chocolate everywhere. Not sure this baby goes in for subtleties… But let’s call on water… With water: no way! 60, 50, 45, or even 40% vol., nothing seems to work, it remains as dangerous and heavily concentrated, whichever the strength. Mouth (neat): hits you right between your ears. Massive, extremely punchy, hyper-strong and… Almost unbearable. It’s petrol, not whisky. With water: ah yes, there, at around 40% vol., it becomes almost gentle and civilised, but the liquorice and the dried fruits (figs, bananas) remain heavy and almost stuffy. What a fighter! Finish: extremely long, heavy, concentrated, liquoricy, rummy… Was this cask aged in Martinique or Guyana? Comments: I was joking a bit, this is great old Glenfarclas. It’s just a little, cough, cough, brutak. That would be brutal. What a concoction, you could paint the White House in brown using just one bottle of this very heavy brew. SGP:572 - 87 points.

Right, we’d better stop here, or this will get dangerous…

(but thank you mucho Diego, Igor, Mark, Marlene, Max, and Patrick)

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



Block Today: JAZZ (kind of). Performer: Guillaume Perret & The Electric Epic. Track: Ponk. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 9, 2015


Sunday malternatives,
old old and old young rums

We’ll rather focus on older bottlings today, for a change. Should be interesting…

King of Diamonds 'Fruit Cured' (no ABV, OB, Demerara, 75cl, 1970s)

King of Diamonds 'Fruit Cured' (no ABV, OB, Demerara, 75cl, 1970s) I couldn’t tell you if the ‘Diamonds’ part was a reference to Diamond Distillery in Georgetown, Guyana. Apparently, this was cheapish local rum made for locals – and for mixing. Curing rum with fruits was customary, and some might still do it, sometimes without telling us. Colour: gold. Nose: very light, a little cardboardy, without much fruitiness as it appears. Hay, drops of engine oil, banana skins and a little vanilla, as well as a few fermenting fruits, perhaps, but all that is extremely discreet. Mouth: more happening, and indeed one can find the fruits, around guavas and papayas, perhaps, as well as bananas. Reminds me of those tinned fruit juices they make in… Thailand. 50% fruit juice, 30% water, 20% sugar. Thinnish body, but there’s rather more happening than on the nose. Tends to lose steam very quickly. Finish: short, and a little dirty-ish and cardboardy. Some sugar in the aftertaste, as well as something like… tinned fish? Mackerel? Comments: a light rum that was probably not meant to be sipped and savoured. For tropical cocktails? I did quite enjoy the arrival on the palate of this proto-El Dorado, but that’s all. SGP:320 - 65 points.

Rhum Saint Andrew (45%, Fratelli Branca, Italy, 1l, 1939)

Rhum Saint Andrew (45%, Fratelli Branca, Italy, 1l, 1939) Three starsPre-WWII rhum, so most probably from the French West Indies, bottled in Italy by the famous Branca family, of Fernet-Branca fame. Lovely bottle, very dark colour! Colour: coffee. And I mean Italian espresso! Nose: rich, packed with spicy and polished oak and crammed with stewed dark fruits and candy sugar. A lot of burnt sugar and caramel, but its not exactly caramelly. I also find touches of caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon cake, brownie, blueberry pie... And coffee indeed. Dark style rhum, but not of the ‘navy’ style at all. Mouth: that someone would’ve added brandy to this wouldn’t surprise me. Very raisiny arrival, with also prunes, then muscovado sugar, Corinthian raisins, mocha and black chocolate. You may add a slice of Christmas cake, and in a way, we’re a bit in Macallan Gran Reserva territories. High quality ‘sherried’ rhum. Hey, yeah, haven’t they added sherry? Finish: medium, rather dry. Unsweetened coffee, old walnuts, bitter chocolate, burnt caramel. The aftertaste is faintly drying. Comments: what’s sure is that this was rhum of high quality, perhaps not agricole having said that, and perhaps not ‘only rhum’… But quality’s pretty high, no doubt about that. SGP:352 - 82 points.

While we were in the French Indies…

Barbancourt 15 yo 'Réserve du Domaine' (43%, OB, Haiti, +/-1985)

Barbancourt 15 yo 'Réserve du Domaine' (43%, OB, Haiti, +/-1985) Three stars and a half This is old-style Barbancourt, made with Charentais stills (cognac type) instead of the current column stills, which means that it was probably fatter spirit than anything distilled after 1990, let’s see… Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: there are these whiffs of fermenting vegetables and fruits that are so pleasant at first nosing, before a richer, more pipe-tobacco-ish profile appears. I also find quite a lot of old rancio, old Banyuls, perhaps a little Pedro Ximenez, walnut wine… And yet, it’s no thick rum at all, I even find it a little… ethereal? Mouth: no, I was wrong indeed, this is no thick rum, but it does display a fair share of complexity and elegance. Coffee, peach liqueur, maple syrup, walnut wine again and again, chocolate, dark toffee… There is a feeling of coffee-schnapps, and everything works in sync. Definitely a sipper. Finish: medium, with coffee and liquorice, then walnuts and rancio. Pecan pie. He aftertaste is long but thin. Liqueur-filled chocolates. Comments: absolutely excellent, just a wee bit thin at times – although it’s no thin rum at all. SGP:452 - 84 points.

