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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2015 - Part 2



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


August 31, 2015



Bad nose day

Tasting sessions will resume shortly.

In the meantime, here's an unpublished Pete and Jack from the archives...


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Whiskyfun fav of the month

August 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Imperial 1963/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Corti for Narsai’s and Corti, Pellegrini Imports, 75cl) - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Bourbon Wood' (54.1%, OB, 2015)  - WF 91

Favourite malternative:
Demerara 26 yo (46%, Moon Import, 600 bottles, +/-1986) - WF 94


August 30, 2015


No Malternatives,
a rubbish session for rubbish noses

Bad nose days at WF Towers, but I don’t like to let this lousy website lying fallow for too long. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I could do justice to some complex old whiskies or armagnacs or rums, so let’s simply go plunder the bar underneath the telly and see what we can find. It’s going to be unlikely…

Koskenkorva Salmiakki (32%, OB, Finland, +/-2014)

Koskenkorva Salmiakki (32%, OB, Finland, +/-2014) Two starsI often use the descriptors ‘salmiak’ or ‘tar liqueur’ in my notes, and although we’ve already tried another brand a few years ago (Terva Snapsi, WF 75, which is a lot), we could try another one, just to make sure. Colour: as black as a Lincoln Continental from the White House. Or as crude oil. Nose: less on tar than expected, and more on herbs, mint, caraway, liquorice and such. In a way, we’re rather closer to aquavit than to pure tar liqueur. Well, that’s what I can feel with this bad nose… On second thought, maybe this is simply not tar liqueur. Mouth: LOL! No tar, rather a load of salt and liquorice. Liquid salmiak indeed, and it is extreme. I do enjoy this – although it’s very simple liqueur – but I guess 90% of your friends won’t. Unless they’re Finnish, haha. Thick mouth feel, but any excessive sugariness is kept at bay. That’s good. Finish: very long, extremely salty, but balanced, quite curiously. The aftertaste lasts for hours. Comments: so, no tar liqueur at all, my bad. Quite an experience, this, and I’m wondering if one couldn’t use it in fusion cooking. Ideas ideas… Anyway, I like this, even if – or maybe because? – my nose is impaired. SGP:660 - 75 points.

We’ve started this session with something extreme, so let’s not shuffle the desks…

Génépi des Hautes Roches (40%, OB, Favier, France, +/-2010)

Génépi des Hautes Roches (40%, OB, Favier, France, +/-2010) The kind of stuff that you buy in winter sports resorts. And that you’ll never drink once back. Génépi/genepy is an herb that grows in the Alpes, and they make this kind of liqueur out of it. Some drink it in the morning before a skiing day. Indeed skiing can be dangerous. Colour: as white as the snow on the Mont Blanc. Nose: we’re all on fennel-like scents, aniseed, dill, wild carrots, with a small earthy/grassy side that reminds me of turnips. BTW, have you heard that Black Adder should be back soon? Mouth: same aromas and flavours, plus a little lemon, but there simply is too much sugar. This stuff moves like oil in your glass, and indeed, that’s the sugar. A crying shame. Finish: long, with hints of toothpaste, and always a load of sugar. Bwaaah! Comments: I’ve tasted some artisan genepy that was quite great, and indeed this one is good spirit, but they simply buried it under approx 500g of sugar per litre. Or maybe a little less, I couldn’t tell you. SGP:860 - 40 points.

This is becoming difficult…

Bündner Chrüter (41%, OB, Kindschi, Switzerland, +/-2014)

Bündner Chrüter (41%, OB, Kindschi, Switzerland, +/-2014) I brought this baby back from Davos last year. It’s made out of 50 different herbs and spices. Colour: as white as the Matterhorn in January. Oh whatever. Nose: bigger and more complex than the genepy, well in the style of the Kraüter liqueurs our grandpas used to quaff in the olden days. You get caraway, wormwood, menthol, lemon, perhaps gentian, liquorice, fennel and star anise… I don’t think I could get all the 50 plants and spices, having said that. Remember, bad nose days ;-). It’s a rather refreshing nose. Mouth: hurray, less sugar, and more herbs! That makes this a little bitter – well, quite bitter – and rooty, so pretty unsexy. But I remember my grandmas used to consume these spirits and liqueurs as ‘canards’ (ducks), which means by putting a sugar cube onto a spoon, pouring 1 or 2cls of the liqueur onto it, and just swallowing the whole. Finish: long, very grassy and bitter. Jaegermeister isn’t very far, but Jaegermeister is much sweeter. Comments: very retro, and probably not for the fainthearted. Unless you do ‘canards’. SGP:380 - 60 points.

Unicum (40%, OB, Zwack, Hungary, +/-2013)

Unicum (40%, OB, Zwack, Hungary, +/-2013) Only 40 herbs in this well-known thing, but that’s already a lot. Colour: deep garnet. Almost old Port. Nose: I like! It’s fresh, slightly fruity, herbal but without any aggressive cumin or aniseed-like notes, and it’s rather bitter oranges that are playing first fiddles – although I don’t think there is any inside. Liquorice, myrtle, pinesap… Mouth: harder. Starts sugary, gets bitter. But once again, it’s saved by this feeling of bitter oranges. And lime, celery, lemongrass… Actually, I’m sure it would be rather good on ice. Finish: long, with a little peppermint, ginger, caraway and more bitter oranges. Comments: a kind of stronger Campari, I’d say. We’ve seen much worse… SGP:670 - 65 points.

My nose is weak, but my heart is willing. Let’s go on!

Licor 43 (31%, OB, Spain, +/-2014)

Licor 43 (31%, OB, Spain, +/-2014) This comes from Cartagena. The label is tricky, it could make you think it’s bottled at 43% vol. It’s not, its rather the number of ingredients that are in the combo. Colour: orangey gold (caramel). Nose: fun! Sandalwood, incense, oranges, Armenian paper, rose liqueur, tinned litchis… This really noses ‘antique’, and I find it rather complex. Intriguing, as they say. Mouth: way too much sugar! It’s a plain and utter sugar bomb, which simply kills anything else. You just can’t swallow this without ice, water, tea, Schweppes, or any other liquid you fancy. Just not pure… Finish: quite long, but again, this is sweeter than the sweetest honeys. Can you further concentrate glucose? Comments: what a disappointment after the very sexy nose! SGP:910 - 25 points.

Honey, he said…

Langatum ‘Gold Bee’ (28%, OB, Switzerland, whisky liqueur, +/-2013)

Langatum ‘Gold Bee’ (28%, OB, Switzerland, whisky liqueur, +/-2013) Two stars Swiss whisky mellowed down with Mexican honey from Yucatan, does that make any sense? And more so given that the Swiss make some totally excellent honey? Let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: honey! Really, it noses just like all-flower honey from a good beekeeper. In the background, a few spices, perhaps, but that’s all. Not that we shall complain, I love good honey. Mouth: yeah, honey, honey, honey and honey. The spirit is barely noticeable – which makes this little baby very tricky. Perhaps a little caramel and vanilla? I find this good. Finish: not too long, but if you like honey, whether Swiss or Mexican, you may love this. Comments: I find this very good, really – but then again, I’m also a honey and bee freak. Well done Langatum. PS: don’t try this thing in the open in summer, coz it seems to attract wasps. SGP:720 - 76 points.

Right, perhaps a last one. And why wouldn’t we check one of the weird things the Scots are sometimes making out of their (very rare, very old, very premium) whiskies?...

The Famous Citrus (35%, OB, Scotland, +/-2015)

The Famous Citrus (35%, OB, Scotland, +/-2015) According to the label, this is ‘infused spirit drink’. Not very sexy, is it. To think that this thing comes from the house that also make Macallan. I mean, The Macallan. Colour: dark straw. Nose: no no no no no. Look, I’ve made limoncello and other lemon liqueurs myself, and I know it’s extremely difficult not to come up with smells of… well, toiletry or even air freshener, but that’s well what’s happening here. Or even worse, Fanta Lemon. Mouth: what is this? Dry, acrid, messy, lacking focus, and pretty chemical. Indeed, Fanta Lemon. Finish: long – and that’s the problem. Comments: totally odd, undrinkable, and frankly, it’s a torture. I think it’s a strong contender to the Worst Spirit Of The Year Award. Typical late-June idea at marketing departments, when it’s becoming a chore to build good focus groups coz everyone’s already on holiday. But then again, my nose is impaired these days (better like that, you may think.) SGP:230 - 5 points.

Phew, I agree, a rubbish session. I hope I’ll soon get my nose back, so that we can try more serious stuff!



Block Today: STUFF FOR FAIULED MALTERNATIVES. Performer: Govinda. Track: Talisman. Please visit their website and buy their music...

August 28, 2015



Bad nose day

Tasting sessions will resume shortly


August 27, 2015


MoMa malts

So we have this solitary old Mosstowie that’s been sitting alone in WF’s ‘Mosstowie’ pigeonhole (implacable logic) for months and months, waiting for a compadre… That never came in. Let’s not wait any longer, we’ll easily find another sparring partner…

Mosstowie 23 yo 1976/2000 (46%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #12889, 390 bottles)

Mosstowie 23 yo 1976/2000 (46%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #12889, 390 bottles) Three starsThis baby from Miltonduff was bottled at cask strength, not at some ‘reduced’ 46% vol. It’s from LMDW’s older own range. Colour: straw. Nose: it would be far-fetched to claim that you do feel the Lomond stills, but indeed this is rather different, and certainly ‘old skool’, with some shoe polish and other polishes, some soot, some graphite, pencil lead, then rather mildly smoky green tea and green pears. I have to say I find this very pleasant, and oh-so different from all these contemporary vanilla bombs out there. Although there is a little vanilla as well, as well as rising whiffs of peaches and melons. Mouth: starts a little sour (green oak) and rather peppery (same), and certainly not in a sexy way. Bites you a bit, takes your tongue hostage (tannins), with plenty of strong teas and dry spices (cinnamon, nutmeg…) The background is rather green and grassy, and totally out of fashion. Solid body. Finish: long, biting, acrid, and green. Not quite sexy yet. The aftertaste displays more fruits, but they’re whispering low. Comments: typical ‘variant whisky’, meant to bring unusualness and difference to your stash of bottles. Loved the nose, the palate was more difficult. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Good, we were in Elgin with the Mosstowie/Miltonduff, so maybe a Mannochmore? I agree we should have chosen a Glencraig instead – wouldn’t have been the first time we’re doing a Mosstowie vs. Glencraig session - but you see, there’s no Glencraig left in the house either. Sob…

Mannochmore 32 yo 1982/2014 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Port Cask, 186 bottles)

Mannochmore 32 yo 1982/2014 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Port Cask, 186 bottles) Four stars So Mannochmore, of Loch Dhu fame. It’s been re-racked in a Port cask in the year 2005, so this is clearly double maturation, not a simple finishing. Colour: deep gold, not rose-y at all. Nose: it can happen, with red wine casks, that instead of red berries, you rather get stems, buds and leaves, in a cassissy way. That’s what happens here, and beyond that, there are also notes of Jamaican rum of some sorts, with olive tapenade, diesel oil, rubber bands, and, well, dundery smells. So a funny nose, rather unorthodox, with growing whiffs of barnyard that make it even wilder. With water: rounder, with notes of sugarcane syrup. Mouth (neat): thick mouth feel, and a very zesty, tart, squashy, angular arrival. You’re almost drinking concentrated lemon juice, without one single touch of sugar. Pungent and, as they say, rather uncompromising! With water: some bitter grass comes out, together with green pepper. More cabernet than touriga nacional, if I may. Finish: long, rather better balanced, that is to say rounder and sweeter. But it remains very zesty and blade-y. Fresh walnuts and tangerines plus blood oranges in the aftertaste, all for the better. Could be the Port. Comments: I found it very unusual. Some people with love it, some others might find it a little intimidating. SGP:461 - 85 points.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Cu Taan aka Adrián Terrazas-González. Track: Untitled. Please buy his music...

