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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2022 - Part 2

       
 

August 2022 - part 1 <--- August 2022 - part 2 ---> September 2022 - part 1

 

August 31, 2022


Whiskyfun

A flash verticale of middle-aged Glen Grant

The indies, and not just Gordon & MacPhail, keep having the upper hand, and by far, for reasons hard to explain – but it's true that it's the fate of many a Distillery these days. I wouldn't be too proud…

Glen Grant

Magazine ad, circa 1980. Apparently, the admen weren't aware of Betteridge's law that kind of states that any headline or teaser that ends in a question mark will probably be answered by ' no!'.

 

 

Glen Grant 24 yo 1998/2022 (51.1%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #6454, 254 bottles)

Glen Grant 24 yo 1998/2022 (51.1%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #6454, 254 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: proof that Glen Grant can be much fatter than we tend to believe. Sunflower oil, engine oil, then chalk and raw wool, cider apples, a pack of lemon drops, some green gooseberries. Fat and zesty at the same time. With water: swims like a champ. Papayas, pears, mangos, fruit salad, cassata, fresh baguette and sourdough bread. Wow, lovely. Mouth (neat): wonderful tight and, indeed, fattish arrival, geared towards doughs, fresh breads, bits of lemon zests and more chalky elements. We shall call this one too a 'Sancerre-y' malt. With water: more Sancerre, with a salty and peaty side that comes a little unexpected. Finish: long, tight and appropriately vertical, yet the mouth feel remains kind of fat all along. Green apples in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely wonderful, in the style of some older 'natural' GGs by G&M. You know, the 'pale' vattings. Very high-class.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Glen Grant 23 yo 1998/2021 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, 273 bottles)

Glen Grant 23 yo 1998/2021 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, 273 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: greener, more citrusy, perhaps more complex as well, more on cider apples and lemons, limestone, candlewax, paraffin, sunflower oil once more, more lemons, more limes… Well, looks like It's just another exceptional Glen Grant. The sherry's for the record, you do not, well I do not quite feel it. With water: roots coming out, gentian, celeriac, horseradish… Mouth (neat): ho-ho, quince and lemons, on grassy leaves and stems. Hyper-citric, superb. With water: oh rather sublime! Same high tightness, chalk, lemons, green rhubarb and gooseberries… And still no sherry in sight, unless it as a bone-dry fino or manzanilla. Finish: long, ultra-clean, but with a little vanilla and beeswax in the aftertaste. Which would add a feeling of civilisation. Comments: the 1960s were back in the mid-to-late 1990s…
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Glen Grant 24 yo 1995 + 1997 (49.8%, WhiskySponge, refill barrel and refill hogshead, 443 bottles)

Glen Grant 24 yo 1995 + 1997 (49.8%, WhiskySponge, refill barrel and refill hogshead, 443 bottles) Four stars and a half
A little bird told me that The Sponge was a lover of old Glen Grant and of any proper sequels… Colour: straw. Nose: same ballpark, obviously, even if this one has even more rootiness, from wild sweet carrots to parsnips and soft radishes, not to mention gentian. Then whiffs of graphite and liquorice wood, celeriac, a little porridge and muesli, walnut skins… Mouth: much love for this earthy and very gentiany combo. More wild carrots, lemon zests, samphires and dried herbs, thyme, mushrooms, and indeed some fino sherry, with some tight mustard and green walnuts – even if there wasn't any sherry involved here. Finish: long, herbal and earthy. More fruits in the aftertaste, with also some yellow chartreuse and verbena liqueur. And mirabelles. Comments: it's a drier, tighter one and it's absolutely lovable. Great multi-vintage bottle by The Sponge, that marine animal should talk with Rhum J.M. in Martinique.

SGP:461 - 89 points.

Last one…

Glen Grant 23 yo 1995/2019 (51%, The Maltman for Shinanoya, In The Black, Japan, sherry cask, cask #11, 283 bottles)

Glen Grant 23 yo 1995/2019 (51%, The Maltman for Shinanoya, In The Black, Japan, sherry cask, cask #11, 283 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: it's a relatively rounder one, with more soft waxes, more floral notes too (dandelion), more butterscotch and even coconut (a few drops of liqueur), blancmange, then those lovely aromas that would tend to come with good sherry, here milk chocolate, raisins, walnut cake and espresso. All great, not a single flaw this far. With water: notes of stout and mead, I would say. Marrow soup and Bovril, only in very small doses. Mouth (neat): the tighter fruitiness strikes back, with a lot of lemon, grapefruit and lemongrass. Some exquisite grassy notes too. With water: exquisite indeed, you'd almost believe this is some old ex-sherry Bowmore that would have been de-peated with some bespoke device no one's ever heard of yet. Oh the vision of horror! Finish: rather long, a little meatier and more chocolaty, but it would remain rather fresh and zesty. Comments: good fun here, with nose and palate being rather dissimilar as far as the sherriness is concerned. Oh well, it's just another very excellent one.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

This can happen, all whiskies in the same ballpark as far as quality's concerned. Which is more pleasant to the taster when the whiskies are this good, naturally.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Grant we've tasted so far

 

August 30, 2022


Whiskyfun

Yet another wee trip around the globe

Starting from France…

Armorik 'Yeun Elez Jobic' (46%, OB, France, +/-2022)

Armorik 'Yeun Elez Jobic' (46%, OB, France, +/-2022) Three stars
This is peated Armorik and Armorik is the real pioneer of Breton (and French for that matter) whisky – if you don't take some very small and somewhat unlikely earlier operations into account. They've been using Scottish malt peated to 50ppm. Colour: white wine. Nose: close to Ardmore, so rather 'lighter' than what those 50ppm suggested, but still clearly a peater, fresh, ashy ala CI, with some mint and some lemongrass. Some chalk too. It's clean, a tad uncomplicated, and yet very pleasant. Mouth: real good, pretty sweet, peaty and peppery, with some sweet apples and pears. This time we're thinking of peaty Benriach, even is comparison isn't reason. Finish: long, grassier, with rather what we sometimes call a 'farmy peat'. Comments: perfectly all right, just (probably) a little young, with edges that are still a little rough. Some progress for sure since last time I tried this expression.

SGP:467 - 80 points.

We could try another, gentler Armorik…

Armorik 'Sherry Cask' (46%, OB, France, +/-2022)

Armorik 'Sherry Cask' (46%, OB, France, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
We had tried a 'sherry finish' at 40% vol. back in 2012 that was still a bit hesitant, but I know there's been big progress since back then, generally speaking. Colour: light gold. Nose: nice and cakey, I'd even dare mention kouign amann, that wonderful Breton cake that's shock-full of butter and caramel. Other than that, we have the usual walnut cake, which I always love, raisins, honey and dried figs. It's perfect easy sherry, and full-maturation this time. Mouth: very good, classic easier sherry indeed, with a little more citrus on the palate, marmalade, vanilla, honey… Nothing to throw away here, on the contrary, we're in the same league as that of the younger sherried Scottish malts. The well-reputed ones. Finish: rather long, a little tenser, fruitier, with some mandarine liqueur (Mandarine Napoléon) plus honey and fudge. Comments: works very well.

SGP:551 - 84 points.

To Switzerland, with another crazy Säntis…

Säntis 7 yo 2014/2021 (64.9%, OB, Switzerland, for Whisky Picnic Bar Taiwan, old beer cask, cask #2132, 84 bottles)

Säntis 7 yo 2014/2021 (64.9%, OB, Switzerland, for Whisky Picnic Bar Taiwan, old beer cask, cask #2132, 84 bottles) Four stars
And it's a peater, at that, let's fasten our seat belts… Colour: dark brown. Nose: great fun, as often with Säntis. Let's say smoked burnt pinewood infused in cough syrup and Marmite. Water is mandatory at such strength. With water: much gentler. Basically, it's become dark toffee, which is always most enjoyable, of course. Now there's also rather a lot of dark moist pipe tobacco, Captain Black and all that. Mouth (neat): what!? They've first burnt truck tyres, apparently, then let simmer bits of them in a heated mix of anti-rust paint, lapsang souchong and fir and tar liqueur. Not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure! With water: oh very good! Prune liqueur, oranges, smoked meats and burnt wood, coal tar, pine liqueur, juniper and clove… This is perfect, as long as you enjoy 'different' whiskies, including very bold ones. Finish: very long, a tad drying and gritty, tea-tannic (good one S.) And hurray, Marmite is back in the aftertaste. Comments: these are just never boring.

SGP:475 - 85 points.

To Ireland…

Lough Gill 17 yo 2004/2021 'Athrù Single Cask Release' (56%, OB, Ireland, selected by Or Sileis, cask #0406109, 287 bottles)

Lough Gill 17 yo 2004/2021 'Athrù Single Cask Release' (56%, OB, Ireland, selected by Or Sileis, cask #0406109, 287 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: fresh, on melons and guavas, with hints of elderflowers and jasmine, plus a little hand cream or lady's moisturiser. A little paraffin. With water: a family pack of wine gums, babies, crocodiles, Jesuses, bears… Mouth (neat): rather a fruit bomb, with bags of melons indeed, guavas as well, and indeed a large pack of bonbons of all kinds. A little strong. With water: gets totally easy, on a large fruit salad and a good glass of all-vitamin juice. Finish: medium and always as fruity. Williams spears this time, perhaps, cantaloupes, pomegranates… Comments: very seductive and properly Irish. Bushmills is never really far away… (as far as styles are concerned). I find it excellent.

 SGP:751 – 86 points.