While we’re at Barbancourt…

Barbancourt 25 yo 'Réserve Veronelli' (43%, OB, Haiti, for Italy, 1,196 bottles, 1977)

Barbancourt 25 yo 'Réserve Veronelli' (43%, OB, Haiti, for Italy, 1,196 bottles, 1977) Four stars Veronelli is a name that rings a bell in the world of whisky, since that Italian gentleman also used to select great old whiskies, such as a Bruichladdich 1966 via Moon Import (WF 91). This was distilled in the early 1950s, or maybe even before. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: this one’s rich, fruity, jammy, and full of… black cherries. At times, you would think this is oak-aged Burgundian guignolet (cherry liqueur) but sugarcane, candy sugar, bananas flambéed, molasses, almond oils, marzipan and, yes, Fernet-Branca are soon to come to the rescue.          And roasted chestnuts! Lovely ‘dark’ nose, full of depth. Mouth: sweet, extremely raisiny, some would call it ‘a little armagnacqy’. In a good way, of course, despite an obvious tannicity. It may have been a style that early lovers of dark spirits used to favour, but to me it does feel a notch ‘out of fashion’. In short, a lot of candy sugar, quite a lot of burnt oak, and a good dose of coffee. Or better yet, coffee liqueur ala Kahlua or Tia Maria. But it’s very good, just a little ‘antique’. Finish: medium, molassy, rich, sherried (-like), burnt in a good way. Drops of lapsang souchong in the aftertaste, as well as orange marmalade and perhaps mango jam. Comments: we know some recent brands that are trying to fake this rich style, don’t we. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Off to Trinidad!...

Nicholson Trinidad (42.8%, J&W Nicholson London, +/-1970)

Nicholson Trinidad (42.8%, J&W Nicholson London, +/-1970) Four stars When I write 42.8%, that’s rather 42.8 GL, so Gay-Lussac, so almost 43% vol. Let’s see if this old merchant’s Trinidadian could be a Caroni… Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, these very typical and topical grassy and phenolic notes are well there at first nosing, but we’re rather around bicycle inner tube and almond milk than plain engine oil and olives. Plus cardboard and sawn wood. The fact is that that was just a flash, as the whole becomes much lighter after just three seconds. Lighter, but still lively and much to my liking, like a great old dry white Bordeaux. Mouth: no, it sill roars, with this roughish, phenolic, liquorice, salty and briny style. Some menthol, smoked tea, black and green olives, grass wine (yes), sugarcane, smoked kippers, tar, liquorice… Finish: perhaps not ‘Caroni long’, but always with these salty, smoky, sappy notes. A touch of rubber again. Comments: so, Caroni or not Caroni? It’s lighter than a heavy Caroni, and heavier than a light Caroni. Maybe was it a blend of both styles? SGP:463 - 85 points.

I agree, there’s only one way to find out…

Caroni 16 yo 1997/2013 (52%, Barangai Rum, Trinidad, Pellegrini, Italy, sherry casks, 696 bottles)

Caroni 16 yo 1997/2013 (52%, Barangai Rum, Trinidad, Pellegrini, Italy, sherry casks, 696 bottles) Four stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts a little strange, perhaps a little acetic? But that goes well with the notes of dried fish, wood stain, chestnuts, black olives and then praline, cake, dried figs, even raisins… What’s sure is that it’s a rather smoother and rounder expression of Caroni, and that may be the sherry cask. But it’s still more expressive than the Nicholson, although I think we’re well within the same family. With water: benzine! Carbon paper! Wet paint! Carbolinium! Caroni! Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling, some kind of tajine, with raisins and olives, smoked meat (not lamb though) and a little honeydew. The background’s more ‘heavy’ though, with tar and salmiak. With water: once again the phenolic side comes out. Fir liqueur, oils, putty, almonds, salt, citrons… Finish: not the longest Caroni ever, with some roundness to it. Can you smoke dates (so to speak – ha) and figs? Comments: I tend to prefer harsher, even bigger Caronis, but this one’s just very lovely as well. SGP:563 - 87 points.

(thanks to Christophe and the Rumaniacs!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Larry Coryell. Track: Spaces. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 7, 2015


Three American ryes and one Dutch

(make that one American and one Dutch)

Let us have a little more of that flavourful and characterful spirit called rye. Some are starting to claim that there’s more happening in rye than in barley – let alone maize or wheat. They aren’t obligatorily wrong, but as always with stronger tastes, those aren’t always very ‘consensual’, while ethanol-producing high-yield grains will let you do any kind of aromatisation on them without ever getting in your way…

High West ‘Double Rye!’ (46%, OB, USA, batch #13D11, 2013)

High West ‘Double Rye!’ (46%, OB, USA, batch #13D11, 2013) Three stars and a half A blend of a 2yo 95% rye mash with a 16yo 53% rye mash. We had liked another batch very much (WF 84). It’s presented as ‘craft whiskey’ from a ‘distillery and saloon’ but it’s sourced whiskey. It seems that people are really starting to chat about craft-like whiskeys over there in good old America… But there is some craft in the marketing for sure. Colour: gold. Nose: I have to say I like this. It’s very fresh, with lemons and citrons, then ginger and lemongrass, then various colognes and eaux-de-toilette, always in nice ways. Rosewater, lavender, vanilla, vetiver… The spiciness keeps it straight, and it would just never become perfumy. Very lovely nose, especially the oranges that start to come through… Mouth: intense ‘good’ perfume, lavender, violet sweets, juniper, fennel, then citrus, mandarin, citrons, lemons, blood oranges, then the spices. Ginger, cumin, star anise, a wee touch of ‘good’ soap… Good solid body, quite creamy. Finish: long, with more spices and more oak. Cloves? Cinnamon for sure. Comments: there sure is some craft in this. And yes I know they’ve got a small working still, so it is technically ‘a distillery’. Bah, same score as the previous batch, it’s very good anyway. SGP:561 - 84 points.

Reminds me of Sku's (of recent eats fame) new definition of Handmade or Handcrafted Whiskey: Whiskey which is a distinctive product of Indiana, manufactured in Indiana in compliance with the laws of Indiana regulating the manufacture of Indiana whiskey for consumption in Indiana.

Bulleit Rye (45%, OB, USA, +/-2015)

Bulleit Rye (45%, OB, USA, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Never tried Bulleit Rye, can you imagine that? It’s straight rye, with a 95% rye mash bill (rings a bell), and comes with one of those unlikely familial stories our American friends love so much. It’s a Diageo brand. I have to say I really liked Bulleit’s bourbon (WF 83). Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to High West Double Rye. Really very extremely pretty totally immensely close… Perhaps a notch fruitier? A little less spicy? Mouth: same comments, it’s very close. And very good. Once again, perhaps is it a little more rounded and a notch fruitier? And perhaps is the oak a tad more in the front? Perhaps not. Finish: ah yes it is, you’re feeling tannins that were more discreet in the High West. A tad grittier and more tannic. Drier aftertaste. Bang, one less point ;-). Comments: ha, families and brands! (like, that was some useful comments, S.) SGP:561 - 83 points.