August 26, 2015


Another little tour of America

Let’s have more bourbon and other American whiskies! It’s true that I’m much behind…

Hillrock Estate ‘Single Malt Whiskey’ (48.2%, OB, New York grown barley, barrel #2, +/-2014)

Hillrock Estate ‘Single Malt Whiskey’ (48.2%, OB, New York grown barley, barrel #2, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Truly craft whisky from Hudson Valley, New York, everything being done locally, from growing the barley to aging it through, of course, distilling it. Colour: deep gold. Nose: apple and banana jam matured in oak? Cinnamon cake for sure, a lot of grain and a lot of bread and pastries, and then a growing rather sugary side, but I’m not using that word in a pejorative way. A kugelhopf straight from the oven. We’re very far from anything Scottish, this is mellower and rounder. Mouth: sure the oak feels, as it does in all very young American (truly) craft whiskies, but I’m a sucker for these notes of sweet bread, aniseed biscuits, pepper, overripe apples and overripe mangos (watch your shirt). It’s just getting a wee notch too spicy for me after a while. Big pepper and cloves. Finish: very long, very spicy. Some cloves and juniper berries. The signature is rather fruitier again. Zwetschke cake covered with cinnamon powder? Comments: unless you’re firmly against anything rather spicy/oaky, you should try to try this new cat. I find it impressive. SGP:571 - 83 points.

While we’re at it…

Hillrock Estate ‘Solera Aged Bourbon’ (46.3%, OB, finished in oloroso sherry cask, barrel #7, +/-2014)

Hillrock Estate ‘Solera Aged Bourbon’ (46.3%, OB, finished in oloroso sherry cask, barrel #7, +/-2014) Three stars and a halfThis sounds a little more unlikely. Sherry and solera may not go too well with bourbon (not sure the concept of solera goes well with any spirit…) Colour: deep gold. Nose: there are similarities and there are differences. This time you rather feel the rye, not too much of the sherry, and a sweet, pretty brioche-y side yet again. In truth this is less bready and spicy than the malt, and even better rounded, but I find it’s got a little less character. Mouth: exactly, rather less character despite the rye and it’s violetty tones. Violet sweets, juniper, blood oranges, a touch of caraway, then more marmalade. Globally sweet and, I have to say, rather less oaky/spicy than the single malt. Just as excellent, but easier. Some notes of artisan mead. Finish: rather long, rounded, fruity and jammy. Raisins may have taken over, while the rye got a little quieter. Comments: it’s totally impossible for me to tell you which one I liked best. SGP:651 - 83 points.

Maybe we could try a very well known all-American whiskey and check the differences…

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.12' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2014)

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.12' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This one is a tribute to a certain Jess Motlow, who used to be JD’s master distiller just after Jack Daniel himself. I had found #1 very easy and pretty good (WF 80). Colour: gold. Nose: it is, should I add of course, much gentler, much easier, and much more consensual after the two Hillrocks. Undemanding, smoooth, with much more apricot, then ripe peaches and plums. Some caramel, some grass, some fudge, some maple syrup. Maybe not Jack Daniel’s aimed at rock and rollers?... Keef R., waddaya say? Mouth: light, a tad oaky/cardboardy, with maple syrup again, cake, loads of vanilla, and various fruit juices. Guavas, perhaps. Silky texture, this one won’t harm anyone. Finish: that’s where it loses points, there’s a feeling of sawdust I’m not exactly fond of. On the other hand, there are also more guavas. Perhaps cranberries. Vanilla cream and liquid caramel for sure. Comments: the definition of smoothness and easiness in whisky. SGP:530 - 78 points.

Old Pepper (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Old Pepper (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Another old brand or that’s been revived, apparently. So not a distillery, I imagine. Not too sure. It’s rather cheap, so we haven’t got any expectations. Oh and apparently, not everything’s going smoothly between James E. Pepper and Old Pepper, but it’s so complicated and we have so little time that we’ll leave this door open. Onto the juice!... Colour: gold. gold. Nose: light, easy, with a good rye content, some vanilla, some American oak, some ginger, and some cinnamon. Does the job, I’d say. Mouth: the juices of overripe apples and pears, touches of tinned pineapples, perhaps kiwis, and these echoes of rye that I enjoy more and more. I rather enjoy these lightness and freshness, especially the pineapples. Finish: a little short, perhaps, but very fruity, with some coconut topping the whole. Cinnamon in the aftertaste, as almost always with bourbons (in my miserable experience). Comments: very, and I mean very all right! Probably young, but the freshness and the lack of straight caramel/vanilla both are assets. SGP:620 - 79 points.

Back to craft…

Rock Town 'Single Barrel Bourbon' (56.8%, OB, USA, Arkansas, barrel #241, +/-2015)

Rock Town 'Single Barrel Bourbon' (56.8%, OB, USA, Arkansas, barrel #241, +/-2015) Four stars We’ve already tasted several great whiskeys by Rock Town. Colour: deep gold. Nose: perfect. This may well be very young – and frankly, they should tell – but everything’s just perfect. Mead and honeydew, cinnamon cake, our beloved sweet pumpernickel bread, fudge, this great dried unfiltered cane sugar that they call galabé in French rhum regions, vanilla cake, raisins… It’s not a spicy bourbon at all, it’s all smoothness despite the high strength… With water: superb spicy/earthy development. Hints of tar, wet concrete, new scuba diving suit (whatever). Mouth (neat): more pumpernickel for the masses! Superb bready/spicy arrival, with molasses and figs coming to the rescue. There’s an earthiness as well – earth in bourbon? Hurray! With water: all things bready and honeyed. Its great that water awakened the grains. Finish: quite long, creamy, sweet, with moderate spiciness, around cinnamon and cloves. Comments: great job, if I may… SGP:551 - 85 points.

Jefferson's Ocean 'Aged at Sea' (45%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Jefferson's Ocean 'Aged at Sea' (45%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars and a half So, somebody did it again, sending out a few barrels across the oceans for a few months. An old idea (we had tried a 1899 Glenlivet that was aged just like that), cognac did it, wine did it, Scotch did it, and of course Bordeaux with Cos d’Estournel, and in my views, the results have always been a little unremarkable. I’m not saying they weren’t any good, I’m just saying one couldn’t notice any obvious differences. Ha! Colour: gold. Nose: shy. Chestnuts, perhaps, caramel-covered pastries, Mars bar, vanilla, a small cinnamon cake. The nose is rather shy, let’s check the palate. Mouth: good. Candy sugar, sweet bread, marmalade, vanilla, touches of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, sawdust… So it’s good, no doubt at all. Finish: fairly long, with vanilla, oak, and brown sugar. Comments: sourced bourbon finished for a few months (not aged) at sea. How cool is that? Perfectly drinkable. SGP:541 - 79 points.

More crazy stuff? Be my guest…

Willett 24 yo 1982 'Family Estate' (50%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, barrel #2007/31, 2007)

Willett 24 yo 1982 'Family Estate' (50%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, barrel #2007/31, 2007) Four stars A really very rare Willett, I think for Japan. Colour: amber. Nose: or when oak’s not a problem. Because some oak there is, you’d even think you’re entering a carpenter’s workshop, but on the other hand, the stunning jammy fruitiness and all the soft spicy cakes just keep it kind of un-oaked. Strange behaviour, but when that happens that’s just plain bliss. And it’s even fresh! With water: ah, a wee small soapiness that would just never disappear, but that may be the rye speaking out. Other than that, leaves and leather, with a malty side. Mouth (neat): firm, big, oaky indeed, a tad biting, but it’s biting like fresh Bordeaux can be biting, you just know you couldn’t avoid that or you’d have cheap commercial juice in your glass instead. In a way, it’ll remind you of the biggest Demerara rums. Port Mourant anyone? With water: back to cereals and grains, plus apple juices and tinned pineapple. Finish: quite long, oaky but never too oaky. Comments: characterful and restless oaked old bourbon. SGP:461 - 87 points.

What goes best after a Willett is another Willett, wouldn’t you agree?

Willett 20 yo ‘Family Estate’ (54.3%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, cask #321, 137 bottles)

Willett 20 yo ‘Family Estate’ (54.3%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, cask #321, 137 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep amber. Nose: I find this rather more ‘Pappy-like’, that is to say rather sweeter, fruitier, with more marmalade and mead, maple syrup… On the other hand, it’s rather less oaked or oaky, although I do find whiffs of mint leaves and perhaps eucalyptus. It’s funny that menthol almost always triggers eucalyptus for me – but you might find that not funny at all. With water: varnish comes out. That’s odd, varnish is usually the first thing that appears when you nose a new whisky. But there are also cigars and old marmalades, all for the better. Mouth (neat): similar to the 24, and this time, almost as oaky. No, oakier, rougher, more mentholy and liquoricy. Maybe is that the higher strength again, let’s see… With water: odd indeed. Fermenting vegetables, ‘serious’ umami, Maggi, black pipe tobacco, old husk. Not too sure, all this is very interesting, perhaps not totally and well balanced. Tannins playing their tricks, I imagine. Finish: very long, green, tannic, but oranges are back in the aftertaste, all for the better. Yay! Comments: a fighter – so you need to be in a fighting mood. There is some oak, and that’s an euphemism. SGP:471 - 84 points.

I agree, we need a 90+. Let’s try even harder…

Evan Williams 15 yo (50.5%, OB, for Japan, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1985?)