To Taiwan! Which reminds me that we have loads of Kavalans and Omars to try…

Holy Distillery 2017/2021 'Salvation' (64.2%, OB, Taiwan, virgin cask, cask #16, 300 bottles)

Holy Distillery 2017/2021 'Salvation' (64.2%, OB, Taiwan, virgin cask, cask #16, 300 bottles) Four stars
We've tried an 'Amazing Grace' by Holy Distillery two years ago, it was very all right (WF 80) and gave us faith and hope (in their whiskies). Colour: reddish amber. Nose: it's almost a liquid kougelhopf that would have spent quite some time in your oven. Cakes, cedarwood or pencil shavings, toasted almonds, black turon, brownies… With water: more cedarwood yet but it's been under control, this is not cedar juice (neither is it cigar juice). Possibly one of the most 'Asian' noses out there, which of course I love, it reminds me of my travels and of all the awesome Buddhist temples I could visit, in China or elsewhere – even if it's probably not exactly the same kind of 'holiness' that's in play here. Mouth (neat): sweet and spicy. Plum and prune wine aged in oak, rooibos, caraway and ginger, red resins,  blood oranges… With water: very good, with a feeling of triple-sec aged in oak. Lovely spiciness. Finish: rather long, with many oranges and spices, especially cloves. Orange-and-clove plus coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: modern whisky with proper character, extremely well mastered. You see, modern wood-driven whiskies are not all the same, after all.
SGP:661 - 86 points.

Ciao.

 

August 29, 2022


Whiskyfun

Tiffany
 

New-wave Japan

Indeed we'll try a few young Japanese whiskies and probably do that in three parts. First, a few Chichibu, then some Mars, then probably a wee batch from various Distilleries, if that's all okay with you. (Subject to change)

Chichibu 'London Edition 2021' (51.5%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, 1859 bottles)

Chichibu 'London Edition 2021' (51.5%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, 1859 bottles) Five stars
From seven casks, some having previously sheltered some peaters (hope those were Chichibus). This baby's only being launched now but we could try some pre-launch sample last year already, and just loved it (WF 91), but the current official launch is an excuse as good as any to quickly have another go at it. Colour: white wine. Nose: crystal-clean arrival on the nose, on lime juice and a whole plate of forty-eight small flat oysters. Right, that's a plate for two. Second arrival then with some much fatter aromas, greases, rubber, menthol and eucalyptus… With water: chalk and wool, as expected. Mouth (neat): the peat is lighter indeed but it's very present. The lemons and grapefruits are huge. With water: crystal-clean indeed, with just a little rubber, which, I think is an asset in this context. Other than that, lemons and oysters are running the show. Finish: long, on Japanese riesling and chenin, should they grow those grapes. Comments: feels as if one of the seven casks was a heavy peater. Oh and shall we have the 2022 Edition at the Whisky Show in one month?
SGP:465 - 91 points.

Chichibu 2012/2021 (55.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, 65th Anniversary, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1884, 187 bottles)

Chichibu 2012/2021 (55.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, 65th Anniversary, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1884, 187 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: another very pure one, this time on fresh varnish, white peaches, pink bananas, marshmallows and a coffee-spoonful of grated coconut. Superb and luminous, extremely pure. With water: the whiffs of fresh vanilla pods we had been expecting. Mouth (neat): ultra-straight, on peach and mango jams and jellies. That's pretty it, but that's totally perfect. With water: a sin. Toffee apples (we call them love apples in France, which would be appropriate in this context) and drops of limoncello plus rhubarb wine. Rhubarb wine can be superb and the distracted drinker may sometimes believe it's proper 'grape wine'. Finish: medium, ultra-clean, with added touches of citrusy hops and light honey. Comments: an excellent example of a whisky that, in my opinion, is absolutely not complex and yet is very perfect. Chichibu at its best, once more.

SGP:651 - 91 points.

Another bourbon before we try the whackier ones…

Chichibu 2015/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, bourbon cask, cask #5262, 233 bottles)

Chichibu 2015/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, bourbon cask, cask #5262, 233 bottles) Five stars
This one just arrived. It seems that Chichibus take their time to cross seas and oceans to reach Europe. Colour: white wine. Nose: the barrel was less active this time, there are fewer bananas and no coconut at all, rather some blade-y white grapes, gooseberries, jujubes and indeed, rhubarb. Do not get me wrong, it is pretty fruity, it's just less fruity than the 2012. With water: some perfect sourdough and weissbeer expressing themselves. A wonderful brioche flavoured with orange blossom water. Mouth (neat): tight, nervous, almost acidic and pretty much all on citrus, especially grapefruits when unreduced. With water: indeed, it's really a more citrusy version of an ultra-clean fresh ex-bourbon Chichibu. Rather green bananas this time on top of the lemons and grapefruits. Finish: medium, very zesty, almost refreshing. I believe we're becoming very thirsty… Comments: same ballpark in my book, you cannot make them much better than this. As simple and essential as a flower opening up in the morning sun of a spring day.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Good, I think we're ready for some heavy doom metal hard rock and roll whisky…

Chichibu 2014/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, IPA beer cask, cask #11049, 261 bottles)

Chichibu 2014/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, IPA beer cask, cask #11049, 261 bottles) Four stars
You're right, on the other hand, some are keeping their IPAs in whisky casks too, so why not the other way 'round. I suppose if you're a brewer who would happen to distil as well, you could recycle your woods almost eternally and just change the heads from time to time. Colour: white wine. Nose: you could call this 'bourbon +', as there are many similarities with TWE's ex-bourbon, except that the citrus rather went to eleven (Citra hops and suchlike, I suppose) while there's also some added fatness, not too sure where that should come from. It is also a little more tropical, with notes of mangos, for example. With water: gets a little bizarre. Sloe gin aged in pinewood? A pack of cinnamon mints and quite some parsley. Mouth (neat): very funny, rather with notes of genepy, chartreuse and citron liqueur, also gin and surely a lot of elderberry eau-de-vie. You can't miss that – once you've tried some, naturally. With water: swims better on the palate than on the nose, but frankly, it's left whisky territories and would rather wander in gin countries. Juniper, caraway, cloves, hops of course, Szechuan pepper… Finish: same for a rather ling time. Pretty sweet. Comments: what should we say? It was going to be tricky after the three stunning 'natural ones'. In fact, I like is as must as, for example, those crazy Säntis aged in old beer casks. Oh, or as some Japanese rice whiskies.

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Chichibu 2014/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Chibidaru cask, cask #3508, 119 bottles)

Chichibu 2014/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Chibidaru cask, cask #3508, 119 bottles) Four stars and a half
From a quarter cask this time, I think Chichibu have used the charming name 'Chibidaru' for all of their whiskies matured in quarter casks (which are basically half barrels, mind you, or quarters of a butt even if in other countries, a quarter is a quarter of a barrique, t's complicated). Colour: white wine. Nose: akin to the ex-bourbons, really, with perhaps a little more smoke (garden bonfire, strongly verboten since a good twenty years), granny smith, gooseberries and greengages, some green pepper, oyster shells… With water: falls in line and starts to display doughs, croissants and almond cakes. Good boy! Mouth (neat): more green smoke, while someone's thrown fennel seeds and pinecones into the fire. The oak may feel a little more too, with indeed green spices spread all over the usual citrus fruits. A little more extractive than the others. With water: water brings more spices out, curry, caraway, juniper… In all softness. Gets a little drying though. Finish: medium, with touches of tobacco and rubber when watered down. On the other hand, you can't only quaff this little beauty at 59.5%. Comments: excellent but tougher. The 'simple' ex-bourbon ones keep reigning supreme, by far, but we do understand that no distiller could only release ex-bourbon malt whiskies of their own.

SGP:561 - 88 points.

All right, let's change plans en route and do some comparisons with this little baby…

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Contact S' (55.5%, OB, bourbon 5000 bottles, 2021)

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Contact S' (55.5%, OB, bourbon 5000 bottles, 2021) Four stars
It's TWE's newer ex-bourbon Chichibu that we're having on the side here, so there is stiff competition. This wee Shizuoka is a blend of the makes from the old Karuizawa still and of that of the wood-fired one. As I understand it, but I could be wrong, this is/was for Japan only. Naturally, the name 'Contact S.' couldn't displease me. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is much more fermentary (it's also much younger), moe rustic, more estery, with some heavyish varnish and glue, wheelbarrows of chalk and clay, crushed slate and a lot of lemongrass. This is becoming Ferrari vs. Porsche at Le Mans, really (not Toyota vs. Audi, mind you!) This far, the Chichibu's a gentleman while this one's a fairground wrestler. With water: whoo-hoo, we're now almost in the same playground, as water's made this wee Shizuoka rather gentler, fruitier, easier, and yes, civilised. Mouth (neat): varnished pears and glued lawn, shall we say. Perhaps a bit tough and too varnishy when neat. With water: it may be a tad young indeed, still a bit unpolished (pastis, really?) but I think the potential is gigantic. In fact, it would need a lot of H2O before reaching oranges, pears and peaches. Finish: medium to long, a tad more on oranges. Comments: very excellent, even if some of the cask samples I could already try have been even superior. It's also true that the Chichibu was a tough partner.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Oh let's simply go on until we run out of benzine… I mean of young Japanese whiskies…

Sakurao '1st release' (54%, OB, Japan, 12,000 bottles, 2021)

Sakurao '1st release' (54%, OB, Japan, 12,000 bottles, 2021) Four stars
We've tried a Sakurao single malt at 43% earlier this year and found it very good (WF 84), along with a properly Japanese Togouchi by the same house. The Sakurao had been just a little light at 43% vol. so it's cool to be able to try one with a higher voltage. The Distillery's located near Hiroshima and was founded in 2017, so this is obviously not very old. Colour: straw. Nose: few fruits this time, rather bread dough, porridge, perhaps Teflon, almond milk, stearin… A whole different, slightly shier style. Apples. With water: earths, roots, vegetables, stems, fruit peel, poppy seed bread… That's all very nice. Mouth (neat): many more fruits on the palate, especially maracuja and guava, also pink grapefruits, hops and Timut pepper. Rather strangely, it rather reminds me of that otherworldly Chichibu 'beer cask'. With water: very good! Great fresh fruitiness, some wee pink bananas, otherwise apples and pears, plums, lime… Finish: more of all that, with more tartness, which always works in a finish. Comments: another new young Japanese that's very impressive. Wondering what Mr Taketsuru up-there-in-the-skies is thinking about all this craft movement.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

More firsts, what do you say?