James E. Pepper '1776 Straight Rye' (50%, OB, USA, +/-2014)

James E. Pepper '1776 Straight Rye' (50%, OB, USA, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Good, family stories, old letters, old recipes found in an old drawer, yada yada yada. And rye whiskey apparently sourced from the very same factory as most of the others. After that, our friends shouldn’t be surprised if small ‘truly craft’ distillers in many countries are starting to make great rye that may start to defeat them when tasted blind. Excuse me? Nah, Scotch is different… Colour: gold. Nose: and once again we’re very close, with just more oomph, probably thanks to the higher strength. Perhaps a little more vanilla as well? Other than that, it’s all more or less the same juice on the nose. Which, in a sense, isn’t bad news, coz it’s very fine. Mouth: same comments. The higher strength may strengthen the estery side, bringing pineapple and pears to the table – unless this baby’s actually younger than the others? Not too sure… Finish: rather long, a little narrow, round and sweet. It’s as if the higher strength made it gentler and rounder, and less spicy/rye-ish. How funny (not really). Comments: ironclad very high quality. Just like all the others. SGP:651 – 84 points.

I agree, this is becoming boring. Let’s cross the ocean…

Millstone Rye 2007/2014 (43.3%, Zuidam, Holland, for Usquebaugh Society, virgin American oak, cask #538, 221 bottles)

Millstone Rye 2007/2014 (43.3%, Zuidam, Holland, for Usquebaugh Society, virgin American oak, cask #538, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half A story of quality and word-of-mouth, rather than half-imaginary grandpas and dusty old recipes. And distilleries. To think that even The Whisky Exchange, up there in posh London, bought and bottled a cask of Millstone Rye! Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah, there’s something that wasn’t in the MGP of Indiana brews: bread. I mean, rye’s a cereal, isn’t it, and feeling its, well, its breadiness alone is a thrill. More globally, it’s rather less spicy/perfumy than the American(s), and quite fruitier and breadier. Wholegrain bread covered with pineapple and apricot jam, clean farmyard, perhaps a few drops of cranberry juice, and a fair amount of white chocolate. I know I use the word ‘lovely’ way too often, but this is lovely. Mouth: very funny! Sweet bread, gingerbread, honey, fudge, hazelnut liqueur, café latte, baklavas (orange blossom water, pastries). It’s a gentle, rounded rye, and yet it’s got depth and a lot of seductiveness. Very, very drinkable. Finish: good length. Smooth, now a tad spicier (cinnamon cake), bready and ‘croissanty’ (excuse my Frenchness). The bread and even the oak are back in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely lovely (!) I don’t know if this added depth comes from the fact that Zuidam use pot stills instead of gigantic columns. Maybe… In any case, this is proof that it would be a shame and a pity if the general public started thinking that in whisky, ‘craft is daft’ and ‘family is silly’. You just have to separate the wheat from the chaff! SGP:651 - 88 points.

You might also like to read this excellent and very edifying article about American indus… I mean craft whiskeys and ryes.



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August 6, 2015


Aberfeldy official vs. independent

In my experience, Aberfeldy’s a very neat, relatively light and usually pretty fruity malt that should go well in summertime.

Aberfeldy 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Aberfeldy 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars We’ve already tried the Craigellachies and Aultmores in the same ‘Last Great Malts’ series by Bacardi, time to try one Aberfeldy. The retro ‘Château Palmer’  gold-on-black label is fantastic, but the strength of 40% vol. is very retro as well, isn’t it. Colour: gold. Nose: apple juice. Really, this baby smells like apple juice at first nosing, before it goes a little more towards light honey, caramelised cereals, sultanas and cake. It’s pleasant, pretty elegant, and probably won’t start any war. Mouth: firmer and maltier, with more sherriness, and a style that might be a little more ‘Speyside’ than that of a mild Midlander. Honey, cherry stem tea, something leafy/leathery. Some burnt oak in the aftertaste. Finish: a little short, with malt and coffee, and a leafy aftertaste, a little tannic. Comments: it hasn’t quite got the vibrant fruitiness of some other Aberfeldies, perhaps because of the sherry oak that must have been used, but it’s very fine. Also lacks a bit of oomph, but the bottle is lovely. I know, tastes and colours. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Aberfeldy 1999/2014 ‘Snuffed Candles’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 379 bottles)

Aberfeldy 1999/2014 ‘Snuffed Candles’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 379 bottles) Two stars and a half And yet another funny name! Colour: pale gold. Nose: bizarrely, I find this one rather more ‘Aberfeldy’, with these orchard fruits, the gooseberries, the greengages, the apples… But indeed it’s also got something slightly sulphury ala Benrinnes or Mortlach, which isn’t very Aberfeldy to say the least. Engine oil, paraffin… Fun stuff. Mouth: not too sure. What to think? Some tart fruits are fighting putty and plasticine, which creates a bizarre, slightly dissonant feeling. Green tea, melon skin, fresh apricots, linseed oil, wax… Finish: quite long, but there isn’t any clear winner. Fruit-flavoured putty? Borders soapiness. Comments: another one that’s funny and interesting, but all this bizarreness loses me a bit. I’m a normal guy! SGP:451 - 79 points.