Evan Williams 15 yo (50.5%, OB, for Japan, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1982) Five stars Nicknamed ‘red label’, this is an earlier bottling from before 1983 (since there's a 200th anniversary logo on the neck - thanks Stefan). It’s well 15 years old, not just 12 like contemporary bottlings. I’m so glad I can try this rarity… Although I’m sure patented bourbon freaks would get even madder! Colour: deep amber. Nose: you know, when you reach something that’s a whole, not just a sum of several, or even many parts. Amazing notes of orange cake mingled with Cuban cigars (I had thought there was an embargo) and wood polishes. Also pencil lead, fumes, a drop of pitch, and a little peanut butter. How very American. With water: it gets medicinal! Bandages! Tincture of iodine! Carbon paper! Eucalyptus! Tiger balm! Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling of ‘a whole’, with a mineral side that’s so unusual in American whisky (in my humble experience). A feeling of old Highland Scotch. No, really! With water: I think this is exceptional bourbon. Probably dead cheap when it came out, but it gained so much complexity and mineral wideness… Unless that was there in the first place, we’ll never know. Finish: long, leafy, tea-ish, grassy, dry, phenolic… Yup, pretty un-bourbon. Comments: I’m not totally sure this was bottled in the 1980s, and I’m not sure it’s all down to perfect bottle ageing. But what a totally stunning old bourbon! May even beat my favourite old bourbon ever, Kentucky Crown 16 years old. I know I should check where Evan Williams was distilled at the time, deep-read Cowdery’s and Sku’s utterly stunning blogs, and all that. But please do it yourself, coz we’ve got more bourbon to taste… SGP:562 - 91 points.

Good, how many did we have? Nine? Let’s make it to ten and basta cosi… (we found our 90+ anyway…) But let’s make it rather totally monstrous!

Parker's 13 yo 'Heritage Collection' (63.4%, OB, straight wheat whiskey, 2014)

Parker's 13 yo 'Heritage Collection' (63.4%, OB, straight wheat whiskey, 2014) Two stars Straight wheat whiskies are pretty rare, aren’t they? Colour: orange amber. Nose: not quite, this all woodworks. Sawdust, polishes, warm oak, vanillin, cellulosic varnish, maize (yes), fudge, chocolate, pencil shavings… I know many adore this, but I’m just not buying it, babe. With water: pencil shavings all over the place. Or primary schools before the b****y iPad. Mouth (neat): it’s funny, it’s lively, it’s ridden with bubblegum and marshmallow flavours, but it’s basically grain whisky. That’s right, like they make in Scotland. Ethanol flavoured with oak, or something like that. With water: no. No depth, only alcohol and sweet oak. I suppose I just don’t understand this style. And I suppose I'm some sort of pity case. Finish: yes. Creamy, super-easy, I’m sure the Kardashians love this. Comments: this is simply not why I’m a little into aged spirits. It’s certainly brilliantly crafted, but I find this style a little dull and boring. Deep apologies to anyone I would have offended. To think that I had just loved Parker’s 10 yo Heritage Collection from 2011 (WF 87)… SGP:630 - 70 points.

(thanks a bunch, Carsten, Jonny, and Scott)

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



Block Today: BRAZILIAN JAZZ. Performer: WF favourite Hermeto Pascoal. Track: Susto. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 25, 2015


Another large bag of Japanese whiskies

Japanese whiskies are all the rage of the season, for rather obscure reasons. What’s possible is that some Scottish brands’ hydrocephalic marketing and slightly arrogant pricing may have put-off quite a few whisky lovers, in favour of the quieter and more restrained Japanese brands. Which, in turn, may be becoming too expensive and a bit too ‘marketing’ as well. Bah, anyway, every sort of dog has its turn and next year it’s going to be Canada, or any other old or new whisky nation. The caravan moves on… But let’s have a few Japanese more or less at random, including some newer bottlings as well as some older ones.

Nikka 'Coffey Grain' 1995/2009 (60%, OB, warehouse #11, cask #189476)

Nikka 'Coffey Grain' 1995/2009 (60%, OB, warehouse #11, cask #189476) Two stars and a half An older Coffey grain, single cask, with an age statement, and a higher strength. Colour: gold. Nose: you’re smelling sponge cake, custard, biscuits, butterscotch and a whole box of shortbread. With water: a little grass, and some coconut oil. Mouth (neat): there’s always something slightly varnishy in these arrivals, as well as extreme coconut from the oak. The mouth feel is very creamy, and I do enjoy these notes of tangerines that appear after a few minutes. But the sweet oak does most of the talking… With water: sweet and smooth like a desert. Feels like there’s been some sugar added to it, while I’m dead sure there wasn’t any. Finish: medium, with these tangerines again. Comments: a strong grain that’s not too ethanoly, but certainly very sweet. You could always call it ‘childish’. Not quite my style, but I know some love it. SGP:640 - 78 points.

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, +/-2014)

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars It’s lost its vintage, its age, and a good few degrees, but it is malt whisky! Colour: pale gold. Nose: eaaasy, smooooth, cake-y, with even more vanilla than in the grain, plus unusual and rather pleasant hints of fresh asparagus, or even Japanese seaweed, nori, also wakame… I’m not making this up, cross my heart!  Mouth: ultra-easy, perfectly balanced, sweet and fruity, and perhaps rather more ‘Irish’ than ‘Scottish’. It’s definitely got something Midletony. Ripe apples, compote, apricots, plums… Definitely good easy whisky. Easy but not dull! Finish: medium, balanced, fruity, sweet… And easy. Comments: indeed, very easy malt whisky, with a light body and plenty of fruit syrups. Or tinned fruits. Pretty indisputable. SGP:630 - 82 points.

Yamazaki 'Mizunara' (48%, OB, +/- 2011)

Yamazaki 'Mizunara' (48%, OB, +/- 2011) Four stars Matured (or finished?) in Japanese oak, or quercus mongolica. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got more idiosyncrasies, bumps, holes and… presence than the Coffeys. Many herbal teas and plain teas, honeysuckle, all that coated with some vanilla and coconut from the oak, but in an elegant way. Quite some marzipan too, and this feeling of sandalwood and incense that’s rather ‘mizunara’. Mouth: very nice arrival, with a slightly sappy side, as well as various spices, most of the grassy kind. Coriander, cardamom, then a little parsley, perhaps. Also a little pineapple, a few raisins, perhaps bergamots… Definitely different, and even if it feels a bit ‘flavoured’, it’s really to my liking. Finish: long, sweet, with quite some oak, and more tea. Black tea. Comments: a different Japanese, unusual and good. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Hakushu 12yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japan, +/- 2011)

Hakushu 12yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japan, +/- 2011) Three stars and a half We should expect some peat! Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, it is a rather candied, rounded peat, without the coastal side of most Islays, so perhaps rather ‘Ardmore’, with these yellow peaches and white flowers. Behind that, a bit of humus, fern, dead leaves, then more citrus. Perhaps a little eucalyptus, or these small Indian cigarettes called bidies. It’s fresh, rather light peat. Mouth: clean, zesty, light peat, with a lot of freshness. If you could smoke grapefruits, I guess this what you’d get, more or less. Lemon grass, perhaps a little green curry and a little chocolate. Finish: medium, fresh, smoky, clean. I seem to find a little roasted sesame oil. Comments: I like this Japanese freshness, and the fact that it’s not all about wood. SGP:453 - 84 points.

Hakushu 'Heavily Peated' (48%, OB, 2012)

Hakushu 'Heavily Peated' (48%, OB, 2012) Four stars NAS this time, and possibly peatier than the 12 yo. I had enjoyed an earlier bottling, circa 2009 (WF 85). Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed it’s peatier, but it’s not a peat monster. The first thing you’re thinking of is lapsang souchong tea, then this faint sucrosity again. Sugar syrup. What’s really lovely is the way it develops on old roses, dried flowers, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood and all that. Even pinesap and embrocations. Bandages? Mouth: like! A crisp salty lemony medicinal style, between Caol Ila and Ardbeg. All right, all right, more towards Caol Ila. Oysters. What’s sure is that it’s rather more maritime than on the nose. Finish: quite long, crisp, clean, perhaps a little mineral – which is rather un-Japanese in my book. Lemons aplenty now. Comments: I really, really enjoy this clean, smoky freshness. SGP:447 - 86 points.

It’s all going smoothly, isn’t it…

Miyagikyo (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Miyagikyo (43%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars A lot of Japanese writings but no age. I really like these sake-like packagings, but when you do not know your kanjis, you’re dead! Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of buttered tea that hints at oak, but also cigars and herbal teas, which is nice nice nice. It’s warmer, easier, with only a touch of smoke, and perhaps whiffs of thuja wood and custard. Feels crafted. Nicely crafted, that is. Mouth: goody good! I cannot see who wouldn’t enjoy this, only the light strength makes it a wee tad weak (ish). Oranges, apple juice, herbs and teas, a little mint, pinesap, lime for sure, a drop of white rum from a good maker’s… Some kind of ready-made Japanese mojito, perhaps? Finish: medium length, clean, crisp, lime-y, with a touch of wood smoke. A tiny piece of smoked fish? Comments: I wasn’t expecting much, partly because of the strength, and I was wrong. This goes down like silk and spicy feathers (what?) SGP:452 - 85 points.

Because of the strength, he said…

Miyagikyo 1996/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #18, cask #66535)

Miyagikyo 1996/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #18, cask #66535) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: oooh! Sure it’s strong, and sure it would kill an elephant better than Dr. Walter Palmer, but these hints of chocolate and orange blossom are perfect. There might be a little too much oak too, but hard to say at this insane strength. Only one solution… With water: huge saponification happening, never experienced it to this extend. Water creating huge soapy smells… Usually, you just need to wait… So let’s wait… zzz… (after fifteen minutes)… Good, the soap is almost gone… Almost… Well not totally gone… (after twenty minutes)… not quite yet… (after twenty five minutes)… yes, gone! Praline, bread crust, macaroons, coconut cake, litchi cake, mandarins… And very, very little smoke this time. Mouth (neat): concentrated oranges, grapefruits, some ginger, some lemon grass, and more punch than Cassius Clay. So quick… With water: perfect! Mentholated raisins, ginger cake, glazed lemon wedges, lemon grass, citron liqueur… Just fabulous, love it. The best use of water ever. Finish: very long, limey, crystal-clean, with he greatest cut ever. Almost Alsatian riesling! Comments: a wrestler that’s not easy to partner with. You need patience (and good water), but then… SGP:562 - 91 points.

And now… Oh no, not 62% vol. again!...

Yoichi 1991/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #27, cask #129459)

Yoichi 1991/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #27, cask #129459) Five stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: stunning. Old chartreuse (best of Tarragone), a walk in an eucalyptus forest, a lot cedar wood, and the most precious pu-erh tea. Other than that, it’s seriously strong! With water: no saponification, hurray, but quite a lot of pencil shavings. The oak speaking out, not always a hit in the house, but having said that, there’s even more eucalyptus, and I’m a sucker for eucalyptus. Some wonderful earthy, tobacco-like notes too. No, frankly, it’s a perfect, deep nose. Mouth (neat): utterly expressive, rich, flavourful, and… what’s that word again? Ah yes, assertive. Stunning precious marmalades and chutneys. But then again, its strong stuff… With water: modern magic. Spicy lemons, silky tannins, tangerines, vanilla… At first I had thought it would have become a little, ach, err, slutty, but not at all. Now, the pineapple’s perhaps a little too ‘forward’. I said perhaps… Finish: long, candied, jammy, wonderfully citrusy, with menthol and always eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: what I really enjoyed in this one was the fact that it was extremely Japanese, and totally non-Scottish. Now could the Scots still make this? Honestly, I’m not too sure… SGP:662 - 91 points.