Kanosuke '1st Edition' (58%, OB, 2021)

Kanosuke '1st Edition' (58%, OB, 2021) Four stars
We're in lovely Kagoshima on Kyushu this time. Never been there but everyone says it's a lovely place, the Naples of Japan. I've actually tried a Kanosuke before, the difficult Kanosuke 2018/2020 'New Born Peated' but that doesn't count, that one wasn't even 3. As for the prices I could see, they make no sense at all, probably typos. Colour: gold. Nose: gentle cakey doughs and syrups, acacia honey, finger biscuits, sponge cake, then what always kills me instantly if not intently (in a good way, ha-ha), quince jelly. Awesome, already forgot about that 'New Born Peated'. With water: all awesome, with some fresh barley and, really, something that reminds me of Waterford in Ireland (just tried a few that I hadn't tried before). Mouth (neat): chocolate, thin mints, pear spirit, mocha, kirschwasser, nail polish remover… In truth it is a little brutal, better add water immediately. With water: yes, there, orange liqueur, citrons, quinces, apricots, a tiny touch of mentholated liquorice… Finish: rather long, pure, barley-y and fruity. Lovely fatness all along. Comments: let's say it, I love it that these new Japanese would not be obsessed with PX, STR or ex-Laphroaig wood.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Mars 2016/2021 'Tsunuki Yakushima Ageing' (61%, OB, LMDW, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2069)

Mars 2016/2021 'Tsunuki Yakushima Ageing' (61%, OB, LMDW, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2069) Four stars and a half
I have to confess I never understood much about Mars's various companies, distilleries, cellars, warehouses, pot stills and cats, I prefer to spend my energy elsewhere. What I know is that they're making some stunning stuff, that is the main thing. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's the purity that's always striking in these. Barley, grist, white beer, apples and that's all – and that's pretty much, already. With water: proper beer! I cannot not think of that Pilsen Urquell that we used to quaff when we were twenty (so not too long ago). Other than that, softer 'yellow' jams and pastes, pears, quinces… Mouth (neat): a total bonbony fruit bomb when naked. Nail polish, gummi bears, marshmallows, lemon drops, banana foam, pear liqueur… With water: yes! Bread, flours, even yeasts coming out now. This is well malt whisky, not a fruit liqueur. Now careful, it does need water at 61% vol., but too much water will flatten it. I think they call this a cruel dilemma. Finish: rather long, more on bonbons, sweets, candies and fruit pastes. White chocolate in the aftertaste – no, really. Comments: an admirably engineered and plainly irresistible fruitiness. Great selection by our friends in Paris too.

SGP:641 - 88 points.

That one called for more…

Mars 2018/2022 'Tsunuki' (62%, OB, Asian Exclusive, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #570, 217 bottles)

Mars 2018/2022 'Tsunuki' (62%, OB, Asian Exclusive, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #570, 217 bottles) Four stars and a half
Always happy when 'Asian exclusives' come our way. By the way, Tsunuki is well the name of the Distillery here. Colour: straw. Nose: it seems that this one's fruitier yet, but at 62% vol., we shan't take any risks. With water: all pears on this planet, softer doughs, fresh baguette… But it's certainly not one of the most expressive Mars I've ever nosed. Mouth (neat): sweet Mary and Joseph, does this one burn your throat! With water: this time again, do not drown it, these young whiskies are actually much more fragile than you would think, as their molecules are not quite in their places yet. Well, that's my theory. Get it right (+/-50% vol. plus 15 minutes of rest) and you're in for a treat. Peach, orange and pear juices, plus honey and vanilla. Sounds a little pedestrian but it's not. Finish: bouquets aside, it's superb when properly reduced. Comments: sublime young whisky BUT you have to work on it, it is like a hard nut. A proper pipette is compulsory in this kind of context.
SGP:741 - 88 points.

Mars Komagatake 2016/2021 (60%, OB, for AF Trade and Tiffany's New York Bar, sherry hogshead, cask #3365, 265 bottles)

Mars Komagatake 2016/2021 (60%, OB, for AF Trade and Tiffany's New York Bar, sherry hogshead, cask #3365, 265 bottles) Five stars
I cannot not think of Audrey Hepburn here. This from Shinshu Distillery; I told you, it's all beyond understanding. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's a peater, and one of the most elegant and charming there ever was. Burning grass, tomato leaves (I love the heavy smell of tomato leaves, even if many people don't), black toffee, butterscotch, pipe tobacco, sticky toffee pudding… With water: we're on Islay, south shore, not too far from Kildalton Cross. It's rather amazing, you would believe A's sherried expressions (1976 anyone?) have been benchmarked with utter accuracy here. Mouth (neat): heavy, extremely extractive, with big smoke and some even bigger wooden oils and embrocations. The kind of whisky you could bring to your next sauna session. With water: they must have rebottled some young A. Joking of course, but I believe no one's ever been this close, not even neighbours L. and L. Finish: long, on tarry peat (obviously). Comments: heavy peat and heavy sherry just clash in 95% of the cases, in my lousy experience, but that's not what happened here. Insane drop, for our next Breakfast at Tiffany's.

SGP:567 - 90 points.

Good, I think we could try to find a precious and good old one from the Japanese godfathers' and then call this a tasting session.

Age Unknown (43%, OB, Yamazaki, 1994)

Age Unknown 'Keizo Saji' (43%, OB, Yamazaki, 300 bottles, 1994) Five stars
A very rare bottle signed by Suntory chairman Keizo Saji (1919-1999) who had just written his biography and who had decided to gift his entourage with this whisky, which is supposed to have been aged for an additional five years after the first batch of 'Age Unknown', which had been distilled in the early 1960, with the youngest component distilled in 1964. We've tried the earlier, 1989 expression back in 2016 and had thought it was just out of this world (WF 94). All capeesh? May we proceed? Colour: rich gold. Nose: it's always the same story. You try a flight of very young malts, you are amazed with their sheer quality and 'maturity', and you end up believing that age is just a number (especially when you're not in your thirties anymore yourself). Well well well, this is NAS but we know it was distilled in the early 1960s, and believe me it is stunning, and actually extremely close to a 50 years old (or more) armagnac. Incredible smoky honeys, peach jam, walnuts, raisins, dried rambutans, cigars, earths and hardwoods, old books, furniture polish… Sure it's rather a brandy-like old whisky, but what an utter glory on the nose!

Mouth: no way! No more old armagnac, rather some very old Springbank, really, I cannot not think of the Millennium series, probably the 50. Old tobaccos, old rums, old malts, old liqueurs, soups, bouillons, sorrel, sage, borage, other old-school herbs, heather honey, suet, fats, marrows, all raisins ever harvested by Man, ointments… Well in fact, there are flavours that have left human threshold and that you couldn't even describe using human language. So they are there, unlabelled, unidentified, and just glorious. Finish: I've once tried some extremely old off-commerce arrack in Turkey, that was produced before Atatürk (well that's what my friends told me). It was a bit like this. Comments: utter glory of the gods, up there with the very best Karuizawas or even above them, and possibly the best Japanese whisky ever produced, beyond the heavily marketed (thus a little vulgar) recent ones. Indeed, possibly the best Japanese whisky ever. Or not. Who cares. Anyhow, imagine this at 50% vol. or more, instead of 43%. Cheers Keizo Saji (and cheers Deni)!
SGP:662 - 96 points.

Saji
Keizo Saji (1919-1999) President of Suntory and the 10th richest man
in the world in 1987, according to
Forbes (I know).

(Thanks, as ever, Bert, Deni, Lars and Tim)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far

 

August 28, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

Cambodge

Rums of strictly all kinds and origins

I think we'll wander throughout the whole planet today.

Wild Tiger 8 yo 'Rare Blend' (40%, OB, India, +/-2021)

Wild Tiger 8 yo 'Rare Blend' (40%, OB, India, +/-2021) Two stars
Did you know India was the world's largest producer of rum? Same with whisky by the way, as we all know. We've officially tried only two pretty fine Indian rums, Old Monk Supreme (WF 76) and Amrut's Old Port (WF 75). Colour: noses syrupy, molassy and then mostly on bonbons and jams, with obvious notes of a large pack of cinnamon mints and probably roses and hibiscus, as liqueurs. Pretty pleasant, in the style of Don Papa or Bumbu but frankly nicer and less vulgar this far. Nose: Mouth: hectolitres of coffee liqueur suddenly pour into your mouth, together with some grenadine syrup and canned cranberry juice. Notes of raw alcohol behind that, but once again this is not really unpleasant, it would just call for Himalayan amounts of crushed ice. Finish: short and relatively clean. No feeling of distilled garbage this time. Comments: a fun molassy drink, equivalent, if not a little superior to many Spanish-style brands of sweet rum that we have tried almost against our will in the past.

SGP:730 - 72 points.

Speaking of which…

El Pasador de Oro 'XO' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2021)

El Pasador de Oro 'XO' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2021)
Said to be 6 to 15 years old Guatemalan rum shipped to Cognac for further finishing, where it'll spend around six months in ex-cognac wood. Not an unseen set-up and the question remains 'why?', the other one being '15 years, really?' Colour: light gold (one gold star!) Nose: some easy, pretty orangey light rum that noses like Cointreau and tastes like… Mouth: triple-sec indeed, curaçao, sugarcane syrup, perhaps raisins too. This one was boosted with some sugary sauces, for sure. Finish: short, sugary. More triple-sec aged in oak, with some vanilla too. Comments: it's okay, but the Indian was funnier. This one too calls for a lot of ice, mainly because of these quasi-lethal amounts of sugar lying inside. I believe that if they ever have to add the carbon footprints to the labels, they'll have to take the energy that's needed to produce ice cubes into account too, as it's virtually undrinkable at room temperature.

SGP:820 - 65 points.