Another chance…

Aberfeldy 1999/2014 ‘Toffee Tuile’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 393 bottles)

Aberfeldy 1999/2014 ‘Toffee Tuile’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 393 bottles) Four stars Toffee tuile? They must have hired one of my distinguished compatriots to come up with these names ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: similar and yet quite different, because instead of plasticine, we rather have green tea. In fact I think this works much better, it’s more elegant, and while not being a fruit bomb, it’s got a rather lovely mineral background that generates complexity and, yeah, elegance. It’s like in wine, after all. White cherries? Mouth: excellent, rather zesty, fruity, mineral, chiselled… Cider apples, cherries, cantaloupe melons, greengages, tea… I’m trying hard but I don’t find much tuile, let alone toffee tuile, but that’s no problem at all. Finish: rather long, with an oiliness, on apples and other orchard fruits. A touch of caramel, maybe that’s where this feeling of toffee tuile came from. Excellent aftertaste, grassy and fruity. Grape seed oil. Comments: what a difference a cask makes (as Dinah Washington used to sing - quite). SGP:551 - 87 points.

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



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August 5, 2015


Littlemill until we succumb

Mister Sun is back, so this is a good time to try a few fruity Littlemills of various origins. And as we sometimes do, we’ll do it totally at random. Expect the unexpectable, as they say in Hollywood.

Littlemill 31 yo 1965/1997 (46.5%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #5273, 180 bottles)

Littlemill 31 yo 1965/1997 (46.5%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #5273, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half Ooh, this starts well. This is a legendary series! Well, not too sure, not all very old Littlemills we could try have been as bright and zesty as late 1980s - early 1990s vintages. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: wait wait wait, this is very fruity, full of tropical fruits, ridden with passion fruits, and kind of… Irish? It is very ‘pure pot still’ indeed, with these oily touches (sunflower), ripe apples, these very discreet metallic touches… You could think this was distilled at Midleton. Also fern and moss. Mouth: we’re bathing in tropical fruits. Pineapples, cantaloupe melons, passion fruits… And then grassier, slightly bitter components are kicking in, such as chlorophyll gums, Fernet Branca… But it remains quite Irish, with wee notes of copper (coins), ripe red apples. It’s some unexpectedly fat malt whisky, fatter than younger vintages for sure. The bitter, grassy side reminds me of the very humble official 8 from a few years back, but of course this is way better. Finish: quite long, still a bit bitter. Skins and fruit peelings, plantain bananas. But some mangos are back in the aftertaste! Comments: not a very easy old Littlemill. Tropically exuberant at times, bitterly grassy at other times… Another Janus? Very hard to score. SGP:661 - 88 points.

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2014 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, XOP, refill hogshead, DL ref: 10599, 315 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2014 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, XOP, refill hogshead, DL ref: 10599, 315 bottles) Four stars and a half They all have or had 1988 Littlemills. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s more oak in this one, that is to say more coffee and toasted wood, but it does ‘the Meursault’ after just two seconds, becoming wide, full, superbly fruity, and beautifully herbal. Right, right, that would be passion fruits, mangos, papayas, patchouli, grass, and walnut skins. This works wonderfully. A little marzipan too. With water: doesn’t swim extremely well. Some cardboardy notes. To hell with water! Mouth (neat): perfect fruits, and all that. Very late period Littlemill, everything is fresh, tropical, zesty, and feisty. I haven’t got anything to say against this very lovely, very bright Littlemill. With water: fruit syrups and liqueurs. Limoncello. A grassy bitterness beyond all that, which keeps it straight. Finish: long, clean, zesty, tropical. Comments: less Irish than the 1965 for sure. Only the way it takes water makes it lose one or two points in my book, but it’s a great fruity drop. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2014 (52.7%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 147 bottles)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2014 (52.7%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 147 bottles) Five stars Erm, another 1988, this should be close. BTW, this one was approx 60% cheaper than the DL when it came out. Just saying. Colour: pale gold. Nose: obviously very similar, but maybe a tad steelier, more mineral, and a wee notch more leathery. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same whisky. With water: in my experience Littlemill is prone to saponification, so let’s wait. Zzzz… No, it swims a little better than the DL. Fresh almonds, Alep soap (poor Alep), grass… Mouth (neat): same whisky, almost and foremost. Perhaps a little more on oranges and a little less on mangos. Splitting hairs. With water: orange wine, ratafia, not-too-sweet limoncello… Finish: long, clean, zesty, Littlemill. Comments: swims a little better, so one more point. Great Littlemill if you like very zesty malts. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2013 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency for ART and Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry hogshead)

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2013 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency for ART and Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry hogshead) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: hold on, this is different. It’s got an extra layer of raisins and fudge and caramel and maple syrup, so yeah, sweet sherry. It’s also got a very unusual medicinal side, with bandages and tincture of iodine. Ex-Islay wood? Laphroaig? This just cannot come from Littlemill + sherry alone. But does it work? Yes it does! With water: indeed, smoke, horse saddle, damp earth, cigar tobacco… Got even more un-Littlemill. Mouth (neat): a peaty Littlemill! That’s all from the cask, no doubt, and this baby could lose you in a flash (when trying it blind and you’re trying hard to find the distillery). Caramel, leather, oranges, papayas, mangos, tobacco, ginger… I find this quite beastly. With water: wait, miso soup with honey? Blood oranges for sure, mint, eucalyptus… Finish: long, and still pretty medicinal. Comments: I’m scratching my head. How to score this? Take distillery profile into consideration? (that would be fail fail fail)… Or just global feelings? The worst part is that I find it... rather great! But very un-Littlemill. SGP:564 - 87 points.

Let’s try to find a rather Littlemill Littlemill, and we’re done.

Littlemill 24 yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Littlemill 24 yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Five stars Another new one. Let’s give up literature (yeah right, S, literature!) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a pure, austere, mineral Littlemill. More on skins than on fruit pulps, and I even find whiffs of new leatherette, new sneakers, chalkboard… Should we call this baby ‘schooly’? Also rather western fruits than tropical ones, so rhubarb and gooseberries instead of mango and maracuja. With water: I find that sneaky to put Yquem 1988 into a bottle of whisky. Very sneaky. Mouth (neat): ohh! A perfect straight tropical fruitiness that would even beat a 1976 Benriach, if that rings a bell to you. Not whisky, a sin. Quick, with water: there’s some Haendel in this. You know, the Hallelujah chorus from his Messiah. Other than that, oranges, citrons, guavas, lemons, and a touch of coconut. Finish: perhaps medium, certainly emphatically fruity. Comments: this demonstrates the superiority of very small batches vs. single casks. All my favourite whiskies were vattings of two or three (or four) casks, almost never single casks. Just saying, just saying. As for this wee Littlemill, it’s the, ach, err, the bomb. Hope the cheque’s in the mail, Cadenhead! SGP:651 - 93 points. PS: buy these black small batches. Future legends.