Hakushu, you have the floor again…

Hakushu 1997/2008 'Owner's Cask' (58%, OB, for Shinanoya, barrel, cask #BD40263)

Hakushu 1997/2008 'Owner's Cask' (58%, OB, for Shinanoya, barrel, cask #BD40263) Four stars and a half Japanese whisky selected by and bottled for some Japanese whisky lovers, that could be hard to beat. Colour: amber. Nose: I don’t know which kind of barrel this was, but what’s sure is that it hasn’t been lazy. Rich fruits, Demerara sugar and rum, soy sauce, beef stock, acidic earth and peat, toffee, liquorice wood, a few drops of carbolinium… This one talks! With water: brand new rubber boots and the engine of a Lamborghini Miura (pfff, that’s despicable…) Mouth (neat): thick, rich, concentrated, and terribly Trinidadian. You know, Caroni and stuff. Plenty of oak spices, dark bread (our beloved pumpernickel), and something that also reminds us of the thickest bourbons, old Willett-style. Heavy stuff indeed. With water: some kind of oaky and spicy jam. What we call ‘confiture de vieux garçon’ in France, so ‘a bachelor’s jam’. Which would involve quite a lot of alcohol! Finish: long, very jammy, and extremely marmalade-y and richly spicy. Prunes. Comments: some sides reminded me of old Armagnac. A barrel, really? SGP:652 - 88 points.

Good, let’s have a straighter one, and then perhaps a new Karuizawa, and we’ll be done.

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (52%, OB, for Liqueur Shop Naganoya, hogshead, cask #3P70268)

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (52%, OB, for Liqueur Shop Naganoya, hogshead, cask #3P70268) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peated Yamazaki! And it’s superb, crisp, whistle-clean, perfectly almondy, eminently lemony, with touches of fresh putty, lemon marmalade, soot, wet limestone, and riesling. Cool climate whisky! With water: shoe polish, coal dust, cigar ashes (no, really), linseed oil, smoked salmon… Mouth (neat): something of the old Ardbeg ten (twist cap, mid-1980s), with grapefruits, soot and ashes, antiseptic, lemon, and green pepper. Another perfectly blade-y one. With water: more fruity sweetness, all for the better. Lemon-flavoured jelly babies and crystallised angelica, plus half a glass of artisan limoncello. Salute! Finish: long and extremely citrusy, with a clean and straight smoky aftertaste. Comments: I’m trying hard to find something bad to say about his one. Fail! Well done, Nagayona! BTW, I’ve seen that they also have great sakes. I love good sake! SGP:554 - 90 points.

Yamazaki 'Vintage Malt' 1993/2004 (54%, OB) 

Yamazaki 'Vintage Malt' 1993/2004 (54%, OB)  Four starsSorry, picture from another vintage. From the now discontinued – I think – Vintage Malt series, which has become pretty hard to find. Colour: pale gold. Nose: We took it all down one notch, it seems. We’re rather far from the Owner’s Cask, with more sawdust and vanilla. What’s better is that it’s lighter and easier, but on the other hand, it’s rather shy Yamazaki, with some bubblegum, marshmallows, vanilla, a little hay, a little cardboard… With water: fermenting hay, cigarette tobacco. Mouth (neat): indeed, easy, good, vanilla-ed, with a little coffee, a little chocolate, some hay, some tobacco, a little chamomile, this particular herbal side (our friend the eucalyptus again)… Yeah, it’s good. With water: even better! Sweet teas and earthy stuff, but I find a little too much marshmallowy sweetness. Comments: just excellent, just not out of this world. But competition is tough today on little Whiskyfun… SGP:651 - 86 points.

Time to have the Karuizawa, perhaps…

Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles)

Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles) Five stars Some Karuizawa! Bottled in support of Nepal and exclusive to one very high-end masterclass at The Whisky Show in London on October 6. Colour: mahogany. Nose: chocolate and lit cigars. So smoking some kind of dark maduro Cohiba while opening the very best Spanish (okay, dear Italian friends, Italian) dark chocolate, while having a glass of old Port Mourant rum on the side.

So it’s a whole experience, not just whisky. And not only that, there’s also a smoky cup of old pu-erh tea, a good five old books (Hemingway…. But of course) and… hold on, concrete? Stones and flints? Coal crumbles? Old crème de menthe? Mushrooms? Black trumpets, to be more precise? With water: old books, old leather, old wine cellar, old creams, old embrocations, old dry wines, fresh mint cream. Chocolate mint. Mouth (neat): warning tooh-tooh-tooh, warning! This is strong, violent, brutal, and probably not totally civilised. Starts with soups and bouillons, so very Karuizawa, and pretty ‘uma-mi-esque’. I’m sure Uma Thurman used to drink this while they were shooting Kill Bill – and I agree, it showed. Then chocolate, dried figs, all raisins (Corinth, Smyrna, Sultanas, all that), then this Armagnacky side that’s also often to be found in Karuizawa, so prunes, then cigars and plenty of black earth. Licking the ground in an old forgotten factory. With water: I didn’t now they were still having some of these casks. Not sure this would still be legal. Plums and dried dates, old PX, bitter oranges, gasoline, engine oil, Russian black tea, rust, silverware, sucking old pennies, black truffles… Quite unmanageable, all this. Finish: too long, too huge, too dominant, too concentrated. To be honest, it’s a bit tiring! Comments: it fights with you, and it’s not impossible that untrained whisky enthusiasts would give up after just two minutes. You might want to do a bit of training before tackling this monster of a whisky. SGP:474 - 93 points. Masterclass details there.

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



Block Today: JAPANESE. Performer: Joe Hisaishi. Track: Play on the sands (from a Kitano movie, thanks Arthur). Please buy his music...

August 24, 2015


Some Glen Deveron and some Macduff

You’re right, Macduff and Glen Deveron are the same distillery. In fact, Glen Deveron’s the name the owners are using, and I have to say it’s quite big in France, where it’s rather positioned as a ‘budget’ malt in many supermarkets. So let’s first have the lighter Glen Deverons, and then a few indies bearing the name…? Right, Macduff (that’s cool, you are following me)…

Glen Deveron 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Glen Deveron 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Two stars and a half This should go smoothly… Colour: gold. Nose: fresh, malty, with some honey, some caramel, apple pie, a touch of vanilla, a little marmalade, a little hay and ‘old tea box’, cereals, a little burnt butter… It’s malty, it’s simple, it’s easy. Mouth: starts a little cardboardy, with a little bitter caramel, then rather overripe apples, cake, marmalade and hints of cocoa powder. The body’s a little thin, and yet there’s something slightly rough. Strong black tea? Also roasted peanuts. Finish: medium. The cardboardy side is back, with roasted chestnuts, bitter grass, and tea. Marmalade again in the aftertaste. Comments: as they say, it’s loyal and honest malt whisky. SGP:441 - 77 points.

Glen Deveron 20 yo (40%, OB, Royal Burgh Collection, travel retail, 1l, +/-2015)

Glen Deveron 20 yo (40%, OB, Royal Burgh Collection, travel retail, 1l, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: the buttery side that was in the 15 got bigger, and comes with whiffs of mint tea, as well as a metallic touch (grandma’s old tin boxes). Also walnut wine, some sherry, roasted nuts, and blood oranges. The whole’s fresh, if a little undemanding. Perhaps also a little wood smoke, but not too sure. Roasted malt, chicory.  Mouth: we’re in very close territories after the 15. Tea and malt, roasted nuts, chocolate and something a little cardboardy, although the whole’s a little rounder and even oilier. But it remains light whisky. Raisins. Finish: medium, with this bitter leafiness again, more roasted nuts, and a touch of honey. Tea and oranges in the aftertaste. Earl grey! Comments: I think the low strength does a disservice to this otherwise pretty fine malt whisky. SGP:441 - 79 points.

Macduff 2000/2011 (59%, Jack Wiebers, Old Mining Collection, cask #5802, Sherry Cask)

Macduff 2000/2011 (59%, Jack Wiebers, Old Mining Collection, cask #5802, Sherry Cask) Four stars This should be bigger. Colour: amber. Nose: full-blown sherry, with oranges, raisins, chocolate, coffee and tobacco. Very oloroso-ish! Touches of parsley and chicken soup, as well as a little milk chocolate. With water: Italian hazelnut liqueur! Extremely pleasant, soft, rounded sherry. Mouth (neat): very rich, a bit in the style of the older Macallan Cask Strength. Orange liqueurs, raisins, pipe tobacco, ginger, caraway, more chocolate… It’s big whisky but it’s balanced, and almost smooth. With water: the orangey side got louder. Adds freshness and ‘lightness’, even if this isn’t any light whisky. Finish: long, with some herbs now. The parsley is back. Tobacco. Comments: an excellent high-voltage smooth sherried drop. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Macduff 2000/2011 (59.8%, Svenska Eldvatten, first fill sherry butt, cask #5787)

Macduff 2000/2011 (59.8%, Svenska Eldvatten, first fill sherry butt, cask #5787) Four stars This baby should be similar, we’ll try to keep this short… Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, the other 2000 was going more towards Macallan CS, while this one may rather be a ‘Glenfarclas’. A little earthier, more mentholy, with more tobacco, humus, mushrooms… Lovely! With water: more damp earth, mushrooms, fern… It’s a sherried forest. Mouth (neat): very rich, and yet fresh. More spices in this one, caraway, cloves, ginger, white pepper… Perhaps was the oak fresher? With water: almost perfect, with oranges kicking in. Good news, the spices did not become overly cinnamony – that would have happened. Finish: long, spicy, orangey. Orange blossom water with a lot of cloves. Comments: a light heavy one, so to speak. It was about time I tasted it. SGP:551 - 87 points.

While we’re at it…

Macduff 11 yo 2000/2011 (60%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, cask #5774)

Macduff 11 yo 2000/2011 (60%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, cask #5774) Four stars Most probably another sherry cask distilled on the same day. Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s mustier, and has got notes of almonds, maraschino, orange liqueurs… But the base is similar, chocolate, raisins, coffee, tobacco… With water: there, humus and fern. Mouth: we’re very close to the Svenska. Very very close. Aquavit, ginger, cloves, oranges, ginger, earth… With water: indeed, more Grand-Marnier, perhaps a little honey, plenty of sultanas for sure… Finish: long, honeyed, orangey, spicy. Comments: all these casks are very similar, obviously, as young sister casks can be. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Let’s drop first fill sherry!...