Good, a last funny one before we start to tackle serious rums…

Samai 'Gold Rum' (41%, OB, Cambodia, +/-2021)

Samai 'Gold Rum' (41%, OB, Cambodia, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Do you hear me, it's from Cambodia! It's from a new small Distillery in Phnom Penh and apparently, this is pretty serious stuff, since you can find it at pretty serious places. What weird logic? Colour: gold. Nose: great smokiness, in the style of those excellent Thai rums such as Chalong Bay and Issan. Shoe polish, fresh rubber, olive oil, a little pine resin, something slightly fermentary, salty fudge, even a drop of Maggi, leek soup, miso… Great surprise here! Mouth: excellent, nothing to do with the sugar bombs that we had tried earlier today, with again a little smokiness, rotting fruits (bananas) and an unexpected combination of aromatic grapes, viognier, sémillon, manseng… It is excellent. Finish: rather long, a notch sweet now, perhaps, otherwise perfectly secondary. Szechuan pepper, coriander, edible flowers (pansies…) Comments: too bad the end was a tad sugary, and I'd love to try this at 46-50% vol., provided that's legal in Cambodia (it was not in Thailand, for example). Anyway, kudos Cambodia!

SGP:652 - 84 points.

Outlaw Rum 'Islay Cask #5' (43%, Outlaw Rum Co., 900 bottles, 2021)

Outlaw Rum 'Islay Cask #5' (43%, Outlaw Rum Co., 900 bottles, 2021) Three stars
This is more or less the same idea as that of those rums that are finished in cognac casks in France, as Plantation, or indeed El Pasador are doing, except that we're in Scotland this time. And in Scotland, they have.. peat. Colour: gold. Nose: I'm not sure there's much that you can do against peat. Even infinitesimal amounts can 'taint', often for the better, any liquids, as blenders know very well. That's the case here, the peat sings rather loud and clear, even if it's not totally obvious that some heavy, Jamaican-style rums wouldn't have added their takes as well. Burnt papers, charcoal, a little burnt rubber,  then embrocations and indeed something medicinal, and only then some lighter rum, cane syrup and all that. Intriguing mix… Also some caraway and fennel seeds, after a good three minutes. Mouth: it's a gentle monster, with rather notes of earthy and sweet roots, carrots, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, gentian, also pumpkin, a little honey, cane syrup… It's a good combo, without any of the dissonances you would have expected. Finish: medium, this time with pink grapefruits that would kind of lift it. Comments: a well-mastered wedding rather than a funeral. Good fun. The lighter strength may be a wee handicap here.  

SGP:634 - 82 points.

Beenleigh 8 yo 2013 (52%, Rhum Dieu-Le-Veut, Australia, 320 bottles)

Beenleigh 8 yo 2013 (52%, Rhum Dieu-Le-Veut, Australia, 320 bottles) Three stars and a half
This very unusual baby by new French indie bottler Rhum Dieu-Le-Veut first spent 5 years in bourbon, then 1 year in muscat de Beaumes de Venise from the south of the Rhône valley (a heavy sweet muscat), then two years in sweet Rasteau (a fortified sweet wine, a.k.a. vin doux naturel, from the south of the Rhône valley too). Colour: amber. Nose: the muscat leading the pack, with some muscat indeed, rose petals, litchis, old-school lady's perfumes, Turkish delights, ylang-ylang, liquorice… With water: aquavit and litchis, gin, caraway... Much nicer than it sounds! Mouth (neat): this double-treatment in some of the sweeter wines there is couldn't have left it dry. Mac de gewurz, roses, hibiscus, rambutans… With water: the kind of treatment that works better with rum than with malt whisky. Notes of prickly pears, pomegranates, mandarins... Finish: medium, very floral and fruity. That's right, muscaty. Comments: a spectacularly aromatic preparation, very well mastered because 'on paper', this should have been a wreck (in my own simple world).
SGP:740 - 83 points.

South Pacific Distillery 2001/2022 (55.2%, The Whisky Jury, Fiji, refill barrel, cask #13, 203 bottles)

South Pacific Distillery 2001/2022 (55.2%, The Whisky Jury, Fiji, refill barrel, cask #13, 203 bottles) Five stars
We've tried an excellent one the other day, by The Rum Cask in Germany. Jamaica in the Pacific! Colour: gold. Nose: olives, anchovies, tar, seawater, new rubber, hand cream, a little 'good' soap. Superb. With water: soap gone, enter liquorice wood and engine grease. And more anchovies. Mouth (neat): textbook Jamaican. I mean, Fijian. Sublime bananas and pineapples, on top of tar, rubber, olives and sardines (perhaps, not too sure about those sardines). Stunning rum in any case. With water: fruity like an early-1960s Laphroaig. Finish: pink grapefruits all over the place, with an admirable salty aftertaste. Comments: Fiji amongst the best of the best. Have we ever heard them brag?

SGP: - 91 points.

Foursquare 16 yo 2005 'MBFS' (57%, Thompson Bros. for The Whisky Exchange, Barbados, refill barrel, 287 bottles)

Foursquare 16 yo 2005 'MBFS' (57%, Thompson Bros. for The Whisky Exchange, Barbados, refill barrel, 287 bottles) Four stars and a half
MBFS means single blend if I'm not mistaken. I'd kill a few politicians to be able to try some pure pot-still Foursquare one day. Colour: gold. Nose: typical, right in the midst of two worlds, both heavy and light, phenolic and floral, primary and tertiary, fresh and fermentary, clean and dirty, cane-y and molassy… I've often found it interesting that they would manage to make a molasses-based rum feel like if it was pure fresh cane juice. That's right, agricole-like. With water: some pencil shavings and a little varnish, other than that, orange squash and cane syrup. Mouth (neat): pure orange-driven goodness. Caramel made with orange juice. With water: sweeter and fresher at the same time. Some soft tobacco, touches of sesame cream, nougat, cane syrup, honey, and of course orange juice. Good, fatter body. Finish: medium, perhaps even more caney. A little toasted oak in the aftertaste, and always these oranges. Comments: bordering perfection. Now, as for those pure pot-still Foursquares, the address would be… 
SGP:641 - 89 points.

Caroni 24 yo 1998/2022 (60.1%, Distillia for Catawiki, Chaconia, cask #4, 139 bottles)

Caroni 24 yo 1998/2022 (60.1%, Distillia for Catawiki, Chaconia, cask #4, 139 bottles) Four stars and a half
More of those excellent super-rare heavy Caronis that, cross my heart, were almost totally extinct fifteen years ago. Preaching shortage hand on heart has always been the most efficient marketing trick. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we're on the spicy and oaky side here, with cloves and cinnamon upfront, walnut stain, hardwood sawdust, then coffee beans and bitter chocolate, then oranges and juniper. Doesn't feel particularly 'heavy' this far, but let's dig deeper… With water: water does it much good and brings out essential oils, especially thyme and eucalyptus. Mouth (neat): loads of pinewood and heavy genever, pipe tobacco, marmalade, and heavy cloves, with even some salt. I mean, a form of saltiness. With water: it loves water better than a whole family of sea calves would. Wee herbs, the expected and anticipated tarriness, liquorice, black olives (trumpets please) and seawater. Finish: oils and plastics, plus salt and citrus. Comments: do not even consider trying this crazy one without H2O, it's even worse than pastis in that respect.

SGP:463 - 88 points.

Caroni 1997/2021 'Le Soleil' (63.8%, Jack Tar, cask #60, 221 bottles)

Caroni 1997/2021 'Le Soleil' (63.8%, Jack Tar, cask #60, 221 bottles) Five stars
So this is 'The Sun'. There's also been 'La Lune' (The Moon) which we have tried earlier in July. Colour: amber honey. Nose: it's a softer Caroni, it seems, rather in the style of Foursquare indeed. Having said that there's an obvious petroly and coastal side, with old boats, old tarry ropes, then olive brine, liquorice wood and lozenges. Old woods too, which is lovely in this context. With water: gets savoury and just Japanese. I mean, it's full of sake and miso, and I'd even mention that oak that no one had even heard of ten years ago, the marketers' favourite, mizunara! (mizunara = 30 extra-pounds per bottle). Mouth (neat): oh wow, a fruity one! Extremely punchy but these earthy frozen apples are perfect. Reminds of some Canadian iced apple wine. Quebec, baby! With water: excellent pure tarry Caroni. Extreme as it should be. Concentrated lemon juice and heavy tar. Finish: pretty eternal. Comments: somewhat brutal, but epitomically Caroni. By the way, and I know this will sound totally stupid, but did any friends in Italy ever work on a recipe for some Macaroni al Caroni? Velier? Yeah I doubt anyone's ever dared doing that silly joke de la muerte.

SGP:563 - 90 points.

Let's take the next hovercraft to Guyana…

Uitvlugt 31 yo 1990 (48.4%, Wealth Solutions, The Colours of Rum, No.4, cask #18, 161 bottles)

Uitvlugt 31 yo 1990 (48.4%, Wealth Solutions, The Colours of Rum, No.4, cask #18, 161 bottles) Five stars
I've seen somewhere that this baby was 'matured in a Double Wooden Pot Still'. Honestly! Colour: light gold. Aged in Europe. Nose: take an old, early-1980s Clynelish, add fennel seeds, caraway, celery, lime tea and wee bits of yam, and there, you replicated this charmingly fresh old Uitvlugt. Mouth: sublime saltiness, smoked fish, liquorice, tight green lemons (not lime), olives, bitter almonds and just all kinds of clay, then a magnum of bone-dry petroly Alsatian riesling that will send shivers down your spine. Finish: long, salty, oily, lemony, superb. Comments: some sides almost reminded me of clean Highland Park. Okay, say fifty Clynelish and fifty HP. Extremely high class.
SGP:453 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

August 26, 2022


Whiskyfun

Another bag-o-blends, part deux

We may add a few 'undisclosed' single malts, but let's remember than many blended malts are actually single malts that wouldn't tell their names, including those famous teaspooned ones. Some folks may start to find it bizarre that so many whisky bloggers or forumites would be talking about teaspoons this much these days. Not to mention those 'tea kettle' stills…

TEa

 

 

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 17 yo 2001/2018 (46.2%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask)

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 17 yo 2001/2018 (46.2%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask) Three stars and a half
Always our favourite ducks. Wondering whether these fine whiskies would go well with duck pâté, or there, foie gras (tsk tsk, S.) Colour: full gold. Nose: oh, raisins and crystallised tangerines plus mirabelle jam, that's a combo that works. There is some chocolate and coffee too, as well as a small Mars bar, but almost no leathery or leafy touches. This one too makes me think of Glenfarclas, but I wouldn't bet a case of Brora on that. Mouth: classic, leafier this time, more leathery and peppery too, but the core remains all on marmalade, as well as quite some green walnuts and various buds. More bitterness than on the nose. Finish: rather long, with more walnuts and even more leafy and peppery sherry. Nose and palate are pretty different. Comments: very fine drop, more rustic on the palate. So rather more farmhouse pâté than foie gras, shall we say.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

We've got another one from the 'wee cask'…

Highland Region 12 yo 2007/2020 (51.9%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Highland Region 12 yo 2007/2020 (51.9%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Four stars and a half
This is officially a single malt. Colour: white wine. Nose: where would you find this kind of blend of chalky waxes and lemon skins, with a little shoe polish and cider apples in the background? With water: and these splendid notes of fresh sourdough, with a little crushed sorrel in the back? Mouth (neat): feels like home. Punchy green fruits, wax, more chalk, greengages, apples, something a little hot and spirity, quasi-eau-de-vie-ish but that's most certainly the relative youth. With water: waxed oranges and a drop of mirabelle spirit, and perhaps some white slivovitz. Finish: long, waxy and barley-y. Comments: of course. We have a large 'single' session planned for the near future, by the way.