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



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August 4, 2015


Regular Port Charlotte
plus Nigel Tufnel’s very own

Lets kick this off with two unusual independent NAS. Oh why not!

Images of Islay 'Rhinns of Islay Lighthouse' (53,2%, Malts of Scotland, 176 bottles)

Images of Islay 'Rhinns of Islay Lighthouse' (53,2%, Malts of Scotland, 176 bottles) Three stars Well, I have no proof that this is Port Charlotte, but let’s consider that the very distinguished bottlers wouldn’t have chosen this name, should this baby have been distilled elsewhere. Unless it’s Bruichladdich, Kilchoman or Octomore, of course. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s very peaty, so definitely not Bruichladdich. It’s not peated to the extreme, so probably not Octomore. And ‘Port Charlotte’ is closer to the south of the Rhinns, where the lighthouse is located, than Kilchoman. So… Having said that, I find this very young and a little rough. A bit of plastic, perhaps? Very smoky porridge, capers, lemon juice, seawater. With water: more plastic, leatherette, crude oil… Mouth (neat): sharp, very briny, lemony, young, a bit rough. Indeed, probably very young. A touch of shoe polish. With water: same, more or less. Green olives? Very salty. Finish: long, always with these touches of plastic. The rest is appropriately smoky and coastal. Comments: quite extreme, extremely salty, and ‘moderately’ plastic-y. Loved some parts, others a little less. SGP:367 - 81 points.

Pl3 (60.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015)

Pl3 (60.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015) Three stars and a half The fact that this baby was aged in Climens cask (the best Barsac if you ask me, but Coutet’s not bad either) leaves no doubt, this must has been sourced from B***********h, either directly or indirectly. Colour: gold. Nose: but what is this? Loses you at first nosing – unless you love your sandwich coated with tyre rubber and filled with apricot jam – and you really need to get accustomed to this unusual combo… Let’s try to snap out of it… Ach… No, it’s some kind of smoked jam, mirabelles, perhaps quinces… With quite some vanilla. Very interesting, but perhaps a little un-whisky? With water: at least it’s balanced. Nice mirabelle jam/exhaust fumes combination ;-). Mouth (neat): troubling, but I find this good. A lot of fudge, butterscotch, some kind of smoky cake for Hells Angels, some pine sap for sure, chartreuse (there we go again)… It’s thick, it’s oily, and the only similar whisky I ever tasted was, if I remember well, a Sauternes-finished Laphroaig by the good people at Signatory. With water: balance is kept, that’s the main thing. Same feeling of smoked jams with some salt thrown in. Finish: long, with leafy touches. Comments: an UFW (that’s right, that would be Unidentified Flying Whisky) but it grows on you. And hey, it’s intriguing, as they say. Try to try it! SGP:657 - 84 points.

So, back to, I imagine, normal ones…

Port Charlotte 2002/2013 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13053, 275 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2002/2013 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13053, 275 bottles) Four stars and a half Plenty of excellent Port Charlottes by Malts of Scotland already, this one seems to have fallen through WF’s cracks. Until today! Colour: full gold. Nose: as bright as peated whisky can be. Immaculate rounded peatiness, with something that reminds me of Laphroaig’s 10 CS, circa 2010, some metal polish, a touch of quince jelly, a lot of ashes, and… all that. Clean and full. With water: smoked orange juice blended with seawater and drops of engine oil. Mouth (neat): rich, perfect, with some tobacco, smoke, orange liqueur, iodine, menthol, lime juice, a touch of black olive… Yeah, full and perfect. Only a tiny wee touch of pencil shavings. With water: truly excellent, for a long time. Leathery smoke, walnuts, lemon, salt, peppered winkles (are you sure, S.?) … Finish: long, salty, smoky, full. Salted smoked almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent indeed. Not much else to say, without that wee oakiness that showed up at some point, that would have been 90+. Oh come on. SGP:458 - 89 points.

Well well well, why not try a Port Charlotte that goes to eleven as the one for the road?… What would you say?

Oc1 (65.4%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015)

Oc1 (65.4%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015) Five stars Of course, we have no dead proof that ‘Oc’ means Octomore. Could mean ‘Och, this is whisky’… Ah, yeah, about it being NAS. Well, that’s no big deal when the spirit just cannot be old anyway! When did they start to make Octomore, again? 2002? 2003? Colour: gold. Nose: as always, you’d think Octomore isn’t that peatier than Port Charlotte when you try them in a row. This must be a story of perceived peatiness, tired olfactory bulb, or something. But what’s sure is that this is pretty brilliant coastal whisky, full of brine, seawater, cigars, damp earth, beach sand after a heavy shower, perhaps even fresh mushrooms… But 1. the very high strength may block a part of the aromas, and 2. Oops, forgot what I wanted to say. With (quite a lot of) water: cows, the fields behind the distillery, marzipan, the engine of an old car, quite a few cigars from our new friend Cuba, an old toolbox, old coins… Mouth (neat): very high impact almondy, gingery peat, with huge almond oil, marzipan, metal polish (-like), salmiak… Probably one of the biggest arrivals I’ve ever encountered. You have to be a good fighter with these drams, or they’ll just do an ippon on you. Be extra-careful! With (quite a lot of) water: rocks and kills. Perfect, nothing to add (who said ‘great’?) Finish: long, thick, oily and creamy, liqueury as far as textures are concerned (they did NOT add any glycerine, I’m sure), and just perfect. Very salty aftertaste. Comments: loved the almondy side, and all the rest. The best orgeat syrup ever! Here’s to you, Mark R.! SGP:548 - 92 points.