Macduff 14 yo 1997/2012 (61%, Anam Na H-Alba, refill sherry butt, cask # 5927, 170 bottles)

Macduff 14 yo 1997/2012 (61%, Anam Na H-Alba, refill sherry butt, cask # 5927, 170 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine, so very refill ;-). Nose: almost no sherry, rather a malty, stone-y, and grassy profile, with whiffs of wet clothes and some chalk. It’s a bit unusual, I have to say, but it’s got some character. Also vanilla fudge, butterscotch and ripe plums, just as touches. With water: bizarre. Wet rocks, dogs (sorry) and grass. Gets very barleyish and mineral. Mouth (neat): young and fruitful, but with a bitterness that never stops growing. Lemons and lemon zests, grapefruit skin, not-too-ripe kiwis, lime, Schweppes… That’s all fun, but it’s not an easy one. Sharp. With water: it swims well, but gets a little medicinal. Bandages and lemon? Very obvious notes of green apples. Finish: long, all on apples, with a lemony touch. Golden delicious, there! Comments: a funny one. Loved the finish because I adore apples. SGP:561 - 83 points.

Oh and Cadenhead just bottled a Macduff as well, an older one…

Macduff 26 yo 1989//2015 (51%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt)

Macduff 26 yo 1989//2015 (51%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re at Starbuck’s around 7am. Café latte, roasted coffee beans, hot chocolate, pecan pie… and whiffs of ‘concrete after the rain’. Interesting and unusual. With water: charcoal, wood smoke, brownies, old iron pan, more concrete, a little gunpowder… Mouth (neat): very bacony. Very, very bacony. It’s unusual to find this much bacon in whisky! And chocolate, warm praline, fudge, shortbread straight from the baker’s, brioche, croissant… Really, this is a breakfast whisky. With water: old pu-her tea, earth, a touch of paraffin, tobacco, gunpowder… Finish: long, roasted, nutty. Have I mentioned croissants? Comments: there might ne a little sulphur, but it never gets in your way. It’s even an asset. SGP:561 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUSION. Performer: Pierre Moerlen's Gong. Track: Crosscurrents. Please buy his music...

August 23, 2015


Malternatives: Ardbeg from Mitteleuropa

That would be gentian. I do often quote gentian eau-de-vie in my tasting notes, and even if this very earthy and medicinal spirit really is an acquired taste (and some will simply hate it forever!) I’m a sucker for good gentian or gentiane or Enzian. Let’s have a few today, some from Alsace, some from other regions…

Eau de vie gentiane (43%, OB, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2010)

Eau de vie gentiane (43%, OB, René de Miscault, Alsace, +/-2010) Two stars This is macerated gentiane, as opposed to fermented, that is to say that the roots are kept in a neutral spirit for a while (usually apple spirit) and then distilled. It’s cheaper to do, but almost everybody does it like that. Colour: white. Nose: sweet and round for a gentiane, as usual with this maker. Some earth, touches of tincture of iodine, then various sweet roots, including beetroot, as well as a little fennel, caraway and ginger, which gives this gentian an exotic side. Mouth: really easy, smooth, with a sugariness I’m not too fond of, but other than that, it’s full of gentian (yeah, well said). Very rooty, but only mildly medicinal. Probably better when chilled. Finish: long, as always with gentian, as salty as Ardbeg, rooty and earthy. The Islay of eaux-de-vie! Comments: not one of the best IMHO, because of the sweetness, but it’s a very fine spirit. Try it, it’s cheap. SGP:672 - 72 points.

Another Alsatian…

Gentiane (40%, OB, G. Miclo, Alsace, +/-2014)

Gentiane (40%, OB, G. Miclo, Alsace, +/-2014) Two stars Nobody may use the term ‘eau de vie’ anymore when it’s not a fermentation. These macerated gentians are simply called ‘Gentiane’ these days. Colour: white. Nose: much drier, dirtier in a good way, grassier, with a burnt side. Overcooked vegetables? In fact, this is a proper gentiane. I told you, it’s an acquired taste. Mouth: good! Too bad the strength is too low, that makes the spirit a little flabby and unsatisfying. Loses points because of that. Other than that, there’s a big earthiness, and quite some notes of turnips, celeriac, even rutabagas… Finish: a little short, which is exceptional with gentiane. They often last for hours… The aftertaste is as salty as that of the De Miscault. Comments: a good access-gentiane for beginners. And this one’s quite easy to find. SGP:472 - 72 points.

Yet another Alsatian…

Gentiane (45%, OB, J. Nusbaumer, Alsace, +/-2015)

Gentiane (45%, OB, J. Nusbaumer, Alsace, +/-2015) Four stars More power, let’s see if this works. Once again, this is no proper eau-de-vie, it’s macerated gentiane. Please note that the picture is that of another spirit, but labels are identical. Colour: white. Nose: we’re right between a real mezcal joven and Ardbeg’s newmake. And I am not making this up. Roots, brine, smoke, touches of pears, garden bonfire, hints of pineapples. Lovely nose, love the smokiness. Mouth: oh yes! Nervous, zesty, smoky, earthy, rooty, herbal, salty… This one’s really great, and absolutely flawless. There are even notes of kippers – to think that the yellow gentian is harvested in the mountains! Finish: very long, salty, lemony, earthy… In short, it’s perfect. Comments: this is the eau-de-vie (right, an almost-eau-de-vie) that’s closest to a young peater from the Isle of Islay. Very high class distillate, even if it’s ‘only’ macerated gentiane. SGP:573 - 86 points.

Let’s hop to Bavaria if you don’t mind…

Holzfass Enzian (40%, OB, Lantenhammer, Bavaria, +/-2014)

Holzfass Enzian (40%, OB, Lantenhammer, Bavaria, +/-2014) Two stars Probably macerated gentian again, made by the owners of Slyrs whisky distillery in Schliersee. This one spent a little time in oak, but the colour’s so light that it was probably inactive wood. Probably better like that. Colour: virtually white. Nose: much more restrained, almost silent for a gentian, but it’s very clean and fresh, almost delicate. Maybe a little peat – but not peat smoke. The lightest of them all so far. Mouth: we’re in the style of the Miclo, only a bit lighter and cleaner. An easy one, with good fruits (I get prunes) and… good manners. Perhaps a touch of oak, but I may be dreaming. Finish: a little short for a gentiane, but the cleanliness makes it pleasant and, again, easy. Leaves your mouth as fresh as a baby’s. Comments: maybe a little more ‘technical’ than the first two Alsatians, but we’re far from the powerful Nussbaumer. A light and easy gentiane/Enzian. SGP:452 - 73 points.

And now, drum roll…

Eau de Vie de Gentiane Supérieure (45%, OB, Marcel Michel, Doubs, +/-2014)

Eau de Vie de Gentiane Supérieure (45%, OB, Marcel Michel, Doubs, +/-2014) Four stars and a half This is the real deal, genuine fermented gentiane by a small distillery in Franche-Comté, east of France (south of Alsace, if you wanna know everything ;-)). Sadly, I’ve heard they’ll stop distilling very soon, as no one seems to be willing to go on while the current owner is about to retire. Unless that already happened. Colour: white. Nose: more depth, more power and more brine, as well as more smoke. Even the Nussbaumer noses gentle and easy in comparison. Capers, olives, artisan mezcal, sour dough, burning grass, seaweed, mashed turnips, damp earth, hessian, dried kelp, gueuze… Where else have we already nosed all this? Mouth: instant earthy pleasures, plenty of vegetables, burnt stuff (not sure I could tell you what), turnips and celeriac again, wild carrots (perhaps), fresh ginger, sour bread, smoked beef – and a feeling of Grisons meat. Eating earth! Finish: very long, salty and limy, which adds freshness to the aftertaste. Comments: Kildalton gentiane, I’d say. Up there with the best white smoky spirits! SGP:473 - 88 points.



Block Today: JAZZ BLUES. Performer: Hiram Bullock. Track: Now It's Time (To Sing The Blues). Please buy his music...

August 20, 2015


Highland Park,
another freewheeling session

Well, we’ll just have a few, new or old. We’ll see what we can find in WF’s ‘old sample library’… By the way, aren’t we seeing a little less independent Highland Parks these days?

Highland Park 'Drakkar' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/-2014)

Highland Park 'Drakkar' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Yet another NAS ‘Norse’ HP, this baby first was a travel retail exclusive when it came out, but it seems that it’s become more widely available. We’ve seen that happening elsewhere, haven’t we. Colour: gold. Nose: mellow and rather earthy and leathery at first nosing, with quite some overripe apples as well as shoe polish, which, in my book, is always nice. A little liquorice as well, vanilla, a bit of burnt caramel and roasted raisins, then gingerbread and marmalade. I’m quite fond of this nose, I have to say, it’s got something of the older HP 12s (silkscreened bottles and such). Mouth: of course the low strength is a millstone around this baby’s neck, but both texture and profile are most pleasant, with smoked herbs, green tea, plenty of honeydew, this leathery side again, then a briny smoke that’s rather ‘Islay’. Moderately smoky Islay of course. Anyway, a nice HP in my opinion. Finish: not too short, and rather salty and smoky again. Only the aftertaste is a notch too leathery and bitter. Comments: a good surprise, it seems that the travellers are not always only getting the NAS chaff ;-). Lost points though, because of the bitterish aftertaste. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Highland Park 19 yo 1995/2014 (54.2%, Jack Wiebers, Scottish Malts Steamship Line, hogshead, cask #1508, 156 bottles)

Highland Park 19 yo 1995/2014 (54.2%, Jack Wiebers, Scottish Malts Steamship Line, hogshead, cask #1508, 156 bottles) Four stars and a half Jack Wiebers like old means of transport and nice paintings or etchings! After the old trains and the ocean liners, here come the steamships. Colour: straw. Nose: a little coarse – or say ‘artisan’, rather pungent, very grassy and very mineral, with in the background, something medicinal (aspirin tablets? Quinine?) and quite some rubbed citron skin. Or lemon oil. It’s an austere one, but I do enjoy this sharp greenness ala Sancerre blanc. With water: chalk and wet fabric all over the place. The chalk is wet as well. Mouth (neat): what an excellent distillate. Superb fresh lemons and limes, always with this grassy minerality (or is it the other way ’round?) and a perfect mouth feel. Even more Sancerre-y, just rather more medicinal than Sancerres. Tart cough syrup. With water: and now it’s even got something Laphroaiggy. Must be the medicinal side. Finish: long, very clean and blade-y. More chalk and more lemons, plus some raw barley (crunched while visiting a malting plant). Comments: not all ‘naked’ HPs are great in my experience, but many are. It’s a big distillate. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Highland Park 1988/2010 (54.6%, Càrn Môr, Celebration of the Cask, hogshead, cask #878, 263 bottles)

Highland Park 1988/2010 (54.6%, Càrn Môr, Celebration of the Cask, hogshead, cask #878, 263 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: same style as the Jack at first sniffing, just tends to become rounder, with more vanilla and honey. So globally gentler, perhaps a notch more complex (I get various oils), and a tad less smoky. But other than that, they’re close. With water: gets rather very paraffiny. Mouth (neat): even closer, it’s tartier, zestier, more austere and sharper than on the nose. Very grassy and flinty, in fact, and perhaps a tad difficult. With water: hard. Clay and strong green tea, plus lemon squash. Good, it’s not exactly hard, but it’s a little difficult. Finish: long, with a feeling of chewing raw wool and licking limestone. Comments: I think a 1988 Càrn Môr that was a sherry monster (cask #3214) had been much more pleasant. But as always, only my opinion. SGP362 - 78 points.