SGP:652 - 88 points.

Speyside 2001/2020 (54%, Or Sileis, hogshead, cask #66, 238 bottles)

Speyside 2001/2020 (54%, Or Sileis, hogshead, cask #66, 238 bottles) Four stars
All right, well done Serge, this seems to be a Highlander from Speyside Distillery, so a proper, fully disclosed single malt. I knew this would happen one day, actually I believe it happened before, the naming is so confusing (and you haven't been careful enough, S.!) Colour: gold. Nose: totally chalky and on beers, barley and ripe apples, with touches of tropical fruits in the back, as if this hogshead had been rejuvenated in some ways. Very nice nose, I have to say. With water: whiffs of wood smoke, flints, brioche and 'travellers' cake'. That's a kind of rustic brioche that keeps very well, hence its name. Mouth (neat): really good, fresh, malty and fruity, rather on peaches this time, with something reminiscent of those unpeated Ardmores named Ardlair and nicknamed Ardless. Some citrusy hops too. With water: sweet and really good. I think I haven't been paying enough attention to the Speyside Distillery over the years. Boo. A blend of apple and orange juices. Finish: medium, fresh, more on citrus, citron, tangerine… Comments: great surprise, straight from Taiwan.
SGP:641 - 87 points.

The Scottish Blend (40%, Single Cask Collection, +/-2018)

The Scottish Blend (40%, Single Cask Collection, +/-2018) Three stars
Some blended Scotch composed by or for some lovely people in lovely Austria. Colour: like gold. Nose: is there even any grains in there? It's a very nice, kind of fattish, waxy composition, with whiffs of broken branches, bark, sunflower oil, cut grass, leaves, apples, greengages this time again… I have to say I literally love this nose. Mouth: same profile, plus oranges and touches of café latte. Perhaps not exactly of Johnnie-Blue level, but I sure could quaff this, even if the emptier grains would tend to show up after thirty seconds. Finish: a little short, but that's fine. The grains show more now. Comments: awesome nose and a palate that's a little more mundane. Still pretty ausgezeichnet.
SGP:641 - 81 points.

Perhaps one or three blended or undisclosed Islay now?...

Elements of Islay 'Sherry Cask' (54.5%, Specialty Drinks, 2022)

Elements of Islay 'Sherry Cask' (54.5%, Specialty Drinks, 2022) Four stars
We've had the easy one yesterday (the bourbon, WF 88), let's bite into the harder nut today… I've always considered peat and sherry could generate either the greatest wonders, or utter, Putin-level disasters, let's see… Colour: gold. Nose: this was to be expected, balance has been found, freshness has been kept, there's no dissonant sulphur-and-new-leather-like smells, and it's rather full of fresh putty, marzipan, teak oil, Barbour grease and fisherman's waxed suit. Long story short, of course they know what they're doing. With water: fresh-baked cakes coming through, also amaretti. Mouth (neat): strikes balance once more. Loads of sweet pepper and seashells, some kind of salted butterscotch, and a tropical fruitiness that's a little hard to describe because of the strength. Easy fix, with water: that's papayas. Finish: long, with more smoke. Comments: sure I like the bourbon's easiness, purity and brightness better (will always do) but indeed, this one's extremely fine too, if a little more challenging. Only a matter of taste.

SGP:567 - 85 points.

Clandestine Islay 2013/2021 (55.3%, Or Sileis, The Single Cask, 1st fill PX octave finish, cask #LPH202, 84 bottles)

Clandestine Islay 2013/2021 (55.3%, Or Sileis, The Single Cask, 1st fill PX octave finish, cask #LPH202, 84 bottles) Four stars and a half
All dangers do lie ahead, with heavy peat ('LPH' should give it away) mingled with PX and probably a lot of oak (it's an octave finish). But there are sorcerers wandering throughout Whiskydom, we all know that… Colour: gold. Nose: how do you write 'unusual'? And 'juniper'? And 'Jägermeister'? It's actually rather geared towards sweet curry-like notes this far, with no clashes that I can get. With water: impeccable reduction (throwing flowers at yourself, that's bad) leading to perfect almondy and medicinal coastal peat. One of the most civilised PXs I even came across. Mouth (neat): extremely potent, you would almost say 60% rather than 55. Having said that, everything clicks and it would rather remind us of the first trials of the official Quarter Cask, before reduction. Very bright citrus, bright spicy herbs (basil, lemongrass, some borage too), with only the medicinal side toned down by the cask. With water: zesty white wine, seawater, lemon juice, brine, iodine, and no obvious PX. Finish: same for a long time, with a sauvignony side (tell me about PX). Comments: the peat is really huge, if I hadn't done this silly joke at least a dozen times already, I would have added that they probably hired Nigel Tufnel as the Distillery Manager.

SGP:568 - 88 points.

Secret Islay 10 yo 2011/2021 (53.3%, DramCatcher, Port barrique, cask #34493)

Secret Islay 10 yo 2011/2021 (53.3%, DramCatcher, Port barrique, cask #34493) Three stars and a half
Port and peat? So be it! The label mentions a 'broad hollow by the bay', which would suggest that this would be L.p. too. The colour suggests a fairly quick finishing. Colour: apricot. Nose: there are apricots on the nose too, a feeling of fruitier cough syrup for kids, some eucalyptus syrup, tiny whiffs of tomato leaves, then bursts of roses, hibiscus and litchis, as if this was a good late-harvest gewurz. Fun stuff, highly unusual. With water: back to the farm. Horse saddle and compost, plus tons of very ripe red berries. Mouth (neat): fun stuff indeed, even if whenever they install tasting committees at the SWA, this would surely get rejected as we're extremely far from that 'hollow by the bay'. Seriously, I've thought about using an old fridge to smoke gewurz grapes and then ferment and distil the end result, but I've never done it. I would suppose the spirit would be a bit like this, a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde. With water: strawberry jam, Szechuan pepper, black pepper and a lot of peat smoke! Finish: very long, fruitier yet. Campari in the aftertaste. Comments: go give a score. Between 80 and 85. Say…
SGP:756 - 83 points.

I think we have room for a last one…

South Shore Islay 13 yo 2008/2021 (52.9%, Valinch & Mallet, Madness, Caroni rum barrel, cask #1022-2a, 292 bottles)

South Shore Islay 13 yo 2008/2021 (52.9%, Valinch & Mallet, Madness, Caroni rum barrel, cask #1022-2a, 292 bottles) Four stars
Said to be Lagavulin, but please no preconceptions. Madness indeed. More and more whisky bottlers have started to release rums too, so they had to find something to do with the empty casks in Europe (well, in Scotland), as I doubt anyone would have shipped them back to the Distilleries to get them re-filled with white rum. A good example of circular economy, no? Unless it doesn't work… Now Caroni, or some Jamaicans, do indeed share some common traits with the heavy peaters… Colour: white wine. Nose: that's the thing, the tango is perfect. The idea is scary, but the end result is extremely convincing, in my humble opinion. As you would imagine, it is full of bacon, of olives, of smoked things, of brines, seaweed, mussels, plaster and clay, paint and varnish, gherkins, capers, benzine, new plastics from Nike's, new electronics, etc. With water: well, same. Mouth (neat): a bit sweeter than you average L, L or A for sure, which some might find a tad cloying, but there's a big-bore engine inside, bursting with smoky and peppery elements. Having said that, I believe it really needs water. With water: water works extremely well on it, making it both much narrower and purer and brighter, and better chiselled. Almost easy, in the best sense. Finish: long, on brine, lime juice, muscadet, Aperol and smoked bacon. Sorry about that Aperol. Comments: there are gateways between some rums and the major Islays, but would this trick always work this well?

SGP:656 - 87 points.

(Thank you Tim)

 

August 25, 2022


Whiskyfun

Always good training,
another bag-o-blends

Indeed, while summer isn't over yet in our hemisphere, let's have stuff from Scotland, more or less randomly. Many will be good, for sure, which is always a little sad for the Distillers who will not be able to benefit from any good comments, as their names are hidden. I'll never understand those moves but they may be the right things to do since the first thing any indie bottlers who'd buy or build a Distillery will do is to prohibit the use of their own new brand names by anybody else. Indeed, I'm realising that I may well be the last one complaining…

Summer isn't over yet (magazine ad, 1972) - >

Base Spirits (40%, Base Spirits, Blended Scotch, +/-2021)

Base Spirits (40%, Base Spirits, Blended Scotch, +/-2021) Three stars
Ouch, they say that 'The Base Spirits range is all about providing you with tasty spirits that can be a great base for your cocktails. Hence the name.' Wrong direction, it seems, but at least it's pretty cheap and they haven't packaged it as if it were the Koh-I-Noor. Colour: white wine. Nose: no problems, no big coconut or vanillin in the way, no caramel, no English breakfast tea (nothing against that of course but it's not a tea for nosing, is it), and rather a lot of peat smoke, somewhat ala Ardmore. Some fresh paint too. Feels a bit like a good batch of Johnnie Black that would have been carefully filtered out. Mouth: good fresh combo, clearly peaty, with some pepper, green pears, green tea and then touches of light golden rum. I find it good! Finish: unexpectedly long, fresh, coastal, with a salty tang in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly liked the totally post-modern, post-brand packaging that needed no Bentley and no Aston-Martin logos. You would almost believe this bottle was found in a general store in East Berlin, circa 1975. The whisky's good too, and the grains really don't feel.