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



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August 3, 2015


Four Imperial from 1997 to 1962

Imperial is – sorry, was – one of those distilleries not many people were caring for, until it got mothballed, and then demolished. The problem may be that just like with, say Benriach, the bottles you could buy twelve or twenty years ago were just so-so, and never managed to awake anybody’s senses or attention. I’m sure the blenders were to blame for that, they were probably using all the best casks! But let’s do a short, but deep little verticale of Imperial…

Imperial 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, hogshead, cask #50159, 312 bottles)

Imperial 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, hogshead, cask #50159, 312 bottles) Four stars Sourced from Signatory Vintage’s, I guess. These batches have always been quite lovable if I remember well. Colour: straw. Nose: a wee bit on the oaky side at first nosing, perhaps, with this feeling of banana skin, but the fresh maltiness and the grassy, humussy side start to make very, yes, lovable after just two minutes. Cider apples, waxed papers, greengages, a touch of chalk… Once again, Imperial wasn’t a ‘light’ Speysider. Mouth: excellent, really. A mentholy oak, apples, some liquorice, roots, a little pinesap perhaps, then a lot of grapefruits and limes… It’s tense and potent, and the strength is perfect. Finish: long, a little salty, vegetal, waxy… The aftertaste is greatly sour and bitter (cider apples and, well, plain artisan cider. Without sugar!) Comments: well as I remembered these batches. One of the most characterful Speysiders. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Imperial 13 yo 1997/2010 (52.4%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, 71 bottles)

Imperial 13 yo 1997/2010 (52.4%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, 71 bottles) Four stars Form one of these micro-bottlings, probably ex-Ducan Taylor. Colour: gold. Nose: the oak feels a bit. Carpenter’s workshop, cherry wood, lit cigarette… On the other hand, a nutty sherry is soon to come through and to make it much more enjoyable. Cigars, new upholstery, walnut cake (a bit burnt, I should add)… With water: swims like a champ, which doesn’t always happen with oaked whiskies. Tobacco and ‘good’ mud, pu-erh tea, humus… Mouth (neat): rich, orangey, candied and spicy. It’s some very spicy Christmas cake, rather German-style indeed. Or Alsatian… With water: a wee feeling of Haribo’s best for a while, then plenty of blood oranges and Seville ones. The oak does not get in the way. An Andalusian miracle! Finish: long, spicier. Caraway, cloves, ‘anis Bredele’… Christmas indeed. Comments: I know, we’re either very late or very early. SGP:561 - 85 points.

Imperial-Glenlivet 18 yo 1979/1997 (61.2%, Cadenhead, Bond Reserve)

Imperial-Glenlivet 18 yo 1979/1997 (61.2%, Cadenhead, Bond Reserve) Four stars Maybe one of those powerful monsters that Cadenhead were issuing at the time. Colour: straw. Nose: yeah, it’s one of those powerful monsters that Cadenhead were issuing at the time. No sweetness, no roundness, only flints, rocks, apple peelings, sour wood, plasticine, and sulphur. Plain sulphur, not burnt sulphur, that’s very different. With water: vegetables. Beans, perhaps, asparagus, artichokes, Greek yoghurt… How very ‘mid-1990s Cadenhead’s’! Mouth (neat): quite superb! The nose was almost unbreakable, but this is pure lemon juice. Yuzu sauce, concentrated cinchona, unripe lime… Takes your tongue hostage, in a way, but that’s most pleasant – no you don’t need to be a masochist to enjoy this palate-batterer of a whisky. With water:  truly superb, in its very own, very austere style. Petroly riesling. Finish: long, kind of fat, and yet fully mineral. Comments: seriously, the nose didn’t have much to show us, but boy was the palate talkative! Austere, but talkative… SGP:362 - 85 points.

Let’s have a last Imperial, and go further back in time. I’m very curious about this one…

Imperial 1963/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Corti for Narsai’s and Corti, Pellegrini Imports, 75cl)

Imperial 1963/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Corti for Narsai’s and Corti, Pellegrini Imports, 75cl) Five stars One of those famous Californian Cortis and Averys. Fun mention of the owners of the distillery on the label: Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Limited. Rings a bell… Colour: gold. Nose: oh, some aspects are close to those of the Bond Reserve, especially the sharp and very expressive notes of waxy vegetables. That would be some kind of bean stew made with olive oil and drops of lemon oil. There’s something metallic as well (our beloved old copper coins), and then a very complex combination of herbs and marrows, some kind of bouillon perhaps, parsley, cultured cream, olives, bone marrow quenelles… All those sorts of things. And quite some soot. How complex! It’s not whisky, it’s borscht. Mouth: totally exceptional. Not whisky that I should have tried in easy summer times, apologies. Where to start… Perhaps with precious leathers, all those herbs that we found in the nose, black tobacco, our beloved pu-erh tea, certainly some Spanish jabugo, some salt for sure – sorry, a saltiness -, salmiak, liquid tar, then the citrusy cavalry (won’t quote them all), old chartreuses, Izarras and Bénédictines (posh contemporary mixologists know them),  perhaps drops of Noilly and Fernet-Branca… And walnut wine, old amontillado, vin jaune… All that, all that. We could go on and on. Finish: sadly, yes. Walnuts, herbs, vegetables, waxes, oils, citrus, smoke… And all that. Comments: why the fate of Imperial Distillery has been so obscure and, lately, pretty final remains a mystery to me. Maybe we should ask the excellent people at Pernod’s again. SGP:463 - 95 points.

(and thank you Diego – you were damn right - and Max and Tom!)

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



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August 2, 2015


Malternatives on Sunday, extreme rums

Ha, rum. What we’ve found out after having tasted around 400 different rums, is that rum is no sure bet, and that the category’s just not an obvious and easy way out of the pretty embarrassing contemporary world of whisky. Because what many find NASty and deceptive in whisky, always happened in rum. Fake age, flavouring, aromatisation, dodgy provenances, marketing gone mad, counterfeit stories… Rum was there before whisky.