Highland Park 27 yo 1988/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Claret, 234 bottles)

Highland Park 27 yo 1988/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Claret, 234 bottles) Four stars This strange baby had been first kept for twenty years in a regular cask, and then the owners of W.M. Cadenhead bought a château cask of Lafite, drank it all, and poured this HP into the empty barrique in 2008 where it’s been further sleeping ever since. Okay, I made up the part about Lafite. Colour: gold-not-pink. Nose: it’s often been said that French oak (quercus robur) was much spicier than American oak, and this is a good example, since I rather get green pepper (or is that the Cabernet?) plus soft curry and kumquats. I have to add that there are also medicinal, mineral and grassy touches, so we’re still quite far from the OBs’ style. Also bitter oranges, but no small red berries from red wine that I can smell. With water: HP’s chalky side comes out again. Fabric, grass, leaves, porridge… Mouth (neat): interesting, and not bad at all. Oranges again, maybe a wee touch of blackcurrant – but really not much – and again, some sweet spicy sauces and cakes. Pickled ginger, perhaps, cardamom for sure, peppery oak as well… The oranges keep it fresh and pretty fruity, which is just as well. With water: swims very well on your palate. More oranges, soft spices, perhaps a tiny spoon of strawberry jam… Perhaps! Finish: good length, rather mellow, less spicy than expected. More oranges. Comments: fine fine fine, and certainly not a winesky, but remember this is double maturation, not quick flavouri… I mean, finishing. SGP:551 - 86 points.

What else have we got?...

Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (52.2%, The Stillman's, Switzerland, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (52.2%, The Stillman's, Switzerland, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles) Five stars Picture doesn’t match but the label’s the same. Colour: gold. Nose: balance! Oranges on the one side, smoky rocks and grasses on the other side, and in the middle, honey, vanilla, and above all, mangos. Mangos, hurray! With water: even more ‘more’. Fabulous notes of artisan ‘tropical’ muesli, and plenty of fresh fruits that do really hint at, say, a blend made with 1/3 Lochside 1966, 1/3 Benriach 1976, and 1/3 Littlemill 1990. I may have got the proportions wrong, but you got the spirit. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Passion fruits, mangos, lemons, oranges, fresh mint, orange blossom water (right, rather pastries made thereof). Would you need more? Superb! With water: as I sometimes write, this is a sin. Multivitamin fruit juice, a little custard, some pineapple (not too much, just the right amount), and blood oranges. Perfect mouth feel. Finish: perhaps not the longest ever, but the fruitiness is amazing. Extraordinary balance, with a trie feeling of ‘a whole’. Comments: I’m el stupido, I should have tasted this a long time ago, I would have bought quite a few bottles. Really beautiful fruity Highland Park. SGP:651 - 90 points.

I remember the Whisky Agency had a few superb 1985s s well. Oh by the way…

Highland Park 33 yo 1977/2010 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 193 bottles)

Highland Park 33 yo 1977/2010 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 193 bottles) Five stars Once again, why I’ve never tried this one, I don’t know. My system must be leaking somewhere… Colour: gold. Nose: that was to be expected, and maybe that’s why I haven’t tried this baby before – unconsciously, of course. It’s absolutely lovely. Eucalyptus and grapefruits, coal smoke and beeswax, honey and green bananas, leather polish and not-too-ripe guavas… Everything’s just absolutely perfect. With water: patchouli, old leather (old horse saddle), dried flowers… In short, old aromas that are slowly disappearing from any ‘modern’ vanilla-ridden Scotch. Mouth (neat): massive, yet supremely elegant. Punches you a bit while it arrives, with rocky flavours and quite some green cardamom and green lemon, but this fat-yet-elegant grassiness just works. I used to call this style ‘cactussy’. It’s rather less fruity and easy than the Swiss 1985, but this austere assertiveness (what?) just clicks. With water: milder and more honeyed. Baklavas and citron liqueur. Finish: medium, fruitier, citrusy, elegant. Leaves your mouth fresh. Comments: Calvin after Luther (that as some silly comments, S.!) SGP:561 - 91 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




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August 19, 2015


A few good old Macallan

Actually, some might be stunning…

Macallan 18 yo 1997/2015 'Sherry Oak' (43%, OB)

Macallan 18 yo 1997/2015 'Sherry Oak' (43%, OB) Four stars Not exactly a ‘vintage’ whisky since it was distilled in 1997 ‘and in earlier years’, according to the label. Now, is there a real vintage effect in whisky? We’ll discuss that later… I have to say I really enjoyed last year’s 1996 (WF 87). The brand’s rather infuriating at times, but some of its whiskies remain quite excellent! Colour: deep gold. Nose: and yes it’s very fine, very elegant, and despite a few touches of struck matches here and there, I find this combination of walnuts, marmalade, chestnut honey, sweet bread, and fresh mushrooms/humus most engaging. It’s maybe just a little light. Not weak, light… Mouth: nah, this is undoubtedly very good. Honeyed oranges, orange blossom, chartreuse (never found this much chartreuse in Macallan), sultanas, marmalade, toasted brioche, drops of fig liqueur, perhaps a drop of pastis… I especially like the freshness. Finish: not very long, but pleasantly malty and chocolaty, which adds dimension. Only the aftertaste is a little ‘burnt’ (forgotten toast, coffee). Comments: it’s a flagship expression, and I guess they just couldn’t mess with it. Only the aftertaste was a little raw. Okay, same score, we’ll carefully check the newer one next year ;-). SGP:551 - 87 points.

Let’s try an older un-sherried one from the sample library…

Macallan 26 yo 1976/2002 (49.7%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 252 bottles) Two stars and a half Douglas Laing had quite a few good Macallans at the time. This one was bottled in October, if you want to know everything… Colour: straw. Nose: uh-oh, some problems ahead, perhaps. Indeed, I find this narrow and too grassy, bizarrely paraffiny, without much appeal. Perhaps these whiffs of tinned pineapples? Mouth: it’s ‘probably’ good, with an oily mouth feel and pleasant touches of quince and pineapple again, with a few mint leaves thrown in. The problem is that the paraffin keeps sitting there, which gives the whole a feeling of soapy lemon. In other words, Procter and Gamble’s best. Finish: quite long, lemony, but the soap and even touches of plastic stay in our way. Comments: I remember when all officials were sherried, we were keen on tasting un-sherried Macallans. With mixed results, I have to add. This is a  good example. SGP:361 - 79 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 23 yo 1976/1999 (46%, Cadenhead's Original Collection, sherry butt, 300 bottles)

Macallan-Glenlivet 23 yo 1976/1999 (46%, Cadenhead's Original Collection, sherry butt, 300 bottles) Four stars From Cadenhead’s former budget series. They’ve had some great budget malts! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rather grassy kind of sherry, with quite some marzipan, cherries, grass, fresh walnuts, green oak (and bark), some cork – not like in a corked whisky, that is – and then aromatic herbs, which I always find nice. Chicken soup with chives and parsley. Mouth: same flavours, so not need to list them all again. Walnut wine, herbs, walnuts… In short, an unusually dry and leafy sherry. Shall we call this baby a ‘Manzacallan’? Finish: quite long, with more classic nutty and honeyed tones. Comments: fun stuff, an unusual sherried Macallan. For the record. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Let’s have some older ones… Like two 1965s?

Macallan 29 yo 1965 (46%, First Cask, cask #1056, +/-1994)

Macallan 29 yo 1965 (46%, First Cask, cask #1056, +/-1994) Five stars First Cask was/is a brand that used to sell their whiskies and wines in mail order. We’ve already tried quite a few great ones by First Cask. And duds, yes. Colour: deep amber. Nose: very nice leathery and walnutty old sherry, with plenty of old nuts, vin jaune, menthol, sultanas, leather polish, ‘old Jaguar interior’, old Meursault, this chicken bouillon again – or maybe marrow – and more and more mint and chocolate. Superb, reminding me of the older official 25s. Mouth: more honeyed than honey and waxier than wax. Superb notes of beeswax, golden raisins, quince jelly, mirabelle pie, then black tobacco, chocolate ganache, prunes… It does taste like some fine old armagnac at times. Strength is perfect, body’s perfect. Finish: long, a little more marmalade-y, with a smokiness that we could find in many older Macallans. Comments: first cask indeed. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this little baby, but in fact, it’s superlative old Macallan. SGP:462 - 92 points.

Let’s try this baby’s official counterpart, and we’re done…

Macallan 25 yo 1965 ‘M’ (43%, OB, decanter, +/-1990)

Macallan 25 yo 1965 ‘M’ (43%, OB, decanter, +/-1990) Five stars A very, very elegant straight crystal decanter, without any vulgar carvings or unlikely ‘I’m trying too hard’ shape, that may have given quite a few ideas to the current marketing team at Edrington’s. In a way, it’s the first ‘M’ bottling. And it’s got a vintage, mind you. Colour: amber. Nose: sing, angels! Perfect combination of myriads of tiny aromas, such as hazelnuts, toasted bread, marmalade, figs, chestnut honey, old woods, cherry liqueur, sorb berries, dates, real chocolate, mocha, parsley, old leather, tallow, soot, chestnut purée, kuri squash, soy sauce… and umami! I may have only quoted around 10% of what’s in this nose. Mouth: exceptional, dry and sweet at the same time, with just everything we found in the nose. Now, raisins and marmalade do get on top of everything. What’s impressive is how lively and ‘vibrant’ it remains after all these years. Not all decanters don’t keep, apparently. Finish: rather long, surprisingly fresh, even a little gritty and herbal. Sultanas and herbs, barbecued fruits, and of course nuts and honeys. Perfect slightly smoky and tobacco-ish aftertaste, extremely ‘old Macallan’. Comments: totally superb. Whether there’s paxarette inside or not, that’s not our concern. These bottles did build the category, by managing to appeal to drinkers of ripe old cognacs. That’s been Scotch’s story since the phylloxera anyway. SGP:562 - 93 points.

(with hugs to Patrick)

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



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August 18, 2015



Blends, blended malts, undisclosed distilleries, mysterious bottlings, hidden Glenfarcl… ahem… Well, anything that doesn’t bear the name of its provenance. We’ll see how far we’ll manage to go… And we’ll do that at random again, so expect quite a roller coaster.

Amber Glen (40%, Amber Glen, blended Scotch, 2015)

Amber Glen (40%, Amber Glen, blended Scotch, 2015) one star and a half We already had Amber Glen’s Speyside and found it rather pleasant. As usual, we’ve been a little lazier with tasting the blend. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical youngish Scottish blend, akin to the style of many large brands. A little pear spirit, caramel, nuts, cake, honey, sawdust, and the faintest hint of coal smoke. It’s a relatively dry style. Mouth: touches of salt in the arrival, some wax and paraffin, then bread and more pear spirit, with some candy sugar. Reminds me a bit of Whyte & Mackay. Almost forgot to mention the obligatory overripe apples. Finish: a bit short, rather dry again, with this salty touch. Comments: some kind of honest blended Scotch, without any major flaws, but probably rather for mixing. SGP:341 - 68 points.