SGP:454 - 82 points.

Blended Scotch 5 yo 2016/2022 (46%, Thompson Bros., sherry cask, 621 bottles)

Blended Scotch 5 yo 2016/2022 (46%, Thompson Bros., sherry cask, 621 bottles) Three stars and a half
Again and again, no problems at all with young or even super-young whiskies, as long as they would tell us about their ages (unlike actresses, ha-ha). Colour: gold. Nose: fudge, millionaire shortbread, cappuccino, toffee, kougelhopfs, candlewax and walnut wine. No graininess, we're pleased. Mouth: you would indeed get a few bonbons, fudge and butterscotch, a touch of grated coconut, and perhaps a body that a notch thinner than usual, but this sure remains a pretty malty blend. Finish: medium, a tad more on coffee. Comments: the price is rather low, a good occasion to catch some of the Thompson's glamour for cheaper. The Thompson's Dino or 914, in other words, no bad cars at all. I mean, no bad whisky at all.

SGP:551 - 83 points.

Burnt Ends (45%, The Great Pitmasters of America, blended whiskey, +/-2021)

Burnt Ends (45%, The Great Pitmasters of America, blended whiskey, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
We'll see more of these, after all the world blends sold as Japanese whiskies, these are world blends actually sold as… world blends. In this very case, Tennessee rye whiskey (Dickel?) and peated Scotch malt finished in sherry. The packaging is very retro and you're expecting John Wayne to turn up at any moment – or perhaps W.C. Fields? I can already imagine punters, in ten years' time, contacting us asking for the value of this 'very old bottle' that they found in 'grandpa's stash'. Colour: gold. Nose: it's not that the rye and the peat don't tango, they do; but they're stepping on each other's toes. There's also more soapiness created, but in the end, it would start to grow on you, while getting somewhat medicinal. Good fun, actually. Mouth: it loses me now. Very spicy, joyful indeed (they have a point here) but a little too dissonant for me. A pretty piney side. Finish: long, smoky, better, but there's still this feeling of The Spinal Tap playing Bach. Comments: good fun. All tries are worth, err, trying as long as the prices are right, which they are in this very case. Good fun.
SGP:363 - 78 points.

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 18 yo 2001/2020 (45.6%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt)

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 18 yo 2001/2020 (45.6%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt) Four stars and a half
Our favourite ducks are back on WF! It is, naturally, not impossible that an 18-yo at natural cask strength would drop to 45.6%. Not impossible indeed. Colour: full gold. Nose: when shoe polish, walnut cakes and old Meursault appear first in a nose, you know you're in for a treat. And when metal polish, old coins, beeswax, fresh walnuts and last year's apples are joining in, you just have confirmation. Superb nose. Mouth: very punchy and spicy arrival, despite the relatively low strength, with smoky figs, should those exist, and indeed more old chardonnay of high origins (we're not talking altitudes, all right). Lovely waxes and polishes of all kinds, I'm sure there's no Pulteney inside but in some ways, it is reminiscent of old Old Pulteney here and there. The sherry is just impeccable and in its place. Finish: long, more on spiced marmalade. Comments: absolutely excellent. We might try to blackmail the good folks at Whisky-Fässle to try to get a rundown of what was in this butt.

SGP:552 - 89 points.

Black Goupil 8 yo (40%, Distillerie du Planty, blended malt, +/-2022)

Black Goupil 8 yo (40%, Distillerie du Planty, blended malt, +/-2022) Three stars
This is imported malt whisky, finished in cognac wood and bottled in the Charentes, France, by Cognac Chollet's Distillerie du Planty. Again, that's just like what many Japanese do, except that these good folks at Planty would tell and not try to make us believe that this is French malt whisky. Goupil is an old name for 'renard', so fox, so this is actually 'Black Fox'. I find the bottle lovely. Colour: gold. Nose: immediately cakey, with good maltiness, some croissants since we're in France, a little demerara sugar, a very moderate oakiness, then good slowly simmered soups (leeks, marrow, potatoes, kale, tofu…) plus a little peanut and sesame butters. Pretty particular and pretty nice on the nose. As always in these cases, we're very curious about the palate… Mouth: great fun here! Olives, Jamaican rum, seawater, those soups again, tobacco, Thai spices, peat smoke, seashells, tequila… What I don't quite get is cognac, rather bizarrely, but that must be me. Great fun, they should just bottle this at a higher strength. Finish: pretty long, smoky, with notes of brine, gherkins, olives and mezcal. What does the people want! Comments: surely a kind of UFW (Unidentified Flying Whisky) and there must be some mysteries in there, but I like it. But 45% vol. please.
SGP:563 - 82 points.

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2017/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, Watt Whisky & Friends 2022, 150 bottles)

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2017/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, Watt Whisky & Friends 2022, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half
Hey, last time I checked I was a member of Watt Whisky & Friends, was I not? But this bottle is only available in Campbeltown, which isn't exactly London, Berlin or Paris. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: there's only a handful of possible combinations, is there not? In any case, this is true Campbeltown, with old metals, chalkboards, grist, engine oil, coal smoke, some very black toffee, some semolina, waxed papers, carbon, metal shavings, mole sauce… But no obvious peat this far. With water: porridge, mud and raw wool, what's not to like. Mouth (neat): brilliant lemony chalk and gristy flour. There. With water: takes off. Dirty citrus, always a hit at Château WF. Finish: very long, chalky, muddy, yeasty, with a drop of lemon liqueur to keep it civilised. Comments: some could call this totally distillate-driven malt whisky 'CV-y'. Sometimes, with whisky and as the adage goes, value does not wait for the number of years, which is certainly true in Campbeltown. CV-y indeed.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 12 yo (44.4%, Whisky-Fässle, Speyside, 2021)

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 12 yo (44.4%, Whisky-Fässle, Speyside, 2021) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: I don't see why, this reminds me of the old Glenfarclas 17 yo, with its notes of Pimm's. Also whiffs of lit cigarettes, then malt soup, ale, glazed chestnuts, walnuts and agave syrup. Corsican chestnut-flavoured beer (it's called Pietra). A little unusual, but the palate will tell… Mouth: pretty dry, a little austere, really malty, spicy, marmalade-y and once again – and again – full of fresh walnuts. Finish: rather long, malty, with beers and green walnuts. Comments: very good, I think, but the Fässle's 18 yo blend was in a higher league, in my opinion. A little MOTR, perhaps.

SGP:551 - 84 points.

Another go at the Ducks...

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 'Islay' (46%, Whisky-Fässle, 2021)

Fine Blended Malt Whisky 'Islay' (46%, Whisky-Fässle, 2021) Four stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: coal, plaster, carbon, crushed oyster shells (great fertiliser!) and mercurochrome. Loads of chalk too. Mouth: great fun, almonds, more oysters, more peat, more chalk, lime, lemon, olive brine. Finish: same, with a good length. Comments: no quibbles, no objections, no protests and no nit-pickings, this is as good as it gets and should go straight into your favourite hipflask. The one you bring to hunts, to walks or to the nearest church.

SGP:455 - 86 points.

Since we're doing peat, there's also this renewed line by 'London'…

Elements of Islay 'Cask Edit' (46%, Specialty Drinks, Bourbon and Sherry casks, 2022)

Elements of Islay 'Cask Edit' (46%, Specialty Drinks, Bourbon and Sherry casks, 2022) Four stars
Approved by the brand owners, does it kind of say on the label. Good to hear. Colour: white wine. Nose: just plainly, totally and epitomically Islay. That walk on any beach, those meetings with friends that you haven't seen since the Covid outbreak, those long nights chatting about old bottles, and just this irreplaceable sense of the place. Aromas, what aromas? Peat, seashells, chalk, wool, seawater, seaweed, grist. There. Mouth: immaculately tense and vertical. Lime, seawater, ashes and smoked fish. Finish: long, same. Comments: same high quality as that of the Fässle, this one being just a notch purer. I say the sherry is anecdotal here. How many hipflasks do you own?

SGP:456 - 86 points.

Elements of Islay 'Bourbon Cask' (54.5%, Specialty Drinks, 2022)

Elements of Islay 'Bourbon Cask' (54.5%, Specialty Drinks, 2022) Four stars and a half
There's both some first-fill and some refill bourbon wood in use here. Beginner 101: when they say first fill, that means that it's been filled before (I know, how tricky) but that that was with other liquids than Scotch whisky. Colour: white wine with greenish hues. Nose: perfection. Raw wool, fresh almonds, cigar ashes, and whelks and winkles. Do not laugh, whelks and winkles are seminal to many a peater. With water: perfect gristy smoky barleyness and leaven breads. Mouth (neat): iodine, lemon juice, seawater, and twenty-four oysters (like, No.2). Indeed, that's a minimum. With water: no changes, but that's not a problem. Finish: very long, very much on iodine and anything from both the sea and a proper kiln. And ashes. Comments: it's a simple, well-carved whisky, but that's probably one its main assets. The smoke's actually pretty huge.

SGP:557 - 88 points.

There's also a sherry but we'll have it later. Good night/morning/afternoon/evening.