Don papa 10

Don Papa 10 yo (43%, OB, Philippines, +/-2015) Some highly controversial ‘rum’, loathed by purists, but marketed with supreme skills and methods - and a sublime and smart packaging. I’ve already tried this baby blind among fifteen other rums for some large Awards operation, and ranked it as… #16. Colour: mahogany. Nose: Cherry Heering, guignolet, caraway-flavoured aquavit, Cointreau and Grand-Marnier, pineapple liqueur… In short, everything but rum. But I know many a punter who’ll love this on ice. It’s bottled bubblegum, and I guess it should go well with Red Bull. Mouth: massively sugary and liquoricy. I doubt this is rum, and I even doubt it’s 10. It is some kind of liqueur, or at least spiced and flavoured rum. They should say so on the label if you ask me, imagine someone who bought some Foursquare or Hampden or Trois Rivières as his first rum, and then buys this. Or worse, a whisky lover who’d think ‘let’s try rum for a change’. You lose, please shoot again! Finish: very short. Not much beyond the sugar. Glycerine-y feeling. Comments: I had found the earlier NAS (which does NOT mean No Added Sugar – ha)  kind of acceptable because there was some kind of freshness to it, but this is just syrup. Not too bad as some kind of liqueur, but certainly not rum. Marketing (on the short run): 99 points. SGP:920 - 49 points.

Trois Rivières, he said…

Trois Rivières 'Triple Millésime' (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2015)

Trois Rivières 'Triple Millésime' (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2015) Three stars and a half A vatting of 1998, 2000 and 2007 vintages. I believe the Scots should be allowed to advertise that as well, as long as they add the proportions (you know, to avoid that famous drop of 50 years old that makes the whole ‘almost’ a 50 yo…) Colour: gold. Nose: nosing Brora 1972 after Bailey’s. Lovely dried bananas, toasted cake, tea, orange blossom, a bit of clay, some grass, liquorice, and, above all, what was missing the ‘the thing’, sugarcane! And gingerbread, a touch of cumin, crystallised ginger, yellow flowers… Mouth: the oak feels just a little bit, but other than that, there’s sufficient liquorice, mango chutney, cinnamon cake and various candied fruits and herbs (quinces, angelica) to make up for that. More than that. A little mint and eucalyptus as well. Very ‘agricole’ even if the palate feels a little thinner and less complex than the nose. Finish: good length, with a little salt, dill, and liquorice. Comments: very, very fine rhum for a rather fair price (around 40€). SGP:651 - 84 points.

St James ‘Millésime 250 ans’ (OB, Martinique, 2015, 800 decanters)

St James ‘Millésime 250 ans’ (OB, Martinique, 2015, 800 decanters) Four stars This is the new bottling everybody’s talking about, 800 decanters sold for… 800€ each (good news that they did not come up with 2000 decanters), a vatting of the vintages 1885, 1934, 1952, 1976, 1998 and 2000. I know what you think, a shame that they won’t tell you about the proportions – after all the regulations for Scotch do make sense. Yeah, how many drops of 1885? (great rhum, that one, by the way). Or is it only some 2000 plus a bottle of each other vintage thrown in? But I agree, that’s probably only spiteful gossip, apologies… No ideas as for the strength, as it’s not available yet. Colour: full amber. Nose: nah, it’s a great nose, complex, subtly oaky, with, granted, whiffs of warm pencil shavings, but also the loveliest marmalades, pineapple wine, strawberries, ‘a pack of liquorice allsorts’, tamarind, artisan crème de cassis, biscuits, chocolate ganache, praline, a little pipe tobacco, raisins, gingerbread… This nose is almost perfect. Mouth: the younger vintages speak out, as this is rather ‘nervous and bright’. It’s perhaps a tad thin (probably only 40% vol.) and maybe a little dominated by newish oak, but other than that, these blood oranges and pink grapefruits plus all the subtle spices (red curry, cinnamon, nutmeg) really work in sync. Love the tobacco in it, the black raisins, the prunes… Finish: a little short, and with quite some cinnamon and black tea. The raisiny aftertaste is great, though. Touches of pineapple and banana jellies. Comments: ‘more oomph!’ as Goethe would have said. This would have been an utter winner at 45 or 46% vol., but I still rather love it. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Good, only high flyers could survive after those excellent Martiniquans… Such as this baby, perhaps…

Monymusk 20 yo 1977/1997 (45%, Moon Import, Jamaica, 600 bottles)

Monymusk 20 yo 1977/1997 (45%, Moon Import, Jamaica, 600 bottles) Four stars In fact, this little Jamaican is an agricole and was made in pot stills. According to the bottle, the owners were Sherriff, but I’m not sure they were Bowmore’s Sherriffs. As for the bottler, as often with anything they put into their mouths, the Italians have been pioneers of high-end indie rum. Colour: gold. Nose: I think it is a mild Jamaican. You do get ‘dundery’ notes, olives, brake fluid, fermenting hay and all that at first nosing, but it’s soon to display more fruits, with this discreet rubberiness that’s not quite rubber, but that’s close (and more pleasant). Putty? Overripe apples, barley, cake, wax, maple syrup, a little wood smoke, perhaps a little charcoal… In a way, it’s a little ‘whisky’. Around Clynelish, if you will. Mouth: smashing whisk… I mean, rum, appropriately dirty for a Jamaican, but also complex and fruity. Imagine some kind of warm apple compote that you would have seasoned with olive crumbles, a drop of paint (ha), and orange peel. Having said that, it tends to lose steam after two minutes, with a sugariness appearing from the back. And yet, some spices are coming along, especially pepper. I still like a lot. Finish: quite long, both earthy and spicy, and lightly fruity/orangey. Contrasting flavours. Comments: hyper good for sure, just not a wham-bam old Jamaican that rips your head off in two seconds. SGP:662 - 87 points.