Isle of Skye 12 yo (40%, Ian Macleod, blended Scotch, +/-2015)

Isle of Skye 12 yo (40%, Ian Macleod, blended Scotch, +/-2015) Two stars and a half This is not Talisker, mind you, and we haven’t got any proof that there’s some Talisker inside, but the brand has got a good reputation. Tasted their superb 50yo a while back, but I lost my tasting notes (booo!) Colour: deep gold (orangey gold, not always good news wrt caramel). Nose: more presence, more character, more smoke, more paraffin and more soot. It’s another rather dry nose, without much fruits, but it does have this promising smoky/coastal side. Let’s see… Mouth: indeed, it’s a ‘coastal’ style, with some brine, more mineral waxes (lamp oil?) and some bitter oranges plus orange cake. A wee bit too fudge-y and caramely in the back for me, but otherwise pretty pleasant. Finish: medium, salty, with oranges. The aftertaste is rather smoky. Comments: some kind of pre-malt for blend drinkers, perhaps. Next stations, Highland Park 12 or Talisker 10. SGP:342 - 77 points.

Mark IV (70° proof, Army & Navy Stores, blended malt, 1960s)

Mark IV (70° proof, Army & Navy Stores, blended malt, 1960s) Four stars Let’s check what the British Army used to quaff quite a long time ago! It doesn’t say it’s a blended malt, I mean not like that, it says ‘Blend of Pot Still Whiskies’. That’s the same! Colour: bronze amber. Nose: sweet Vishnu, this is something else. A perfect earthy, smoky, phenolic, tertiary nose. An extravagant blend of pipe and cigar tobaccos, bitter oranges, mushrooms, cough syrup, old herbal liqueurs, tar and shoe polish, earth, grapefruit liqueur… Well, this is an exceptional nose, the British army had it good. Mouth: power and smoky saltiness, with an incredible depth. The flavours are the same as those we found in the nose, more or less, plus a grassy side that keeps it fairly angular, as they say in wine. Feels more like modern 43-44% vol. Finish: that’s were it loses points, and that happens with very old bottles, it’s the drying side that comes out and that makes it a little too bitter for modern palates. A feeling of having eaten earth, cardboard, and bitter grass. Having said that, there are lovely honeyed touches in the aftertaste. Comments: I guess this baby was for the high-ranking officers only! You may now break your ranks and save your shanks. SGP:453 - 87 points.

Loch Lomond 'Single Blend' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Loch Lomond 'Single Blend' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Two stars Fun stuff, this. Since both the grain and the malt have been made in the same facility, it’s well a single blend, just like Lochside or Ben Nevis used to do quite a long time ago. What I don’t quite know is whether it was blended and then matured, so blended at birth, or not. I’m not sure tasting it will tell… Colour: gold. Nose: carbon paper, cardboard, baker’s yeast, soot, porridge, old vase water. In fact, there isn’t much happening. Mouth: we’ve tasted much worse. Orange squash plus nutmeg, cardboard, pepper, grass, fruit peelings… I have to say all these oranges, especially bitter ones, do work. It’s a rather rough blend, but I find it honest and, above all, un-fiddled-with. You do not feel a bitterish caramel. Finish: pretty long, rather malty and cake-y. Comments: it seems that it’s a high-malt content blend, unless I’m mistaken. Good and faithful, a rather good surprise. SGP:351 - 72 points.

Anon. 13 yo 2001/2015 (51.5%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, single malt)

Anon. 13 yo 2001/2015 (51.5%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, single malt) Four starsGasp, they wouldn’t even tell us about the region! Colour: gold. Nose: malt galore. Breads, porridges, cakes, fudges, shortbreads, leaven, praline, custard… What I particularly like in this nose is its bready/malty side, and the discreet touches of mezcal or tequila that do come through. Agave and maple syrups. With water: oh this baby swims very well. Its clean, pure, well-ripened malt whisky. Fresh brioche flavoured with orange blossom water. You’re right, panettone. Mouth (neat): I like this, really. It’s got the sourness of some well-made bread (not the supermarket junk), this praline again, a few raisins and dried figs, and then a feeling of clear lees, very peculiar. An unusual drop for sure, with even a fino-ish side. With water: cancel that, it’s rather oak-aged marc de gewürztraminer. Finish: long, malty, raisiny. Indian Pale Ale flavoured with sultanas. Comments: how shall we call this baby? A smart drop for real malt lovers, perhaps? SGP:451 - 87 points.

Limited 13 yo 2001/2015 (51.5%, Whisky Circle Pinzgau, Germany)

Limited 13 yo 2001/2015 (51.5%, Whisky Circle Pinzgau, Austria) Four stars Hum hum. Same age and vintage, same strength, similarly highly skilled selectioneers… But this time we’ve got better clues on the label, as it states N57° 25’ 37.189” W3° 18’ 58.892”. Which, in Google earth language, means… a little place near Marypark, north of Ballindalloch, not far from the Speyside Pottery. Ha-ha. Colour: gold. Nose: the glories of shared casks. Both whiskies are more identical than the Kessler sisters after a few mai tais. Mouth: and so I’ll tell you the story about that Scottish chef who always cooks with whisky, and who sometimes even add it to the foo… Oh, no, not again! Finish: how about the story about the guy cooking a turkey, and who… Comments: so this white horse enters a bar, and the bartender says ‘did you know we’ve got a whisky named after you’? And the horse to answer, ‘what, Dobbey?’… SGP:451 – 87 points.

PS the dangerous side of shared casks is that you could quaff glasses and glasses of each just to make sure that they’re well the same whisky. Good, things are getting a bit awry, aren’t they…

Scallywag ‘Cask Strength N°1’ (53.6%, Douglas Laing, Speyside blended malt, 2015)

Scallywag ‘Cask Strength N°1’ (53.6%, Douglas Laing, Speyside blended malt, 2015) Four stars The little dog seems to have been very successful at easy drinking strength (which I had found really good, but not totally stellar – WF 81), so we’re now seeing a CS version. Makes sense, doesn’t it. Colour: full gold. Nose: this one’s rounder, more cake-y, with more vanilla, easy raisins, easy pastries, easy butterscotch, easy honeys, and easy fruit pies. I don’t know of anybody who would disagree with this nose. So to speak. With water: a pure, total, and unparralelable definition of malty easiness and goodness. Is unparralelable even a word? Mouth (neat): great arrival, rounded, smooth, candied, honeyed, with baklavas and petits-fours, a little cider, and then more raw apples. Goes on with oranges and a pleasant fruity, slightly bittersweet maltiness. This feeling of IPA again. With water: m a l t   w h i s k y. Finish: quite long, on more malt, chicory, brown beer, cakes, biscuits, honeys, and all that. Comments: I’d say it’s one to have in your bar and to pour to your friends who would wonder about the Speyside style. Just perfect and yet a little forgettable, perhaps. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Good, do we have room for one more? Just one?... And not just any?...

Repeat (57.2%, stupidcask.de, peat cask finish, +/-2014?)

Repeat (57.2%, stupidcask.de, peat cask finish, +/-2008) Two stars A stupid whisky imagined by the very crazy people at Cadenhead Berlin, who are smart and knowledgeable enough not to take themselves seriously. I’m asking you, how could anyone working in the booze business take himself seriously? They’re not gastroenterologists, are they? This is the same whisky as the infamous ‘Fishky’ that was finished in herring casks, but it’s been finished in a peat cask instead. Finishing an unpeated whisky from the Rhinns of Islay in a peaty cask, how… stupid – and funny - is that? Colour: coffee. Where does this colour come from? Nose: seriously, this is nice! Blackberry jam and olive brine plus tamarind and Finnish tar liqueur, plus this very unusual fruitiness that can be found in some green teas. No I couldn’t better describe it. With water: chestnut purée, cigars, garden peat, old musty cellar, black earth... Mouth (neat): well well well, this is more difficult. Buy a palette of Lagavulin 16, pour into a huge pan, and cook for two weeks. Thick as Port, and perhaps a little plastic-y. Oh, I forgot to tell you, add a litre of paint to your Lagavulins. No, the colour doesn’t matter. With water: you’re eating earth. Finish: very long (kills you session but we knew that was going to happen). Very earthy, and always quite ‘painty’. Blood oranges and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: not that stupid, I have to say, but whacky and shaky it is. I’m even wondering if there wasn’t a little VA. Yes that would be volatile acidity. SGP:465 - around 75 points, perhaps, because of the nose, but very funny.
contrarily to what I had thought (silly me), this baby's actually a peated Islay, finished in a cask that was almost half full with Islay peat. Unfiltered, hence the colour.'

(With thanks to Klaus, Phil, Simon)



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August 17, 2015


More Kilkerran from Glengyle Distillery

I know I’m late with some of these, but we’ll start this with an older WIP bottling, for some better perspective…

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 4' (46%, OB, 9000 bottles, 2012) Four stars and a half Issued before they started to separate ‘bourbon’ and ‘sherry’ versions. Colour: white wine. Nose: blend kiwi and gooseberry juices, and then mature in clay (old Roman or Greek amphoras would do the trick). Season with a wee slice of Pirelli P-Zero, some iron filings, perhaps a little basalt powder, and presto, you have this little Kilkerran. Mouth: do the same, but add also some black pepper, some soot, and perhaps a smidgen of pili-pili chilli, African style. Almost forgot to mention grapefruit juice. And perhaps fresh walnut skins. Good, rather oily body. Finish: long, a little harsh, perhaps but some hints of fennel and more grapefruit save it. Comments: this batch was still a little rough and raw, and the pepper and chilli a notch too loud, perhaps, but it’s characterful spirit. I find it also rather funny to see how it echoes its remote cousin – not a business cousin mind you, new Benromach. Already very potent and assertive! SGP:452 - 88 points.

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 6 - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, 2014)

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 6 - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, 2014) Two stars and a half I remember I’ve totally fallen in love wit the bourbon version (WF 91) thus never really wanted to try the sherry while on my honeymoon with the bourbon. But ‘things’ have become quieter, so, let’s do it… Colour: pale gold. Nose: yeah, it hasn’t got the brightness and the immediate elegance of the bourbon. First, I get sulphur – not the first time – and second, I’m not against cabbage and struck matches, but there’s a little too much of all that. The good news is that it all settles down after one minute (once your olfactory bulb has managed to filter all that out, I imagine), leaving room for orangey dust and sooty and walnutty leather. Mouth: better. I mean, more to my liking. Oranges, pink grapefruits, some kind of medicinal sweets – that’s right, cough drops, and some kind of buttery tea. Tibetan yak tea? Probably not… Finish: quite long, always a little dirty-ish and kind of unlikely. It’s perhaps a little smokier as well. Pleasant notes of Seville oranges in the aftertaste, that’s better. Comments: an interesting dram, but I find it so unlikely at times, that I just wouldn’t recommend it. I think I liked batch #4 rather better. SGP:461 - 79 points.