 

August 24, 2022


Whiskyfun

More warming-up with
Mannochmore young and old

Always happy to try Mannochmore, especially since we've found out, quite a few years ago, that the name wasn't all about the very famous Loch Dhu 10, the Black Whisky. Remember? A little anecdote, last time dear Charlie MacL., who celebrated his birthday right yesterday, came to WF Towers, I offered him a welcome dram of his choice. He spotted an open bottle of Loch Dhu on some shelves and asked for a measure. I say that's true dedication to the cause! Washing out was then done with some old Clynelishes… (naturally)

Loch Dhu
A real fortune at Bonhams' back in 2018, £500 for this lot ->

Mannochmore 12 yo 2010/2022 (50%, Thompson Bros., 314 bottles)

Mannochmore 12 yo 2010/2022 (50%, Thompson Bros., 314 bottles) Three stars and a half
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is Mannochmore's official animal within Diageo's Flora & Fauna series, so I find it cool that the Bros. would have put a similar (I think) bird on this lovely label. Colour: white wine. Nose: malt whisky totally au naturel, combining fresh bread and cakes, porridge, kougelhopf, cupcake (or was it a muffin, FZ?) plus touches of pencil lead and fresh cement and plaster. With water: more fresh plaster and chalk, dough roll, baker's yeast, leaven, grist…  Mouth (neat): a rather unusual grassy spiciness for starters, around tarragon and sage, basil, plus pine needles, cinnamon, bone-dry fino, then green pears and apples, with touches of juniper and then a rather rounder phase on sweeter breads. With water: same, with a little bitterness. More pine needles and fir-bud liqueur. Finish: rather long, with some citrus coming out. Grapefruit skin (that's packed with healthy molecules, they say). Comments: in my opinion, some of the best within this austere, slightly demanding style.

SGP:461 - 84 points.

Mannochmore 1990/2021 (45.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, refill cask and untreated virgin European oak, 317 bottles, 2022)

Mannochmore 1990/2021 (45.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, refill cask and untreated virgin European oak, 317 bottles, 2022) Three stars and a half
There's been a pretty good 1990 within the Special Releases in 2016 (WF 85) but an earlier young 'Manager's Choice' 1998/2009 has been even more to my liking (WF 87). The older 18 yo 'Manager's Dram', bottled 1997, was really good too (WF 83). This very one first spent a little time in refill and got then re-racked into 'highly active virgin European Oak for almost three decades' according to the official literature. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: bourbon! Complete with high varnish, nail polish, grated coconut and warm fresh-sawn hardwoods, as well as a thin slice of pumpernickel. I'd even dare mention rye bread. Honestly, this is rather very Pappy-y. What's particularly interesting is the fact that the oak had not been 'treated', so not charred or even toasted (I suppose). Now they had to heat it up when coopering it, no? But that shouldn't qualify as some 'treatment'. Mouth: a much spicier bourbon. A little extreme, very piney, also with cardamom seeds and a good glass of herbal bitter. Dandelion root? Or there, Underberg? Finish: very long. Once the bitterness has been tamed, some easier notes of tamarind jam and softer liquorice would come through. Chicory coffee too (that's rooty as well). Comments: interesting 'inversed' proposition, the opposite of the traditional cognac way, first virgin, then refill for a longer time.
SGP:371 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Mannochmore we've tasted so far

 

August 23, 2022


Whiskyfun

A book that you must buy

There's one thing that's nearly as good, and certainly less damaging than drinking whisky 'in excess', that would be reading about whisky, while in whisky books, or magazines and blogs/vlogs too, there are 'old Broras' and there are oak-boosted NAS <insert brandname here>. It's certainly an 'old Brora' that we're having here on our desk, or rather an Old Clynelish, and it is called 'The Distilleries of Great Britain & Ireland', by James Eadie Ltd., published right today.

Or rather 'to-day', as it is actually a stunning kind of facsimile of a gathering of nearly forgotten articles that had run in The Wine and Spirit Trade Record for seven years, between 1922 and 1929. A flabbergasting opus that would sit right between Alfred Barnard and Michael Jackson (with a nod to Brian Townsend) and an incredible coup by the promoters. What's actually better than Barnard is that it's much closer to us, certainly easier to relate to today's whisky world (sorry, to-day), and full of amazing photographs. Where else would you find a photograph of the Malt Mill stills in action? Or pictures of both Stromness's 'Twa Old Stills' and its new ones (in 1924)? Or this incredibly stunning view of old Caol Ila in winter, in 1923?

Caol Ila

As for the reading, it's delightful and gives you a perfect post-Saintsbury feeling of an industry that was being reshaped with the heavy pushing of the blends, rather at the expense of the malts. As if both categories could never really coexist peacefully, as this sentence about Clynelish Distillery would suggest: 'While it is still eminently suited for consumption as a "self" Whisky, it is now mainly used as a component of several famous brands.'
Anyway, nutshell, no serious malt whisky enthusiasts could miss out on this large and elegant (and heavy) book. And I mean it.

The Distilleries of Great Britain & Ireland
A Journey Through The Heartlands Of Whisky, James Eadie Ltd., 124 Distilleries, 640 photographs, 3kg, very limited edition, 150£ (very well spent). Available at Royal Mile Whiskies. Be fast.

 

 

Three wee Speyburn that don't burn

Indeed we're really back, but let's first do a few short warm-up sessions before we start to tackle higher-echelon drams again, after our pretty long holidays (and the heatwaves, and sore throats because of air conditioning gone wild, COVID again, etc.) Plus, as you know, tasting is a sport (yeah, yeah) and any sports need some training.


Fiddler's in Drumnadrochit.
The weather has not been photoshopped.

 

 

Speyburn 'Hopkins Reserve' (46%, OB, Travel Retail, 1l, +/-2020)

Speyburn 'Hopkins Reserve' (46%, OB, Travel Retail, 1l, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
A wee NAS bottled exclusively for Fiddler's in Drumnadrochit. A certain Jon Birch, owner of that marvellous place, told our reporter, 'Aye, I chose it because I could get delivered two hundred and fifty  bottles for the price of one bottle of Port Ellen, my first choice. We're pouring it with tarte flambéed au haggis'. Let's see if that was a sound choice… Colour: white wine. Nose: sourdough and savagnin du Jura, a little mustard, wet rocks and seashells, quite some carbon dust, spent engine oil, then pear juice and a wee barnyardy side. It's pretty mashy, in fact. Mouth: mashed turnips with some dough, grist, a touch of 'green smoke' and some apple and pear peel. Good body, the 46% sure help. Finish: rather long, as gristy and doughy, with touches of zests and always this feeling of green pear. Some sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: a slightly wild, honest, loyal dram that's particularly close to Mother Nature. Glad to see that at 25€ a bottle (at some places), it's still a good puncher.

SGP:452 - 78 points.

Let's move to an higher league…

Speyburn 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2022)

Speyburn 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2022) Four stars
We've tried a batch from two years ago that had been excellent (WF 86). In theory, this should be pretty 'bis repetita placent'. Colour: light amber. Nose: awesome indeed, deeply malty and bready at first (fresh apricot bread, fresh panettone), then on dried figs and just a family-box of Turkish delights. In the background, once again a little sweet mustard, grist, sour bread, some older pipe tobacco, and a wee glass of sweet petit manseng wine. Think pacherenc! Mouth: drier, a tad funkier (think Fettercairn), starting spicy and kind of sour and bitter, as if we were chewing tobacco. Big cinnamon, white pepper, parsley, then pad Thai, bitter cordials, turmeric, oak… Finish: sweeter, with a lot of marmalade. Comments: I'm re-reding my older notes as we speak and cannot not agree with what I had written (that's lame, S.), it's rather in the same cluster as Fettercairn and Glenturret. Vive la difference!

SGP:352 - 86 points.

And a wee indie for good measure…

Speyburn 12 yo (55.2%, Morisco Spirits, first fill bourbon, +/-2021)

Speyburn 12 yo (55.2%, Morisco Spirits, first fill bourbon, +/-2021) Four stars
This one straight from Italy, where they're very careful with what they put into their mouths (a popular saying). Colour: pale white wine. Nose: same ballpark, just more 'natural', closer to the distillate, that is to say even fuller of doughs, flours, breads, porridge, brake dust, soot, cider pears… With just a tiny sweeter coating. Barley syrup, probably. With water: limoncello and chalk coming to the front. Works in white wine, so works in whisky too. Mouth (neat): pretty deviant, in a good way. A feeling of smoked wine gums, should that exist, surely lemon drops, banana foam covered with soot… I suppose you get the picture. With water: wee plastic-like touches (remember, Speyburn, Fettercairn, Glenturret) but that's an asset here. Finish: rather long, a little petroly. More good plastic, rubber, limoncello. Comments: singular whisky that likes its water.

SGP:552 - 85 points.

Cheers.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Speyburn we've tasted so far

 

August 21, 2022


Whiskyfun

We are back to support Armagnac

Terrible year in the vineyards in Armagnac, especially in Bas-Armagnac and Ténarèze, with massive hailstorms leading to huge losses right this week. You must have a strong stomach to deal with such events while knowing that people making whisky, except for a handful of genuine terroirists (but beware of terroir washing elsewhere!) can import barley from all over the world and then sell their bottles for thrice the price, or sometimes thirty times when the spirits are really old and you own a strong – sometimes severely bloated - brand. I'm afraid that's just very unfair and hard to understand, unless you remember Coluche's way of calculating a crowd's IQ: take the IQ of the dumbest and divide by the number of members. So I say let's all get smarter, wake up, and support (read drink) armagnac!