Yeah, to think that that great Monymusk and Don Papa 10 are both ‘rums’… But let’s have one that may, indeed, rip our heads off…

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 (58.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 4600 bottles)

Caroni 24 yo 1982/2006 (58.3%, Velier, Trinidad, 4600 bottles) Four stars Does this one really need an introduction? Colour: dark amber/coffee. Nose: well, it’s not the heaviest Caroni ever. I don’t know if the fifteen drums they’ve vatted were all ‘light’, or all ‘heavy’, or a mix, but what’s sure is that this nose is relatively gentle, not phenolic to the max at all, and rather all on chocolate cake, praline, dark tobacco (I think you call that maduro), and then plenty of dried bananas – without becoming heady at all. I have to say balance is perfect, and it does make me think of some old agricole of high quality. With water: yes, just perfect. Coffee/tequila? Love these earthy touches too, it gets more ‘heavy’ now. Mouth (neat): high oak impact, and yet it’s balanced and elegant. That’s because it’s rather liquorice, pinesap and honeydew that play first parts, which gives this baby a feeling of oak-aged chartreuse that I really love. There is also a little salt, olives, tarmac, burnt herbs and all that, but never quite like in a ‘heaviest’ Caroni. With water: oak oak oak, and oak. And yet, I find this feeling of quaffing walnut stain pretty pleasant. Maybe I should have embarked on wood-related careers. Like, carpenter. Finish: long, very oaky, and yet, as I said… Comments: pretty extreme. The nose was superb, the palate was great, but water brought out a whole oak tree. Careful! SGP:472 - 85 points.

All right, another old Velier for the road…

Port Mourant 34 yo 1974/2008 (54.5%, Velier, Demerara, 364 bottles)

Port Mourant 34 yo 1974/2008 (54.5%, Velier, Demerara, 364 bottles) Four stars and a half I know, I’m looking for trouble as far as oak’s concerned, but who could resist one of these truly rare old Demeraras? Especially when it was distilled in some of these legendary wooden pot stills? What’s more, some 1975s by Velier have been high in my book, and a 1974 by Berry Bros has been high as well. So… Colour: coffee. This starts well. Nose: unusual for sure. Church incense, perhaps? Or visiting an old Buddhist temple somewhere in great China? And burnt oak, tapenade (I’ll explain it again, tapenade is a Provençal thing that blends anchovies, capers, and olives. Explosive and very tasty). So, tapenade, walnut stain again, bitter chocolate, a bag of prunes, charcoal, black pipe tobacco, tar and liquorice… And behind that tarry and very ‘dark’ wall, a few oranges. An experience. With water: yeah, brine! And black olives, a little concrete dust, coffee… and, there, big and vivid, dried porcinis. Mouth (neat): I didn’t know you could distil pu-erh tea. And that someone would add burnt sugar, black olives, salmiak, some salt, and some tobacco to the juice. Thick, heavy, rich, invasive… Totally coats your palate. Perhaps a wee bit tiring, but we have got sufficient stamina to stand that, haven’t we. With water: black olives, tobacco, salted fish (that would be anchovies again), tarry liquorice, and, above everything, not too much oak. Finish: very long, pleasantly tannic, salty, with dried fruits (it was about time), tobacco, liquorice, bitter oranges… and walnut stain. I mean, a feeling of walnut stain, we do not quaff walnut stain every other evening as if there was no tomorrow. Comments: I guess you could call this ‘heavy rum’, or perhaps even ‘old navy rum’. Sometimes as subtle as a sledgehammer, but I simply love this rather un-sweet style. Life is short, you know. SGP:472 - 89 points.

Another one, would that be reasonable? Like, another old Demerara?...

Demerara 26 yo (45%, Moon Import, 600 bottles, +/-1986)

Demerara 26 yo (46%, Moon Import, 600 bottles, +/-1986) Five stars That is right, and old Demerara that was distilled around the late 1950s. Of course we’d have loved to know more about the provenance, but what’s sure is that many older bottlings of Demerara rum were from Port Mourant/Morant. Let’s see if we could tell (which I doubt – not that we’re not self-confident, mind you, but let’s not be too presumptuous). Colour: coffee. Nose: we have our winner. Exceptional nose, organised around coffee and parsley. I know, sounds unlikely but you wouldn’t imagine how well this works. Beef stock, cigars, walnut wine, old Comté cheese, game, perhaps a touch of garlic, bitter chocolate, coffee, Spanish ham (bellota stuff), menthol, myrtle, eucalyptus, seawater, chartreuse, parsley (indeed), chives, truffles, soups, bouillons, dried figs, new tyres… This is simply endless, and utterly complex. And above everything, it’s ‘a whole’, not just a ‘collage’. Very impressive. Mouth: a genuflexion please. This reminds me of the greatest pre-WWII Macallans. More the 1938s than the 1940s, I’d add (nah, of course I’m make this up – quite). Plain and utter killer, up there with the best aged spirits ever, amen. And yet, as I said, it’s ‘a whole’. That’s why I think it’s one of the best aged spirits ever, by the way. Yeah, it also reminds me a bit of the Springbank 12 yo OB for Samaroli, in some way, even if that one was even more complex. Finish: loses one point because I’d have loved to see it last forever, there! Seriously, this finish is magic, incredibly coherent and even clean (an old Demerara, they said!), and I just have to yield to this amazingly beautiful whisky. Excuse me, rum. Comments: I think this baby’s just become my favourite rum ever. Even above the very moving St James 1885 (see above). SGP:463 - 94 points.

(and grazzie mille, Francesco)

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



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July 2015 - part 2 <--- August 2015 - part 1 ---> August 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1958/1998 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage, 10th Anniversary, sherry butt, decanter, 496 bottles)

Glenfarclas 40 yo 1971/2012 'Red Baron of Speyside' (51.7%, Glen Fahrn, Switzerland, bourbon, 139 bottles)

Imperial 1963/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Corti for Narsai’s and Corti, Pellegrini Imports, 75cl)

Littlemill 26 yo 1988/2014 (52.7%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 147 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Oc1 (65.4%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015)

Demerara 26 yo (46%, Moon Import, 600 bottles, +/-1986)