Oh, while we’re at it…

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, 2015)

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, 2015) Four starsColour: full gold, so rather darker than Batch 6. Nose: adios struck matches, bye-bye cabbage, and hello rocks, pebbles and sand! It’s kept the trademark sooty tones, but the rest is incomparably cleaner, more satisfying, and simply lovely. Orange cake, old musty cellar, bubblegum, marshmallows, old garage… I know, the combination sounds unlikely, but it’s not. Mouth: almost perfect, with gingery bitter oranges, more mineral flavours, these kiwis, this leathery tea, the touches of tobacco and raisins (sweet pipe tobacco, when a little piece comes through the pipe), more oranges… Quality’s undoubtedly high. Finish: quite long, sweet and creamy, tart, zesty, and yet pretty fat… This has substance. Peppery aftertaste, it even keeps playing with your lips. Comments: work in progress indeed! (pfff, that was way too easy, S.) SGP:552 - 86 points.

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Bourbon Wood' (54.1%, OB, 2015)

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Bourbon Wood' (54.1%, OB, 2015) Five stars Oh, they’re trying to play tricks on us, this is cask strength! Colour: pale gold. Nose: mineral, he said. This is totally and plainly mineral, I cannot detect anything else than limestone, sand, and all that. Perhaps lime? Maybe eucalyptus? Possibly a little muesli and porridge? Other than that, it’s rather closed, but the profile’s pretty perfect. With water: putty, wet paint, rust-inhibiter, damp clay, rainwater, beach sand, chalk… Mouth (neat): a totally impressive, whistle-clean, ultra-lemony arrival, a style that only a few old Bladnochs could have, a long time ago (if my memory doesn’t fail me). I find this totally perfect, and even refreshing despite the higher strength. Watch maltoporn… With water: perfect lime-y and mineral profile, with a tiny sour touch that adds dimension and complexity. Cottage cheese? Finish: long and zesty, always very mineral, with a woolly side. Coal smoke or something in the aftertaste. Comments: love this style, but that’s hardly news. SGP:552 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Phil Woods. Track: Stolen Moments. Please visit his website and buy his music...

August 16, 2015


It’s Sunday, let’s have
more rhum rum ron…

We might be approaching very average knowledge w.r.t. rum. We’ve still got quite a few ‘commercial’ ones yet to try (including junk blends for junk mojitos), but we’re getting there. And once we’re done, we’ll try to focus on the good juices. That may happen around Christmas, but meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Dictador '100 months Cafe' (40%, OB, Columbia, +/-2015)

Dictador '100 months Cafe' (40%, OB, Columbia, +/-2015) It’s hard not to burst out laughing. This rum from Columbia spent 100 months (how very scientific) with coffee inside, macerated. I hope that was Columbian coffee, at least, like if our Alsatians would have let choucroute/sauerkraut macerate in their own whiskies. Sometimes, some ideas are either too good, or too ‘binary’… Colour: amber. Nose: not un-nice, but boringly thick and sweet and liqueury. Some kind of sweet smokiness, perhaps. This is extremely simple, I’m sure we would come up with better results by carefully blending cheaper rum with Tia Maria or Kahlua coffee liqueurs. Mouth: no, never, ever. Sweet, dull, lazy, and sluggish. You feel the coffee, and I do love coffee, but this is a liqueur for tourists. Finish: short, almost abrupt. The aftertaste is a notch better, perhaps (not only because you know it’s almost over ;-)). Kind-of-nice touches of coffee-flavoured chocolate. Comments: no way, this kind of premix just reeks of cheap marketing. Now, it’s kind of drinkable, but you’ll need ice. I also kind of enjoy the fact that they’ve managed to make a premix rum without making it too sugary. Only my opinion (remember, always only from a whisky enthusiast’s point of view). SGP:620 - 25 points.

Nine Leaves 'Almost Spring' (48%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)

Nine Leaves 'Almost Spring' (48%, OB, Japan, +/-2015) This Japanese rum was matured for a few months in Californian cabernet casks, which imparted a pinkish colour, which may have reminded someone of pre-cherry blossom times (sakura). The human brain works in mysterious ways indeed. Nine Leaves have got a great reputation for sure, but this, to me, sounds like coffee and mustard, or salmon and litchis. Doesn’t feel right, does it? But let’s see… Colour: apricot. So much for Japanese spring. Nose: no no no no no. Cherry stem (there) tea with yoghurt and cheap French rosé wine. Brad and Angelina’s, for example (it’s called Miraval). Nothing that would hint at rum. Pass… Mouth: a bit better, but we’re still having this feeling of grassy, raw rosé. Hard to swallow, both literally and effectively. No comprendo. Finish: no comprendo either. Rough, oddly grassy, totally unbalanced, with a lot of over-infused herbal teas (cherry stem, peach leaves, and all that). Comments: a shame that I came across this odd thing before I got a chance to try a more regular Nine Leaves. Because some say it’s great, and I’m sure it is. SGP:270 - 20 points.


Beach House Spiced (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015)

Beach House Spiced (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015) Why anyone would take something called ‘beach house’ seriously, I don’t know. But you never know, some rums from Mauritius have been to my liking… Colour: white wine (hurray!) Nose: no, wait. As a grapefruit liqueur, it seems to be fine. I do enjoy ginger too, and even caraway’s rather to my liking. But this simply is no rum. Dear readers, let me issue an official apology, this lousy website is supposed to talk about whiskies and malternatives, while this is rather some sort of tropical limoncello. It doesn’t fit here, again, apologies. Mouth: seriously, why would anyone call this ‘rum’? Or even ‘spiced rum’? Its no bad liqueur, mind you, it’s simply got strictly nothing to do with rum, and I doubt it’ll keep entering the EU with a ‘rum’ label in the future. Now, as a liqueur, its pretty fresh and nice… Finish: medium, lime-y, fresh, and sugary at the same time. Comments: limoncello made in the Indian Ocean. Feels like champagne made in California ;-). SGP:830 - 30 points.

Good, let’s get serious!...

Jamaica 8 yo (50%, Rum Nation, oloroso sherry finish, 2015)

Jamaica 8 yo (50%, Rum Nation, oloroso sherry finish, 2015) Four stars and a half Quite a reputation, that’s what this baby’s already got. Colour: gold. Nose: yippee yee yah yeah! Oh excuse me, this is such a different world. Forget the sherry finish, this is high-esters Jamaican rum with all of its expected attributes, including black olives, diesel oil, fresh paint, dried porcinis, lamp oil, shoe polish, brand new sneakers, and the newspaper of the day. Say La Corriere Della Serra, since the excellent bottler is (excellently) Italian. Mouth: plain and pure Jamaican full-bodied lemony, petroly, smoky, olive-y, salty, tarry rum. I think I may have forgotten to mention pink grapefruits, which gives it a slight sour, dry-white-wine-like feeling. Finish: long, candied, thick, phenolic, salty… In short, very Jamaican. Anchovies and olives. Comments: big stuff, very lively, very entertainlng, without the more austere/too ‘masculine’ (hey?) side that other Jamaicans can have. Hey, maybe that’s the oloroso finish? (doubt that, but there…) SGP:473 - 88 points.

Trois Rivières 'VSOP' (40% OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Trois Rivières 'VSOP' (40% OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Two starsVSOP’s always an impressive moniker, whether with cognac, or rhum, or even whisky. And yet it usually means ‘very average’. This one’s around five years of age. Colour: gold. Nose: very easy and very fruity, of good quality, but just not mind-boggling. There’s a little too much vanilla, and just like with whisky, vanilla’s the enemy. On the other hand, there’s a freshness that makes it most pleasant. So a sipper or a cocktailer? Perhaps are we right between both categories… Mouth: no, it’s very good, easy, topical (as far as fruits are concerned), and, yeah, easy. It’s just not very complex, but it’s got this agricole feeling, I mean this feeling of sugarcane brandy  that molasses-based rums usually don’t have. Finish: medium, a tad cloying. Sweet fruits and stuff, a feeling of sugar and raisins. Comments: that rum is sweet shouldn’t be a problem, but when you’re feeling some kind of sugar, things can go awry. I do find this VSOP a little too sugary. And raisiny. And too soft and mellow for my tastes. SGP:630 - 76 points.

This is an awkward session, I agree. And I’ll tell you what, while we’re at it, why not ‘destroy’ another strange sample by some brand-builders (where are the distillers?) so that we’re done with it? And then call this a Sunday?...

Hee Joy 'Spiced' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Hee Joy 'Spiced' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) I know, everything sounds whacky about this, the name, the fact that it’s supposed to be a blend of Demerara, Jamaica and Trinidad (who wouldn’t dream of a carefully composed blend of Albion, Hampden, and Caroni?) and the low strength. But you never know… Colour: deep gold. Nose: oak? Pencil shavings? Oak planks? It’s not un-nice at all, it’s just not very ‘rum’. It’s bizarre, this could be any no-soul blended malt from Scotland as well. Where are the regions? But I do like these whiffs of, say fern, or other plants and herbs. And liquorice, for sure, that must be the Trinidad part. Mouth: fine. The body’s a little weak, and there is a little too much sugar, bloody sugar, but other than that, I would imagine we could drink this on ice. No, seriously, it’s pretty dull and too sweet. Finish: kind of long, but too sweet and liqueury. Grandpa’s cheap aquavit. Comments: I believe they wrecked the idea. It may be a hit in Ibiza or in Paris, but other than that, it’s a weak, cheap, sugary and liqueury cloying composition. Do they have blenders in rum? SGP:750 - 25 points.

That was a very difficult session. Bad mood and an urgent need of more toothpaste, that’s what will remain from this day at WF Towers, but since we’ve killed quite a few junk rums, the next sessions should be more pleasant. What’s becoming more and more obvious to me is that rum, as a whole, will never become a true malternative category, because it’s simply ridden with made-up brands, fake stories, sugar and syrups, and unavowable additives. What a disappointment! But there are superb single casks and small batches as well, more about those later. My gut feeling is that if only 20% of Scotch is either good or interesting (not only talking about malts here), that would be more like 5 or 10% with rum. But stay tuned…



Block Today: CUBAN JAZZ. Performer: Harold Lopez Nussa. Track: Mi son cerra'o. Please visit his website and buy his music...

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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Evan Williams 15 yo (50.5%, OB, for Japan, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1982)

Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (52.2%, The Stillman's, Switzerland, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Highland Park 33 yo 1977/2010 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 193 bottles)

Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles)

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Bourbon Wood' (54.1%, OB, 2015)

Macallan 29 yo 1965 (46%, First Cask, cask #1056, +/-1994)

Macallan 25 yo 1965 ‘M’ (43%, OB, decanter, +/-1990)

Miyagikyo 1996/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #18, cask #66535)

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (52%, OB, for Liqueur Shop Naganoya, hogshead, cask #3P70268)

Yoichi 1991/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #27, cask #129459)