Photograph armagnacnews

 

 

The Experiment 10 yo 2009/2019 (50%, Domaine de Baraillon & The Whisky Mercenary, 179 bottles)

The Experiment 10 yo 2009/2019 (50%, Domaine de Baraillon & The Whisky Mercenary, 179 bottles) Four stars
This is eau-de-vie à l'armagnac rather than armagnac, since this baby's been finished in an ex-Jamaican rum barrel. Imagine all Scotch malts losing their appellation after having been finished in some 'untraditional' wood? Colour: deep gold. Nose: you do feel it. A pack of chlorophyll and eucalyptus gums, some raisins smoked over burning pinewood, a little diesel oil, then loads of mint-flavoured liquorice, a curious mezcaly side, and then, well, Jäger. An experiment that worked, it seems. With water: very nice, on more of all that and a wee sweet rancio in the background. Mouth (neat): really rich, on violet-flavoured liquorice (that's so good, Haribo now have that in their range called 'Zan') and once again, some kind of heavy herbal bitter. The usual raisins and dried apricots rather in the background. With water: indeed, excellent, this is truly 'meta'.  Finish: long, with a salty touch and olives coming through. The aftertaste is more armagnacqy again. Comments: who's gonna call these 'armarums?' Now I'm not sure it's very easy to find a balance and once it's wrecked, it's wrecked, unless you further dilute it with more brandy. I say this is innovation that's not just doing the same innovations as anyone else and right at the same time. Mizunara anyone?
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Darroze Domaine de Paguy 19 yo 2002 (50%, Darroze, Unique Collection, Bas-armagnac, +/-2021)

Darroze Domaine de Paguy 19 yo 2002 (50%, Darroze, Unique Collection, Bas-armagnac, +/-2021) Four stars
Darroze have selected this one in Betbezer d'Armagnac, where Domaine de Paguy is located. Paguy own 77ha (but only 12ha are vines), we hope they were not affected by the hailstorms, their vines being 45 years old! Colour: gold. Nose: this further stresses to which extent the armarum was different and truly something else. This is much leaner, purer, really handsome, and closer to the grape, shall we say. Whiffs of vanilla, otherwise golden sultanas, preserved peaches, bits of pencil shavings, lime blossom, honeysuckle, tiny hints of Thai basil perhaps… With water: touches of menthol and liquorice, plus more lime blossom. All fine and nice. Mouth (neat): very good, with a little brown sugar, jams, maple syrup, marmalade, and a tiny glass of moscatel. With water: we're not that far from some malt whiskies, although this would be a little grapier and grittier, naturally. Finish: medium, rather fresh, with these touches of menthol and lime blossom in the end. Comments: never disappointed with Darroze, in my book they're part of the top houses as far as larger ones are concerned.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Domaine de Bel Air 1980/2022 (46%, Bordeneuve Châteaux & Collection for Selin's Collection, Asia, Bas-armagnac, 100 bottles)

Domaine de Bel Air 1980/2022 (46%, Bordeneuve Châteaux & Collection for Selin's Collection, Asia, Bas-armagnac, 100 bottles) Four stars and a half
Domaine de Bel Air is usually to be found under Darroze's flag, but there are dozens of Domaines or Châteaux de Bel Air or Bel-Air or Belair everywhere in France, the most famous one being the Saint-Emilion, I would say. Are there several in Armagnac alone? Colour: brown amber. Nose: this is a completely different style of Armagnac, and I doubt that's only the age. More on chocolate, prunes, flower jellies, damson tarte (zwetschke), peonies, then even notes of old pinot noir of high quality. We're thinking something soft from the Côte de Beaune, with softer meaty/umami-y notes. Very lovely, rather postprandial style. Mouth: rounded, compoty, jammy, sweet, full of ganaches, chocolates and prunes. Reminds me of Austria's 'Rumba Pflaume' (prunes) by the house Kastner, our dear friend Konstantin G. being the world's top expert in those. You can't get enough of these Rumba Pflaumen… neither can you get enough of this awesomely unmodern Domaine de Bel Air. Finish: good length, at a strength that always works best if you're not a pipette master. More of those Austrian plums with liqueur, covered with dark chocolate Comments: you could down bottles of this but they've only released 100 of them.

SGP:641 - 89 points.

Since we're in 1980…

Domaine Le Frêche 1980 (41.5%, L'Encantada, Bas-armagnac, cask #039, 327 bottles)

Domaine Le Frêche 1980 (41.5%, L'Encantada, Bas-armagnac, cask #039, 327 bottles) Four stars
Pure baco from a tiny Domaine of only 2ha. Sadly and unless I'm mistaken, it appears that the Domaine is now gone. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: much more rustic, yet more modern as well, in a way, with some cedarwood and even whiffs of fresh varnish and paint at first sniffing, before it would move towards chestnut jam and purée, peaches, a little caraway, fresh cinnamon rolls, Bundt cake full of sultanas, and just sweet wine… Mouth: feels much stronger than 41.5%, does it have superpowers, or was there a mismatch? It even burns a wee bit. Nurse, pipette and Vittel please… With water: feels 'dark', with some pipe tobacco, bit of tobacco from an untipped Gauloise, prunes, chocolate, armagnac (I know it sounds almost stupid to mention armagnac in a tasting note for an armagnac, but there, it's epitomically armagnacqy.) Tiny touches of sour wood, Jerez vinegar and bitter chocolate. Finish: rather long, pretty oaky. Ground coffee and raw cocoa powder. Comments: super good, pretty dry, and as I already said, relatively rustic. Come on dear, put on your beret!

SGP:551 - 86 points.

Château de Laubade 1979/2021 'Brut de Fût' (46.2%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #75096)

Château de Laubade 1979/2021 'Brut de Fût' (46.2%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #75096) Five stars
From Chai #3 and from the first tirage form this barrique. It's a blend of baco and ugni blanc. Never a frown with these cask strength armagnacs from Laubade's! Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one's very bright, very fresh, floral, honeyed, jammy, full of mirabelles and quince jelly, honeysuckle, maple syrup, late-harvest pinot gris, apricot jam… It's a Balvenie of armagnac, shall we fearlessly claim. Mouth: superlatively fruity and floral. All yellow fruits ever invented by God (OMG, S., not you!), mirabelles, apricots, peaches, quinces, overripe bananas, with tiny touches of caraway and cinnamon. A very wonderful tirage (they're talking about tirages because they often rack their casks in several times down there in Armagnac country). Finish: good length, good freshness, lovely fruitiness, with the usual bits of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: indeed, never a frown with golden… Laubades.

SGP:651 - 90 points.

Armagnac 49 yo 1972/2022 (42.9%, Armagnac Sponge, Edition No. 2, Bas-armagnac, 210 bottles)

Armagnac 49 yo 1972/2022 (42.9%, Armagnac Sponge, Edition No. 2, Bas-armagnac, 210 bottles) Five stars
Any attentive spirits sleuth will have noticed that this was produced in the city of Saintes (where everyone isn't a saint, ha-ha) which is one of the capital cities of cognac, not armagnac. Which would suggest this stems from the house Jean Grosperrin's cellars. Oh and it's a 'small batch' of two sister casks. Colour: amber. Nose: 1972, that was the year before last year, right? Seriously, I would say this is an old armagnac that's been watching all the neighbouring cognacs while ageing, as I find it rather fresher, fruitier, somewhat easier, rather on tinned fruits, especially the usual peaches and apricots, also plums, greengages, then acacia honey, raisin rolls, panettone… We're actually getting closer to a classic, easy  old malt whisky. Mouth: reminds me of many an old drop as Duncan Taylor used to have, Glenlivets, Macduffs, even 1960s Bowmore mind you. To be poured blind to your best (ex) whisky friends. Finish: medium, fresh, beehive-y, with more cedarwood-like oak only in the aftertaste. Also a wee glass of some of the most venerable V.O.R.S. in the end of the aftertaste (just before you pour yourself another glass). Comments: excellent catch by Angus and, once again, a showcase of the fact that, as has also been seen for example at Cadenhead's, true small batches are often superior to single casks. Je m'incline.

SGP:651 - 91 points.

A last one, let's make it a 1970.

Ryst-Dupeyron 1970 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2015)

Ryst-Dupeyron 1970 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2015) Three stars
Not unlike many other old Armagnac houses, Dupeyron have long tried to take advantage from the fact that they could release bottles bearing vintages, while Cognac could not, for administrative reasons, while vintaged malt whisky was just unknown to the French. Which means that these armagnacs were almost only ever bought as birthday presents, BUT many were, and still are excellent, so never underestimate them. Colour: deep gold. Nose: 1970 means rock and roll, but this is more a string quartet, with a lot of chamomile, lime tea (huge lime tea!) and just 'a new pack of Camels'. Quite some old walnuts too, old woods, and a whole bag of proper 'cider' apples. Not those apples from the supermarket that look like they're in plastic, mind you. Mouth: the oak feels a little bit and would impart some rather obvious tea-ish notes at first, but some puréed chestnuts and baked caramelised apples are soon to come to the rescue. A little honey, a little cinnamon, pastries, and a feeling of good calvados. Finish: medium, a little tea-ish and with a little cider. Maple syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not exactly earthshattering – this little 1970 is neither of Jimi nor of Janis levels – but I find it very pleasant to drink.

SGP:561 - 82 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all armagnac we've tasted so far


August 2022 - part 1 <--- August 2022 - part 2 ---> September 2022 - part 1


 

 
   
 


Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Glen Grant 23 yo 1998/2021 (52.7%, The Whisky Agency, sherry hogshead, 273 bottles)

Age Unknown 'Keizo Saji' (43%, OB, Yamazaki, 300 bottles, 1994)

Chichibu 'London Edition 2021' (51.5%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, 1859 bottles)

Chichibu 2015/2021 (59.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, bourbon cask, cask #5262, 233 bottles)

Chichibu 2012/2021 (55.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, 65th Anniversary, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1884, 187 bottles)

Mars Komagatake 2016/2021 (60%, OB, for AF Trade and Tiffany's New York Bar, sherry hogshead, cask #3365, 265 bottles)

Caroni 1997/2021 'Le Soleil' (63.8%, Jack Tar, cask #60, 221 bottles)

South Pacific Distillery 2001/2022 (55.2%, The Whisky Jury, Fiji, refill barrel, cask #13, 203 bottles)

Uitvlugt 31 yo 1990 (48.4%, Wealth Solutions, The Colours of Rum, No.4, cask #18, 161 bottles)

Armagnac 49 yo 1972/2022 (42.9%, Armagnac Sponge, Edition No. 2, Bas-armagnac, 210 bottles)

Château de Laubade 1979/2021 'Brut de Fût' (46.2%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #75096)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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